15th July 2013 Onwards…
Welcome to my blog entry for the 18th annual Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway - this is my 5th year. Actually, I’m just going to use my blog from last year as a template… Speaking of which - It’s actually very scary stuff reading something I wrote a year ago (even though it seems like 5 months ago). Except, I actually will be writing on a day-to-day basis.
And no, I couldn’t wait for this year.
I remember my English teacher Mr Binnie telling me a humorous anecdote about a critic who wrote the same review year after year about an annual dramatic society performance piece, only to be caught out one year when the venue burnt down mid-performance. There will be
none very little of that shady practice here.
I’ll just admit now: I lost the mental energy to complete this blog day-to-day, and as a result of typing bits of it retrospectively, the whole week has kind of mashed itself into one continuous blur of music, lights, alcohol, Berocca, fry-ups and Churros & Chocolate.
My now infamous t-shirt bearing the slogan “I’ve had it up to here with midgets” - and an arrow at the appropriate height - is the basis for my claim to fame: insulting KT Tunstall backstage…
This year we have Van Morrison. Reportedly he suffers from stage fright and apparently, anyone backstage is not supposed to look at him - only problem is, that might be a bit tricky when I have to aim the barrel of a video camera straight at him…
I can understand how he feels - as I hate people looking at me as well.
It’s Monday 15th: 10am and having had 3 hours of sleep, I’m on the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway and anxious as ever.
We are sailing… We are sailing… Making waves…
Time to start early. I’m off for a little whisky in McNeill’s before I check into my accommodation…
I couldn’t help sprucing up my room with lots of lights
It’s Monday 15th: 8pm and I’m in Mcneill’s bar aka Tech Crew HQ for the team-building meet-up. I’ve calculated that I can have 20 Jack & Cokes, 3 Caffreys, half a Guinness mixed with half a Caffreys (on the advice of Salty Dog pub buddy Scrim) and 3 Bowmores and be fit enough to work the next day with only a Berocca and bacon & egg roll. Happy days. It’s me, but on a good day.
It was quite nice to arrive on site on Tuesday 16th to find that both the main tent and Islands tent had been erected. There was a bit of waiting around due to not having a tent to erect, and from the fact that the stage decking had been delayed as the ferry had broken down.
Inevitably, IT happened again: I experienced a mental “shutdown” - what with all the various instructions flying about and such. Tip: for those that get this (NTs must get like this sometimes as well surely?) just take a break in an area away from all the noise and activity for 10 minutes - assuming you’re not required to be doing something vital, go for a cup of tea in the site office or wherever. I just wish I’d thought of it at the time. It’s a very confusing and bewildering state - I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing and any instruction received takes a few seconds more than normal to be understood. An iPod on kill sometimes helps alleviate it too.
One could argue that since having been diagnosed, I’m more aware of problems I encounter, which can only make the problems worse because you’re worrying about worrying about them. That, combined with the fact that I’ve been trained to listen out for different sounds as part of being a sound engineer and Supersonic Binaural Soundscape designer which only adds to the “NOISE EVERYWHERE” sensory overload feeling. The closest I can describe it as is kinda like having the worst hangover ever. I’m always going to have a problem, but the fact that I’ve found ways of coping and the fact I’m working (or volunteering at least) in an area I love will help me out in the future. I wouldn’t last 15 minutes in some poncy supermarket or greasy fast-food chain.
Coming soon to a web browser near you: The NT-Autistic Binaural SoundScape Realizer. Or something. That should be a much better way of saying what I mean.
I’m off to Tech Crew HQ…
It’s quite gratifying when on Wednesday 17th the lampies and LD remember your name from years before and are very open, friendly and engaging.
I was at a bit of a loss this year as I had wanted to get involved with a bit of everything (lighting and PA as well as screens). First, I wanted to help set up the lighting for the Islands Stage - which I had to pass up due to having to go set up screens. Then, I wanted to help rig the massive L-Acoustics line array system onto the smarTmast truss - which I again had to pass up. I managed to be involved with my other passion: lights. We had the usual SunStrips, Molefays (blinders), PAR64s, Robe MMXs, High End X-Spots and Studio Beams - but none of my all-time favourite Atomic 3000 DMX. No strobe lighting was to be used in this performance…
As I opted to stay behind in the evening to help the lampies set up the remaining lighting trusses and rig the trusses with lights (obviously), I was glad to get the pub an hour before closing. If only I hadn’t got the blame for some twit spilling a drink and breaking a glass it would have been the perfect night.
