Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Gig Bag.... The Holy Grail of personal bags

My friend Allen and I were talking about “Gig Bags” and the importance of having the right bag to do road shows. It is funny how you can see something that you want to take on the road with you such as a cool knife, or flashlight, and the second though in your head ends up being… where is that going to fit in my bag?

So, I decided to list out everything that goes in my bag when I hit the road to do a show.

So, here goes.

1 Macbook Pro w/Powersupply

1 Sony Viao PC w/Powersupply

1 Microsoft wireless mouse

2 USB 1 Gig Thumb Drives

1 100 Gig USB Portable Hard Drive

1 160 Gig USB Portable Hard Drive

2 Laptop Cable Locks

1 Ipod Cable Lock

1 PC USB HDTV Tuner w/Antenna

1 Pair of Sony Noise Canceling Headphones

1 80 Gig Ipod Video

6 Blank CD/R

1 Wireless Remote Control for Macbook

1 Skype Wireless USB Phone

1 Roll of Artist Tape (for Mixing Board Labling)

8 Sharpie Multi-Color Markers Fine Tip

8 Sharpie Multi-Color Markers Ultra Fine Tip

1 Pentax Optio S 4 Mega-pixel Digital Camera

1 Multi-Format Media Card Reader

1 iPhone/iPod Charger

1 Green Laser Pointer

1 Stanley Laser Measurer

1 Lamy Pico Black Pen

If you think of something I should be carrying, that you just couldn't live with out... Post a comment on this blog.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Waiting for work

This business is really weird. Currently, I have no work booked at all. Granted it is Christmas, and there are really no shows going on, so that is not surprising, but nothing booked for 2008 yet at all.
I am waiting on an email that may turn into some work the first couple weeks of January. If that happens, I will be set for the month. One email is the difference between making a living or not.
You would think that would be too stressful to really continue being a freelancer.

But the history is proof. This past year, which was my first year of freelancing, I worked 28 shows. A total of 141 days on the road. I was able to make about the same amount of money that I did working in Seattle in a full time position for about 240 days a year, somewhere between 40 and 55 hours a week.
In 2008, it will be interesting to see how the year pans out. I have made a few new contacts and hopefully, they will book me on some shows.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Consulting for Churches

I got a call from a church down in South Carolina, needing some help with their sound system.
So, I hopped in the jeep and buzzed down there on Sunday.
It was a two and a half hour drive, so I left around 7:30 am and made it for the first service.
This is my second visit to this church to help out with sound. The first visit went well, and they took my recommendations to replace their old Peavey stage monitors and replace them with some Mackie SRM 450's. So, this trip was to help them install them and also to install a DBX compressor that they bought on my last recommendation.

The service kicks off, and it is so loud, your ears are going to bleed. The band is comprised of a set of Yamaha electric drums, a Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Electronic Keyboard, two Trumpets, and a Viola. The band is accompanied by 4 back up singers as well.
I looked over the sound guy's shoulder and saw what the problem was. He had the mid-range EQ's on almost every channel pumped up about 6 Db. Combine that with the Trumpeters blasting their horns so much that you could see their heads turning red, and you can see right away that this is not going to be an easy fix.

The Sound guy is such a nice guy and he really wants to learn. He only does audio once a week for the church and has no one around to teach him. So, he is taking notes on everything we do, so hopefully he is going to be able to retain a good percentage of the things we did and why we did them.

The PA speakers are also a big part of the issue. They are two small boxes mounted in the pinnacle of the roof and one, 18" subwoofer that has been custom fit under the communion table. The mains look like they have about a 12" speaker in them, and I believe the pastor said they were installed in 1990.

After the service, we went to lunch and talked a little bit about what was going on.. then back to the church to install the Mackies. The old Peavey monitors were just so crappy sounding that in order to hear anything, you had to crank them way up and then the stage volume was greater than the mains volume. With the Mackies in place, we were able to bring the stage volume way lower and clean up the main sound.

I looked into the way the Mains and the subs were wired, and found that the amp was bridged mono, and the Subwoofer was getting the main feed.
So, everything in the system was going to the Subwoofer, and that was receiving a full range signal. no wonder the Sound guy had so much mid EQ turned up. The subwoofer was pushing everything out with low-mid mud!
I re-wired the Amp and fed the Subwoofer a feed from an Aux send, and then flattened the main EQ, and re-EQ'd everything. This made a tremendous difference. The Amp was now running a lot more efficiently because it wasn't taking up all that power to push every signal to the Subwoofer.
Then the Band came in for rehearsal and everything cleaned up quite nicely.
They are still going to have to work toward investing in new mains, subs, and amps. but at least the equipment that they do own is working the best it can for them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Talk about Last Minute

So, the Day went fine... Back to back sessions from 7:30 am to 3:30pm. Everyone was happy... Rooms were getting struck by the locals. The producer was telling me to head out for the day so as not to go into OT. The lighting guy ducked into my room to turn out the lights for the day, and he came running out yelling... "They need an AV guy in there" So I go back into the room to find about 20 people milling around. This lady was standing at the tech table and was waiting for me when I got there. I asked her if she had a rehearsal and she looked at me blankly and said, "No, a meeting" All the gear was fired down... packed up and put away for the night. I smiled, and said no problem. Then kicked it into overdrive to get everything fired back up.
The Producer came in and I told him I needed an audio guy. My buddy Rob was there and suggested that I do audio and he run graphics. Problem solved.
So, here we sit earning some last minute Overtime, and getting paid to blog!

