Thursday, August 31. 2006
Not only is this the first of two shows at the Los Angeles Forum and no question about it, we are surrounded by friends and the feeling of festivities abound but it is also the centennial day since tour started! One hundred days of pure road joy and even roadie Bill Rahmy has joined the occasion and helped spread much cheeriness.:
Though no one but me actually realizes that we have hit the 100 mark and the balloons are totally unrelated, it still makes for a party like feel and speaking of feel, how about that mixing the show with an outdoorsy feel:
And an awesome ending to a great show:
**** Begin Sound Nerd Speak ****
Back in 1974 the Grateful Dead put together what was easily the most unique, experimental and possibly most complex sound system ever configured for live sound reinforcement in that era. This system was named the "Wall of Sound" and was a complete divergence from conventional sound reinforcement thinking. There were two key concepts combined together resulting in a very interesting outcome:
1) Because PA systems of the day were stacked on either side of the stage and often blocked audience sight lines, they designed a sound system that was placed behind the band and acted as both the PA system, their instrument amps and as their monitor system (way for the band to hear themselves).
2) They found that when all the various instruments and vocals were mixed together into the PA speakers the sound was less clear than when each instrument was amplified separately. To deal with this, they actually designed and used a separate sound system for each instrument and another sound system for the vocals totaling six PA systems!
While a giant step in forward thinking was made, it was not without issues. Having the sound system directly behind that band meant the speakers are pointed straight into the mics. Also, the sheer complexity and magnitude of the setup greatly limited the venues that it could be implemented and the fact that the sound system became the entire stage backdrop relegated it to become a niche concept that possibly could only be used by its creators and equally unique Grateful Dead.
And as you can see, it did not make for the cleanest stage set:
Just to provide some contrast, here is a cool old picture of The Rolling Stone stage setup with the PA located behind the lips scrim:
Even with it's awkwardness, the concept of the Wall of Sound was so intriguing that I had to try it and understand it. I finally got that opportunity in 1986 while touring with Black Flag when, after some persuading, Davo and I talked the band into letting us set up the Rat PA in a mini Wall of Sound configuration:
Since I had designed and Rat Sound had built Black Flag's guitar and bass cabinets exactly the same dimensions as the Rat PA, the system fit together really well. On the upside, the system was incredibly clear sounding while on the downside, it sounded a bit distant and the sound bleeding into the mics was cumbersome enough not to continue with that setup. The most important thing is that I learned enough to set my sights on someday resolving the issues.
Twenty years later, through a round about way I have come full circle. My testing in designing the MicroWedge series has clarified my understanding and goals. The evolution of sound systems from giant globs of speakers to finesse full narrow line-arrays created the opportunity to cover large venues with multiple systems utilizing minimal space. The entire Wall of Sound was 26,000 watts, current systems run at ten times that power and are a fraction of the size. Plus we now have the capability of effectively predicting the sonic coverage in a venue based on room dimensions. What this means is that with today's sound system technology, multiple sound systems can be hung conventionally to either side of the band rather than stacked behind them without blocking sight lines creating an inconspicuous yet effective implementation of the concept:
Initially I considered proposing a triple system rather than the dual system Peppers are currently touring with. The triple would have been three separate stereo sound systems, one for guitar, one for bass and one for vocals with drums interspersed into the three. To test the concept, I purchased three small home Hi-Fi systems and roadie Ethan and I built a small simulator in my living room. With a pro tools system and live Peppers multi track recordings from last tour, I was able to try out different combinations and test the effectiveness of the setup. I found that the most noticeable improvement occurred when going from one system to two and adding the third was more subtle.
So here we are today, at a home town gig and amidst all the excitement, my heart secretly pounds and I smile as long ago dreams become real. Here in the place where I saw my first rock concert ever, hanging from the ceiling in front of my eyes is the first touring and practical application of multiple systems on a arena scale. A refined and usable version of what the Grateful Dead had started, a grand scale application of what I learned from so many years and this is the PA that Rat built.
**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****
The still pinching myself,
Wednesday, August 30. 2006
Woke up at a gas station near Magic Mountain, when I was shorter I would have been bouncing of the walls seeing the huge wooden roller coaster. No such luck this morning though as we are dumping roadie Dave Lee and roadie Daniel off before heading into to town. All of the out of town roadies and some in towners, with no reason to go home, are staying at the hotel in Marina del Rey. The rest of us will make our various ways home. It says two days off in the itinerary but if you interpret that it means drive day and pre-rig day where a bunch of roadies go load in a day early, fortunately I have been immunized against pre-rig-itus so I get to stay home.
