10th & 11th August 2013…
This past weekend I was volunteering (as ever) at the Cancer Research UK Kirriemuir Relay for Life as the sound and lighting guy (what else?). I tried to search for the Cancer Research page on Facebook - but I didn’t know to look for “CRUK” instead.
Having done the biennial - or once every two years - event in 2011, I was determined as ever to improve on the previous event. I already had in my mind what I wanted: more sound, more lights and more power. I am to a genset what Jeremy Clarkson is to a car.
As ever, the previous experience had taught me that we needed a more powerful PA - as the mixer-amp inevitably gets driven into overload when my boss taps me on the shoulder and says “it needs to be louder, the audience at the back can’t hear anything”, or when a timid vocalist (whose parent is nearby) is standing 2 feet away from the mic and is subsequently drowned out by a guitarist whose amp is super-glued at 11. I was initially told that we didn’t have the funds available to hire in any extra gear or even fix ours what was broken. I was also told that I was not getting to hang festoons everywhere due to health and safety, because dancing in the dark at midnight on a stage in a field is so much safer. I was ready to just say no to doing the gig at this point.
I eventually got my way with the lights, and we were lent some Peavey subs and Mackie Thumps by a sound engineer from Forfar (not sure if he wants to be associated with me or not, so he shall remain nameless for now…). To cope with this, I had it in my head that we needed a 20kVA genset: 3kVA for sound & back-line and 15kVA for lighting (us lampies are greedy!). Needless to say, the smaller 6kVA that was also supplied would probably have done it (probably because I didn’t bring all my SoundLab Vormas) - but I prefer to err on the side of caution, especially if someone else is paying for the hire and fuel.
DD8 turns up with a van load of stuff…
And so the DD8 Crew turned up the Kirriemuir show field with a van full of speakers, lights and all things musical. DJ Martin had already set up and was already blasting the choons, so we went ahead and loaded everything onto the stage. First up for consideration was where we would hang the mirror ball… I won’t bore you with what mic we used where, I’ll just get to the interesting stuff. Well, since you’re curious, we used a pair of Rode NT5s for overheads (which sound AMAZING btw) and a Shure PG52 on kik drum, SM58s on vox, SM57 on guitars…
My Office & Office Desk for today
The first ‘act’ on stage was the Zumba/warm up instructor who had a wireless AudioTechnica mic, and with only a few minor adjustments to mid and treble frequencies it was squeakless - as the instructor was standing on staging in front of the speakers on stage. She was halfway through her ‘set’ and the crowd was bumping and thrusting to the bass when, all of a sudden, everything went quiet - desk, speakers, fills, monitors the lot - but only for a second. Quite a few people looked in my direction - as my hand was hovering just above the desk at this point - but soon carried on with their workout. I thought very loudly “WTF did I do?” when everything shortly went quiet again, but for a few seconds this time. This time I was treated to shouts and groans from a few participants. I started panicking that somehow, the Mackie Thumps were drawing more than 32A, or that the mixing desk’s abuse from a previous faulty generator was coming back to haunt us. My boss, DJ Martin and myself all looked at each other nervously, as the sound went off for a third time, but did not return. Amid more moaning from the audience, we all jumped off the stage to investigate…
As it turned out, the fault lay with the generator, which was revving up and stuttering, coughing and spluttering to a halt again, before revving up again and so on - during the course of which, the voltmeter was reading 50V, then 200V, then 250V, then 300V, then 0V, then 50V - and eventually even struggling to get past 20 Volts. Naturally, we disconnected all our gear - alas the generator still struggled to start up with no load connected. It sounded like the choke was stuck on, but it having not being a manual recoil start set, I couldn’t think of anything to do, except drag Graham over, who in turn called over the event organizer.