Here is Rob Surfin the Net

Day 4 of the show

6:00 am call this morning.. I am dragging. I fell asleep by 10:30 or so last night.. but there are so many people running around all night, I woke up a whole bunch of times.
Got to the venue and fired up all my gear. Everything is working fine. The presenter comes in and wants to use his own laptop and wireless remote.
Soooo I am basically sitting here all day operating nothing. Good thing we are not getting paid based on how productive we are. I pushed one button so far.

When I got here at 6:00, none of the rooms were set. The hotel had left all the tables in the rooms from yesterdays sessions. What a mess! They are running around like chickens with out heads trying to get the rooms set-up. The "Suits" are not happy... All of the managers at the hotel are running around in their business clothes setting up tables and chairs. If you listen close you can here them muttering and groaning about how screwed up it is.
Someone is going to get called into a manager's office and reamed out this morning!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Doing shows at Disney

This is the second time in less than a month that I am down here in Disney World.
While I completely appreciate the opportunity to do the work, there are just somethings that need to be talked about.

This show is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. Some of the staff here are amazingly rude, and you ask them for something and you get a blank stare. I am not talking about front desk staff, they are actually pretty helpful all things considered.

UNBELIEVABLE!!!! I just saw a client struggling with the door to our meeting room, and went over to help.... We are totally locked in... the door is jammed and there are about 50 people now stuck in this room. This is just one more thing to add to the list of why this hotel is so crappy.

Anyway.. back to the staff. They are all magicians (fitting for the magical Disney experience) Except their magic act is them disappearing. If you are not really quick.. they run for the hills rather than check in with you to see if you need anything.
I asked a houseman to put the skirt on the tech table after we put the equipment on it, and instead of giving me the standard hospitality smile and answer.. "no problem" He avoided looking at my eyes, and said... "You Can Do it" and threw the skirt clips on the table and walked away.

The other thing that just makes life miserable is we are staying at the Walt Disney World Coronado Springs Resort. This place is only about 1 mile away so you would think that getting a cab to take you there shouldn't be an issue at a "World Class Resort" like Disney.
But those guys at the Valet at the dolphin have a major racket going on. You walk up to the Valet guy and ask for a taxi, and he immediately shouts, "TOWNCAR" at the top of his lungs. Moments later this nice Lincoln Towncar pulls around and they help you into it.
You might be thinking something like "wow, Disney has nice taxis" But really what just happened was, that the Valet just got a kickback from the Towncar driver, and you are paying for it!
If you take an actual metered taxi cab from the Dolphin to the Coronado Springs, it will cost be tween $4.50 and 5.00 depending on traffic.
In your nice Lincoln Towncar, the driver will ask you for $17.00 and expect a tip on top of that.
There is no meter in the Towncar and you really have no recourse but to pay the guy what he asks for.
Three weeks ago, I took a taxi from the airport to the Dolphin, and payed the driver $60.00 for the ride. it was about $47.00 for the fare, and the rest was tip. At 5:00 am on the way back to the airport, I asked for a taxi, and got a Towncar, and the fare was $63.00 before the tip. So, it ends up being $75.00 instead of $60.00. That was where I learned my lesson.

The flip side to the equation is that the taxi drivers expect every fare to be going to the airport.
so, when you tell them that you are going 1 mile away. they moan and groan like you stole their first child. Then they drive aggressively and basically make you uncomfortable like you did something wrong by getting into their cab!
They are in the same racket with the Towncars, and valets. So, much so that last night when I got into the taxi and told him that I needed to go to the Coronado, he looked at the valet like "you screwed me" and the valet looked at him and said... "I got you covered... open your trunk"
when the Taxi driver opened the trunk, the Valet through two $5.00 bills in the trunk, it was very slick and on the downlow... makes me wonder if this either illegal, or against hotel policy. otherwise, why wouldn't the valet just give him the cash directly?
It all just feels slimy.
And the real problem is, that families... save every last penny to bring their kids to see Mickey Mouse and drop huge coin on hotel rooms that are beat down... dirty and you have to walk so far from the front desk to get to your room that you have to train for a marathon just to make it... oh, and then give a fat tip to the bellman because he pushed a cart for you, and then these nice families get ripped off by the staff at the hotel.

The good news is... the show is going well, and the clients are all great. They are treating us with a great amount of respect and are happy we are here to help them. This is the way business should be done.

Thats all for now... I am sure I will have more to rant about by the end of the day here at Disney World.

Have a Magical Day!