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A Gun at Front of House

House engineers hate it when touring engineers try to revamp their audio systems. Touring engineers hate using poorly assembled house systems that barely function. Nobody’s happy—but would you pull a gun out over it? One guy did.

Photo: Bill T./Flickr
So I’m drinking a cup of coffee this morning and reading Facebook when I come across a post from a guy I’ve known since the early Nineties. Back then, he was the drummer of a major-label rock band. These days, a generation later, he’s the dad of the drummer of a indie-label rock band.

The post was about his son’s current tour, and how it had played his town a few days ago. Naturally my friend had looked forward to seeing his kid’s act blow away the headliners that night, but midway through the afternoon, he got a call: “Dad, just so you know, the show might not happen—the venue just pulled a gun on our sound guy.”

I just about did a spit take with my coffee. Apparently everyone else reading the post did, too, because there was a string of people all asking the same question: What the heck happened?

The response was “Band audio engineer touched sound board before house guy arrived (who was very late and pushing sound checks back), which started the whole chain of events….”

As it turned out, the sold-out show went on—and still made for a fairly tumultuous night, with fights in the audience crashing into the merch table and more. No doubt the tour was happy to get back on the road after a day like that.

Now, to be fair, there’s two sides to every story.

House engineers hate it when tours come in, arrogantly ignore their advice on how to use the system and start ripping everything up in the FOH area in search of “their sound”—which they invariably never achieve—leaving hours of re-jiggering the system in their wake after they leave.

On the other hand, I wish I had a dollar for every touring engineer I’ve interviewed who complained off the record about having to fix broken-down, poorly patched house systems on the fly while trying to politely educate the local crew about radical concepts like Phase, night after night.

Both sides have a point and nobody’s happy, but really—would you pull a gun out over it?