Our year is quickly coming to a close, with a few venues sprinkled among the rush of senior retirement communities. We get ever closer to that “ultimate” set of music, which does, however, change slightly from time to time, but we must have that. Communication continues to be the main thought on my mind, how to get people to understand the need to understand each other and to not feel threatened when someone thinks differently. I know that sounds all woo-hoo, like dreaming of world peace and living together as one, but everything has to start somewhere. Right?
Christmas in the Village of Waynesville this afternoon, the Submarine House in Centerville on the 12th, a few more retirement/assisted living communities, Caesar’s Creek Flea Market for New Year’s Eve afternoon, and then it’s 2018 and more of the same: sharing our musical message of love and the boogie woogie to all who would hear.
Raggedy Edge and Littlest Big Band Revue had another decent show at the Greene, and once again I have learned a thing or two about big venue sound and weather.
Let’s start with the weather. Usually it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too bright, or too dark. This one was only a bit on the chilly side after the sun went down and the wind kept blowing, but it started out very good temperature-wise. The wind may have been the biggest problem, causing a bit of feedback in acoustic guitars, kind of like blowing into your cupped hand to make a conch shell sort of sound.
Working the PA turned out to the be the biggest hassle, one that didn’t get totally solved, but was almost under control by the last set. Nice that a few people were left in the square by then.
So what happened?
Bass. Too much of it in the system. Where was it coming from? Not totally sure, as we had all the channels nearly devoid of it. Had to have some, of course, or it sounded so bright and sharp it would slice through your skull.
We had rented some powered speakers to use for the mains, and we had them set around 15 feet in front of us, so we couldn’t hear them well. We used our Fishman 220 for a monitor that sat behind us, like it does normally for our shows. When we checked it by itself during set-up, it had enough volume to do the show by itself. I think that two of them could have done the job if set out to the sides of us, like we do when a duo and playing a noisy venue. (We only use the one during those times, of course, since that’s all we have. A powered speaker on the other side, though, could save us the cost of another stick. Something for future thought.)
I think our biggest mistake (okay, my biggest mistake) was not setting the mains first by themselves. Again, it was hard to do, being one person, and I should have/could have set my guitar to loop, then run out front, analyzed, run back and reset, run back out front, and repeat till it was right. (Some kind of bluetooth mixer and tablet sounds desirable about now.)
More time should have been spent making sure the crowd received a good all-around sound, then and only then should I have started with the monitor sound.
At that point, something our drummer Don Winegar said should have been thought through and enacted: Can we set up like we do for practice? You see, when we practice, we don’t mike anything. Only the bass is amplified enough to hear. The bass and drums are facing each other on opposite sides of the room, and Lynn and I are in the middle, usually facing each other, too. For the show, one of us would only have to turn around. The thing that would happen then would/should be that the monitor sound would simulate the practice environment, just a little bit louder, thus providing a comfort zone of familiarity.
But instead, at first, we played with the sound of the mains mixed with the monitor behind us, and it seemed okay around 20 feet or so, but we found out later that farther out front it was too bassy and the vocals were lost. The bass was also mostly in front of us, so we could barely hear it on stage. I suppose it was loud enough out front.
Overall, it’s hard to mix mains from the stage. But what is the solution?
One: Play big gigs where there are house systems. Usually works, but then your sound is homogenized into whatever the house wants and you have to trust their sound person will give you a good sound. You can tell from your Facebook involvement the next day if that was pleasing to the people.
Two: If no sound provided, then renting a system and an engineer might cost a couple hundred dollars easy, but the sound is set right for you, you hope.
Three: Or we (a) continue to rent powered speakers or (b) buy our own set of big speakers–or maybe one will do–to use for those rare big outdoor events that come our way and practice with them till we get it right.
We’ve learned to give ourselves plenty of highs for larger spaces we play with our Fishman as a duo, so we should be able to accomplish the same with bigger sound. Must remember it for the next time it becomes an issue.
It has been a good year so far, and this month has given us lots to be thankful for, and more coming up.
Our end-of-the-month show at The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek this Friday should really be memorable, and we hope in a good way! We’ve been working with our bassist and drummer, and have a nice collection of songs to play. We’ll get to get together with them again in November at a new place for us, the Whistle Stop Opry in Xenia. Like many of the Opry stages around, it leans toward the bluegrass band, and lucky for us we have some bluegrass in our repertoire, but regular readers know to expect all sorts of good, listenable music from a Raggedy Edge concert, and we plan to keep with that ideal.
October 7, the duo will be at Harmony Hills Vineyard near Bethel, Ohio, and really picturesque local winery with an outdoor stage (as well as a huge covered (and potentially heated) patio area) and a very good sound system. The owner/operator is a musician, which is also the case with the Whistle Stop Opry, so we like coming to these places for the good sound it gives us.
And speaking of good sounds, keep thinking good thoughts about yourself and your friends and those closest to you. Might as well, huh?
Our return to Clifton Opera House was a success. We didn’t fill every seat, unfortunately, so who knows if we’ll be invited back, but the seats that were filled contained happy souls, and it looked like they all stayed for the full two hours, even after the break, during which it’s infamous for bands to lose a third or more of crowds who often hear all they need in the first hour.
And then we played an outdoor (90-degree heat) three-hour gig at the 3rd Sundays Dayton, and that was fun, too, if not so well attended, no doubt due to heat, plus the fact that we are short of relatives and friends in the area willing to venture out of the air conditioning. Heat is better than rain, though, and we didn’t have any of that.
I sometimes wonder how long live music will be able to last, and then I somehow know that it’ll always be around in some form, resurgent or rare, just like “good” music today is hard to find, but extant. It all depends on what you expect. If only we could find 50 more “Clifton Opera Houses,” we’d be more than happy to help pay their expenses to help keep them operating, and maybe, someday, to level their stages.