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Mix Live Blog: Five Silly Questions…

FOH engineer/Mix blogger Steve La Cerra is on the road with Blue Öyster Cult, and has noticed that he's needed to ask questions that should not be in a conversation between professionals.

mixing consoleIt would appear that post-COVID gig hangover continues even as the rust shakes off the concert industry. Much to my amazement, there are still people asleep at the wheel, or maybe I’m asleep at the wheel and I’m having bad gig dreams. I’m thinking that I may have to start asking some really silly questions when advancing gigs—questions that should not be in a conversation between professionals.

  1. Do the tops and bottoms of your guitar stands match?

Backline Provider X sent us guitar stands for the stage, but none of the tops (the part with the yoke) matched the bases. As a result, they were all unusable for holding guitars. They did, however, give us a nice start toward building a UHF TV antenna. Guess I should have specified that we wanted complete guitar stands. I won’t mention the name of the vendor because it’s an established company and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them. On the other hand, maybe I should embarrass them so that they start hiring qualified help

  1. If a piece of equipment was unacceptable the last time you sent it to us, what makes you think the same item will be correct the next time?

When we worked with them a few months ago, Backline Provider Y sent the wrong synth. It was unusable, and we let them know. Two weeks ago, we were using the same company (not by choice) and they were going to send the same synth. When we called them to get a substitute, the response was, “Well, we sent it last time.” My reaction cannot be published here….

  1. Will you continue to sell merch after the show until the room has emptied?

This one is hard to believe: the merch seller at a venue thought that they could stop selling during the last song. I guess it didn’t dawn on them that a lot of people buy merch on their way out of a show.

  1. Do all of the faders work properly?

If you think that production folks are cranky from sitting around for 18 months, have a look at moving faders. Last week, I ran into a desk where an entire fader bank was out to lunch, and lately I’ve seen a lot of faders that stick or jitter when you change layers. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Mix Live Blog: The Cameo Theater Reborn

Think about what happens when the fader position for an input on Layer 1 is drastically different from the position of the same fader on Layer 2. If the fader jumps to the wrong position, your kick drum might disappear from the house mix—or worse, it might get really loud in someone’s monitor mix. At one show I did recently, the systems engineer was kind enough to replace a fader or two before the show so that I could avoid this issue. Bless his heart.

  1. Can I have a hardware CD player at front-of-house?

Not that long ago, it was a no-brainer that every drive rack had a CD player in it. I guess those drive racks still have CD players, but a lot of systems are run without drive racks these days. Go ahead and make fun of me. I can take it.

I want to run the audio effects for my show from a CD player, not my phone. I don’t want to use a DVD player, where you can’t see a track number on the screen, or a computer with a disc drive that takes 30 seconds to spin up. I want a Sony CDP-D11, a Tascam CD500B or, better yet, one of those Pioneer CDJs that has a big Play button and a display that shows what track has been cued. When I hit Play on the thing, I’d like to have confidence that Godzilla’s footsteps will, in fact, shake the house. Is that too much to ask? Maybe next year I’ll put the cues on vinyl and ask for a turntable.

One final question that I have been asking and will continue to ask…

Does that “console” have a work surface?

There’s no way I’m running a show from an iPad.