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Author Topic:  Is it really that cutthroat out there?
Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 6:57 am    
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A week or so ago a good friend's pseudo-bluegrass trio opened for a recent runner-up on one of the current talent shows on national TV. It was a fairly high-profile (for them) gig at a County Fair grandstand show.

The trio was impressed and delighted with the sound they were getting at sound check. Two or three songs in, the "big star" headliner was seen in discussion with the guys in the sound booth, and all of a sudden they began to sound like crap.

After the show, my buddy's band learned from the headliner's backup musicians that the "big star" somehow felt threatened by the opening act that sounded too good, so, being the "big star," he was able to convince the sound guys to sabotage their show.

I've been semi-retired and out of the loop for a while now, but is it really that cutthroat out there now? I can remember when musicians, for the most part, supported each other. And soundmen tried to make everyone sound good, not just the diva-of-the-month who happens to be the headliner.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 7:11 am    
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Doing what an important person says pays better than standing on principle, which may ultimately not pay at all.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 7:38 am    
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My understanding is that this is very common.
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ajm


From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 9:08 am    
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Well, no pedal steels involved in this example, so you've been warned.

December 2015, Staples Center, Los Angeles, final shows for Motley Crue.

The opening band sounded absolutely terrible. Whether or not you liked the songs was not the issue. Too loud, maybe the EQ was set to be annoying, all of the above, maybe something else, whatever.
Luckily we had ear plugs, and they went in within 30 seconds. I took mine out briefly a couple of times. I would not have been able to stay without them. It was hearing damage conditions, and also was to the point of inducing physical illness.

Motley Crue came on. It was the best sounding well EQ'ed giant stereo sounding experience you've ever heard.

I can only conclude that there was something else going on "politically".
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Larry Carlson


From:
My Computer
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 9:51 am    
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Huge egos quite often occupy empty heads.
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Greg Cutshaw


From:
Corry, PA, USA
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 9:57 am    
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My band opened a show for Bobby Bare. The sound check was not too bad if not totally customized to our liking. When we started playing the monitor mix was all screwed up and none of us could hear ourselves. It was impossible for us to put on a good performance with the PA so screwed up. We had no idea either of what the outgoing sound was but it had to be pretty unbalanced. When Bobby Bare came on, the sound mix was just perfect and they sounded like a million bucks.

Boy were we naive to think we were going to be treated fairly.
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Don R Brown


From:
Rochester, New York, USA
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 5:40 pm    
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The Moody Blues appeared during the British Invasion, then faded away for a few years. In the late 60's they came back much more talented and popular than before. In about 1968 or 1969, just as they started the comeback, I saw them at Rochester Institute of Technology gymnasium, sitting directly on the floor about 12 feet from the stage.

The opening band was a college group and they were terrible. They kept apologizing for poor sound, acoustics in here are bad, etc. I was ready to leave, but a friend convinced me that since I had already paid, might as well stay.

The Moody Blues came out, did not say a word, did not count off the start, just glanced at each other and in perfect unison launched into their song. From the first note, I was lifted off the ground it seemed - not from funny cigarettes, not from intense volume, just from great music and great sound.

I always just figured the college band sucked, all on their own. 50 years later - wonder if they had "help" at being terrible? If so, it was unnecessary. That performance would have erased the opening act no matter who it was or how well they did.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 6:11 pm    
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The other side of this tale is when the opening act does blow the headliner off the stage. I was in a small club outside of manhattan and saw Australia's Jeff Lang open for John Hammond. I love John Hammond, but Jeff Lang was on another planet, not only playing amazing slide, but standing on an amplified box beating time with his feet while singing and playing slide. John Hammond couldn't come close.
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Howard Parker


From:
Clarksburg,MD USA
Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 6:18 pm    
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On the other hand, you also get gigs where everyone tries to accommodate and be accommodating.

Happily, it's always seemed to work out for me.

h
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 14 Aug 2018 8:39 pm    
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funny enough, the worst time I ever saw an opening act have was at a Seldom Scene concert in Boston in the late 70's. There was this solo fiddler player doing traditional Canadian fiddle tunes from a specific region who was opening for SS.. And he was great. But he was interrupted every minute by a guy shouting "John Duffey" and the Boston crowd getting roudier by the second.
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Bill Sinclair


From:
Hagerstown, Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 4:58 am    
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Bill McCloskey wrote:
But he was interrupted every minute by a guy shouting "John Duffey" and the Boston crowd getting roudier by the second.


Oh Well I'll bet the audience member sabotage and, for that matter, fellow band member sabotage is a lot more common that intentional sound man sabotage. I guess I've been fortunate in that most of my experiences have been like what Howard described.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 5:19 am    
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Bill Sinclair wrote:
Oh Well I'll bet the audience member sabotage... is a lot more common that intentional sound man sabotage.

Agreed.

I remember attending the annual Leo Kottke holiday concert at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis sometime in the early '70s when the solo opening act prematurely aborted her set after being bombarded with the constant chants of "Leo, Leo" from multiple attendees throughout her brief performance.

That opening act? Emmylou Harris.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 5:22 am    
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Howard Parker wrote:
On the other hand, you also get gigs where everyone tries to accommodate and be accommodating.

Thankfully, that's been my experience too. Which is the reason my friend's experience seemed so surprising.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 5:34 am    
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And of course, when I say that was the worst time I ever saw an opening act have, i meant a musical opening act.

If it is a comic opening for a music act, all bets are off. I saw a comic almost get lynched by a Pittsburgh crowd waiting to see Adrian Belew.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 10:31 am    
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I was just listening today to Marc Marron's interview with Billy Bob Thornton who, for his entire career, has been both musician and actor. Thornton was saying that music and movies were opposite in that in music, you could easily be fired or sabotaged if you're better than the headliner act. In movies, he said, the more you surround yourself with actors who are as good, or better than you, the better your own performance will be.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 15 Aug 2018 11:56 pm    
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it even happens locally. years back, our band with my wife fronting it was part of a 3 band outdoor festival. We were all friends , so we thought. evidently not though.

