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So we played a club called the Copper Door in OC last Friday night.  This is the story of how it went down from my perspective.  It was a strange gig and demonstrated how one evening can be full of ups and downs, and how things can feel like a complete train wreck one minute and then a glorious success the next. 

The club is nice.  Big room.  Lots of 20 and 30 somethings.  We are trying to grow our fan base, so situations like this are good opportunities. When I walked in, I thought this is going to be awesome.  We've been playing really well and I'm confident that we are a great band now.  We will kill tonight and make a lot of new fans. 

Then the first act started playing and my spirits went from the penthouse to the shit house.  It was crystal clear very quickly that the guys running sound didn't seem to have a clue what they were doing.  They were very nice guys and I'm sure they were trying and it was just a matter of inexperience.  Nonetheless, they were not able to do the things that pro sound guys would do to make a PA sound decent.  The two acts before us sounded like complete shit.  The vocals were hopelessly buried and eq'd improperly.  Nothing was balanced correctly.  It was louder than a fucking bombing raid.  To compound matters, the sound system was set up so the front of house mixing board was behind the front of house speakers.  There is no fucking way anyone can mix a band like that.  The sound guy and his buddy had to run back and forth from the board, which was next to the stage, to somewhere in front of the stage to listen and then back to the soundboard to guess at the adjustments.  As soon as I heard and saw what was going down, I knew we were in for a challenging evening. 

The gig had been set up by a young promoter someone connected us to after our last show in OC.  Matt talked to him and came away with the impression that he is just starting out.  I don't mean to be critical or complain.  These are all nice people and I think they were trying.   But I do want to vent a little bit because fuck it, there is so much ridiculous bullshit to overcome to advance even one inch in the world of music.  

The first two acts were performing on stage for the first time ever and it showed.  They seemed like talented guys and they were very nice guys, but came across like amateurs.  The band before us took fucking forever to move their gear off stage and they moved it to a location where it blocked off the steps to the stage from the side, thereby making it twice as difficult for us to get our stuff on stage.  One of them grabbed Matt's bass and put it with their stuff.  I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an accident.  Matt, understandably, freaked out a bit when he couldn't find his bass.  

We finally got our gear on stage and Matt found his bass.  We set up and the fucking sound guy and his buddy were just sitting there in a daze.  I had wake them from their stupor to get us connected to the sound system and do a line check.  I said we have two outputs coming from a computer interface and the main sound guy looked at me like I was speaking Martian.  He didn't seem to understand how to set up our stuff.  I had to show him how to plug everything in and how to set it up on the mixing board.  Now, mind you, this is coming during the break between bands when most of you could give a shit about what we're doing and are far more preoccupied with enjoying the evening - as you should be.  But it took so fucking long for this dumbshit and his equally stupid friend to get us set up that the audience probably forgot there were bands there.  We finally got everything to the point where we could play and it was an hour after we were supposed to start. 

We started with some of the songs where I play acoustic - Leave Me Alone and Mother Nature.  Our friends in the audience said they could hear my vocals and with all the adjustments I had essentially forced the sound guy to make, it seemed like maybe we were okay.  But there was very little energy coming from the room.  The computer output, which plays our keyboard parts, was too low.  I couldn't hear the keys through the monitors and it seemed like little if anything was coming out of the PA.  It's not that big of a deal on those songs.   We can pull them off without the computer. 

The next song was In Your Head and the keys play a crucial role.  It has to be mixed correctly.  It's not hard to do if you know what the fuck you're doing.  I told the sound guys we need to hear the computer.  We started playing In Your Head.  And those fuckers turned up the computer so damn loud, people in the audience were literally covering their ears.   I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be on stage singing your ass off and putting every ounce of yourself into performing - only to see the people in the audience sticking their fucking fingers in their ears

As soon as the song ended, I was livid.  It's hard to explain how much effort and angst goes into making music and rehearsing and getting people to come out and see us and  trying to perform live and make it sound great at clubs.  It's really fucking hard.  It can be extremely rewarding, but takes incredible energy and perseverance.  And it takes balls to bare your soul in front of people and create a powerful, meaningful experience when you have little time to set up and the sound man could give a shit and you have no idea what it sounds like to the audience.  It's quite challenging.  Of course, when it sounds good and the energy is right and the crowd realizes something special is happening on stage, then it's all worth it.  But there are some basic, fundamental things that need to happen and one of them is the sound is mixed relatively well.  It's not that hard.  If one instrument is so fucking loud that it's drowning out jet airplanes landing at an airport 20 miles away, you probably ought to lower the level a bit. What a fucking shame.  In Your Head usually works really well live.  We usually get a great response and it's fun to play.  But when the synths are so loud that it sounds like a nuclear bomb exploding in an erupting volcano, there's no fucking way anyone could enjoy our performance.

