Tuesday, February 27. 2007
The delays were delayed. We were told that our flight was delayed but when it was time to board, it turns out that the delayed boarding was delayed as well. Right before heading out on towards the runway, the pilot informed us that there is a bit of a delay so he shut the engines back down and we stayed parked for 1/2 hour before being delayed 15 minutes more and heading out. Other than the further delay in getting a take off slot, we took to the skies without further delay. Landing only two hours late, it turns out that there was delay getting into the gate because of another aircraft parked there. Unfortunately the "alley" where our gate was is only wide enough for one plane at a time and we are at the end of a line of planes with the same plan as us, no problem, it will just be a minor delay.
So we land, the backline three
and I, gather our luggage and then push it around in circles as none of us have clear info on what to do now. If it was not for a few text messages from Scott the Lampi who just went through the same confusion, we would have not known anything. Turns out that we are to take the hotel shuttle to the Airport Hyatt, a lame square temporary human habitat plopped in the middle of a flight path. The video ad in the shuttle bus on the way over, much to our glee, informed us that the "The Hyatt O'Hare is currently going through a major renovation which will soon make it a new and exciting business epicenter." Interpretation - Expect to try and sleep in a hotel under construction. And with that,
Welcome to the glamour of doing a rock tour!!!
First stop, Chicago-ish Illinois for a rock show. We were here with Lollapalooza but now it is time for proper full Peppers gig, kind of near the windy city. Good morning, it's coffee time and soon it will be time to head in to the office for a work day in an arena filled with loud music.
Come on, lets go turn up the giant stereo!
Sunday, February 25. 2007
OK, I fly tomorrow and will get back on the sound and travel thing and in the mean time, since I am trapped in a ponder, I may as well share it.
**** Ponderings ****
Jack of all trades versus master of one. Whether to be the specialist or the multipurpose man.
It seems I constantly find myself cycling between round and around I go like a tennis ball caught in the spokes. Left to my own devices without outside influence, curiosity so easily draws me into hyper focus on projects that I drill into to the point of satisfaction or frustration, where I set it aside till a time when returning will bring further results. A way I have learned to tear myself away to maintain a grasp on my surrounding life, like trying to keep a multitude of spinning tops in motion. All too many times I have lifted my eyes from an immersion in the timeless sensation of being meditationally lost in a project, only to find my body starving, bills unpaid and loved ones pondering where I have wandered off to. Self imposed moderation. I force me to stop and look around, take a break, breath, remember to breath. The hangover is so much more bearable when fresh water is mixed in at regular intervals. Dilution, maintaining a perspective, holding onto a thread to find my way back and to remember not to get lost. Lost, as if anyone can actually truly mentally return to a spot they were once before now. As if going back was an option rather than an illusion. My efforts made to hold onto my bearings, pay attention and refine the surrounding skill-sets that allows me to adapt to the world around me in a more versatile way. Yet I wonder. I wonder when my value truly is. For that matter any of us. If there were two villages, one full of multipurpose villagers, each able to do nearly every task pretty darn well but not great and another village full of specialists where each person was a master at a particular craft and not so good at everything else, which village would I prefer to live? Which village would I more likely belong? It seems the small villages could start as multipurpose and as they grew, the specialists would increase. Do I allow me to be a specialist or strive to be versatilist? It seems society rewards the highest praise upon the specialists yet the specialists are also the least stable in a wide variety of situations. It of reminds me of biologists speaking of highly evolved specialized species and how they are so easily threatened with extinction. So, I just now do a Google search on "highly evolved specialized species extinction" and look what I find.
Somehow though they seem to come up with humans specialized to the point of extincting themselves which very well may be the case but there is another layer. The creations by the hyper-specialized thinkers, defy time. Permeating all modern cultures are revered items and creations filling museums that are the result of absurdly time sponging efforts in various mind boggling directions. The unimaginable survival of what should be extinct. Incomprehensible creations, when each of our day today lives absorb our existences and yet somehow a some human finds time a spare decade to create monstrosity without forgetting to stay alive in the mean time. Decision decisions, hmmm.
**** End Ponderings ****
Ok, back to recuperating,
Thursday, February 22. 2007
**** Sound Nerd Speak (with a little bit of Drum Nerd Speak) ****
A little bit about resonance and damping. There are many types of speaker enclosure designs but for the most part they can all be distilled down to two basic types. Loudspeaker enclosures that have a hole somewhere in them that leads to the outside world and enclosures that do not. Some of these designers can be very complex with maze of chambers while others are truly just a hole in the box or a hole so big that there is not even a box per se. Secondly, speaker boxes can be made out of a wide variety of materials ranging from woods, plastics, metals or even concrete. Finally, inside of these loudspeaker enclosures, the creators often put some sort of filling like fiberglass or foam or felt product. While there are many other factors, all of the above choices have significant effect on the low frequency response and how damped or resonant the enclosure/loudspeaker combination will be.