Our band covered EmmyLou, the Whites, Texas Swing, it was a nice little band, gal songs, good vocals etc... we were fairly well known in the area.

Sound check went very well, all ok.

We opened the show. First 2 or 3 songs, all ok, all of a sudden my wifes vocal mic went totally dead.No lead vocals. She changed mics, then that one went dead . Ok..whats up with this. I looked out across the field, I happened to notice at the sound table the OTHER female vocalist from the next band was sitting there. So there ya go.

I got up from the Steel and walked to the sound table and told the sound guy and that gal to stop ( FOUL WORD HERE) with the mics. I knew the sound guy well and he was without words but it was the gal who instigated. I asked her, why are you even here at the sound table, what are you doing here ? Of course the mics worked again but our set was maybe 8 songs and we were 5 or 6 in already. To the audience we looked like amateurs.

after our set the other gals band went on and of course all the mics worked perfectly.

Bad news for her though, our band leader knew what was going on and ripped her a new butt back stage as now and then our band would back her up at some shows. He told her she could forget calling him, or us. There were more things said but you get the jist of it.

I also told the gal and her boyfriend to lose my number as they would call me to play Steel now and then. I don't think they knew it was my wife they were messing with. They knew now.

Local self proclaimed stars are no different than national stars.They actually may even be worse !
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Godfrey Arthur


From:
Philippines
Post  Posted 21 Aug 2018 10:37 am    
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I did sound for a band that opened for Faith No More (Angel Dust tour).

The band was given a small mixer going out of that into the FOH main mixer's AUX-in with one 1/4" cable for everything. Huge outdoor venue, 6 foot high rock stage.

We decided we were not going to be dupes in the game so we worked magic.Razz

Meanwhile Faith No More's manager was standing next to the mixer getting PO'd big time!

The Last Waltz, Scorsese's 1978 film.

The opening scene is The Band bassist Rick Danko playing pool.

Rick says: "Cutthroat, the object is to keep your balls on the table and knock everybody else's off..."



The warmup band gets the crap sound and lights. The headliner gets the royal treatment. Question


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Last edited by Godfrey Arthur on 21 Aug 2018 11:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 21 Aug 2018 2:36 pm    
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I never knew this childish sort of stuff was such a widespread problem. Maybe this is why so many people have nothing but contempt for "the sound guy". Muttering

'Ya think?
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Bill Sinclair


From:
Hagerstown, Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 21 Aug 2018 4:13 pm    
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Donny Hinson wrote:
I never knew this childish sort of stuff was such a widespread problem. Maybe this is why so many people have nothing but contempt for "the sound guy". Muttering

'Ya think?


Yeah, but showing contempt for the sound guy is certain to be a self-fulfilling judgement. Most of the joints I'm playing these days don't require anything more than the band using their own PA and setting their own levels. On the rare occasions where a location or event has a sound crew, I introduce myself and learn the name of the kid setting up the mics and learn the name of the guy behind the board. I try to convey my excitement about the gig and my appreciation for their part in pulling it off. I know that they're no different than I am in appreciating some validation for the job they're doing. Maybe I'm just naive, but I think if the sound company feels like they're part of a team and not taken for granted, they're less likely to sabotage your sound for the sake of an insecure headliner.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 22 Aug 2018 6:19 am    
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Bill Sinclair wrote:

Yeah, but showing contempt for the sound guy is certain to be a self-fulfilling judgement. Most of the joints I'm playing these days don't require anything more than the band using their own PA and setting their own levels.


+1 on that! I'd far rather have my band do their own sound. On the rare occasion we play someplace with more that 100-200 people, we just sorta grin and bare it. The only way a sound guy knows what the band wants to sound like (and that's what's most important) is if he's part of the band, or has good familiarity with them.


Quote:
Maybe I'm just naive, but I think if the sound company feels like they're part of a team and not taken for granted, they're less likely to sabotage your sound for the sake of an insecure headliner.


I think that's false logic. The ONLY purpose of having "sound guys" in the first place is to have them reinforce the sound and still have the bands sound as good as possible, both to the audience and the band itself. Anything else, regardless of the reason, is just going against why they are there in the first place. They should be getting respect by doing their job, and doing it well - not out of fear that they can screw up someone who doesn't kiss their ass. Neutral
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 22 Aug 2018 6:58 am    
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Donny,
Aren't you afraid you might get arrested when you "grin and bare it? Whoa!
Erv
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 22 Aug 2018 7:09 am    
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'Ya got me Erv, I used the wrong won! Laughing
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 22 Aug 2018 7:13 am    
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Bless your heart! Very Happy
Erv
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Paul Sundt


From:
Rio Rancho, NM, USA
Post  Posted 22 Aug 2018 5:12 pm    
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I did sound reinforcement professionally for ten years. Of the thousands of shows I did, I was never asked to make any act sound anything less than the best I could. I had heard of this sort of thing happening, but it never happened to me. That's good, because I would have refused.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post  Posted 23 Aug 2018 4:48 am    
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Surely it depends on the level of professionalism--and a headliner that's made it and wouldn't waste the time doing monkey business.
The band I was in opened for the Oak Ridge Boys (that tells you how long ago). We were so green the drummer didn't bring a snare.
The Oaks drummer lent her his practice snare. The Clair brothers did the sound, and what we had on stage was dynamite.
Can you imagine a sound man who would jeapordise his career for foolishness due to someone's insecurity?
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