19th August 2014 - 17th September 2014…
I was asked to design, supply & implement disco, mood & festoon lighting for PITF 2014 - to be held on private land out in the middle of nowhere. PITF is a now-annual invite-only event whose theme/format changes a bit every year, but is essentially still a big party in a bigger field. As the party had only been held over one day in past years (leaving me little time to finish setting up lights, let alone anything else), I had often mused (and often out loud) that PITF should be held over 2 or more days. Imagine my surprise then, when I was told that PITF 2014 would run over 3 days.
I won’t bore you with my inventory too much, but suffice it to say that I had: SoundLab Vite sequencer pods, Acme Dynamo club scanners, SoundLab moonflower scanners, ADJ LED twisters, SkyTronic club sequencers, a laser, 250+ meters of LED & filament fairy strings, EPISTAR LED flood lights (10W & 20W), a smoke machine, a SoundLab Vorma, a SoundLab Veneto (or SkyTec’s copy of one), 4 festoon harnesses, 4 sets of custom harness lamps with paper lanterns, harlequin bulbs, coloured bulbs, hand-painted (by me) bulbs, a 16" mirror ball, 3 Par 36 cans, 300 meters of cabling…
Stevie C’s coloured hand-painted light bulbs used at PITF 2014
As many websites offering advice on outdoor events/gigs/parties will tell you, it’s always best to do a reccy of the environment you will be working in (in particular for structural, safety and power concerns); having attended several PITFs before (and with access to the field), this wasn’t a problem. I had aerial surveillance photos I was able to use for plotting positions of lighting installations, cabling etc (like a stage plan).
One of the good things about a party in a field in the middle of nowhere was that the multiple sources of music would be of no concern to the neighbours - as there were none. Although the laws of nature applied (“leave it the way you found it” etc) to the field, not having the event in a venue meant that you didn’t have to worry about cable safety (as they were buried in trenches in the ground) drink spillages, or any other spillages come to that. I’m not sure what reaction you would receive if you took a leak in the middle of a nightclub/event venue. It’s probably been tried.
However, as with Yin & Yang, there were several down sides. Not least the logistics of getting all the gear from A to B and back to A (as with any event), sleeping arrangements (I was able to blag one of the caravans on-site), sanitation (there were 3 composting bogs and barrels of rainwater) and food & drink (which had to be brought with the S&L gear). Perhaps the most major concern however, was POWER. That of course means one or preferably more generators. Regular readers will know how on-site generators are my arch-nemesis.
Taking note of all the gen-set problems I have had the misfortune to encounter, I was determined this was not going to be a repeat of previous occasions. We were supplied with 2 gen-sets from Martin Plant hire, and a third from an acquaintance of the host (which I’d had the pleasure of using before) to be used for the minimal load on the first night and throughout the night for lighting on the second night.
I’d brought along my handy Maplin plug-in power meter (which has already earned its keep by alerting me to one gen-set spitting out 350V @ 68Hz, which had previously blown a SurgeGuard cable up in my face) to test for supply voltage and frequency, and to check for running VA/power of connected appliances. One thing I quickly noticed was that the hire gen-sets were extremely slow to react to a sudden peak power demand - most notable when a refrigerator we were using in the food tent clicked in (we were running lighting and the fridge off one hire Genset and sound off the second) as the supply voltage dipped to 197V, and took its time reaching 220V again, not that any of my disco lights seemed to mind.
Festoons with paper lanterns and my hand-painted light bulbs
Sound was a different matter, of course. The dipping voltage of the second gen-set wreaked havoc with the Peavey IPR power amps - but in a very strange manner… During the first band, the vocalist kept asking me to turn his monitor up - and that his vocal kept cutting out. Using my headphones and PFL, I couldn’t hear what he was talking about, but duly replaced his mic, XLR and snake core line - still to no avail as his wife pointed out to me (almost as if I’m to blame, and on purpose).
