I used to get depressed when tour ended and I was faced with the doldrums of everyday life. Like a hangover, a motionless depression that would slowly fade as I hacked through the pile accumulated stuff that built up while I was away. I still do. Sometimes I just would not even come home bouncing from one tour to the next as a combination not wanting to miss anything and the thrill of bands paying me money to turn up their sound, combined to leave me near homeless. I never set out to be a touring sound engineer but the temptation and adventure changed that and I fell in love with the motion. I have all but stopped working for other bands touring and it is no longer a financial necessity for me, nor a desire I can not resist. Except for this band and crew. My project for this tour was to never forget what it feels like. My project was to capture the slipping of my perspective over time and see if the essence of what motivated me to spend nearly two decades of my life in motion could be shared. I had no idea about the magnitude of this project I was undertaking. I had no idea of how much I would enjoy it and the best of all is the endless stream of never knowing what will happen next.
**** End Mushy 'Getting Home' Speak ****
Sound systems come in all shapes and sizes and just like transportation vehicles, there is no 'best,' there are only various versions that are better or worse for the application at hand. Attempting a transatlantic journey on a bicycle my be possible but generally it is agreed that a transportation vehicle that also floats would be more suited for the job. Similarly, utilizing a jet plane to travel to the corner market not only would be financially awkward but finding a parking space could prove frustrating, especially this time of year. Occasionally though a perfect match is engineered so well that it deserves credit and recognition. I would like to announce the
**** Ingenious and Practical Sound System Design Award ****
Our first runner up is a PA that was designed and built by an unknown craftsman. Notice the high level of symmetry, notice the height of the mix riser and impermeable vintage barricade around it. If I am not mistaken, this system consists of 14 - 15" and 27 horn drivers per side using three different bass bin designs and seven horn types. Impressive stuff and the sheer fact that they were able to offer nearly a 1 to 1 speaker to audience member ratio is a huge plus. Most likely, given the availability of the audio gear at the time, this represents the apex of practicality. Unfortunately though, there were more ingenuous methods available, even back in those days than to cluster-stack a big pile of horns at ear level right next to the band. Though I was not at this particular show, I will venture to say that it did not reminisce of the sound of angels singing.
Next in line is U2 for this gorgeous but terrible sounding orange sound ball of a system. How do I know? Well I took this picture in 1997 before mixing on it 2 nights when Rage Against the Machine opened for them. So, even though it is ingenuous, clearly it was a set designer's ingenuity and not a sound human behind it's creation which is why it - looks great and sounds bad.
Now for the winner of this most prestigious award goes to none other that our friend Al in New Orleans for creating the Ultimate Bedroom PA!
Not only is it ingenuous, it is practical as well. The 'mix position' is correctly located at a lower level than the PA system and the entire listening area is located distinctly within the optimum sonic coverage. As far as speaker to audience ratio? Well, no question that he wins that one hands down if we count horns and cones, there could be upwards of 8 to 10 simultaneous 'listeners.' Kudos Al for a job well done!
**** End Ingenious and Practical Sound System Design Award ****