Festival Work, Sound & Lights

Cool and Groovy Blog graphic by Stevie C

(My life)

8th July 2014 - 18th August 2014…


Identity Crisis: Report To Personnel

It’s been getting longer and longer since I last checked in. But I’ll moan about that another time (read: next entry).


In a nutshell

I travelled to Stornoway for my 6th year of the HebCelt Festival (and have since added my crew pass to my growing collection). I didn’t suffer the usual anxiety or panic attacks (at the usual times), didn’t screw up, was able to hold (and enjoy) reasonably un-stunted and unscripted conversation with fellow techies, and generally enjoyed myself.

Stevie C arrives in Stornoway at the Bayhead Bridge Centre, checks in and wastes no time in draping LED fairy lights around his dorm room

I wasted no time in draping my dorm room in LED fairy strings :)

On the subject of not screwing up, I occasionally still felt slower (and in the case of setting up a projector to accept a composite video signal on a single component input without a manual, stupider); and undeserving of the heaps of praise various board members and other tech crew bestowed on me. I do learn from my mistakes, but I seem to make so many little ones (am I being overloaded with all the stuff I’m having to think of, social interaction aside?). I’m assuming it’s like a driving test (major vs minor mistakes). I am noticing that while I’m handling social situations a lot more easily, it is possibly however at the expense of the better attention to detail I once possessed. That said, I had no problems whatsoever while helping the lampies set up and rig the lighting trussing, moving heads, washes, Sun Strips, Mole Phays etc (you and I both know the score by now). There were no strobes or lasers this year though. :(

Helping the lampies at PHG set up and rig the lights and trussing for HebCelt Fest 2014 Helping the lampies at PHG set up and rig the lights and trussing for HebCelt Fest 2014

HCF Lighting test - pretty colors :)

Amazing was the fact that I ended up speaking with the lampie who actually designed and operated the light show for The Australian Pink Floyd Show tours. How cool is that? Obviously, I expressed my awe for the mirror ball finale, among everything else (to which he expressed his contempt for said mirror ball), but also my dismay that said effect was not used at The Usher Hall gig of the current tour. I also spoke at length with another lampie who knew one of my favourite lecturers from college. Small world…

I now also have a new favourite word: Fagorette. :)


Everybody is a Genius

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
 - Albert Einstein

The above quote helps me justify the small problems I experience (particularly while doing video/visuals at HCF) by also taking into consideration that I do not experience the same problems while doing lighting stuff. That’s about it…

Goldie Lookin Chain assert that everybody is a DJ, but that’s fodder for another entry.

It was a pretty stressful experience chasing down a rigger on-site to construct the bracing for the projection screens (seeing as this had to be done by a suitably qualified person for obvious reasons - and the fact that I kept being told that there was no such suitably qualified person on-site, nor had there ever been…), considering this was only several hours before festival goers were due to be allowed access to the festival tent.

Similarly stressful was the fact that I couldn’t get the projector to accept the input from the vision mixer and it took one of the lampies (thanks, Afghan!) to inform me that “V” did not mean component-video, but in fact meant vertical input (unless one was to reconfigure the projector to accept 3 signals on one connection). So, reconfigure the projector Afghan did (without a manual) - which gave me the opportunity to slowly shuffle off back to my laptop feeling very very silly. Some advice I was given was to reset a hired projector to its factory preset to wipe out anything the last hirer had changed on it - kind of like Dennis Nedry.

Kenny, one of the TV production team had advised me to relinquish all visuals-related physical crew work to other tech crew members and concentrate instead on the actual production side - advice I’ll remember for next year.

HebCelt Fest 2014 visuals: I got the AV gear working eventually and got the camera feeds and slides sorted HebCelt Fest 2014 visuals: I got the AV gear working eventually and got the camera feeds and slides sorted

I got everything working eventually :)

The next few days seemed to blur together in a haze of Keynotes, late nights, stone-baked pizzas, fish suppers, Chinese takeaways, Churros & Chocolate, Stornoway black puddings, Arial font, Berocca, homoeopathic hay-fever remedies, band press packs - and a BBC cameraman who just would not stop tinkering with the Beauty Shot camera atop Lews Castle (that I was using for a negative-chrominance effect to mix in and out of).