First order of business, swim. Then clean up the splattering I left the house in. My friend Andy has been staying here on and off and we get caught up on the happenings. He arrived two weeks after I left and it has been mega hot here. He was especially curious as to whether I still wanted the chinese food that I left in the microwave before leaving on tour. I guess It took him quite a while to discover the source of the less than pleasant new house odor.
Fixing the house AC (again) was not so bad. This time it was just water leaking out all over the garage floor from a little pump and once I got inside the little thing reglueing the impeller back to the shaft was pretty easy.
And with that being as interesting as I got for these two days, how about rewinding back to a decade onto Rage Against the Machine tour and here is a picture of Matt, myself and Tom Morello in business suits after visiting the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange
And that was the first and only time I saw Tom in a suit while I have actually put one at least twice since then. Oh, and here is Brian Rat, myself, Ford Engerth and Zach de la Rocha standing in front of a Buddhist temple in Thailand.
And while you imagine exploring Thailand, I am going to wash the sticky kitchen floor.
Monday, August 28. 2006
How about something new today? Come have a seat at Chad's drum kit and check out the view:
and lookie here, nothing like a sweet romantic love song to bring joy to the heart and tonight Freaky Styley is very much one my old school favorites!
**** Roadie Insight ****
As glamorous as the roadie life of pushing cases and bus riding marathons appears to be to the outsider, believe it or not, it truly is a bed of roses, thorns and all. As quickly as the euphoria of knowing your 1 1/2 years will be spent in many elsewhere's, the swirling 'drink me' temptation of all the pretty colored alcohol bottles, seductive wine labels and selection of local temptresses can all to easily become the preferred evening ritual. Load in, rock, load out, party, bus ride, TV, sleep, repeat. Days can easily slump into sleeping in, eating and meeting for drinks again. Add in some strip clubs, extraneous drugs, power dating and burn a few all nighters and bingo, you have the recipe for a generic rock roadie. That of course is the easy path and has its assets in the short term and prices in the long. Getting out of bed early to workout in the hotel gym or booking a car rental over the noise of the gig for a snow boarding trip on the next day off is where the true challenges lie. The obstacles of orchestrating scuba diving and fishing trips range from predicting bus arrival times to finding out that your alleged day off has morphed into a loading in day early.
For the roadie me, I have to have projects above and beyond the adventure of mixing the best rock show I can mix or at least I need drink enough to forget that I need them. Sober and project-less I spiral into boredom and the worst thing of all happens, I become no fun to be around or maybe too much fun depending. As you may have well guessed, one of my projects for this tour is sharing the adventure of this tour. Another ongoing one is is always my passion for Rat Sound and the livelihood of all those that make it what it is. Next I am going to learn to fly fish so I bought a fly fishing rod and Scott the Lampi is going to teach me how.
I guess because the product I am hired to create is so intangibly fleeting and the sound of the show vaporizes into a diffused set of opinions whisked away as the audience leaves. The only remnants that remain from something that was just hours ago phenomenal, is just some distilled words by a few reviewers sharing their own microcosm of the experience. As meaningful as they are meaningless and I have finished all to many tours with nothing to show for it but a wad of cash, a monster hangover, some ringing ears and offers for another tour.
And so spawns the playfully absurd and roadies desire to frolic and where better to frolic than in a grassy field? Non-where better there is. And so was realized Nick the Fly's dream of the FOH micro lawn. In October 2003 it became a reality and though short lived, on the west coast part of the Pepper's By the Way tour, we purchased and toured with several square yards of Marathon sod. To this day I still reminisce of the cool sensation mixing barefoot upon the lovely green.
**** End Roadie Insight ****
The appreciative of my world,
Sunday, August 27. 2006
With the carpet store open, Scott and I could hardly contain our excitement as we carefully selected our floor covering. Scott showing buyers remorse:
If you look carefully on his bag you can spot the yellow plastic blow gun. Unfortunately the carpet was neither comfy nor popular as roadies Scott and Monte Lee Wilkes are demonstrating here:
We had informed Nick the Fly of or purchases and he clearly does not show up under-prepared.
