Gig going foodie who reads too much, watches too much film, likes gardening, cooking/baking, and sewing. Likes to go to the theatre and anything arty. Likes travel, likes planning travel....likes solar eclipses.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Confessions of a Sound Engineer

A couple of weeks ago I had the utter misfortune to witness what I can only describe as a farce worthy of the piss poor 1970s UK comedy film output.  The place: Attic, the de rigeur music venue above The Thirsty Scholar in Manchester’s historical Little Ireland area off Oxford Road.  I hope never to see the like again in any venue supposedly catering for live music. 
I must stress that NONE of the bands involved were by any way at fault and in fact they were the ones badly done by.  Three bands in total.  First up were Skinny Roller,  a promising newly formed Salford band with more than a hint of skiffle around their Animals influenced set.  The sounds from the stage were relatively good however it says it all when a reviewer is forced to investigate a band on You Tube in order to hear the lyrics due to the inadequate quality of the sound.  I caught a few lyrics – something about Cherry Blossom and Two Tonne Carmen but frankly that was about it.  All I could hear was drums and guitar; lyrics were just lost within the wall of sound like my will to live.

Second band were visitors from over the Pennines, The Lost Cassettes.  Clearly inspired by New Model Army they suffered from the same sound imbalance although I did note songs called Poundland and Oxbow Lake.  Anyone who can call a song after a geography course core element deserves kudos.  Again the drums prevailed although due to the vocalist’s delivery at least I could hear a voice; couldn’t make it out but there you go.  I’d like to say I could drown myself in beer to numb the pain the ringing in my ears was now causing but at £3.85 for a can of cider that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon; having a price list behind the bar in such tiny writing it was like being in an opticians does not constitute displaying a price list clearly….
Then came the band I had purposely arrived to see, Modern Alarms.  As most of you will know I have more than a soft spot for these lads and regard the fact that they are not signed when the charts are full of such magnolia dross as a travesty.  However, thank God there were no A&R men there.  The sound continued to be reminiscent of a group of drunks playing somebody’s garage and they had the added indignity of the microphones going dead on them at various times.  During the set a semi regular game of “hunt the working microphone” ensued with the two guitarists doubling up in Beatles fashion leaving the vocalist to switch mics on a regular basis.  Fortunately I know most of the songs but had I not it would have been hard going.  Two songs from the end the vocalist gestured to the sound guy, yes, there was one not that you would have thought it, and my initial thought was that a new mic was being procured. Not exactly.  The sound guy did appear but only to unfurl a banner along the sound desk promoting a club night.  Sound engineer and banner unfurler; that lad’s got heavy responsibility, nice he can do one job well…..

Then the utter unthinkable happened.  The next to last song had just started when it went silent.  Silent not as in instant revere but silent as in somebody had pulled the plug on the band.  Really.  No warning, no hurried arguments at the side of the stage, nothing. Nothing.  I’ve only ever seen this happen once before and that was at an end of term disco.  At school. In 1982.  Disrespectful doesn’t even come close when it’s a case of pulling a plug on a band with paying punters.  Turned out there was a curfew of 11 p.m. due to a club night, which the band had been told was 12 midnight and it was 10.50 p.m.  The knowledge of this hadn’t stopped the bar serving though and only a few minutes before we’d got another drink.
I should have expected the worst.  I was told that during the sound check the sound engineer ran out of leads.  Not encouraging if they haven’t got enough leads to do their job.  It’s a bit like going in for your appendix out to see Dr Nick from The Simpsons striding towards you.  I mentioned this whole episode to a couple of other people days later and both of them recoiled in horror at the mention of the place.  Obviously got a great reputation.

So will I be going back to Attic?  Hmmmm. Let’s see.  Only if Tom Meighan of Kasabian decides to sing acapella to me by candlelight and as that is an extremely remote possibility, i.e. non existent possibility, I should imagine going back to Attic is even more remote…..
At this point I usually give a set list of the tracks but (a) for the first two bands I simply have no idea but would recommend checking them out if you get the chance or even watching them on You Tube and (b) can’t really give you an accurate review of Modern Alarms as the sound was so bad.  I know the songs, I like their work but I can’t review something where the sound is dreadful through no fault of theirs. They’re a good band, they really are and they’re playing Ducie Bridge on 16 August so you might as well go and check them out yourself. You can look forward to the fact it’s not Attic .

Skinny Roller

The Lost Cassettes

Modern Alarms

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