Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did you hear the one about...?

The other day I was sharing a few amusing anecdotes about some personal audio experiences.  My colleague(we'll call him...Chuck)suggested I write a book.  Well, since I have a blog, perhaps this is a good place to start.  The stories you are about to read are true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Most of the stories I shared with Chuck were about wireless microphone systems.  The nature of wireless systems is such that frequencies often crossover in wireless-rich environments.  Here are two of my favorites.

Back in the mid-90's, I managed the Jimmy Durante stage at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego.  It's a grueling 14-hour schedule filled with local country bands, dance troupes and roaming entertainment.  The Durante stage happened to be next to the horse arena where they would host rodeos, tractor pulls and monster truck rallies.  In case you're wondering, it's pointless to run sound during a tractor pull or monster truck race.

One year, a gentleman performed a flea circus on my stage.  His show was quite enjoyable.  One day, the fleas were right in the middle of their flying trapeze act, when a woman ran frantically towards me from the horse arena.  She was yelling, "Turn it down!  Turn it Down!"  I didn't know why she was so upset, so I followed her into the arena where they were changing over the cattle for the rodeo.  Over the loudspeakers I heard the fleas flying through the air!  Like a scene out of a foreign film.

Apparently, one of the rodeo clowns' mics was on the same frequency as my flea circus ringman.  When the clown turned off his mic, the receiver was still on!

Another story from the Del Mar Fair happened at a friend's stage.  His stage was in the infield, and hence, called the Infield Stage.  It was located about 100 yards behind the Main Stage where acts such as Winona Judd and Brandi, would perform each evening.  During the day, they would rehearse.

One day, The Village People were rehearsing their show for the evening.  As suspected, one of the performer's microphones shared a frequency with a wireless mic my friend used for his stage.  As I was visiting him, we were treated to a solo performance of YMCA via the wireless receiver.  During the chorus, we heard, "Yyyyyy, MCA.... oh, $h!#!  I don't know the !@#&ing words to this song!"

A learning story happened at San Diego Symphony Hall.  I call this a learning story because there's a moral to be gleaned.  It does not involve wireless microphones and is not intended to invoke laughter.  However, after a couple decades have passed, I can laugh about it now.

I was hired to provide sound for an up and coming singer who was to perform at Symphony Hall.  To provide enough sound, I rented a system from the Back Stage at San Diego State University.  Along with the system, came a couple of interns to assist in the setup.

All went smoothly through the setup.  The 2-hour rehreasal also went swimmingly well.  We enjoyed a little break to eat some dinner and relax before the show.  The show started on time and halfway through the first number, everything went quiet.  Nothing but drums and vocals.

The PA was dead.  The monitors were dead.  The guitars and keyboard amps were dead.

It turns out the assistants from SDSU had plugged all 10,000 watts of power amps into the same 20amp circuit.  Anyone who knows amplifiers can tell you that's too much for one circuit.  In case you're not one of those people, here's the math.  10,000 watts divided by 120V yields 83amps.  83amps in a 20amp circuit.  I have no idea how we made it through rehearsal without tripping a breaker.  But, we did. 

I have other stories that involve generators and bass heads catching fire.  But, I've omitted them due their audio irrelevancy.  There are a plethora of other stories, but not enough time or room to share them all.

I hope you've enjoyed this little tryst down memory lane as much as I.  There are always lessons to be learned from mistakes.  Often, these mishaps can be funny stories to be shared for years to come.  Some of them are blog worthy.  At least according to Chuck.

Rock.  Roll.  Repeat.

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