Of special note, you may not realize it but this photo was taken at front of house and not in a forest during autumn. Those shrubbery like leaves are actually camouflaging the high tech equipment.
Let that games begin and so they did. The ruthless battle saw no quarter as foam darts filled the arena skies deep into the night for several yards surrounding. Though all FOH roadies were fair game for the hunt, soon we followed the lead of roadie Scott. Turning our weapons of war upon the punters, valiantly and ruthlessly shoot audience members in the back whom dare to stand betwixt us and the band. Effectively the mysterious thump to their hind sides inspired those blocking our view to forfeit their stance upon thy chair and return to the earthly level. From this we derived much pleasure.
The wounded but surviving,
Saturday, August 26. 2006
After arriving in Fresno and not wanting to miss a single moment of this joyous day off, I dropped my bags off in my room and set out seeking a drinkable cup of coffee. After wandering aimlessly to the point of infuriating frustration and completely failing my task, I headed back the bus and brewed a pot myself while I regrouped my thoughts.
Then it dawned on me. Soon if not already, Scott the Lampi would be inspired to follow the same dire path I just abandoned. A quick phone call confirmed he too was questing coffee, after warning him of the challenges he faces, we met at the tour bus for a sure cup of coffee and to form our Fresno strategy.
First and foremost and when in doubt, one must shop and what could be more perfect than a $1.00 store for critical tour supplies. Let's see, what do we need, blow dart guns, fake autumn leaves, catapults that launch small foam airplanes, perfect that pretty much was exactly what we were looking for!
While walking around we spotted this and oh that was close, I almost wore the same outfit today,
but at the last moment some strange thing came over me called common sense and instead I chose shorts and a white t-shirt to fend off the 105 degree weather.
Though we did score some incredible items, I still carry some remorse that I passed on the red studded, rotating wheel, business watch:
Though the carpet store was closed by the time we got there, tomorrow morning we should have enough time to buy some. Because, I quite sorry to say we are currently lacking FOH tour carpet.
Off to play with my goodies!
The wishing I had that red business watch,
Friday, August 25. 2006
The US is a great country built by many amazing and brilliant people. Unfortunately the most adamant flag waivers are more likely to fall into the categories of unhealthy, lethargic, self righteous followers whose bragging rights are based on the plot of dirt they were born. Hmmmm, the beauty of clinging on the accomplishments of others, versus creating them of their own. And when ever I remember to I ask myself "What can I do that is unique, different, amazing and special, today or any day? And how well am I treating my my mind, my body, the critters around me (humans included) and the planet I reside?" I find I am most deeply happy, as that is when my world is balanced and I am pursuing new adventures. That is of course not the same as when I have the most fun, which lays more in the realms of playfully devious or the seeking of thrill.
And thrill seeking we did. Here you can see roadies Chris Warren and Scott the Lampi very seriously rocking out on Guitar Hero:
For those of you confused enough to think that Guitar Hero is just a silly Playstation game where you rock out on a toy guitar to hit songs, well you're right, but it is embarrassingly fun. Personally, I am not much for video games, as they time sponge away my world. Furthermore I am odd in that I don't watch any TV either. So when Nick the Fly's brother, Sailing Joe, dropped me off a Guitar Hero game last year (Joe works for the G. H. company), I must admit, I made an exception and spent some time rocking the toy guitar. Thank you E, D and G for hanging out and a great time!
**** Begin SoundNerdSpeak ****
Subwoofers on an Auxiliary Send
Most sound systems are made up of speakers that vary in size depending on the frequencies they reproduce. Smaller speakers for the higher notes and bigger speakers for the lower notes. At home for your computer you most likely have a pair of roundish speakers mounted in plastic boxes. For your living room there may be a big speaker a mid sized and a smaller one mounted in some wooden boxes. Also home systems typically have one stereo amplifier and there are some electronic parts inside the speaker box that divide the music to send low notes to the big speakers and highs to the little ones.
On large scale sound systems there is pretty much the same thing except the sound is divided the sound up before the amplifiers. That means there is a separate amplifier for the lows, another amplifier for the midrange and yet another amplifier for the highs. On the Peppers we are carrying with us, there are fourteen 2000 watt stereo amps just for the sub woofers alone and many more amps for lows, mids and highs.
