Soundman makes it or breaks it in live concerts

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Soundman makes it or breaks it in live concerts

Postby labrador on March 22nd, 2010, 2:43 pm

I feel let down by the sound people on live tours. I don't understand why they can sometimes be so bad. I've now had two experiences of paying for expensive tickets and travel, to have a terrible audio experience. It was not the band's fault, and there doesn't seem to be a way to wake up the sound people to what is wrong.

In 1998 there was a David Byrne tour which started in North America in Toronto. This was when he hired local strings. He played at the Phoenix, and no matter where I moved around in the room, the bass drum was way louder than anything else. I couldn't hear the bass guitar. The strings were weakly audible. Several people in the audience realized the strings part was way too weak and I heard someone yell out "strings". Nothing changed in the sound.

Last weekend I saw the B-52s in Halifax. We paid $70 each for regular priced tickets. The sound guy had the bass drum sounding like one of those tricked out cars producing toneless subwoofer vibrations. This might work for DJ duty where you have a dance program and you have mixes all built around 120 BPM, but that isn't what the B-52's are about. The sound was worse than with the 1998 David Byrne concert.

The bass drum was doing BOOM BOOM BOOM so loud I could feel my jeans vibrate. I worked hard to hear the interesting parts. The B-52s are fun and unique because of use of the congos, guitar, and Cindy and Kate's twinned voices. The speakers were driven to distortion by the excessive bass drum volume, and so all these other sounds were also distorted. I think I heard two notes from the bass guitar all night, which is not a forefront sound in the classic B-52s, but was only audible when the drummer played some rests.

My brother made a complaint that it was simply too loud. That was misunderstood. A guy came out with a decibel meter and showed us it was only 103 - under any legal limits. I wrote a note:
Too much bass drum. The other parts cannot be heard well.

The guy answered:
The soundman gets paid $500/day to do this. We can't tell him what to do.

The review in the paper the next day made no mention of the flawed sound production. Most people there didn't care either. I suspect many people were in awe of being in a live concert with these icons, and wouldn't dare to say they didn't like it, partly out of having little idea how music and sound is done.

I still have the original vinyl B-52s yellow and red albums. On the album center, there is an instruction: "Play Loud". I have known it works best that way and isn't background listening music, but what the sound person did for the concert was a gross distortion of something that should have been a sonic pleasure.

Maybe we need reviews done on sound professionals?
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Re: Soundman makes it or breaks it in live concerts

Postby iRene on March 22nd, 2010, 11:45 pm

Too true, Labrador! I recommended George Clinton and PFunk to some people on the strength of a great show in Manchester, but they sounded awful in the Royal Festival Hall. I'm not sure if it was the acoustics or the sound people to blame though. Anyway, sorry folks! :oops:
"Manchester, so much to answer for."
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Papa Legba
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