To Road Or Not To Road...
I remember my first tour show. In the Bronx. A club called French Charlie’s. The floor was covered with a sand-like material. They said it was to make it easier to dance, but I’m pretty sure it was there to soak up the spillage…
My cell phone rang. It wasn’t a text message oremail or a Facebook notification. It was an actual call! I answered. On the other end was a friend. In between stints as guitar tech and guitar slinger for various local and regional acts, he used to mix monitors on shows with me to keep busy. We hadn’t spoken for a while, so I wondered what he was calling for. After all, he was now playing guitar in a busy national act.
In 1984 or 5, I took my first “tour.” It was a regional act. They were one of the first bands to have a video on MTV – remember when they used to show videos? I was a kid in my early 20s and had been mixing locals for 5 or 6 years. There were two local engineers I used to go see whenever possible. I learned the “right” way from one, the “wrong” way from the other. The contrast was startling! But, I digress. I was lucky to fall into a job running FOH replacing the engineer who showed me the “right” way.
I remember my first show. In the Bronx. A club called French Charlie’s. The floor was covered with a sand like material – they said it was to make it easier to dance, but I’m pretty sure it was there to soak up the spillage…
I worked my last day at my full time job on my first day of tour. The singer/bass player picked me up from work and we drove to the Big Apple. All I knew at the time was I was going to the Bronx and then to Long Island – we’d be back by Monday for our weekly show at our local standby.
Because we left later than the rest of the band/crew, we arrived late for load in. The system was in and wired (or so I was told) and there was already a full house. I had fifteen minutes to wire the deck and ring out the system and do a line check. No time for a full sound check. The rig consisted of two sixteen-channel boards (a Biamp and a Ramsa) wired together, some MXR processing, EQs, Flanger, a Yamaha reverb (pre-SPX), a digital delay, Cassette deck (YES, they ran TRACKS!), one compressor on mains and no gates, a crossover, a pile of BGW 750s, W bins, Martins mid-bass bins, JBL mids, JBL horns. I fired up the system and NOTHING worked! Well, not quite true…nothing worked correctly. Mids were coming from the subs, mid-bass from the horns – you get the idea. I checked the patching on the rack and everything was plugged in to the properly labeled ins/outs. I had TWO minutes to get the show up and running! I then checked the cabinet side to make sure the Hubbells were all patched correctly. Now out of time, and with the band wondering if they had made the right choice, I dove into the rack. Someone had rewired the crossover! The club manager was adamant about the fact that we were now five minutes late. I re-patched the crossover and told the band, “Just go!” I ran to FOH and threw up some faders – not even a line check – and they jumped into the first song. NIGHTMARE! The snake had been patched wrong! Nothing was in its proper place! I made the snap decision to just go with the faulty patch and do my best. By the end of the first song, they might have even sounded like a band.
That’s not the worst of it! When the band stopped playing at 1:30am, I started to tear down. They looked at me like I was nuts. In NYC, clubs are open until 4am! WHO KNEW!?! FINALLY, at 4am, we did tear down.
It gets BETTER! We then had to drive to The Neptune Beach Club on Long Island. AND, play a NOON show, a HAPPY HOUR SHOW, and a show THAT NIGHT! We rolled out of The Bronx around 6am – I was now driving the truck. We pulled into Neptune around 11am. We had an hour to load in, set up and play. All went well technically this time and after the hour long set, I was READY to hit the hotel and get some sleep!
We drove to the hotel (about 20 minutes away). I decided to take a shower and then nap. When I got out of the shower at around 2:15, the crew was telling me to hurry up – happy hour starts at 3! AND goes until 7! And our night show starts at 9 and goes until 4am! I somehow got through those first two days. The next day we also played Neptune – no noontime show. No happy hour show. I slept and it felt SO good!
When I answered the phone and he asked if I wanted to go back out on the road (after 23 years of raising kids, designing systems and being a house engineer), I stopped and thought for a while. I think I know all the right questions to ask…Things haven’t changed THAT much. Have they? I have to give him my answer later today. I hope I’m better prepared THIS time!