a telling to friends
Y’all know I was a touring audio guy for years,,, I talk about it frequently enough. What most of y’un don’t really know is that I also played bass (at least, up till this year, most of ya didn’t know it.)
confession time. I have about as much skill with the bass as I have with a surgeons knife. I can do basic sutures, maybe even debride properly, but if you have something you need REAL help with, I will be the first to tell you to find the Pro,,,
And I did play out a few times and thats when I found I also have a fear of crowds. More than just the introvert thing too. Hatez looking out at that sea of faces,,, maybe that has something to do with my lack of skill on the strings, or maybe its just me being me, but the few times I played out, the only way I could be on that stage was lit to the gills, drunk as the proverbial skunk. Saw a recent video of Metallica on stage in Moscow, and when Hetfeild walked out, looked across that literal OCEAN of 1.6 MILLION souls,,, His face dived right back down to the guitar as he sought composure. You could tell he wasn’t scared,,, I think massively humbled at first. And you could tell through the rest of the Vid how he was literally FEEDING off that wave of admiration,,,, One of his best performances in my opinion.
Me, I’d have ran, screaming, for the wetbar,,,,,
but I LOVE live music. I love the energy of the band in wide open throttle, I love the interplay of the artists (like John Paul Jones and John Bohnam interplay in live performance, knowing they are the foundation for everything else going on.)
See, FOH, which stands for Front of House, is a small island in a sea of people. There is elbow room, you have space, AND NO ONE NOTICES YOU (unless you fuck up, but thats years ago and many many drunken bar bands and dives earlier,,,,) And,,, AND, you literally have THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE. It all comes down to the sound, right there: not what the yokels are hearing near the bathrooms.
But what I really loved the most, even though I had to be dragged into it backwards, scratching the walls and kicking and screaming (another story all together) was monitor world: multiple mixes, every one different, and all for a ‘crowd’ that you know by name and may have had a drink or two with before the show. And if you were doing your job RIGHT, no thanks needed, you knew it because the energy on the stage was infectious. A good monitor guy helps the band HEAR,,,, That’s it. but that job is way easier said than done,,,, Especially when you mix bands like Los Lobos, where the drummer is one step away from being legally handicapped by his deafness. Or a 17 mix show for Wayne Brady (yes, Wayne, I made your ears bleed. You were my second time in monitor world, and while you suffered, I grew, and I apologize profusely to you for the lack of forethought by my bosses, but I thank you for giving me lessons in that world and how to take a criticism like that without throat punching the speaker.)
Touring is a young persons gig. Being in the band is not as taxing (though being on stage can have its weight too,,, Gerard of My Chemical Romance comes to mind. 4 weeks fighting a bug and never missed a show, had to be carried off stage by myself and others more than once,,,,) We would get to the venue at 9 am, stage call at 9:30, load in, set up, systems check, and sound check, then bands sound check, dinner call (lunch was whatever we could grab from catering and eat on the run,,,,) then showtime, which was the break in some ways,,, then load out, load up, and bus call at 1AM; back on the road again,,,,on to the next city down the road to start it all again in 8 hours. And somewhere in there you tried to grab a shower and a shit, because you do NOT use the shitter on the bus for anything other than piss.
but Gawd the money I made,,,
in a job I absolutely LOVED,,,
I will have stories to tell for years and years, like Sarah the lighting tech hanging in the truss propping a mover with her feet since its brace broke sometime in the day. Us tossing water to her through the entire 4 hour show so she didn’t dehydrate while ‘riding’ a 6000 watt intelligent lamp. And no one in the crowd ever knew,,,, There was zero politics on the bus, and while you could see who was Lib and who was conservative, it didn’t matter,,, All that mattered was “The show MUST go on” and thats not some bullshit cliche,,, We lived for that show, whatever it was, whichever band it was, no matter how many bands it was, and we almost never knew where the hell we were until we near the end of the run, and looking for the next ‘gig’,,,,
No drugs EVER gave me that kind of high,,, (and before you ask, roadies tend to be the cleaner bunch of the shows. We ain’t got time for much more than a good whiskey buzz, and mostly to get to sleep so we could do the next show.
That book there,,,,, that was given to me by Karl himself in Houston. His claim to fame was working with Lynard Skynard
Hot showers, cold beer, and good power,,,, Still have those,,, that ‘one good ear’,,,, not so much.
I hated being in front of crowds. I NEVER did an intro, not even when Tom Weber got married on stage in Chicago. Tom was our FOH, and he was also Ronnie James Dios guitar tech (his at home business was Luthier) BUT, They got me once,,, All the lights are down and how I SHOULD have known they were up to something. They needed someone ‘bassy’ to sing on our lead vocal mike. Sure, I am the guy with the bottom end in his voice, so I went out and did an acappella of “supermans song” by Crashtest Dummies. And as I am winding out the unsupported final chorus, Murph brought the lights up and I am looking out on about 3000 people there for a soundcheck party thing.
I about pissed myself when they ALL applauded,,,,
Fun times, and NO, I never did forgive those hooligans, though I DID get them back,,,, Another set of stories,,,,
I suck at bass, but I love the intstrument, I have (had) perfect pitch which is rare in musicians, even rarer in rank amatuer musicians like myself, but, I was able to help correct on the fly a bad string here or there, and some of the bands learned to count on that. One show, don’t recall where, and one small sour note appeared out of nowhere and the ENTIRE BAND looked to me so I could point out WHO needed the fix. They had a new guitar tech the next week. Sorry Raf,,,,
Live sound is sorta like combat, without the bullets or bombs: You fuck up, you’re goin’ home. With the money being spent on the crews (unless you work for Dizzknee,, DON’T EVER WORK FOR THAT SCAM,,,,) you have to be on the top tier,,, And no excuses: excuses lead to bullshit and bullshit gets you sent home.
It’s late, and I think I have spent enough time on memory lane tonight,,,, This gets posted first thing in morning and my tinnitus is ringing pretty good from being tired. Talk more tomorrow,,,,,
Geez Dio, a waterman AND a bassist!?! No wonder I’ve felt like you’re a kindred soul since finding your blog! I’m a surfer and a drummer myself, so different strokes, so to speak but similar outlook on life I believe.
I did one short tour as a tech too – got me all the way to New Zealand and Australia for a few short weeks. One of the best times in my life. If I didn’t have a 2 year old at home then, I may have never returned! One of the best parts though was on a day off – me and a couple of the crew (and the bassist in the band I was teching for)hooked up with some local guys and went out to do some 4- wheeling in the sand dunes, followed up with a day of surfing in the Indian Ocean! Warm water, NO wetsuits needed…saw my fist octopus in the wild!! Ahhh, those were the days!
Thanks for the stories, keep ’em coming!
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January 31, 2023 at 6:10 pm
Bassist is a rather loose term,,, I can run scales, hold a tempo (like a damned metronome), and know a few 12bar riffs, but tha’s about it. Have played with some blues bands in Cincy and LOVE FUnk bands, but have no skill at slapbass,,,
Kayaks,,, still learning but water is water and the only things that change there is how dynamic it is and how much salt it has: its power is without question once you have experienced it (like being pinned to a rock in the middle of a river,,, Yeah, Strong is an understatement.)
January 31, 2023 at 6:39 pm