Another Year Older
July - August 2015
I have achieved something effortlessly: gaining another year of existence - and hopefully also experience. So I decided to organise the proverbial in a distillery. I got there to discover they had ceased production for the season.
I also managed to capture a reverb from a mash tun on my iPod. I also had the awesome experience of Kool Runnings. The Goat Curry and Jerk Chicken was amazing. It was so good a seagull wouldn’t stop staring at me until shooed away by the chef.
HCF 2015: Home Again
Having never been away from my real home for long enough to feel homesick, I felt that way about Stornoway and HCF. Perhaps it’s the people, the music, the festival food, the banter, the fact I’m a total fanny magnet…
As usual, I awkwardly dragged my bags off the ferry, stopped in festival HQ for a pint, checked into my accom and set up my speakers and lights. I also had to head out to buy speaker stands.
The Tech crew were to gather in Festival HQ for a “Sivilized Soiree” to meet, greet and discover what we were in for. I’m keeping stuff on tour, on tour - not writing a backstage expose that ends with me in a skip.
I was advised to stay home for the Tuesday afternoon site prep in order to save strength for later in the week. I went to study the AV equipment and start prepping KeyNotes, before returning to the site later that evening. I hadn’t lost all my Aspie quirks, as I duly noticed that both pa crew teams had constructed their respective line array towers with a piece of truss the wrong way round - creating a structurally weak parallelogram. Though I saved them from having to redo everything, I felt like an arse for pointing it out.
Lights cheer me up. Luckily, HCF/PHG had lots of them.
Once both stages were rigged, the tech crew had to load-test the on-site power distro - there was no surplus gen-set as the BBC weren’t coming this year. The Main Stage & Island Stage engineers preferred Infected Mushroom and Afro Celt Sound System as test tracks respectively. The bass punched me in the tummy, hard. We were near capacity and hadn’t yet set the projectors up. Kenny (one of the sparks) told me there was plenty of headroom, but also that if I held the phase cables, I would feel them warming up. He wasn’t wrong.
It does feel really amazing to be able to say “I helped make this happen”. It also feels good to exercise in a meaningful manner. I don’t understand lifting something to put it back down, unless it’s a flight case on stage or in an artic. I was determined to help the lampies with as much as possible, because it’s fun. I met The Australian Pink Floyd’s lighting engineer again.
It’s Mr Vidiot to you
I was working with Simon - a similar but more confident and experienced tech - to figure out the best way to setup Video Island. I was kept right with the BNC connectors; having used them in CCTV installs, I wrongly associated them purely with analog video. In our system, the cameras, mixers and projectors all used Serial Digital Interface, that just happened to be connected with a BNC connector. Just as an RJ45 cable/connector is referred to as an Ethernet cable, despite Ethernet being just one use of many uses for the cable - digital audio consoles, smoke machine controllers and guitar pedals being other uses.
All the cameras produced HDMI, which we converted to SDI via a BlackMagic box and sent down a BNC cable to the Panasonic switcher, which also accepted the MacBook signal on DVI. It was mixed and sent to 2 projectors on BNC/SDI and a HDD recorder at 1080i50 (via an SDI-HDMI box) - which also accepted audio from FOH and 2 crowd mics via a Mackie mixer. Each camera required needed a power outlet for itself and associated converter, which meant bothering Mick, another sparky. My brain hurts. Oh, and the cable trench we were planning on using had already been filled in.
Thankfully, Iain (an engineer who specialises in camera-operation and AV) from previous years made an appearance and kept us on track.
I enjoyed the greater responsibility this year, but not the 13 hour days without adequate opportunity to stuff my face with Churros & Chocolate or stone fired pizza. My brain only locked up once: during the last half hour of the last band on the last day; rapid-firing cue & framing commands.
The Dancing Santa
On Thursday (opening night) - as HebCelt Fest 2015 was in full swing - everything went dark and silent, save for an “OOOHHHHH” from the audience. The power had gone out on 2 phases and several smaller circuits - which is bad news for projectors that need cooling before removing power. Someone had plugged in the Dancing Santa. Actually, they had reversed over the cable ramp at an odd angle. Cue a mad rush to restore distro power.
It is a backstage expose. We blew a horn on one of my speakers, made cocktails from Buckfast & Cider, played impromptu-twister and turned up for the Monday site cleanup extremely hungover. I didn’t drink out of a shoe this time.
On the road again
With the festival now over and the derig complete, I was left with the rest of my working holiday on the island. Both it and McNeill’s are spookily deserted post-festival…
I stopped in at McNeill’s for a few for the road (and sea). ’Til next year…
Most of the Salty Dog crew were away at Rewind, so I was asked to DJ for the weekend. I invented my own micro-fest: Fast-Forward.
A customer complained when I played a song by Cliff Richard on the basis of crimes he was alleged to have committed in a tabloid. So instead, I played an 808 State remix of a Rolf Harris track. I even used my iPod as a drum machine on another fader to play along. They loved it.
Music At Barry Mill
I had been asked by a friend to do a bit of my “light fairy magic” at Barry Mill as part of a summer gig fundraiser-type thing they were putting on. Having not learned from the past, I had agreed (albeit last-minute, with a tablet in one hand and a pint in the other) to do another gig on the same day for another friend.
I was having a little pre-setup panic while setting things up, meanwhile the Roadie (a proper one) turned up in his van to set the PA up. I was stressed so didn’t get much of a chance to say Hi to him, but he was a really nice guy. We each helped each other setup, but now that I think of it, I’m sure one of his cables is still at the Mill.
I also had Gear Envy of an acquaintance from The Rep who was also helping out - Mike’s festoon harness was bigger than mine.
I headed off to Dundee and the Reading Rooms, feeling conspicuously like Del Boy with his suitcase.
Roots… at The Reading Rooms
Not long into my 80/-, I received an email asking could I bring some lights to an event at The Reading Rooms Dundee. I said yes.
One More Thing…
Quote of the month comes from a random lassie in a pub; speaking of sound engineering:
All you’re doing is pressing record!
— Some Random Drunk Lassie
I’ve been listening to Infected Mushroom, Dr Packer, Stereophonics, UB40, Human League, Joe Cocker, Guns n Roses, Afro Celt Sound System, Martyn Bennett, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Foreigner.
Time to write another Blog.