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Mix Live Blog: You Can’t Make This Up, Ep. #1

A pre-show load-in wherein Steve required some consoling—or actually just consoles.

The view from the long-awaited house console.
The view from the long-awaited house console. Photo: Steve La Cerra.

Becoming a tour manager has helped me develop some valuable life skills, among them patience and a reasonable tolerance for incompetence. I sometimes wonder if the reason that any artist even needs a tour manager is due to the fact that people don’t pay attention to riders, emails or conversations that were had while advancing a gig.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been working to advance a show that’s coming next week, though, truth be told, it took more than two weeks for the so-called production manager of the venue to return several of my phone calls and emails—which in my book is unacceptable. (A colleague once told me about his “48-hour rule.” If someone contacts them with an expectation of a response, they make their best effort to respond in some manner or other within 48 hours, whether it be a phone message, email, text or a note flown in by carrier pigeon—even if that response is, “I’m up to my eyeballs in alligators and will call you next week.” I like that rule, and I try to stick to it.)

When I finally got on the phone with this production manager, we went through a bunch of details regarding the show. One of her questions was, “Do you need follow spots? (spotlights).” To which I replied, “No.” Last week, I received an email from the same PM with additional questions, one of which was, “Do you need follow spots?” To which I again replied, “No.” A few days ago we had another email exchange, with some more Q&A, one of which was, Do you need follow spots? No, I do not. Still.

Last night, about five minutes before show time, I received a text: “Hey, Steve this is so-and-so from (venue will not be named). How many follow spots do you need?” Thanks for the confirmation that I am dealing with people who aren’t communicating with each other. Next week, I will be appropriately armed to deal with this sort of tomfoolery from the minute I walk into that gig until the truck door is closed and locked. Thanks for the warning.

That’s a drop in the pond compared to what happened earlier this week.

We loaded in at 10:00 AM as planned, got the lighting and video gear set up, and my tech crew started to do their thing. P.A. was being provided by an outside sound company that will remain unnamed, but really should be publicly flogged for its lack of professionalism. To their credit, they had the P.A. system deployed before we arrived, but about an hour after we loaded in, my monitor tech, Drew (who I may soon refer to as “Saint Drew”), was wondering where the audio consoles were. He asked the lead audio guy, who said that he’d find out where the desks were located. (Maybe they were hiding in the green room underneath the chips and guacamole.) About two hours later, there was no sign of any consoles. Meanwhile, my tech Chris asked me for a stage plot because the audio guys never received the stage plot and input list. Really? You can be as sure as death and taxes that I sent the stage plot and input list to the production manager for this venue. But I wasn’t going to argue because it’s a waste of time and I have more important things to waste time on, like why is the city giving the venue a hard time about allowing us to park our vehicles in spots with bagged meters that the venue paid for, and that the city already approved. Yes, really. An hour of my day wasted on parking.

Anyway, I printed the stage plot and gave it to the audio techs from the sound company that’s supplying the gear. Or, most of the gear. Except for the consoles. No one told them that we need mixing consoles. I guess I must have failed to mention it in the advance phone calls and emails. Not a shot in hell.

As you might imagine, I was not happy about this. In my head, I thought, “What moron at the sound company didn’t pack consoles to go with the massive line array they brought in, along with mic stands, cables, monitor wedges, and side fills?” Oops, it wasn’t in my head—I said it out loud and there may have been one or two words thrown into the phrase that we can’t print here.

Two hours later, the sound company returned from their shop (thank goodness it was relatively local) with two Yamaha CL5s. And then we got to work, thank you very much. We promptly ran into networking issues that the so-called systems tech had no idea how to solve, but ultimately, we managed to put our heads together to sort it out. As you might imagine, soundcheck was quite late. Fun times.

It just goes to prove: No matter what happens during the day, there will be a show.