In Your Head ended and I looked at the sound board to tell the sound guy to turn the fucking computer outputs down and he and his little stoner buddy were NOWHERE to be found.  I was like what the fuck is this.  I walked over to the soundboard to adjust the synth level.  This is not the way bands are supposed to perform.  The sound guy is supposed to run sound.  We, the band, don't do that during the show.  We are on stage in front of an audience.  We are supposed to play music and say witty things between the songs.  As I started moving the faders for the synth outs, literally guessing as to where they should be, some dude in a suit walked over and asked what he could do to help.  I asked who are you and where the fuck is the sound guy.  The guy said I'm the owner and I have no clue where the sound guy is.  But I will help you.  I said, great, these faders are for the synths.  It was too loud last song and needs to come down - but not too far because the audience needs to hear the synth. 

So I strapped on my Tele and we launched into the next song, Spiritual Mathematics.  Wouldn't you know it but the synth was at the right level, as far as I could tell from the stage.  The owner kept going back and forth from the soundboard to the audience and making adjustments.  It seemed to help.  I focused on performing.  The song sounded fine from stage.  The energy in the room started to pick up a bit.  We finished and I heard some clapping.   

We played Long Walk Short Pier.  A group of people gathered in front of the stage.  The energy picked up, especially during the bridge and then the guitar solo.  More applause.

We started Bad Wolf.  The energy picked up even more.  As I started singing the chorus, which has a strong hook, the group in front of the stage grew and I could see them really getting into it.  The applause was louder this time and I could see that the room, which is really big, was focusing on us and it wasn't just a bunch of people drinking beer with a band in the background.  We were now foreground. 

I switched from the Tele to my 335 and we played Follow Your Fever.  The whole room started grooving and I thought okay we are going to kill from here on in.  When the song ended, the applause was loud and enthusiastic.

The next song on the set list was They Are Here and You Are One of Them.  Before we could start, I had to adjust my guitar sound.  No big deal.  I normally just step on a few foot switches and I'm ready to go.  Takes all of a couple of seconds.  So, I clicked one of the foot switches on one of my pedals, the Delay Lab (really super awesome, high end, delay/modulation pedal), to activate the correct setting.  And the Delay Lab went FUCKING CRAZY.  Every LED started blinking and no sound came out.  I switched the power to my pedal board off and on to see if that would cause the Delay Lab to reboot.  No luck.  I quickly changed the routing on my pedal board to bypass the Delay Lab and essentially go from the loop before the Delay Lab directly into my amp (Vox AC-15).  That caused my amp to emit a horrible, loud, ugly buzz that no guitarist ever wants to hear.  I immediately switched the amp to bypass.  I made sure the cables were patched correctly and switched the amp out of standby.  Same horrible fucking noise. 

Why would high end, pro gear take a dump like that?  It probably had something to do with the power on my side of the stage coming solely from a consumer extension cord plugged into god knows where.  And the club had a bunch of lights on and near the stage, plus a giant industrial fan next to the stage.  I doubt the club has adequate power to handle all that draw.  I didn't see any evidence of the types of outlets and power you would expect to see in a proper situation.  

By the way, my gear was fine the next day when I tested it in an adequate power environment.  

So I turned off the amp and picked up my acoustic guitar.  

We played Better Feeling, which I normally play on electric.  In fact, I had never played it on acoustic before.  But no worries.   I know what the fuck I'm doing.  It sounded fine.  The equipment failure caused at least a five minute delay, which is way too long of a break between songs and the energy in the room had dropped significantly.  But the energy actually picked up again during Better Feeling.  Big applause when we finished.

At that point, though, my brain was about to snap.  I guess we could have done more songs with the acoustic.  But that would have required another delay to figure out which songs to play and, if necessary, get the right songs loaded in the computer.  I had had enough.  I said to Matt and Dave - we're done.  I went to the mic and thanked the audience.  Show over. 

A number of people said nice things to me as we got our gear off stage.  People took CDs and left email addresses, even though I hadn't said a word about CDs or the email list. 

I looked for the club owner to thank him, but he had disappeared.  The sound guys were nowhere to be found, which was probably a good thing for them because they might not have been thrilled with my assessment of their efforts. 

I loaded up my car and headed up the 5 freeway to make the long trek back to South Pas.  I got home pretty late and ate a little food and drank a glass of water.  When my head hit the pillow, I didn't know what to think.  I fell asleep confused.    

So was the evening a success or was it a failure?

You tell me. 

Vent complete.  I love you.  

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