AUS220 Week 8: Intensive Two, Through
To begin, I must apologise for the delay in uploading this week's post. The reason for my lateness is that I have needed time to gather my thoughts and feelings on the events of week 8. It was a very stressful and tiring week, and I gave a lot emotionally, physically and mentally, and have been swinging between thoughts and opinions on how I feel about it all. I did not want to write anything until I had some clarity on my own thoughts, and although I am still hazy, I feel ready now. I didn't want any fatigue or emotions to cause things to come out in this that would be considered unfair or unprofessional. Please excuse my tardiness.
This week was the final Thursday of our live sound intensive and the culminating live gig. We were, above all else, asked to produce an event that, as Teebo put it; looks like a gig, sounds like a gig, and smells like a gig! Well, there is no doubt in my mind that we delivered that and then some. I will start with the positives, and then discuss some things I feel were not worthy of the talent and work that went into the planning and execution of the night. Firstly, the place looked great! We pulled out all the stops. We had professional lighting, smoke machines, fairy lights, props, staging, multi level seating, and the sweetest addition of all, a room full of punters. We brought the stage out towards the centre of the soundstage, both to aid the sound of the poorly designed room, and also to decrease the size of it, helping it seem fuller than it may have been. It worked on both counts. We borrowed furniture from all over the campus; couches, bean-bags, tables and chairs. We did this because we knew from research that we had done at the other gigs that people were leaving after having to stand for too long. We positioned the bar and food tables to the far, back side of the room to keep it from causing distraction from the stage, and also to encourage people to fully enter the room. This was also to keep the doorway clear so that Jack, our designated doorman, was able to check and greet people as they entered and left the room. I am incredibly happy with how it looked. We all chipped in and it was by far the best I've seen it look so far. I feel like we set a great vibe, a nice feel, and made our attendees very comfortable and relaxed. Secondly, we executed the service side of the night expertly. We had the assistance of the wonderful Susan, who looking gorgeous as ever, volunteered her time, experience, and RSA to serve alcohol to our guests all night long. Not only that, she monitored people's level of intoxication, ID'd younger looking people, and controlled the levels of product at all times. We all owe her a huge dept, and I am forever grateful for what she did for us. We had over $250 worth of ice cold beer for our guests, and over $20 of chips and snacks, all of which lasted the entirety of our 3-act show. People were wrapped to be able to sip beer, eat snacks, and comfortably lounge in our space listening to our great performers. There was a really nice feeling in the room all night. Towards the end of the second act's set, Susan warned me, as asked, that the beer levels were at a certain point, and we decided to close the bar until the final performance. This was to stop anyone leaving before the main act, which had happened on other nights once the alcohol dried up. It worked a treat. Susan politely informed the punters that the bar had temporarily closed in order to leave enough for later, and everybody was understanding and cooperative. It was a great idea and worked perfectly, costing us no audience members at all. Finally, the main objective for me starting out was to make sure we filled the room, and kept it filled all night. That objective was met. We planned with great care how we would promote the night, delivering on our marketing promises, and maintain the crowd size throughout, and we got there. By doors opening at 5:30pm, we already had a cue outside the soundstage of audience members keen to get inside. Basically no-one left before the final song of the final set. What was great to see, especially in terms of having the gig 'peer-reviewed', was that most of the attendees were not SAE students or staff at all. In fact, I'd say our audience was approximately 85-90% non-SAE affiliated. In order to get a perfect mark this trimester, we are required to have our work reviewed by our peers, and considering we had an audience made up of nearly 60% music industry practitioners from outside of SAE, I'd say we ticked that box. So, if I were to say that at the beginning of this all, I set out to make the best looking gig I could, that attracted a full crowd that came and stayed all night, then I accomplished my goal ten fold. But there was something else that took a back seat to my concerns of crowd size and aesthetics. Something fairly important in the process of putting on a live gig; the sound.
We were told quite clearly at the beginning of this intensive that we were able to, and would be wise to, nominate more than one person to learn the FOH console, so we have no one to blame but ourselves for the fact that we put one of our team members in the most stressful, deep-ended of situations, without anyone else there with the proper know-how to help him in his time of need. Aldi did a fantastic job running the FOH system that night. Even with English being his second language, the fact that he had had only three lessons on the console, and the high stress of a time-poor, late-running sound check, he did a great job! He kept his calm, took the punches and still delivered. But there were times where the stress levels were very high. Confusion kicked in, frustration and nerves were abound. I felt very helpless. I wanted so badly to be able to assist Aldi on the desk, to be able to solve certain issues or guide certain changes, and I simply couldn't. I had stepped aside in the beginning to let others do their thing, as I thought was the point of the group work we are doing, and I concentrated my energy on other aspects, as mentioned above. I know now that I still should've at least had a handle on that side of things, so it wasn't all left to one member of the group if things went wrong. That isn't to say that the sound wasn't great, it was! Aldi got the mix sounding fantastic, without even getting a chance to soundcheck two of the three acts at all! I still don't quite understand how we ran out of time. We were so far ahead all day, and then all of a sudden we were rushing. There is really very little I can reflect on this point, as I seriously do not know what went wrong. I went out to get our liquor, and when I got back we were in trouble. I don't think it was the only fault, but perhaps I, as someone in the group with a lot of years of live music experience, should've not left and been there for the entirety of the soundcheck, but I can't be sure. As I've said, this didn't effect what our audience heard, as Aldi did a smashing job of mixing live on the fly, but what did suffer was the monitor mix that the acts were hearing. We should've had a lot more time to spend getting the monitor mix right, but we didn't. All of the acts were affected by this, and its something I have had a really hard time coming to terms with. As a working musician, I know exactly how difficult, stressful, uncomfortable and uninspiring it is to try to perform your craft in front of a live audience when you cannot hear yourself properly or are feeling like your sound is off. I feel really bad that acts that we asked to come and play did not enjoy the experience as much as they could've, and I feel like I could've and should've done more to be able to fix it. But, once the snowball of lateness had started rolling, there was nothing I could do. It is hugely regretful to me that the monitor mix was not to a high standard, and it upsets me a lot. I am a firm believer that the most important mix in the room is the one the artist hears, and the fact that a show I was a part of did not deliver on this makes me feel sick. I have a learnt a big lesson from this, and only wish I could turn back time to do it all again.
All in all, I am very happy with the event we put on, and I am completely blown away by the amount of effort and hard work that my group and I put into this. We poured our blood, sweat, time and money into this gig and am so proud of us for it. It was very stressful, maybe too stressful, and I can't say I enjoyed the whole process, but the moments during the show that I got to stand back and take it in, in the space we had set, filled with happy audience members, I was elated with what we had accomplished. If I accept that the point of this was to learn, then I cannot possibly walk away from it disappointed at all.