The Curse of the Audio Technician [Ballarat Column]

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The Curse of the Audio Technician [Ballarat Column]

Greetings live music listeners, practitioners, prima donnas and roadies, Dan here with an issue that I would like to discuss just to change things up for a week.
I’ve been trained as an audio technician and I work The Eastern week to week in which I get to mix many awesome bands and see a great variety of live music. Does this make me a successful audio technician? I’m not exactly sure, though I’m happy in what I do and who I meet through the involvement I have with the whole scene.
I get to chat with different musicians week to week and hopefully make them sound good on stage. I’ve reached the stage where I am confident in the way I know the venue I mix, the way I make people sound on stage, and the onboard effects unit my desk has. But now and then I get thrown a curveball, as is bound to happen in any career – and the weekend just gone was one that did it to me.
I was called in on the Friday to mix solo acts A Miner and Ben Salter, and everything went great with both those guys. Then the Saturday, which is my regular day, an issue with a foldback was resolved without me being made aware. This issue was a simple replacement and chaining to the other foldback. Now, this usually shouldn’t present a problem, only the guy who did it came in an hour before I was due there and an hour and a half before the first band was due to start. Being confident in the venue and having mixed last night, I thought all my settings would be unchanged, which they were to some degree, only in the patching of the new foldback somehow the AUX channels had been changed.
Ern Malley were up first on the bill and they had a lot to set up on a stage with limited floor space. So I stayed out of their way until they were ready. Keeping near the desk I adjusted all the settings to the standard preferences most bands enjoy. The band maybe stopped once during their set to mention they needed more foldback, which was polite of them, unknown to me that “more” actually meant “more than none”. Because we hadn’t really had time for a soundcheck, I didn’t test the foldback – and why would a straight chaining need a re-patch at the desk anyway? So these poor guys went the whole set without any foldback as I was adjusting the wrong channel to give them more. It wasn’t until after when I asked them and they said they had none that I realised the folds had been re-patched. So if any of you readers are friends of Ern Malley, tell them that Dan the Sound Man apologises profusely and I that really hate to put on a bad mix for the band (they still sounded great through front of house).
Next up, The Junipers played, and despite having not much bass through the amp they’d borrowed from one of the other bands (it was quickly fixed with a DI; the venue is small with large windows that reverberate the sound all around the small space, so rarely do I worry about micing the amps), they did really well and didn’t make me squirm with the justified discomfort I could read in Ern Malley.
This is all part of the large ongoing journey of becoming a confident sound guy, I understand, and despite having two years of practice under my belt (four years if you include the study), even in a venue mostly mixed by yourself you can still be turned on your head.
Anyway, I’d just like to thank The Eastern for putting up with me, as well as all bands I get to mix there. Every week usually has a great crowd attending for the music and the weekend celebration. I encourage anyone who reads this in the Ballarat area to check the place out one week to see whether it’s your kinda place, because you will not be disappointed.
By Daniel Lock