To visualize what is meant by resonant, think of a bell. A highly resonant bell will ring for a long time after being struck. Now stuff a sock in it and though the tone is the same, it does not ring at all, "dink." Loudspeakers in enclosures act much the same way and just as changing the size and shape of the bell will alter its tone, so does the size and shape of a loudspeaker enclosure.
So like the bell, a loudspeaker can be designed to "dink" or "rrrrring" depending on the size of the hole, the amount and type of filler and the size of the enclosure and many other factors. Ok, Acme Speaker Maker has designed what they believe to be a super cool floor monitor. Sounds great, tests great, it is loud and not so resonant that it sounds overly bongy but not so damped that it sounds thuddy. Acme Speaker found during the design phase that if they tuned the wedge at 50HZ with a well designed port (the hole) and duct (little tube attached to the hole), and used no filler that they could extend the low end of the box flat, a bit further. They release it and sell it and Roadrunner Sound buys a big pile of them. Off they head to the first rock show in a high school gym for a gig with local heavy metal band, The Falling Anvil.
First they play some music through them and they sound pretty good. Out comes the vocal mic, check one two, turn it up, check one two, turn it up and "blooooooooo" a low end feedback is everywhere. Heading over to the EQ, Roadrunner sound finds a whole bunch of 50 HZ needs to be taken out. It is everywhere. Everything sounds muddy but hey, what what happened? Not only that, they have to take out so much low end that the monitors now sound thin. It is like they only have a choice between thin and muddy. They sounded fine when we listened to them in the carpeted demo room back at Acme Music store. Plus, Roadrunner Sound even went to the factory where they had all kinds of really expensive test gear that showed how perfect the monitors were. The big room with all the padding on the walls was way cool. What the heck happened?
Well, this scenario is pretty much the norm for an incredibly high percentage of pro audio speaker products. Manufacturers test in anechoic chambers (rooms without reflected sound), often using test tones and signals focusing on flat response and max volume. The sound companies quite often use the products in rooms with lots of echo and the real issue is that some of the sound from the monitor speakers gets back into the mic and then comes out the monitor and back to the mic, round and round. If the amount is increasing, it is called feedback, screech! or Wooooo!, but if it is there but not enough to regenerate, then it just makes things more resonant sounding. These two things, room resonance and regeneration, combine in the live environment to increase the resonance of the loudspeakers in real world use.
Now comes along another manufacturer, Clever Sound, that designs loudspeaker systems specifically to be used in the real world. Knowing that a bulk of the market they shoot for is either going to be on amplified stages or resonant rooms, they design their cabinets to be under damped. To achieve this they tune them lower and the box begins to roll off at 60HZ yet is still usable down to 40HZ but it requires a bit of EQ. Also, they stuff the box with lots of filler which gives it a very tight thud sound when it is not in a resonant room with an amplified stage. With music in the anechoic chamber, the loudspeaker sounds a bit dead but with a mic it seems to liven up a bit.
Unfortunately though, because Clever's monitors are over damped, the specs show that they are lower volume and lower efficiency than the resonant ones. Unfortunately, Acme's resonant wedges sound louder and even though the extra volume is fairly useless is many of the real world shows because it needs to be EQ'ed out, it is still enough to increase sales.
This resonance vs damped situation also exists with drum kits. In the studio in a non amplified environment that is acoustically controllable for resonance, it is quite common to use ringy drums with no damping. The puzzled drummer then queries, "what is wrong with these live, they sound great in the studio, that is the sound I want." Aha, but in the studio you did not have a drumfill blasting, or a bass guitar rig three feet away wiggling all the drum heads or a PA system thumping and the the room in the studio had all those cool rolling sound panels. "OK, tell ya what, if turn off your drumfill, move you way over there away from the bass player and PA and surround your with acoustic panels, then you can play this kit all ringy like that. But I have a have a better idea because no one will see your stick twirls over there, how about we deaden the drums a bit and then crank the drumfill and PA till it brings them back to life? Then we do a rock show!
All that frustration with tuning drum monitors and ringy drums applies to tuning monitors. It is too bad though that drums are fairly easy to re tune and damp down mechanically while monitors, subwoofers and main PA speakers it is often integral to the design of the system.
**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****
The scratching my head,
Wednesday, February 21. 2007
Please pardon my pauses. Oh the reality of overload tumbles in in an avalanche kind of way. Broken I have been broken, body stopped working properly and oh so many un alterable adventures surrounding me so on I go while trading naps and rest for time previously spent sharing. Work, meetings, interviews and all things pull in all directions endlessly. Sunday sees another tour leg and I fully intend to be fully up to speed by then. In the mean time before catch up time here are a few pics from a stop ar Red Rock Canyon on the way to Mammoth snowboard adventure
I bask in solving problems and the satisfaction of fixing things broken. Right now the my repair efforts are focused on fixing me!