I got back to the flat and made an egg & bacon sandwich that looked like a train wreck. But it was delicious.
I’ll just admit now that I’m typing this part retrospectively, I was just so knackered mentally before each day was out.
It’s Thursday 18th and I have discovered that taking a 15 minute “Time Out” at the side of my AV control pit (2 bits of decking, a laptop, camera interface, projector and video mixer) on the edge of falling asleep - yet never actually falling asleep - really helps me return to full-focus and make it thru the gig. Even just staring at the roof of the tent while still being exposed to the barrage of audio - thus my field of vision is not overloaded as well as my audio perception field.
Stevie C’s AV Island
I had a funny feeling that we were too much ahead of schedule: after setting up the projector screens, we discovered that we had in fact used the front-projection screens instead of the rear-projection ones. D’oh!
It didn’t help being left short of projector-aligning time when Van Morrison kicked us (not literally) out of the main tent when he wanted a private sound-check. In fairness, I think I’d want a private sound-check as well. Better yet, I’d want my vocal mic unplugged, or at least processed with AutoTune.
On Friday 19th, we (the Tech Crew) were informed that we were required to build a riser for one of the TV camera booms - placing it (as per the technical plans) partially in front of one of the screens. More D’oh!
This year we had a camera placed atop Lews Castle, looking down upon the festival green. This was kinda cool as it gave me a bit of flexibility to cut to at the end of a band’s set. It also allowed me to superimpose crowd information and titles (via luminance-key effects) upon a real-time overview (where you could see festival-goers walking and lying around on the green) via the video mixer, which was pretty neat - if I do say so myself.
HebCelt & Lews Castle Grounds overview mixed with titles
On Saturday 20th, imagine my surprise after turning around from my AV position backstage to be greeted by the engineer from audioWAVE PA Hire (Dundee) who had been booked to mix FOH for Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward & Fisher on the Islands Stage. As per usual with the Islands Stage, every band (from what I saw during breaks from AV) had the crowd jumping - by contrast, the Main Stage (is that one word or two?) more resembled a wake with only the odd head bobbing around (except for the headline act where everyone just goes nuts). All in all, I just prefer the Islands Stage which although smaller, is more intimate and groovy.
As fellow Tech Crew member Andreas said: it feels great to be able to say “I helped make this happen”.
“I helped make this happen”
“I helped make this happen”
Sunday 21st saw me returning to the semi-official position of HebCelt Tech Crew Cocktailologist - except I had some competition…
Monday 22nd: As usual, I had way too much to drink. That in itself isn’t usually a problem, except when you have a stage to dismantle. I’m not very good at working when tired, hungover AND hungry. That said, I haven’t been hitting the sauce every day as I have done in previous years.
It’s Tuesday 23rd and I’m having a chill-out day to, you guessed it, chill out. I needed today to try to figure out how to get more gigs, attempt to achieve inner peace and ponder my life. You’ll be pleased to know I did this without going to the pub.
Wednesday 24th: Goodbye Stornoway
Time enough before the ferry for one for the road in McNeill’s.
I’m having Deja Vu…
That’s because I’ve copied/pasted from last year’s blog - as neither McNeill’s, Cromwell Street or the weather have changed from The Day I Leave Stornoway.
Actually, I couldn’t wait for McNeill’s to open, So I headed to The Criterion instead.
As ever: McNeill’s Bar Husband Creche
The Criterion Bar & McNeill’s Bar. See what I mean?
I want another gig. And another one after that. Etc. I’ll admit that there have been several things that made me question my need for being a lampy/roadie/etc (such as Van Morrison kicking me out the tent or getting the blame for breaking a glass in McNeill’s Bar), but as I’ve explained before, It’s not as if I can do anything else.
If memory (my computer’s memory that is) serves, I did get more lx tape, my CAT boots no longer hurt my feet (I have a backup pair of combat boots), I forgot to order more spanners and left my SVGA cable at home. My involvement in Permaculture helped negate the need for a gym membership. However, I have no desire to give up hangovers. Not just yet.
Needless to say: I also had my fill of Churros & Chocolate, venison burgers, etc.
Apologies for the lack of photos - my camera battery kept dying on me and when it didn’t, it kept focusing on completely the wrong thing (beams of light mostly). In any case, I could just use ones from last year and you probably wouldn’t notice - except for where we used a different lighting rig (more Molephays in lieu of Atomic 3000’s) or had different bands.
So am I doing HebCelt Fest 2014 (16-19 July)? Try and stop me.
Time to find more gigs…