It was only when a DJ was on later (and I had a chance to not be behind a desk) did I see & hear it: the Mid/Hi Peavey IPR would flash orange, trip, reset, run for 10 seconds or so, and repeat. This explained why the vocals were “cutting out” - they were fine in the monitors (powered by my desk) but not in FOH (fed from the 2 IPRs). What it didn’t explain was why it only affected the top amp, and not the subs (the bulk of the power draw) which were fed from an XLR link from the top IPR amp (so not an XLR short for example). Plugging my power meter into the sound gen-set did not make me feel good, as it was reporting a voltage range of 162V-222V and a frequency range of 42-51Hz. None of these gen-sets were inverter gen-sets, or “PC safe”. Urgh.
That said, the gen-set borrowed from the friend-of-a-friend worked flawlessly and never dipped by more than 1 Volt, despite being several decades old.
Right… photos of my amazing lights…
LED strings in trees, LED floods in willow, Chill tent in bg
Day & Night: LED light strands and paper lanterns & coloured lamps
Some of the comments I received from party-goers included “it looked fantastic, just like Christmas!”.
Day & Night: Chillout tent with LED flood lights & fairy strings and clear festoons
I even had LED fairy strings in the compost bogs (or in their enclosures, rather), but didn’t fancy taking a photo of them in action.
Some of my lights on stage
LED lights under perspex bar, coloured festoons & food tent with LED floods
I was doing a spot of DJing in the chillout tent, so I broke out the Todd Terje edits.
As with every party I’m working at (however casually), I missed certain things: the water slide, the sweat lodge, The Bucky Rage and obviously, lots of banter. Unfortunately, I didn’t miss the wasps. I could have a much worse job though. At least I got to relax in front of the bonfire, which I’ve edited to look like a Kasabian album cover, or something…
A pic of the bonfire I edited to look like a Kasabian album cover
Problems (other than the power)? Just people constantly moving my tools around as they’re “in the way”, WASPS and trying to do 5 things at once while avoiding more wasps.
Apparently, I’m someone with “textbook Asperger’s” (uh-oh), as I love lights and get pretty obsessive about certain things (lights). I can’t really argue with that.
Some of my lights in action at PITF (with Handsome Al & The 3 Beauticians/The Bucky Rage)
Aside from some crew work for a corporate gig with audioWAVE at the Apex Hotel, the only other stuff I’ve been doing is the occasional lighting supply for DJ Ross, who has left the Balcony to concentrate on functions and events. Any work is greatly appreciated (more to keep me active than anything else - but that doesn’t mean I’ll work for less than is fair…).
Stevie C’s disco lights at an engagement party with DJ Ross [Click for motion]
I was re-reading my Live In The Den 2014 entry, and realised I could have said that my Mac was wearing a mac.
I’ve been held hostage by depression & anxiety.
(After PITF, not before.)
(Meaningful) work sets me free, horrible as that may sound.
Same story: I’ve been getting quite masterful at procrastinating; if only there was an award for it. My thoughts have been racing and my mind will not shut up. I’m worried about having problems finding another gig, about how I generalize in many many many areas instead of specializing in one, about how much I’ve forgotten and how much harder it is to learn stuff I’m not interested in, about how the Internet has ruined my attention span, about how my sentences drag on…
My website hosting expired, and dragging my heels on the renewal aside, I seriously considered just forgetting about the whole thing. As you’re reading this, it’s fair to assume I’ve carried on carrying on. I’m not sure who I am: the on-line persona (or Avatar, if you will) I created and my real self are becoming one and the same, with disastrous consequences…
My on-line persona has merged with my real self in the same annoying fashion as two dollops of pancake batter. I have been presented with the Kisimul award for volunteering at the HebCelt Festival - only the award is presented to “Stevie” (my on-line persona’s name) “C…” - and my real surname. So, not only do I finally have something to type into those extra awards boxes on job application forms (more on that in a minute), I also have something I can’t actually put into said boxes for obvious reasons. Oh well.
On the subject of application forms, I have been applying to a few theatre-related jobs - for spot-opping (or follow-spotting?) and whatnot. I’m not going to name names, but I applied to an arts centre in Carlisle, or at least I thought I did. Turns out, the email address provided in the application pack had been blocked by my ISP as it no longer existed; something which was later confirmed by the hiring staff after the deadline (they used a newer address). How confusing…
As an ardent fan on the Bon Scott Statue Facebook page asked,
“Do you support Bon’s Erection?”
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.
Time to turn my bed into a fort. and paint bulbs for Ricky C. and eat pie …