I got speaking with this old boy in a pub (as I often do) and he was able to tell right away that I was from Dundee (I don’t have a particularly strong accent). I love accents. Especially the Yorkshire ones. And obviously Dundonian and Glaswegian ones. And various Welsh ones (Kenny!). And Irish ones. I don’t want to be independent of the rest of the UK, just westminster. But that belongs in another blog entry.

Heb Celt Fest 2014 Beauty Shot from Lews Castle, Stornoway

View from Lews Castle of HebCelt Fest :)

View from Front-of-house at HebCelt Fest 2014

View from HCF FOH :)

Come Saturday, the Levellers were headlining on the main stage (where I was doing visuals) and if there was one band I’d wanted to see over the week, they were the one. I figured that in the event of not finding someone to cover for me (all I had to do was the titles and overlays as the vision mixing for that night was being handled by the BBC, hence the sometimes-complained about processing lag - most noticeable on a tight shot of a vocalist or drum), I would be able to see most of their set. So imagine how put-out I was at missing their entire set bar one song due to helping de-rig the Islands Stage. However, I am there to do a job, after all.

Because it was a Sunday in Stornoway, we couldn’t work - so the Tech Crew had a BBQ/party instead. This day blurred by in a haze of grilled food, guitars, hay stacks, the remnants of the festival bar and some Gaffa tape (naturally used for nefarious purposes). Because we had de-rigged the sound gear, the only speakers available were my Dell multimedia speakers (we had to keep the noise down anyway), teamed with my Mac playing nothing but the Levellers (including their live albums) as compensation for missing them the night before. Alun played Wonderwall on the guitar for me though. :)

Collage of my HCF Tech Crew shenanigans

Tech Crew Shenanigans :)

I arrived surprisingly un-hungover (although, still dying) for the Monday site de-rig (and was the first to arrive on-site). I don’t want to brag, but I was also the last man standing on the Monday evening. :)


This one’s called: We Are The Road Crew

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again: HCF makes me want to be (and makes me believe I can successfully be) a Roadie. I still firmly believe that if I were to do this full-time, I would experience fewer and less frequent little problems as I became more experienced and confident. In a weird way, it feels quite good knowing that I helped turn this empty field into an amazing music festival (and back again). It feels really good to be able to say “I helped make this happen”.

More to the point, it feels sort-of cool to say “I’m holding plectrums used by the Levellers at HCF”. Obviously, I’m not holding them while typing - that would just be silly.

Backstage at the Hebridean Celtic (HebCelt) Festival 2014 - I helped make this happen

I helped make this happen :)


Leaving Here (On The Road Again)

During the week after the festival, I went for a walk and did not experience the usual pishing rain: it would seem that Stornoway does not want me to leave. The unusually good weather on both my day off and especially on 0-day was not well-suited to my standard theatre blacks, two heavy jackets and a heavy holdall made heavier by Stornoway black puddings. And yes, I will return.

I did look into the possibility of staying in Stornoway: looking for any jobs that would allow me to stay, but to no avail. It was inevitable that I would return home. Where home actually is, I have no idea. I made my holdall lighter by leaving my bottle of Morgan’s Spiced Rum to the one remaining guy on my dorm level. His name escapes me - all I remember is that I never saw him out of overalls and that he was an apprentice at the garage just across the road (if you’re reading this, enjoy!). Much like dancing with a wardrobe, I wheeled my stupidly-designed holdall thru the streets of Stornoway with several passing motorists slowing down to offer me a lift which I politely declined (I was only 2 minutes from the pub) - while every tourist made it their business to get in my way and expected me to move for them.

On my day off after the festival, I went for a walk around Stornoway harbour and was greeted by this sight: it would seem that Stornoway does not want me to leave (none of the usual pishing rain)

Stornoway does not want me to leave :)

Spotty Dotty Red Octopus in his garden in the shade. He knows where I’ve been, but is missing a leg, in his Octopus’s Garden, in Stornoway.

Spotty Dotty Red Octopus in his garden in Stornoway (getting legless…) :)

Time enough for one for the road (or in this case, the ferry) at festival HQ (Mcneill’s Pub).




