Sound in Music Venues That Serve Food

Food For Thought

At one time or another you have gone out with your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or even with a group of friends to a local restaurant. You select the place, pick a time and think nothing of it. This time around you decide to go to a place that also has live music. When you arrive at the venue, you are seated, served and soon onto the refreshing alcoholic beverages. Then before you know it, all of the sudden a horrendous noise bellows from the stage area.  You look up and you see the sound guy setting up the sound system for the show.

Headband Jack-12Most don’t put a second thought into how it all works or how things come together with music restaurants. Admittedly, in the restaurant scene that promotes live music, it’s been my experience that it’s better for the venue to have sound provided (meaning a PA permanently installed). That being said, there can be a lot that goes wrong when sound is provided. That is a whole other topic that deserves another entry. Bringing sound equipment into an establishment when they are serving food is tough. There are plenty of local places that serve food and the local patrons know that when 8 PM hits they had better be ready for that door to swing open and be greeted with a cold burst of air. The noise and racket alone from the band entering the room when people are seated is a tough on the dinner crowd. It quickly becomes the transitional spot in the evening when the venue is trying to get out every last meal that they can before the music begins.

For the most part, everyone does their part and the show goes off smoothly. Band members dread setting up in a space where there is barely enough room to breath, but they manage to pull it off. If the venue provides sound, the sound engineer knows and has been told that there is basically no sound check and it needs to be quiet for the first Tom Pirozzi - Dave Spadaro - Ale Houseset. This may not be a familiar thought process to the one who is eating, but the band member who is playing (just so he can eat) knows the drill. Lets face it, until things get going it’s our least favorite part of the night. I think as a sound engineer myself, I don’t look forward to just turning on the PA and guessing. Guess PA work has ultimately been an analog nightmare when sound check isn’t possible. This is where a digital console comes into play, if you have the money to get one.  For most of us, it’s a 12 to 16 channel board and over the years we can just about guess at how things are going to sound without a check. It never fails, however, when you start pushing the sliders up, the PA lets us know where we went wrong.

If the PA is there, there is a house sound guy. They know the house rules and it’s sometimes an easy transition.  We do our best, to work together and iron out all the kinks. We try to make things as smooth as possible.  If you get hit in the elbow, knocked in the head or your foot gets trampled on, just know we are doing our best. If you hear a squeal or the band keeps asking for changes for the first couple of songs, we are trying to quickly make adjustments to get on with the show.

Posted in The Rambling Hoon
2 comments on “Sound in Music Venues That Serve Food
  1. Avatar rich says:

    nice site makeover!

    great look inside what goes into making a show get off the ground.

  2. Avatar JP says:

    It is such a challenge to learn to get into an establishment’s dining-room, carrying gear that may or may not make a lot of noise on the way in, and may change the room temperature drastically in seconds, (during the dinner hours and working your way around people who are at their dinner tables) and keep a positive enough attitude about you to still put on a good show. Retaining the dinner crowd becomes a non-issue for the musician in a way because usually those folks are not there to see the band, have planned on seeing a movie, had their collective hearts set on soft serve from the Country Drive-In on the way home or something like that. But you still don’t want to damage in any way the reputation of the venue, and ultimately, you want those people to stay and drink and be merry among with the band. While going digital on sound might make a big difference in that effort the musicians can make or break the transition with (or without respectively) empathy to the situation, the timing. Musicians claim the vibe of a room when they start staring down the folks seated at the tables where the gear will be assembled as soon a the patrons are gone. Waiting for the work ahead tends to make us slightly antsy. Musicians then up the ante on their claim to the vibe in the room when they swing open the door to whatever the elements are on the other side and start dragging gear in. But it’s the job’s of the musicians and sound techs alike to keep the noise to a whisper, or not touch their instruments at all until its their time. Then again, is it the musician’s prerogative to take over the room completely and REALLY announce their presence? I guess it all depends on how aggressive the musician’s process is. I would submit that the ability to make that transition requires a balanced approach from every member of the band. And it’s all a part of the art of setting/owning the vibe of a room.

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