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.
Most 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 set. 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.