The not so chipper,
Friday, February 16. 2007
Boeing 747 - 400 seat 18N Aisle, Business Class, British Airways. Comfy chair, crap food. Hey good news! I am proud to announce that I am relatively confident that I made it through this tour without losing a single item that I intended on keeping! Life is good, my days of losing things may be over forever, hurray hurray! Now all I need to do is just apply this same functional lossless life living pattern to tours longer than four days and I will be all set.
The Peppers did not win the award they were up for but no condolences desired. All good and you all already know the deep love and appreciation hold for award shows and as much as winning is an artificial thrill tossed in from the peanut gallery, to lose is an affirmation that one has not fully achieved Mcdonalds mass appeal generic status. My priorities and focuses lay elsewhere and from the reports I have received thus far, the sound aspects of the gig were a success.
**** Welcome to the Awards Show ****
A few people have asked me what doing these awards shows is like and about details of my involvement so here goes -
Peppers almost always bring in the backline and monitor rig like we did for the Grammy's but for Brit awards there was no time to ship the gear. That means we go to plan B and we used a mirror image setup of the backline gear that was assembled for situations like this. Daniel, the monitor engineer and Manny, the monitor tech hand carry over the mics and ear molds and we used a combo of locally rented and supplied monitor gear. Formy world at front of house and for the TV audio broadcast, it was purely supplied gear and house PA system.
Typically for live TV stuff everything is slow, very slow. As a rule of thumb, if you need to broadcast on thursday, you would figure out how long it takes to set up, let's say 4 hours, so add 2 hours as a buffer and then double it. Now add an extra day, just to be safe. So that means that if we have a 3 minute performance starting at 8 pm, optimally load in would be at 8 am on wednesday but only if we have wild and crazy TV people, normal TV people would double it again and then add a week if they could.
Day 1. At some point after load-in the techs set up all the gear which is immediately followed by the most important part of the day, which in professional circles is referred to as 'waiting around.' Usually the best place to do this waiting is around something familiar like wherever they rolled the risers that all the backline gear resides upon. Then at some arbitrary point in the day completely unrelated to the schedule we were handed, the waiting is abruptly interrupted by 20 local stage hands who grab all the gear and roll it on to the stage, at which point we switch to the other mode of operation called 'rushing stressfully.' This is where they try to make it all work, which takes an awkwardly long time and the backline techs rock out for a while and TV people wander around with headsets looking at things. Then, as quickly as it came, rushing stressfully is gone and we perform my personal favorite called 'leaving as fast as we can.'
Day 2 Show Day. Since everything is already set up, tested and ready to go and the dress rehearsal with the band wont occur till 2 PM, call time for the crew can be set a bit later today, so cutting it tight and allotting 2 hours to walk in and turn on the power switches before waiting around should suffice. So double it and then add a 1/2 hour if your particular TV people can be persuaded to allow such a dangerously tight schedule. So on it goes, wait around, the band rocks out for dress rehearsal. The Peppers always jam for awhile which then sends all the TV people into a tail spin saying "Is this the song? This isn't the song? Are they going to play the song? What are they doing? Why aren't they playing the song?" I smile and calmly tell them "Settle down, It's ok, they will play the song, they are warming up."
My adventure at the Brit awards.
TV is almost always 'hands off.' for touring engineers. That means that both in the broadcast truck and in the venue, the TV humans supply a sound engineer and I get to 'use my words' to mix. So I first head out to the broadcast truck and go over a basic a run down with Toby make sure the recording is coming straight off the mics with no alteration pre-tape and go over basic panning and any compressor or gate patching. I then head over to chat with Chris at the FOH sound board and do the same thing. After waiting around for a while, when we switch to rushing mode, I hang out at FOH and help get the PA and sounds all dialed in with the techs playing.
The following day I go back out to the truck and inform them that I will be hanging at FOH for the dress rehearsal and arrange a time after rehearsal where I can come in and dial up the TV mix utilizing a multi track recording of the rehearsal as a source. The band rocks rehearsal and I give a mini crash course of 'mix the Peppers' to the house sound engineer and inform him that I will be in the truck during the live broadcast and wish him luck, rock on. Then back to the truck and with the convenience I of a rewind button, I use my words to get the TV mix dialed in and then they save the settings. After returning to waiting around for a while show time finally arrives and back out to the truck I head and bingo, the band's live music shows up and mixy mixy, 4 minutes of pure joy and thank you, thank you, bye bye. Back to FOH, to see how it went, thank you, thank you, bye bye. At this point my cell phone lights up red and text messages from remote locations to inform me that the TV sound was good and I return to waiting around while gear is packed, get in van bye bye.
So now you all are fully trained and can cover for me next time!
