Saturday, September 01, 2007

Artists & Roadies: Don't Ruin Your Show by Making the Audience Wait

So last evening I went to a concert at a summer festival. Overall the festival and the music was pretty good. It was not LivePA, but my experience from last night made me think about something that has happened to me more than once, and all LivePA artists need to think about.

This experience that I am talking about is me standing waiting for the next act to come on for over an hour!!!! After the first band ended playing, the crowd was very excited for the next band to come on. However, it took over an hour for the next band to setup their gear.

Over an hour!!!!!!

Now this is actually an experience that I have had more than once at several shows and it is something that drives me absolutely crazy. Now it is my personal opinion that there really should be no reason whatsoever that it takes a band over an hour to setup and sound-check. It just kills the crowd. It got so bad last night that the crowd ended up shouting at the stage.

Sometimes I think some of these roadies stretch out the sound-check so they can get in a little self indulgent playing of the instruments themselves on stage. I know we have all seen it before. The roadie on the drum set, starting off hitting the individual drums for the sound-check, but then all of a sudden busting out into a ten minute drum solo of their own.

Really I think there is no excuse. As an artist you or your roadies should be prepared way before the show. You should know how your are going to run your cables, where your setup is going, and if at all possible setup as much gear as you can before hand so all you have to do is plug in when the opening act is done. When people are paying good money for your show, they do not want to wait over and hour to listen to your roadies have fun with your gear.

You owe the audience a little something and you should be prepared to get out there on stage as fast as possible after the opening act is done.


Anonymous said...

While an hour is a long time to wait for the next act, as a sound engineer who mixes live concerts and a LivePA performer, I think you need to cut live bands a little more slack for their setup time. First off, in a festival situation, bands rarely have the opportunity to have their equipment onstage and ready for them to come out and play as they are sharing that same stage with x number of bands before them. It's not as simple as plugging a stereo lead from your mixer/interface/laptop setup to the stage breakout or DJ mixer. First, the prior band has to tear down their equipment and get off the stage, then the next band has to build up their setup. Even with a relatively uncomplicated setup (drums, keys, guitar, and bass) this can easily take twenty minutes (less if sharing a drum kit and amps). If you add effects, or other instruments, it doesn't matter how well planned you are with your stage layout, there is a certain amount of time required to physically move all the equipment, run cables, set-up mics etc... In festivals, you can forget about a sound check, what we do is just a line check to see that we have all instruments accounted for, and a quick basic EQ to get the sound somewhat balanced. This is why the sound for each new band takes one or two songs to totally gel while the mixer adjusts madly during the first song to find the best balance. Like I said, an hour is a bit long, but a total stage change in a half hour is accomplished only by the uber-pros. 45 minutes is the average.

Second point I should add, is that the roadies associated with festivals are usually hires of the festival, not the band, and are unfamiliar with the band's setup other than what information they gleaned from the stage plot, which is usually sparse, as they simply don't have time to read a technical manual to get the next act ready.

So cut them a little slack, an hour is a chance to get better positions in front of the stage, or to go buy some beer, CDs, t-shirts, all of which help pay for the bands.

Anonymous said...

Both of you have good points, and I've seen situations where both are 100% true. Breaking down and setting up takes a lot of time, but it does get somewhat abused, and I've even known people who purposely "build the tension" by making the crowd wait. It's stupid, but it gets done.

And give the roadies a bit more credit, too; instead of sneering at that ten-minute solo wankery, take a look at what the FOH guy's doing-- prolly adjusting the drum mics like mad, if he knows what's good for him. Every sound that comes through the PA before the actual show starts is a chance to get things right, and besides, if not for that ten minute solo, what would you be listening to? Crowd noise? And if the roadies don't do it, the band has to... or the crowd will have to suffer through 100db of bad mixing until the sound "gels" or everyone goes deaf, whichever happens first. I'm not saying it's like that all the time, I'm just saying there's no definitive way to view the issue. The best we can do is try to look like ninjas by doing everything as quickly and efficiently as possible.

M.A.S. said...

It all comes back to a matter of efficiency though in the end.

At this past festival for example, there were four roadies. In this one instance with the drums, the other three were standing around.

I would like to at least see a little hustle by those setting up. At least walk quickly to show the audience you are trying. Don't lazily mosey across the stage, plug in that guitar amp and then stroll on over to the next guitar. These people are getting paid after all.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been on tour, sir? I bet not, 'cos if you had been you're realize that most roadies are tired, pissed off, overworked, underpaid, malnutritioned, unrested, pushed around endlessly by self-important industry types, hounded by shithead artists who think that being on stage equates to being pampered by everyone else around them, and generally put up with a lot of bullshit. The old "these people are getting paid" runs a bit dry when you realize that often times, they'e NOT getting paid. In fact, a paid roadie is a lucky roadie. Plus they have to put up with the fact that most bands won't put their own shit together, will have the audacity to bitch openly about it despite everyone's hard work A backstage is a minefield of different interests, all of which feel the need to control the situation out of concern for their own goals.

So trust me, after lugging three truckloads of gear from town to town for months on end, you'll start looking forward to that 10 minutes of fucking around on the drumkit with your mates too. Even if you know it'll piss off others, you won't care because that's prolly the only fun you get to have the entire time you're on the road. The rest is fucking hard work, no fun, no spare time and no money. Still wonder why sometimes, roadies seem lethargic and testy?

Oh, yeah. Posting things like this, where the whole world can read them, isn't a good idea. You never know when someone who saw all of this as petty bitching will show up on the crew at your next show. It's not criticism, we all get it... but sometimes, it's best to take the high road and keep one's nose clean. Plenty of people read this blog, after all.

M.A.S. said...

While I do share your sentiments, it is my personal opinion that regardless of whatever factors come into play the fans come first. Taking this completely from the fans perspective, do I care if the roadies job is crappy? Do I care if they are lugging stuff for months?

Not really because as a fan the show I care about is right there, right now, with no reference to the other three months of touring. I paid my $50 or whatever it is for a show, and in the end I came to see the band play. Not the roadies setup the stage for over and hour.

When the crowd is shouting at the stage, there really is no excuse.