The organizer found us a smaller 6kVA genset from elsewhere on site. Unfortunately, it developed the same problem after being in operation for a mere 10 minutes. I plugged in my handy Maplin Mains Power Monitor Doo-Dah - with which I could keep track of the dipping input voltage as we powered up more and more gear. Eventually, there was nothing else that could be done but call out the hire service guy, who after having the fault symptoms described to him, replaced the filters in both gensets which seemed to sort the problem. Just to be sure, we went around plugging in all the sound and light equipment we could - as it was better to have the power go out when no bands were on a sunny afternoon, instead of in the middle of a set at midnight. So many pop culture references were running through my head at this point - including Homer Simpson overloading the Springfield power grid with his dancing Santa and Jeremy Clarkson using every powered device in his Jag to burn up fuel faster.
CRUK Relay for Life: DD8 Music with Gary Taylor & Just Katie
Photo credit: Graham Galloway
CRUK Relay for Life: DD8 Music with Gavin Hedge & Emerald Sunday
CRUK Relay for Life: DD8 Music with Jack and Philip Live and Unplugged & Shameless
Better be careful about describing this as “Rig P*rn” due to “Call Me Dave” Scumeron’s Great Firewall
I eventually got my way with the festoon lights, having argued about them during the afternoon. My boss conceded later (after it was dark), that they were “actually a good idea”. Yeehaw!
During the Candle of Hope Ceremony, we had speeches and contributions from the event organizers and participants, a special performance for the occasion from Shawney Henderson and, of course, candles. Candles of Hope. My favourite kind. Nothing prepares you for the sight of hundreds if not thousands of candles in a field - representing all the lives that have been touched by cancer… I’m not doing this justice.
I was also not prepared for the talent show where the entrants had their own backing music on their various devices, so I was basically iPod swapping for a large part of the time, until it came to the performer with no CD player and a CD which iTunes refused point blank to read. Or the performer who wanted Showaddywaddy’s “Under the Moon of Love”, which once I had sourced someone with a smart phone with WiFi hotspot, was easy enough to remedy. There’s always one thing I never have at a gig - this time it was a CD player. There was also the dance group that had requested 3 mics in front of the speakers (preferably of the capacitor type)…
Nothing prepares you for this sight…
Sonnet 65 at Kirriemuir Relay for Life
The plan was to have the festoon harness and color PAR cans on for the first half of Sonnet 65’s set, only the open white PAR cans and mirror ball for Shawney Henderson, and then for Sonnet’s second set, every light that the genset would support. POWER!
Sonnet 65 lit up like an Xmas Tree
Photo credit: Graham Galloway
Midnight passed and Sonnet 65 finished their set and their “One More Choon!” - accompanied by the Thrums Vet Group. We then powered down and closed over the trailer for the night, during the process of which I couldn’t judge the distance between the truck and the stage due to the darkness, fell and slammed into the decking, causing yet another Roadie Wound. Not so YeeHaw. Just as well my festoon harness prevented that happening to someone else.
My pretty festoon lighting harness lighting up the night
On Sunday, after 4 hours of sleep, I had my mood dampened slightly by the fact that one of our crew had taken it upon themselves to derig my festoon harness at 6am, possibly sleep deprived. The result of which left me with a festoon harness with punctured insulation, thus making it electrically unsafe. As anyone who knows me will be able to testify, my lights are my babies. Dead babies are not good.
This bad mood was initially compounded by the fact that the first act on was the Strathmore Christian Fellowship (at which point everyone who doesn’t absolutely have to be on stage runs far away) of which my old art teacher was a member. That said, 5 minutes into their set and they were just another band to me, except for when they stopped at the end of each song to quote scripture to the one boy and three groupies waving SCF banners - as well as any passing participants. In fairness, everyone is entitled to their beliefs and as long as they enjoy themselves and aren’t using their presence to spread hate, all well and good. If they were to start singing “women/jews/gays are evil”, that’s when I start putting delays and bonus frequencies into monitors. I stand by my remarks at HebCelt Fest: “It doesn’t matter if you’re the roadie/engineer/tech crew for Motörhead, Justin Bieber or Van Morrison - a show is a show”.
CRUK Kirriemuir Relay for Life Closing Remarks
Everybody joins arms for Auld Lang Syne
Photo credit: Graham Galloway
Graham after we de-rigged the stage. Looking relieved?
As Graham said to me after the derig: “65 grand eh? Not bad for a weekend’s work.”
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