3:10pm. At the gig, Pink Pop Festival. Had dinner last night with Mark (monitor engineer), excellent Indian food in Amsterdam and off to bed. No big party night for me, balance and rhythm is my goal in the turmoil.
**** Highlight of the Day - Raspberries ****
I have never tasted or seen a better raspberry than I had today, they were perfect beyond what I though a raspberry could be. I ate the whole package of them.
The Ben and Jerry's bean bag pillows in "The Compound" were a close runner up and take second place for HOTD. Leif (lighting tech) and Scott were soon joined by myself.
When touring on this level and headlining large festivals means we often get a "Compound" with all Peppers related dressing rooms, production offices, crew room etc. It is really cool to have a place to hang and get away from the fray, even if you can not escape the PA thumping from the other bands. I am going to un escape the Flaming Lips at 5:30 though, I love that band, along with the Pixies, Modest Mouse and Ween, they are one my favorite bands that I have not directly worked for. They did open on a Peppers tour but unlike my many of my other favorite bands, they have never been an official Rat tour.
Nick the Fly finds a car:
Third Highlight of the Day, I talked to Wayne, Flaming Lips singer and he still loves Rat shirt from 10 years ago, got his address and some fresh Rat swag is headed his way! Thank you Daniella!
With each passing day of tour I seem to drop another pattern from home and slide closer to just maintaining basic necessities. I have been doing work almost entirely from the BlackBerry as getting an internet connection is more cumbersome than valuable at this point. It is like swimming upstream to try and cling to things like daily shaving, anything remotely resembling a schedule, consistent healthy eating, reasonable sleep patterns and regular communication with any human that is not within shouting distance. When we stop changing countries on a near daily basis, it will get easier.
**** Issue of the Day - Lack of V-Dosc or even more scary, lack of subs! ****
Especially considering that today is a 'Throw and Go' gig for 60,000. That means we get the stage for the first time at set change and we have to get backline, monitors, main system tuned and dialed while the audience is in front of the stage. With a familiar PA system, it is not a big deal but I have only mixed on this type of Martin Line array twice before and had better than ok results. Also, I try never to subject the audience to the check one two or testing of instruments over the sound system, even if the festival does allow it. When I mix, the first time the audience hears band's instruments through the sound system is when the band hits the stage. What I will do is play familiar music to EQ/tune, ask a lot of questions and eliminate every variable I can.
Going from 44 Rat Subs for 20,000 people to 24 Martin subs for 60,000 people is a bit of a concern.
I do like the Martin better than Vertec rigs though. I will now rename Vertec from the Ford Explorer of sound systems to the McDonalds of sound systems. You can get one anywhere in the world, it will keep you from starving, lots of people love their burgers and I will have one if I have to, but given the choice I would much prefer a meal created by a world class french chef.
**** Sound Nerd Speak ****
Oh yeah, subs, 24 is just not going to cut it and the main line array boxes go down fairly low. Using the mains all the way down and overlapping the subs is an option I will not be doing. I like to have separate control over all the sub lows on a single eq and fader. What I am going to do is high pass the main system as I always do (between 100 and 160, venue dependant). I will then split my sub woofer send into a spare x-over and send a second subwoofer send as well that has an independent trim, x-over and mute on my side. The second sub send will get added back into the left and right mix via an XL88. Basically it is a sub on an aux send emulation. I do it a lot when I run into Clair S4 systems when they are not configured with subs on an aux.
**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****
Franz Ferdinand is just finishing up so it is time to get ready to rock.
**** Issue of the Day Part 2 - Wind ****
Technically, sonic projection software will predict system coverage over large areas from giant PA hangs. What it will not predict is the catastrophic effects that wind has on sound, the amount of wind and ways to reduce the bummout factor.
The wind blew sound all over the place. One way of thinking is that wind is an unavoidable act of nature. My experience has been that there are several things that can be done to reduce sonic trauma due to wind.
1) Never rely on just 1 hang per side for a large outdoor show where wind is even a remote possibility. With 2 clusters a side I have found that when wind blows the sound of one cluster away from you, it often will blow the sound of another cluster towards you.
2) Cover extra width. By over-covering you will gain some buffer zone and keep the outer audience covered with breezes and mellow gusts.
3) Minimize long distance throw and rely more heavily on multiple/regional delay clusters. The farther you project sound, the more susceptible it is to wind and environmental issues.
7:30pm. We flew from Lisbon to Amsterdam. Did not get back to the hotel till 3am and finally got to bed at 6am, slept till noon and flew to Amsterdam in a haze. Trying to hold all my projects together while moving so fast is a challenge indeed.