Here is a photo of the stage. Hmmm, is it just me or does this look a heck of a lot like the tongue in cheek rock mockery of a stage set in the Guitar Hero video game? Coincedence or ?
Okey dokey, gonna put these burning eyes to rest,
Wednesday, February 14. 2007
Tuesday, February 13. 2007
Come on everyone, we're streaking! Well actually we are headed to the Brit Awards and it is way too cold here to run around outside naked but upon arrival in London I found out great news!
Comforted, I let the wave of joy run through me because up to this glorious information came my way, I was afraid it might be cold and rainy while I hacked through a grueling TV show while denying jet lag a grip on my body. So with a glowing smile I gathered my bag, clustered with my fellow roadies and was promptly carted to the frogger hotel for a 30 minute layover before lobby call had packed and shipped off to the illustrious and beautiful Earl's Court. I don't know who this Earl guy was but check out his court, oooohh!
Well, some days are just filled with excitement and what few doubts I had lingering about this being a joy filled excursion are now completely gone once I spotted the party train, my heart pounds just imagining the thrill. Ohhh, should I do it, so nervous, I hope I don't chicken out
Ahhhh, it all comes back in a rush, the vast chasm, the endless echo, the exact antithesis of an 'optimum acoustic environment' ladies and gentlemen, I present you the Court that belongs to Earl. Looking upwards we can see what is left of the false ceiling
And if we could see below the floor we would find a huge empty swimming pool. So acoustically the audience stands afloat mid chasm in a beautified presentation as today's Brit Awards face lift does a fine job of putting lipstick on an acoustic pig
Nostalgia shmostalgia, hey, there were great shows here in the past and just like having a clunky old car that runs like shit and breaks down when ever you need it but you had some great times in it 'back in the day,' take some pictures of it and let it fade in to it's place in history rather than continuing to torture the current generation with this outdated acoustic nightmare. Or fix it!
*** End Mini-Tanti ***
Wow, that felt good, my rant is over and just know that I am smiling the whole time and it aint really that bad, except for the sound of the room part, and it is just a challenge and challenges are the opposite of boring, Hurray! I am gonna rock some good sound for the Brit Awards and if it for some reason does not work out that way, well at least it will be entertaining watching me try.
And looking out back it is easy to let my mind drift to a 'what if.' What if I just climbed down there and hid on a train just to see where I ended up?
And then the reality of the fact that I forgot where I put my sweater sets in and that I bet I would get hungry and climb back up before anything fun happened.
The deciding to stay close to the roadie herd,
Monday, February 12. 2007
I can not say the Grammy's are fun. In my opinion doing them is more of a concession that it is made to appease a group of older out of touch music industry humans with a tremendous amount of power. Just the whole concept of declaring winners and losers harvested from the artists and musicians following their passion as if they were in some sort of absurd competition is just a twisted concept to start with.That said, there are some interesting aspects and the Gorillaz performance last year plus seeing the Police and Gnarls this year was enjoyable indeed. As far as all the pop stuff, well I guess I am 'pop show challenged' and all the flashy stuff and prerecorded tracks just bore me for the most part. I guess it is more of a movie watch that an musical connection to see the circus like synchro dance. Clearly I must be confused though as there are huge numbers of humans that just love the stuff.
So the Peppers win some awards, very cool. Country music reigns huge and with all the cowboys and wild west stuff blanketing modern America, of course. I admit that I am not a big country music fan, actually, not even an tiny country music fan with a few exceptions and though I have not spent time listening to the Dixie Chicks, I do love the fact that a new giant heap of recognition has been shoveled onto a politically outspoken group of artists that not long ago were boycotted by a bunch of simple minded idiots. Unfortunately though, while I do respect them for speaking their mind, I lost some of that respect when they back peddled after the uproar. Anyway, it looks like they are back on track and speaking through their music and ruffling feathers again.
**** A peek at The Grammy's ****
Well, if you are working the gig, here is what got allowed you to experience the body search and metal detectors -
Moving on and in and up and looking down from the press boxes to see a view of the Grammy's that never quite makes it to the TV when the lights were on and the room is empty we see many a things a hanging
Ooooh and what is that I see. Could it be an ATK version of a sub cannon, flown?
I wonder if it was inspired by the implementation I created for Peppers tour or perhaps a parallel thought process where natural and sensible concepts can not help but evolve. Either way, it is cool.
And while in and about observing multitudes of famous people that I rarely recognize, I did meet a different type of rock star of the political persuasion.
And pondering that further, I guess politician are just rappers that rock with no beats. Swirlers of words and magicians of persuasion they are and this one is known as Al Gore. It is very cool in that he is dedication his efforts toward curbing global deterioration issues. Eventually they let in the beautiful people, see them here, ooooh, they look like dots
Finally, a peek at the show from the seat I sat or actually stranded
The glad it's over and off to do another,
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