One of this weeks gigs (with Hot and Horny) involved a very quick change setup. The show was for a corporate award ceremony (I never found out the industry or the name of the awards) and the room was only going to be empty for about an hour. This isn’t long to set up a PA and mic up and soundcheck a 12 piece band. The PA company was a new one to us, and they were very quick at setting up. We got about 20 minutes at the end to soundcheck, and if it wasn’t right by 7pm, it would have to be sorted out during the first set.
When they plugged me into the PA, rather than using the handy DI socket on the back of my amp, the PA guy said that he was told to take a lead from my bass and plug that into a DI box on stage, which takes the signal to the PA, as well as sending one to my amp. I don’t know why this is preferred to the DI socket on the amp, but I feel like each time that gets used I don’t get a good sound on stage. I use my amp as a monitor and relationship between the sound coming from the speaker and the way the strings feel under my fingers is quite a big part of getting a nice sound on stage.
During the gig it felt like the bass sound was getting louder and quieter – I’m not sure how this could be, as I thought the DI box was supposed to send a signal to my amp without any changes, but I can’t help but think the volume was changing and this was something to do with the DI box.
I try to trust the people who do our sound at gigs to know their job, and nothing is worse than a half-witted bassist telling a PA professional how to set up sound for gigs (it’s also a very bad idea to upset the sound people before you start playing!) but not hearing what notes your bass is making during your performance adds another level of complication to delivering a good show (which is ultimately what everyone on stage is trying to do.)
In future I think I’ll just have to remember this occasion and ask “is it OK if we try it like this?” when they’re setting up and politely plug his lead into the DI socket on the amp. It’s what it was designed for, after all!
I did a gig recently for a corporate client – they had an award ceremony mid week and wanted our 12 piece party band to supply the evening entertainment. We started with our soul and contemporary set and got a good crowd dancing in front of the stage. This was going to be a nice gig and we went off for our break and to get changed into the second set clothes looking forward to a good night.
During the interval (about 20 minutes) someone broke out the headphones which were going to be used for a silent disco after the live music had ended. For those who don’t know, a silent disco is like an ordinary disco but with everyone listening to music on headphones rather than from a large sound system. I knew such things existed but it’s the first time I ever saw it happening. As we walked back to the stage it was slightly eerie to see almost everyone in the room dancing but without hearing any of the music. They were wearing large headphones and dancing at the other end of the room from the stage like a creepy puppet show.
We started our second set – for the second set we were playing a lot of disco classics from the 70’s, and were dressed up in the full on afro wig spangly sequinned shirts or comedy pimp outfits. Guaranteed to get the dance floor full, and we always enjoy playing these tunes – I particularly love the meaty basslines in these numbers, and with Vinnie on drums this was going to be a great set!
Trouble is, as we were at the other end of the room, and people were already dancing, the addition of a live band didn’t seem to have much of an affect on the audience. A few came back over to dance, but the atmosphere was lost. Even weirder, some people came over to dance while still wearing their headphones. In between our numbers it was sometimes possible to hear people singing along to the tunes they were dancing to.
This is something we’re not trained to deal with as musicians; there have been rare occasions where I’ve been booked to perform for an unsuitable audience (rock band for a jazz club, for example) and sometimes your job is specifically to be background music (jazz trio at a cocktail evening) and there are ways of dealing with those situations. But playing dance music to a group of people who are dancing to different music which you can’t even hear is an odd experience.
So I think the guests all enjoyed themselves, but from a band perspective it was a strange and disappointing end to a gig!