It looks nice out there, here is a pic out my hotel window:
Unknown time. 10 minutes to get off the bus. Wow, Good Morning! Get all my stuff off the bus, need clothes, driver has my passport from the overnight border crossing. Ouch, incessant thumping sound. So far, today is not my favorite day.
+30 minutes, it is 1:20 pm and I just got done standing in a trailer shower, got burned by scalding water twice when I turned around and knocked the handle to full hot. I discovered turning clockwise was less painful as the cold water was less painful.
Fifteen years ago I would have gone exploring and been thrilled to see what's out there, right now well, I will force myself to check out front of house sound world.
5pm - Hotel. The vans got lost taking us from the gig to the hotel and turned a 10 minute drive into 45 minutes. Plus I fell asleep in the van and left my small camera on the seat. Oh well, it was acting up and erasing pictures anyway and you had to hit it to make it work half the time. I still have my big camera which is all good.
My room smells like dog hair but the place is brand new so it is most likely just a toxic chemical smell from some crazy paint or carpet. And hey look, my cell phone is not picking up a network it can use, I guess I am offline as well, at least it is saturday. Three hours till we head back to the gig and then 4 hours till show time. I have not eaten yet so I guess I better go seek out some food. I would normally order room service but it just happens to be closed from 3pm to 7pm unless you want a "snack." Good thing I am too tired to get riled up.
7:15pm The camera returns. Glad I put a Rat sticker on it. Plus we gained an hour last night night so now I have an extra 60 mins to enjoy, oh boy!
**** Highlight of the Day - Lunch by the water with Simon, Daniel and Nick. ****
Lisbon is absolutely beautiful! Simon is filling in for Chris while he is healing and can come back and join us. Simon is great and I miss Chris, I heard today that his jaw is broken as is his elbow and some teeth. AAAAArgh!
**** Issue of the Day - The whole day before lunch ****
I am mixing this tour on a Midas H3000 console. I tried to switch to digital but failed. I just could not get access to enough things simultaneously and would loose too many things I really rely upon when I mix. I will try and remember to cover the whole digi vs. analog debate some other day.
Off to do a rock show!
The shows are not as enjoyable for me when I do not have the bad ass touring PA. Here I had a large JBL Vertec system. The PA company took great care of us but I miss the V-Dosc, Vertec is loud but I have yet to figure out how to get the fidelity out of it, or into it as the case may be. The Ford Explorer of sound systems, they work, they run, they do well over bumps, everyone has one and they are not the most comfortable rides out there.
3:30 am - Parked at the venue, on the tour bus, load out continues. Not very happy with my bunk pillow, thin with poking feathers.
I took a full drink onto the Pro Tools pre amp rack tonight. Some kind of sticky solution that I saw coming in a high arc before crashing onto the rack and splashing across the console. Oh, man, just a mess and all I have is an unwashed t-shirt someone gave me that is as absorbent as a rubber mat. Oh well, at least I did not lose any channels. I mix the show with sticky fingers.
Tonight (later this morning), what we call 'the core crew' will ride about four hours to Rocking Rio Festival in Lisbon where we will get dropped and lose the busses and live at the gig till after the show. The main production crew (everyone else) will do a 30 hour drive to Lyon, France.
The core crew are the ones that we really can not do a show without. The backline techs, sound engineers, lighting human, some production humans, some backstage humans, stage manager and usually engineer techs as well.
European driving laws are much more strict than US laws. To do a 30 hour drive it will take 3 drivers per bus as each one is only allowed like 8 hours without a full sleep. They have little paper disks in the speedometers over here that mark the time traveled and speed each professional driver travels and they get in all kinds of trouble if their disks don't match the law.
I have a lot going on on this tour. Mixing main PA, I also mix a recording 2 track mix on headphones that has audience mics mixed in and somewhat different levels. We have VIP fills that fed off that mix as well located on each side of stage. Nick the Fly, my FOH tech is keeping Pro Tools running and after switching to the internal 400 gig, we had not crashes last night.
The Main PA System is 2 hangs per side each consisting of 12 V-Dosc and 3 dV-Dosc.
The side wrap system is 2 hangs per side each consisting of 9 dV-Dosc
Plus we have 44 Rat Subs and 6 L'Accoustics self powerd 8" speakers for VIP fills.
The main PA is divided into a stereo inner system and a stereo outer system. The side wraps are divided into near pair (the side wraps closer to me) and far pair. The near pair is sent a signal that is a mono version of the inner system and the far pair is sent a mono version of the outer system.
