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Mix Blog Live: Why Does An Advance Have to Be So Difficult?

Voice on the phone: Is this Steve?

Me: Yes.

Hey I’m Curly Joe (not his real name). I’m doing sound for you on (date omitted to protect the incompetent).

In my head: You may be providing a P.A. system for a show, but you are not doing sound for me.

Me: What can I do for you?

Curly Joe: Would you be okay with using (names two low-end digital consoles that are barely acceptable, but since I can actually do my show on them, I’ll go along)?

Me: Well, I don’t love them, but if that’s what you have, we’ll be okay with them.

(Now suspecting I am speaking with someone who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer)

What do you have for racks and stacks?

Curly Joe: Well, we have these ground-stacked, custom boxes with…

In my head: Red flags waving and sirens wailing…

Me: Oh, no. I’m not using custom-made boxes that I don’t know anything about. Been there, done that, and wound up with a P.A. that looked like someone cloned the speakers from my great-grandmother’s console TV.

Curly Joe pleads his case in a very inarticulate manner, trying to sell me on the fact that these boxes have been used by so-and-so and they loved them. “They got two 15s in each box and two 10s and a horn.” I’m not impressed.

Me: (trying to be more friendly than Grumpy Cat): I need commercially available P.A. speakers that I’m familiar with, so I know what they can and can’t do. I don’t want to put my band in a situation where they’ll be embarrassed.

Curly Joe: Well, (names an act I’ve never heard of) used these boxes and they were fine.

In my head: what part of that didn’t you understand?

Me: Please see what else you can come up with.

Curly Joe: Okay, I’ll call you back.

Two days later Curly Joe calls back: I can get you (brand and model omitted to avoid embarrassment). Three boxes per side plus three subwoofers per side, ground-stacked.

I’m familiar with the manufacturer but not the model so I agree to look them up and see if they’re appropriate. Which I do, and they’re not. Among other things, the audience will block the boxes, and patrons in the back of the room (as well as yours truly) won’t be able to hear the P.A.

The following day…

Me: Hey, Curly Joe, these boxes are not going to work for us. This is something that you use for a club band in a bar or a wedding.

Curly Joe: Well, I’ve done national acts on these boxes and they were fine (is there an echo in here?). That’s all I got.

Me: I really don’t care. I’m concerned with how my band will sound through these boxes.

Curly Joe: Well, we’re using this P.A. next week for a bunch of shows and the truck is already packed.

Oh, really? That’s when I had to check my wrath.

Me: Send me some names and phone numbers of the engineers who have used this P.A. system so I can talk to them and see if it’s okay. (I think that’s reasonable).

In my head: I will not be bullied or intimidated by you or any other twerp who thinks that just because his truck is packed, it’s acceptable to me.

I inform the promoter that he is dealing with an amateur who doesn’t sound like he has a clue regarding what he’s doing.

Promoter: Well, we really want to try this sound company.

Me: Try them on someone else. I have a show to do.

Our management gets involved and the whole mess climbs the flagpole until I get a text from the owner of the sound company. Oh, there’s a sound company! Curly Joe never said that he represented a sound company. He sounded more like a knucklehead with a bunch of gear stored in his basement. The owner asks me to call him, which I do.

Unlike Curly Joe, the owner identifies himself and tells me a bit about his sound company, which indicates that he’s serious. He tells me that he can get me a small line array but it’d be difficult to deploy because the show is on a portable stage and there are no hang points.

In my head: this guy sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. He goes on to describe the custom boxes that he’s designed, built and used quite successfully for more than a few years. He discusses the componentry with me like an engineer. What a novel idea! He explains to me that they are not going to be ground stacked but will be set on the stage so that we won’t have to worry about coverage issues. Then he delivers the punch line: “I’ll have (names commercial boxes) on the stage and ready to go for you at soundcheck. If you don’t like my cabinets, we’ll move some cables, connect the commercial boxes for you, and put mine in the truck. But I really think you’ll like them.”

I love someone who puts their money where their mouth is. We agree that this is a good plan.

So why did I do a 180? Because I had a conversation with a professional who clearly explained to me what I’d be using, how it would be deployed and how it would be powered. My perception of the situation after speaking with the owner of the sound company was quite different from my initial reaction to Curly Joe—even though we were talking about the same gear.

Wanna’ work in a specialized field? Start by learning the language.