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Stevie C’s Blog.

What I’ve been up to…

Roadie: lighting tech, stage crew, spot-op, sound engineer, DJ.

HebCelt Fest 2014

July - August 2014

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, didn’t screw up, was able to hold (and enjoy) reasonably un-stunted conversation with fellow techies, and generally enjoyed myself.

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

While not screwing up, I occasionally still felt slower (and stupider when setting up a projector with composite video signals without a manual). Concerning my Impostor Syndrome, I felt undeserving of the praise that board members and other crew bestowed on me. I am handling social situations a lot more easily, but possibly at the expense of attention to detail and memory recall. I was still able to help the lampies set up and rig the lighting trussing, moving heads, washes, Sun Strips, Mole Phays etc. 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

I got speaking with the lampie who actually designed and operated the light show for some Australian Pink Floyd Show tours. How cool is that? I expressed my awe for the mirror ball finale, among everything else (to which he expressed his contempt for said mirror ball). I also spoke at length with another lampie who knew one of my favourite lecturers from college. Small world. I also have a new favourite word: Fagorette.

I’m 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

I was stressed and confused, as I had to chase down a qualified rigger on-site to construct the bracing for the projection screens, but was told there was no such person on-site, nor had there ever been. This was hours before the festival opened doors to the public. I couldn’t get the projector to accept the input from the vision mixer until a lampie (thanks, Afghan!) helped me reconfigure the projector. I went back to work, hiding behind my Macbook like an idiot.

HebCelt Fest 2014: Connecting and operating the cameras, KeyNotes and video feeds
HebCelt Fest 2014: Connecting and operating the cameras, KeyNotes and video feeds

The next few days blurred together in a haze of Keynotes, late nights, stone-baked pizzas, fish suppers, Chinese takeaways, Churros & Chocolate, Stornoway black puddings, sans-serif font, Berocca, homeopathic hay-fever remedies that did bugger all, band press kits - and a BBC cameraman who just would not stop tweaking the Beauty Shot camera atop Lews Castle.

Heb Celt Fest 2014 Beauty Shot from Lews Castle, Stornoway

I got speaking with this old boy in a pub one night (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).

Come Saturday, the Levellers were headlining on the main stage, the one band I’d most want to watch, from FOH. I found someone to cover for me, but then had to cover for someone else in turn, de-rigging the Islands Stage which closed down at 10pm. I am there to do a job, after all.

Nobody in Stornoway can work on a Sunday, 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). Although we had de-rigged the sound gear, I became HebCelt DJ, playing nothing but the Levellers as compensation for missing them the night before. Alun played Wonderwall on the guitar for me though.

HCF Tech Crew shenanigans

I was one of the first to arrive - albeit dying - for the Monday site de-rig. Not one for bragging, but I was also the last man standing on the Monday evening. I paid for it on Tuesday.

We Are The Road Crew

It’s worth saying: HCF makes me believe I can successfully be a Roadie. I reckon I’d develop a practical routine if I were to do this full-time, and would experience fewer and less frequent little problems. 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”. I also have plectrums used by the Levellers; not available on eBay.

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

Leaving Here

I went for a donder on Tuesday and did not experience the usual pishing rain, it would seem that Stornoway does not want me to leave. My theatre blacks are not suited to this weather. Unable to stay, I intend to return next year, and smuggle some Stornoway black puddings home.

Going for a walk around Stornoway harbour and was greeted by the warm sunny weather
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.

I made my holdall lighter by leaving a bottle of Captain Morgan Rum to the one other remaining tenant. I can’t remember his name, and I never saw him out of his dirty overalls as he was an apprentice at the garage just across the road. Every 5th motorist stopped to offer me a lift to the ferry, while every 5th tourist stopped and expected me to wheel my massive holdall off the sidewalk and around them.

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


Back:N:Black

I was at Kirriemuir Town Hall for BonFest this year to assist Joe Hawke rig the lighting system, then to help audioWAVE install the sound system.

Stevie C helping out DD8 Music BonFest 2014 at Kirriemuir Town Hall. audioWAVE PA & Joe Hawke lighting.

I had also 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. Despite the teething problems (the bass was causing the anti-shock sensor in the hard drive to park the heads, thus disabling the drive), I managed to capture most of the performances.

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.

Chekhov’s Gun

That wasn’t the name of any of the bands, but it could have been. I was tasked with setting up and running sound with the smaller PA in The Thrums Hotel for the daytime shows. It was an A&H QU-24, Peavey IPR amps, Peavey cabs and tiny Thomann monitors. I was grateful for the inbuilt GEQ, mainly because of a mic-cupper and a nasty acoustic pickup.

The Thrums Hotel Kirriemuir hosts DD8 Music’s BonFest. For those about to rock - please don’t, we have elderly neighbours.

Having had my fill of babysitting small PAs, fish suppers and pints, I returned to Kirrie Town Hall to find 4 large cannons rigged atop the guitar amp risers. I remember thinking “please let them be rigged with pyrotechnics…”

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.
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.
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.

“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

The Chris Slade Timeline

The Chris Slade Timeline played KTH on Sunday. We witnessed some pretty amazing drum solos, obsessively multitracked - and challenging to mix. I didn’t get that many photos as my camera while being amazing for daylight shots, doesn’t fare so well at a gig.

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.

I’ve been listening to The Peatbog Faeries, Afro Celt Sound System, Levellers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mumford & Sons, Alabama 3, The Crystal Method and Fleetwood Mac.

Update: I tried uploading a short sample of my mix from Back:N:Black to use as a showcase for my mixing skills, only to be threatened with legal action by their management for breach of contract. I had no contract with them.

Time to get more gigs.