If You’re Not 15 Minutes Early… - Mixonline
A typical gig day for Steve La Cerra starts with feeding the stray cat that adopted him, then heading by plane to a one-off. Here's his diary...

July 6, 2018

My first alarm goes off at 6:15 AM, which is pretty late for a gig day. I’ve inherited the “I don’t sleep” gene from my Mom’s side of the family so I’ve been mostly awake since 4 anyway. Ugh.

After brushing my teeth, I stumble downstairs to feed the cats. They’re not my cats, mind you, they’re a couple of strays who don’t know they’re not my cats, and so they show up every morning for breakfast. Naturally, I oblige. They also show up around 8:30 PM looking for dinner and then guard the back door. When they’re done eating, I have to scoot them out because I’m heading for the airport.

6:30 AM

I look outside and it’s pouring rain.

6:40 AM

My phone rings and it’s the car service I use for my runs to the airport telling me that my car is ready. Remind me to ask if they have a frequent rider program where I can use miles to upgrade to a limo. Oh well, off we go.

7:00 AM

The rain is slowing down traffic but I live in Brooklyn, NY, so traffic sucks all day, every day. I’ve lived here my entire life and resent the “hip place to live” that Brooklyn has become in recent years. What’s with the hipsters ordering pineapple pizza? Yuk. My driver gets onto the BQE and heads for LaGuardia.

7:05 AM

This time of the morning is a traffic disaster on a good day but today is special. There’s an accident near Hamilton Avenue so it takes about an hour to travel the two or three miles down the Gowanus to the BQE. I’m supposed to meet the band and crew at 8:00 AM but there’s no way that’s going to happen. A few of the guys are coming from Staten Island and they’re behind me on the BQE. They’re flipping out almost as much as I am. If I arrive by 8:30 I’m still okay for a 10:00 AM flight. Before you say, “That’s plenty of time,” keep in mind that I have six people to check in and 16 pieces of baggage and gear.

7:50 AM

Still in the car and at an absolute standstill. I get a call from one of the band members asking if he can check his bag and go into the terminal (normally I handle the check-in process as a group so we don’t get hammered with baggage fees). Luckily, there’s a skycap on duty who knows us. He checks in the early guys and then waits for me and the gear.

8:30 AM

I finally arrive at the airport. Our carting service pulls up at the curb and the skycap is all over it, tagging bags and moving the process along while I wait for the Staten Islanders.

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8:40 AM

The remainder of the guys arrive. All of the bags and gear are tagged, and we head for security. Luckily it’s a slow day at the airport so the TSA precheck line is short. How refreshing.

9:20 AM

I get on the plane and fall asleep, not yet realizing that it will take less time to fly to Buffalo than it did to drive to the airport.

3:30 PM

Soundcheck goes fine. I’m on an old desk (hint: it uses PCMCIA cards for memory) but it’s working fine. I store my show as a “Scene” file and as an “All” file and go get something to eat.

8:15 PM (show starts at 8:30 PM)

I load my memory card, recall the show, and guess what? None of my channel EQs, comp or gate settings are loaded. Super! I’m too flustered to notice that the DCA assignments haven’t been recalled, so when the band starts the entire mix is screwed up. As I check channels frantically, I go into Guerrilla Mix Mode: get a balance and worry about everything else later.

But there’s something really screwy going on: the L/R bus meters on the desk show no output from the left channel, even though the left side of the P.A. is working. Some of my channels aren’t making sound even though the channel faders are up, assignments are correct and the DCAs are up. I notice that one of the silent vocal channels is panned hard right (I never pan my vocals) so I move it back to the center and it mysteriously appears in both channels. I start polling every channel, panning stuff to center, assigning DCAs, engaging EQ, filters, compressors and gates that were supposed to have already been “on,” and dialing them roughly to where I think they might have been set. I’m constructing the mix as if it were a festival situation where we didn’t get a soundcheck. A few songs later I get the mix dialed in. No one is yelling at me so I guess it must be okay.

11:00 PM

What did we learn? “Total Recall” sometimes isn’t. If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re ten minutes late. Take care of your skycaps. I get to do this again tomorrow, hopefully without the drama.