Back:N:Black

I arrived extra early at Kirriemuir Town Hall for BonFest this year to assist Joe Hawke rig the lighting system, then to help audioWAVE install the sound system. Then, being me, strung loads of LED fairy lights behind a Bon Scott flag in the hall - to the delight of at least two of the Bon Scott Statue Committee members. :)

Stevie C arrives at DD8 Music’s BonFest 2014 at Kirriemuir Town Hall to help audioWAVE setup the sound system and to help Joe Hawke setup the lighting trussing and lights

Stevie C helps set up BonFest 2014 :)

I had also volunteered/been tasked with the multi-track recording of the festival; which I would accomplish using the USB output of audioWAVE’s Allen & Heath QU-24 connected to my Macintosh running Logic Pro 9. I’d had a few teething problems (i.e. the HDD overloading in Logic - which I put down to too many tracks and an old, nearly-full drive) while recording Live In The Den 2014 in the exact same fashion earlier in the summer. Perhaps predictably, I had nothing but problems and hissy-fits from the Macintosh operating system. More on that later.

BACK:N:BLACK - all-girl AC/DC Tribute to Bon Scott at DD8 Music’s BonFest 2014 Kirriemuir Town Hall. Sound by audioWAVE, Lighting by Joe Hawke. BACK:N:BLACK - all-girl AC/DC Tribute to Bon Scott at DD8 Music’s BonFest 2014 Kirriemuir Town Hall. Sound by audioWAVE, Lighting by Joe Hawke. BACK:N:BLACK - all-girl AC/DC Tribute to Bon Scott at DD8 Music’s BonFest 2014 Kirriemuir Town Hall. Sound by audioWAVE, Lighting by Joe Hawke.

BACK:N:BLACK: All-girl tribute to AC/DC :)


Chekhov’s Gun

That wasn’t the name of any of the bands, but would still be a good name for one.

I was tasked with setting up and running sound with the smaller PA in The Thrums Hotel for the daytime shows. I say smaller, it was a A&H QU-24 as used by audioWAVE for the main KTH gig with a Peavey IPR 4k amp rack - which naturally gave me a bit more headroom than I was used to getting. Sadly, it didn’t stop bands requesting more and more and more and more volume in their monitors (which were the same old Thomann ones). Not that I should complain about others, as I didn’t have enough time to perform a sound-check, which resulted in my having to chop out a lot of frequencies from the very handy on-board 31-band graphic EQ on the fly. That and the fact that an acoustic guitarist fed back like there was no tomorrow while a metal band’s vocalist didn’t feed back at all, despite cupping the mic and aiming it at the monitor when not singing. Weird.

Stevie C at The Thrums Hotel Kirriemuir for DD8 Music’s BonFest AC/DC tribute to Bon Scott - For those about to rock - please don’t, we have elderly neighbours

Today’s Specials: For those about to rock:
Please don’t, we have elderly neighbours… :)

So having been in The Thrums Hotel babysitting one of the smaller PAs during the day (and consuming as many fish suppers as drinks), I arrived at Kirrie Town Hall to find that 4 large cannons had been rigged atop the guitar amp risers on-stage. I remember thinking “if only they were rigged with pyrotechnic charges…”.

Stevie C at DD8 Music’s AC/DC tribute to Bon Scott: BonFest 2014 in Kirriemuir Town Hall - fire your guns! Lighting by Joe Hawke, sound by audioWAVE. Stevie C at DD8 Music’s AC/DC tribute to Bon Scott: BonFest 2014 in Kirriemuir Town Hall - fire your guns! Lighting by Joe Hawke, sound by audioWAVE.

Fire Your Guns! :)

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
 - Anton Chekhov

Stevie C at DD8 Music’s AC/DC tribute to Bon Scott: BonFest 2014 in Kirriemuir Town Hall - fire your guns! Lighting by Joe Hawke, sound by audioWAVE.

And fired, they were :)


The Chris Slade Timeline

I must apologise for the lack of clear photos for this band, or anything in general. My Pentax point-and-shoot has many strengths, most notably an uncanny knack for auto-focusing on completely the wrong person or object and taking photos just a split second too late (after ages of auto-focusing). In the interest of balance, it’s good for natural daylight shots - not that I need to take a lot of those as a Roadie. I really miss my Canon IXUS; I dumped it for a higher-megapixel Pentax. Boy, do I suck at technology.

