Friday, November 11, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Belfast to Glasgow

Well alright! The MTV club show in Belfast went well, as expected. Enthusiastic audience plus Peppers in small room always equals a great time. Back to the hotel by 8:30 and can't get in, hmmmm. Wristbands to get into the lobby? Really? Yes, I have room key, whatever, got a wristband and off to find dinner. Awesome tapas, wine and some acoustIc guitar guys rocking, perfect eve and back to get some sleep before the chipper 6:45 lobby call, flIght to London.
Oh my, its party night and the hotel's five ballrooms blasting music till 6am on floor 2 and I'm on floor 3. Hmmmm. Ha, sleep is over rated! I can remember a time when I would have been more excited about this.

O2 arena in London, three nights of grandiose rock and I really need to start pondering a tour project of some sort. Something to come back with other than a wad o cash, ringing ears and a bunch o new stories and friends. Not that I don't enjoy those, I just want a grander story.
I love the shows, from set change till after show dinner, I am all good, its the other 20 hours a day I find challenge with.
Challenge lull. The tour has reached a smooth roll, most of the rough edges ironed out so the overall mood shifts from the thrill of creating, learning and refining into focusing on consistency and repeating. Solutions and exploration have been traded for problem prevention. The production humans begin to hit stride with their goals of trimming costs and shaving every minute off load outs. Creativity still flows on the band side and the light and video show remains in a state of adding unique looks to the nearly endless list off songs. Meanwhile the rest of the machine settles into that confidence and comfort zone of predictability that I enjoy about as much as watching paint dry. Oh how I crave some chaos and not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
And once again I look to grab a perspective as to not spiral off, "where am I at in the cycle?" ah yes, ny tattoos remind me: monkey phase transitions to rat phase. Again.

And hello Glasgow! Gonna get my winter shorts on and going to head out and about for a bit of a wander.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Belfast - Smooth Running

One of the the things I strive for is sonic consistency from show to show, worldwide. To achieve this it is critical to work with the backline techs to assure a consistent volume and tone. Once they find a good sound, I have them mark the settings, take photos and I photo as well. Then if we drift, we have a reference point. Furthermore I ask them to let me know whenever changes need to be made on their end like new guiitars, new pedals or any other factor that can affect the sound I get.

Next I lock in my console settings. I avoid any gain amp changes any major eq changes. That way I can look at my input meters and know if things changed from the stage end.

So, if all works as planned, the only changes I make from show to show are my system EQ stting to tune the room.

And today is a great example of things working as planned. I went from an arena rig with 32 box K1 rig plus side hangs, rear hangs and 32 SB28s last show to 12 dV-dosc and 8 SB218 a side in a club. A few minor tweaks to tune out the higher room resonance and all good.

The way I see it, the closer I get things to autopilot, the less I do, the better job I am doing and the leass to go wrong. Now if I can just keep this pile. Knobs locked in for the next 18 months or so, all good.

Oh, and this hour long MTV club show in Belfast is going to go off, I can just feel the excitement in the crowd and band. I remember playing this place back on I believe the very first Peppers overseas tour I did with them over 2 decades ago. Back when armored personnel carriers patrolled the streets here with machine gun weilding cops walking back to back. Oh how its changed and great to be back.

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!