2pm - Fifty people all checking into a hotel and sometimes the hotels don't really comprehend the concept of getting all the room keys ready before we arrive. It is gonna be a while. Priority goes to the crew that are have to head to the gig soon so they can get a shower beforehand. Today is a day off for sound engineers, backline, band party and some others but it is a pre-rig day for riggers, lighting crew, sound crew. The tour will be pre-rigging a few times till everything gets dialed in. We have back-to-back shows in different cities coming up so pre-rigs will soon become a thing of the past.
Super tired, I will get used to sleeping on a bus soon enough but it will take a few rides to get there. Shower and a nap and wake up to a PIN message from Chad (drummer human) about going to see Ted Nugent. Hmmm, not a big fan. He has some pretty rough political and alpha-male related hunting views that don't mesh with my view of the world around me. On the other hand, something to do and am curious to meet him even if I don't agree with him. Plus I used to rock out to Stranglehold when I was a kid.
Oh, PIN messages are pretty much the life blood of communication out here. BlackBerry's have an internal network where you can send a super fast, confirmed delivery, free text messages directly to another BlackBerry, pretty much worldwide. They are so effective that we use them for sound check and staying in touch during the gig from FOH to mons. Next in line is SMS text messaging but the charges add up and they are less reliable and slower, emailing phone to phone is slow and not confirmed. An actual phone call? Way too intrusive! Ever tried to talk on the phone during a rock show?
2am - Ted Nugent played a club gig, Chad and I actually rode over with him, his family and the bass player to the gig. On one hand, everyone was super friendly, on the other hand, my opinion was reinforced. I can not remember ever hanging out with someone that I disagree with more.
10:30pm - mix position and mere minutes till show time and I am surrounded 18,000 Spaniards that are ready to rock. The pre show thrill is contagious. So many people so excited! But wow, this is one big echo chamber of a room and what I refer to as "not an optimum acoustic environment."
Here is a pic of FOH just after doors opened:
Last night I started zeroing in on a setup that works best. I ran vocals, kick and snare to the inside clusters, bass, guitar, toms and cymbals to the outside clusters. The idea is that the bass and guitar donâ€™t really step on each other frequency wise. The vocals pretty much have their own PA system except the short bursts of kick and snare, which are of short enough duration to where you do not hear any conflict there. It was quite interesting to clearly here the drop in clarity when I moved the vocals into the outer cluster with bass and guitar. The plan is working! Uh, the band is walking. Time to rock.
4am â€“ Bus bunk. Overnight drive to Madrid. The show ran a bit smoother for me as I had a better handle on the mixing strategy and also I mixed at a bit lower level. It is hard not to get too excited and turn it up when I have that much power at my fingertips, not sure exactly how many watts but figure somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 watts.
**** Issue of the Day â€“ Pro Tools Crashes ****
The vibration from the subwoofers is crashing the Pro Tools system. Went down 3 times last night and once the previous night. We are going to record to a different hard drive at the next show. We currently use an external 500 gig. Maybe a lower density drive will be more stable and we have a pile of 120 gig drives. Plus there is an extra internal 400 gig drive as well.
This tour we upgraded the touring recording rig from the old DA88 system to a 32 channel G5 based Pro Tools system.
The quick run down is:
32 Channels of analog in, AES/EBU out Focusrite mic preâ€™s into
32 channel AES/EBU input Lightviper 500 ft fiber optical snake into
Digidesign 192â€™s plus a
Sync I/O for locking to video, screen, powered monitors, Command 8 and APC.
The recording rig allows the mic preâ€™s to be on stage or at FOH and the recorder to be up to 500 feet away. We carry everything necessary to record and mix down a live show. The entire rig including the 500 ft snake, 10 spare drives and all the cables fits in 2 15 space racks and three Pelican cases and it takes about 15 minutes to setup. Now we just need to stop those damn hard drive errors.
**** Highlight of the Day - The Automatic Espresso Machine on the Bus ****
We have a one button espresso machine on our bus. That is huge! Not only that, our tour bus quite nice, especially for a Euro bus and the driver, Jans, is super cool! Tight european roads and narrow streets limit the width and wheel bases of European buses making them smaller and bouncier than the North American counterparts. This bus is pretty well modeled after the ones from home rather than the cramped dark musty double decker's I have ended up in on so many tours.
Probably not the best time for coffee now though, as my vision is blurring. Sleep time.
I remove the light focusing blow-up man-doll from my bunk as there is not enough room for both of us. Maybe some other night if I get lonely, but tonight the man-doll gets to sleep in the back lounge with no pillow. And I climb into my cubicle, alone.