Anyhoo… Sunday saw The Chris Slade Timeline visit KTH. There’s not really much for me to type at this point other the fact that I witnessed some pretty amazing drum solos. Which didn’t get recorded in multi-track (I did have a stereo feed as a backup). Expect some sample mixes in upcoming entries.

Stevie C at DD8 Music’s AC/DC tribute to Bon Scott: BonFest 2014 in Kirriemuir Town Hall - The Chris Slade Timeline. Lighting by Joe Hawke, sound by audioWAVE.

The Chris Slade Timeline at BonFest 2014 :)

On that note, I’m pretty sure that I was experiencing my Logic issues due to problems with my HDD. I had recently cleared out lots of junk (taking my 450GB drive from 3GB free to 153GB free) to make way for what I rightly assumed would be a mammoth recording session. I’m not quite sure how Macintosh writes data to disk, but because there were new files added in between the now-deleted junk (MP3s/AACs/ASPs/JPGs etc) and because the free space hadn’t been zeroed out, the hard disk was possibly scrambling to find available space to write 24 tracks of 16-bits 48kHz audio to on-the-fly.

So in a nutshell, I’m certain that writing data to a previously filled and emptied disk was not a good idea. I’m wondering if I should fork out for an SSD to improve write speeds - or maybe even an OptiBay to add a second HDD as a project drive, in place of my computer’s optical drive. Both are worth seriously thinking about - especially as my current hard drive is about 5 years old (the “decent time” for an HDD to last).

I didn’t lose much of the gig, but Logic seemed to develop this annoying habit of ceasing audio capture 3 seconds or so before the end of most songs - another example of Mac’s mythical(?) Urgency Sensor. Also, I don’t understand why instead of alerting the user to the HDD error and ceasing recording, Logic can’t automatically resume storing audio data as soon as possible… Or maybe even record audio to the 3GB of free system memory while the HDD recovers. Or maybe Apple could invent RAM for your sound card.

In any case, I’m having the usual doubts about my abilities. Add to the fact that I have a time limit for this project (the festival was being shot for a DVD release - and the video guys want my audio stems for the release). I just cannot mix this for some reason. What is wrong with me?


Web Updates

It’s that time of the year again - time to renew my web hosting. If I didn’t renew my hosting lease, would anyone care? Or even notice?


One More Thing…

As an ardent fan on the Bon Scott Statue Facebook page asked,
“Do you support Bon’s Erection?” :)


Stevie’s Top 40

I should probably point out that unlike my Last.fm profile, these Top 40 are just the songs I love the most at the moment - not necessarily what’s been played the most or been recently added.

  1. Croftwork Peatbog Faeries
  2. Further In Time Afro Celt Sound System
  3. Sell Out The Levellers
  4. Scots On The Rocks Peatbog Faeries
  5. Battle Of The Beanfield The Levellers
  6. Dog Train The Levellers
  7. One Way The Levellers
  8. The Likes Of You And I The Levellers
  9. Bozos The Levellers
  10. Little Lion Man Mumford & Sons
  11. Move Martyn Bennett
  12. Long Way To The Top Red Hot Chilli Pipers
  13. Saving My Face KT Tunstall
  14. Last Plane Out Of Sydney Khe Sanh
  15. R.E.H.A.B. Alabama 3
  16. Cool Rasta The Heptones
  17. Dub Beag Peatbog Faeries
  18. The Low Road (feat. Rob Hynd) Scrimshire
  19. I Will Wait Mumford & Sons
  20. Coup De Grace Motörhead
  21. Mansion On The Hill Alabama 3
  22. Rocket Queen Guns N Roses
  23. Trip Like I Do The Crystal Method
  24. The Great Ceilidh Swindle Peatbog Faeries
  25. Dreams Fleetwood Mac
  26. Proterra Runrig
  27. Moondance Van Morrison
  28. Hey You Pink Floyd
  29. You Could Be Mine Guns N Roses
  30. On The Road (live) Motörhead
  31. Whorehouse Blues Motörhead
  32. Apathy Goldie Lookin Chain
  33. Half Man Half Machine Goldie Lookin Chain
  34. Borrowed Time AC/DC
  35. You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC
  36. Smiling Like A Killer Motörhead
  37. In The Black Motörhead
  38. Death Machine Motörhead
  39. The Bullfighter Dies Morrissey
  40. Run For Our Lives The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Time to get more gigs.