Last night was my first outing with a new band that I’ve been working with for maybe three months, a rock cover band called Speed of Sound. We had the opening slot at a nice venue with a huge stage, the Q Bar in Glendale Heights, IL. We’re currently a quartet that is essentially a power trio plus one, the vocalist, and it was a ton of fun to get out on a big stage with an excellent sound system and a good audience to support us. The place is huge, 20,000 square feet, has a large dance floor, plenty of seating, an area filled with pool tables and then a very large bar area as well. It was really nice to kick off this band in such a nice venue, and great to play live with my friend Ken Erickson again as well as Dave Nickrand on vocals and Herb Barnett on drums. It was also nice to be able to stretch out, get wonderful tone from my full 500 watt rig and Carvin SB5000 bass, and hear it supported by the venue system in big deep crisp clean sound mixed beautifully with the rest of the band.
More often than not the bands that I work with play venues that are maybe a quarter of the size, or less, than the venue last night. It is nice playing smaller clubs because it increases the intimacy on some levels, and the smaller size dictates smaller rigs. However the smaller venues often don’t have house PA systems, which creates the requirement for the band to provide the PA, or hire someone else to which inevitably would come out of the band’s take. So while I might not need my big bass rig for the smaller venue, I might have to bring and set up part of the PA in addition to my bass equipment. In those situations the band is also running their own sound which can be a bit of a complication when trying to get the levels set for a nicely balanced mix.
The large venue experience with plenty of room on stage, an excellent house system and good sound engineers is a wonderful one when it all comes together well. This was the case last night. The stage was sufficiently large that both bands set up their equipment, ours toward the mid front and the second act’s behind us, and there was absolutely no sense of crowding or loss of floor space. In fact, when we moved our equipment off stage after the end of our set the stage really looked pretty empty despite the amount of equipment the second band had. At least it did from the perspective of someone who is used to being crammed into a corner with four other musicians and trying to avoid taking out the front man’s teeth with a bass headstock.
The sound guy was quite efficient, between setting up and dialing us in. He even switched out the kick drum mic because he wasn’t happy with the tone combined with Herb’s kick and the entire process was extraordinarily hassle free for the band. It helped that the venue hadn’t cut any corners on the quality of the sound system, but it was clear that they hadn’t cut any corners hiring someone who knew what he was doing. You can sink thousands into an excellent system, like you can with musical instruments, but if the person running it doesn’t know what he or she is doing it can still sound like crap, just like a great guitar only sings its best when the player matches it. This guy was fast, without even seeming like he was hurrying, and got everything lined up beautifully with no muss, no fuss, and without ruffling anyone’s feathers.
We did well last night with our set. There were a couple glitches here and there, but all in all we did quite well on our first public run. The compliments were flowing and everyone left feeling quite satisfied with how things went. It was also nice to be able to get home by 11:15 for a change as opposed to the usual two a.m. or so and have the energy to bring my full rig back into the house without too much banging around. When I get home late there’s usually some thumping of cabs against doorframes and such, or one of the cabs sleeps in the car trunk for the night. Not so last night. Nights like last night, where the venue is superior, there is more than ample stage space, the sound system and engineer are excellent and the overall work experience is so comfortable leave me feeling quite satisfied. May there be many more of them!