Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mixing Consoles are never thirsty

2 weeks ago - Rotterdam
A large plastic cup following airborne liquid traversing what seemed to be a slow motion high arc through the air comes crashing down dead center on the console and the cool liquid splashes across my chest. Beer bombs away and instantly the full sound system mutes. Silence in a world dependent on sound. Red and yellow lights scatter across the channels as a spontaneous roar of 'boo' erupts from the audience. Bummer.
Hmmm, and after an instant of contemplation, I start chasing unmute buttons around the console just long enough to get drums, bass, guit, vox back online for a huge goose bump spontaneous cheer when a secondary failure then takes out the Midas H3000 computer crashing the VCA's.
Boooooo! Almost like it has turned into a sporting event.
Aaaarg! Towels are useless to the liquid disappearing down every swItch and fader crevice it can find. What now? Oh wait, the "mute - fdr - auto" bypass buttons. I shout to Jim, help me punch these three on every channel and 150 buttons later a soccer goal Yaaaaaay erupts.
Crunch crunch, crackle, ah man. I had sent for a can of air and between chasing the randomly lighting mutes and PFL's, I was using the compressed air to blow residual beer through to at least get the bummout to stabilize sooner. Crunch crackle and next up is bye bye subgroups, running the channels direct to left/right keeps the crackle at bay to a reasonably inaudible background noise. And then the song ends. How funny was it that they were playing "Can't Stop" as the band blazes on through the chaos.
So what now, we are up and running future stability unknown, no groups, no comps, no VCA's but its making sound and though raw, I still have a usable mix.
Ok, keep rolling. The band hasn't missed a beat, heck I don't thing they even know. Now I just need a back up plan. Tim has has no spare mixes on the monitor console but we could pull a feed from the recording desk, will need wires, humans and time though. If the console keeps running all good, don't stop the band.
With no new traumas arising I refocus on getting the mix refined, without compressors I am chasing volumes on every song. When in doubt, turn it up. Pushing hotter volumes leves gets me into the system limiters and at least I get some level buffering on the raw dynamics.
And all in all, the issues were contained to a couple of songs and considering worst case scenarios, we faired fairly well. The massive enthusiasm of the Dutch fans most likely is what inspired the spontaneous beer tossing as well as carries the momentum of the show thrugh the issues created by the unfortunate landing zone.
The Fallout
The next show production had another console on site for me as we had no idea how usable the wet board would be. Plan of action was to pull all the known bad group strips, wipe them down, fire up the board and replace them on at a time, test, repeat. Since the board dried out, and after cleaning, only two channels were faulty.
Next we robbed channels from the spare desk to make sure the issue was channel related and not from the beer drenched motherboard below. Usually liquid issues will make themselves visible by creating white powdery corrosion between traces or compinents on the circuIt board. I faound a few more, wiped them down with isopropyl alcohol and got all but one strip up and running. The last strip refused to stop crackling though.
Last resort, the alcohol wash. I dumped a quater bottle of alcohol saturating both sides of the circuit board and scrubbed it down with what was my toothbrush. Next we got to dry it out. Shake it and swinging it in a big arc gets most of the liquid off. I had ordered 6 cans of compressed air and JIm and I sprayed each can till it froze up and grabbed new cans. it is surprisingly tough to dry off a wet circuit board.
Finally, in it goes, power up and Yay! We got ourselves a working console and a big smile because Jim and I were not looking forward to re patching my kluge of looms and copying the 500 or so knob setting over to a temporary console.
If only I had my mixing tigers, they would have defended the board from the attacking beer. As much as I want to avaoid issues, I must say I do appreciate the challenges and love it when life is not boring!


  1. Nicely done. I would have curled up in a ball and wept.

  2. Distilled water (or if you're desperate even just clean tap water) works as well as ISO but you need to leave it a lot longer to dry out.

    Good work!

  3. I want to thank you so much for the first concert in years where I did not need earplugs! The two moments of silence where awesome :-(

    Next time: make sure the organiser gives your proper protection against enthousiastic fans. IMHO they should have stopped the show, give you time to fix properly and restart the show.

  4. Mojo just provided me with fresh new earplugs! Great organizer!

  5. Thanks so much for this great information about mixing consoles! I feel like I have really learned a lot. I want to go buy some now!

  6. Cool article! I really want a mixing console but they are somewhat expensive. Maybe I will find a great deal on one!

  7. how would you have handled this on a digital mixer?