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Mix Blog Live: Muscle Memory

After a long hiatus, Steve La Cerra settled in at FOH for his first gig of 2021 and, for a brief moment, found that loading presets and dialing in a mix isn't at all like riding a bike.

Sunday March 28, 2021

I stood there motionless, like some sort of audio zombie. I could see and hear my crew on the stage, but couldn’t speak. My head was in a fog… where was I? What was I doing here? How did I get here?

I looked down at the hunk of metal beneath my hands. A fluorescent screen peered back, mocking me, daring me to force this bucket of wire, ICs, switches and faders to make sound. Inside the devious beast, zeroes and ones flowed across a hundred buses, but intelligent information failed to bus across the synapses of my brain.

I pressed a button and the faders snapped at me like mousetraps, telling me I had no business attempting to spar with this digital devil. I squinted at the screen in the daylight, desperate to cull some useful information.

Then I saw a glimmer of hope… a small opening near the screen. I looked inside. No tentacles in there. ‘I think this accepts a USB flash drive.’ Ah, yes… files that can be stored and recalled at a later time. I popped a flash drive into the slot and struggled to remember what was supposed to happen next.

Load, recall… Yes I remember! I can load a file into this mixing console and use it as a starting point for my mix. Where the heck is the load button?

Thus began my first gig of 2021, almost exactly three months after the last of the scant schedule of shows I had in 2020. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a break that long between shows since I started doing live sound.

Read more Mix Blog Live: Vegas Reopens at 50 Percent.

What was happening in my brain was definitely not business as usual. Muscle fatigue? Brain fart? Old age? Yikes. Whatever you call it, it was scary for a few minutes. I was mixing on a Yamaha CL5, a console I know fairly well, and yet—at least for a few minutes—I had absolutely no idea how to operate it.

It never occurred to me that a three-month hiatus would damage my neurons so severely. After a few minutes of blindly pushing buttons, it came back: how to load a file, how to access the libraries, and even how to deal with gain sharing. Good grief.

Here’s the good news and the bad news.

Good News

Venues that have the ability to operate shows at reduced capacity are getting a clue. This show was at Bayside Stadium in SeaWorld, where the folks who run the venue did the right thing. Plenty of space backstage for production, dressing rooms and catering. Not once did I feel closed in or uncomfortable.

The catering area—which accommodated about 10 of us—was the size of a small banquet hall—so no crowding there, either. Everyone backstage and onstage wore masks, and audience seating was arranged in alternate rows to keep patrons distanced. Patrons were required to wear masks unless eating or drinking. I felt reasonably safe.

Bad News

The outside world, however, still makes me wonder, “What the heck are people thinking?” While I did not interact with them, there were plenty of people outside the venue walking around without masks and not paying any particular attention to staying distant from each other. Ditto at the airports, where there were little to no concerns for social distancing, and people packed into trams like sardines in a can.

I had a moment of horror at a rental car counter when I needed to give the agent my reservation number. I pulled it up on my phone. The res number was long so I held up the phone to allow him to see it. Before I could pull it away, he grabbed the phone out of my hand and took it to his side of the counter so he could view the number. In what universe is that okay?

I sincerely hope that people aren’t being lulled into a false sense of security by the distribution of vaccines. It seems to me that we should still be taking serious precautions so that we don’t invite another outbreak and shutdown. Our industry certainly doesn’t need that.


Michael Bishop 1951 – 2021

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of an amazing engineer/producer and a great guy, Michael Bishop. Michael’s career spanned almost 50 years, during which time he developed a well-deserved reputation as an engineer’s engineer.

He earned ten GRAMMY Awards, and along the way his work with Telarc Records set a benchmark for the quality of modern orchestral recordings.

Michael’s credits spanned a variety of genres and include the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, The Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Zuill Bailey, Cincinnati Pops and Symphony Orchestras, Arturo Sandoval, Hiromi Uehara, Stanley Clarke, Wild Cherry, and the James Gang. Godspeed Michael, you will be missed.