I do everything in my power to assure that the sound systems I use are configured such that there is a separate control over the signal sent to the sub-low speakers (sub woofers). For me that is extremely important. The technical term is 'subwoofers on an auxiliary send' or 'subs on an aux.' Subs on an Aux is what gives me the delicious control over that syrupy low frequency ooze that wraps around you and connects your body to the lowest of bass notes and thump of the kick drum. Unfortunately, I am often denied this control when using alien (not Peppers touring) sound systems. Today, once again I am appreciating how awesome it is to have subs on an aux and 'our' PA!
**** End SoundNerdSpeak ****
And then there were these guys, of course:
And finally just to make you smile, check out the picture at the bottom of this web page:
Clearly I was planning on being very thirsty and not very hungry. Oh, and if you are curious about the punk rock scene in the early 80's, you should take a look around Michelle Flipside's site. You know the Ramones movie "Rock and Roll High School?" That was Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, CA where I met Michelle in my tenth grade english class.
The not quite so thirsty,
It has been a while and who would have knew, the return of:
**** Issue of the Day ****
Every tour with any duration always seems to have a point where 'tanti time' comes. Oh the heart warming enjoyment of grown roadies all upset over the relatively insignificant. And I never want to be left out of the fun so I naturally join in in anyway I can. Bus food. Seems there is a discrepancy between what the roadie bellies desire and what what the roadie bellies areÂ being fedÂ for overnight drives.
Though roadies are well known to want nothing other thanÂ Pizza every night, best I can figure there were a few busses that made a few trips with minimal or non existent supplies of drinking water, bee and wine stock. This, of course, angers the roadie's bellies and angry roadie bellies are capable of inspiring the roadie in which they reside into either profuse whining or even worse, taking matters in there own roadie hands. Couple that with the fact that a loaf of Wonderbread was discovered on one of the busses and hence erupted:
The Wonderbread Mutiny 2006
Though similar to the Boston Tea Party, the Wonderbread Mutiny 2006's place in the history books is yet to be determined. What was truly incredible was that word of WM '06 spread so quickly that within hours the head Peppers office 3000 miles away not only got the news but was able to orchestrate an eyebrow raising delivery of three additional loaves of Wonderbread. Anyway, soon afterwards the uprising lost steam because it was too difficult to be mad while laughing.
Furthermore, concessions on the food supply end were made as well and without a single drop of bloodshed, the the tour slid back to its lumpy harmony of balance that we all love and enjoy.
**** End Issue of the Day ****
And since I have to watch these guys every day so I may as well have you do the same:
And so ends another day on the road.
P. S. Have you ever peeled the crust off of Wonderbread and squeezed the middle part back into a dough ball?
Wednesday, August 23. 2006
Roadies love truck stops and if you are chipper enough to pop out of your bunk at a fuel stop, there is some real fun to be had. With everything you could need from truck parts
adorable gifts for the kids
and you can pretty much live off of these these multipurpose macro-marts. With restaurants, shower rooms and special trucker only lounges that have couches, movies and internet. The trucker sub culture is right at home here and most importantly, they are located with easy freeway access and 60 foot long parking spaces.
For us roadies, truck stops provide a place to frolic, shop and occasionally get left behind. Being left behind is called "oil spotted" in roadie speak. No one truly knows the origin of the term but evidence does indicate that it may have evolved from the statement "the only thing I could find was the oil spot where the bus used to be." To avoid oil spotation, it generally a good idea for roadies to leave a note on the drivers seat if they leave the bus. What happens is the driver goes inside to pay for fuel, roadie wakes up and leaves the bus to go crap in the bathroom, (piss only on tour busses) and the driver returns and drives off, hence the note idea.
I have a few good oil spot stories that I will save for a rainy day, but since today is sunshine, lets go sailing!
Nick the Fly's brother Joe has a boat in the bay and picked up Nick, Scott and I for a sailing adventure soon after we arrived in SF. Here we can see these salty sailors out on the open sea:
First they said something about coming around then it gets really noisy, all hell breaks loose, a metal thing swings across really fast and and then the boat goes the other way. I hide in the cabin.
They did that a few times and then started looking at the swingy metal thing
and it was much easier to fish without all the ruckus. Good thing too, cause otherwise I may not have gotten the chance to land this impressive behemoth
And such ends another rough day on the road.
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