Eddy Says

Eddy Says: A sound question

By | Published on Monday 7 September 2009

Get Loaded In The Park 2009

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and for the first time in a decade I’m not living on the Carnival route. I’m looking back on Get Loaded In The Park and thinking, great festival if you’re a band or a top drawer DJ, but what a horrific time I had doing one of those poxy in-between-bands slots on a predominantly live stage. I kid you not, it was the most soul destroying gig of my life.

I’ve played to largely empty floors before, we all have, and you still manage to have fun, somehow, because the relatively few people there have a great time. That’s been my experience anyway. Last night was an altogether different experience and hits new heights of frustration.

Band came off, I came on, sound was so low I couldn’t actually hear it. My monitor was louder than the front of house PA! Tommy Sparks said it best when he described it as a “silent disco without the headphones”.

I politely asked the stage-manager, a man who was proudly wearing laminates from past gigs like Vietnam vets wore ears on their dog-tags, and chose, for his name, an acronym that made him sound like a type if bulldozer.

“The sound is running at about 30 percent of what the band is”, I ventured.

“Well it shouldn’t be”, he said, teasing his old Calvin Harris laminate

“Erm… well it is”, I replied. “Could you please have a word because this is awful. I can see people talking to each other in there at normal talking volume, no mouths-to-ears”.

He said he’d check it out when I was next on. This would be in a while. My next set was cancelled because, he bulldozed, “Booka Shade’s sound engineer has requested to EQ the PA after VV Brown”.

The Bulldozer, of course, never did check. He, like the sound guys, was old skool in his thinking: DJs don’t matter, people only care about the bands.

Sure, in the old days, when ‘DJs’ were just unbilled, anonymous people who played records, unmixed, between the bands, to relieve boredom in the crowd while men in Zildjian T Shirts grunted “Two!” into microphones on stage he was probably right. But now, they’re billing us as an attraction, people are coming to see us, and going home bitterly disappointed. Some of them think it’s somehow our fault too: “For fuck’s sake turn it up, nobody can hear anything!”

If only. At one point I turned the monitor on its side and pointed it at the crowd. This drew the attention of a particularly surly on-stage sound guy who admonished me with eyes full of loathing. That special loathing that some old skool live sound guys reserve for DJs.

I asked him, politely and respectfully, if the sound could go higher. He told me, like telling your grandmother how to suck eggs, about sound restrictions and limiters. I patiently told him that I have an in-depth understanding of these issues but that his point was invalid as the band was several times louder. I pointed at the massive crowd who were all standing still and talking to each other while I was playing Sub Focus’ Prodigy remix, which had V Festival going spastic (thanks Baz) a week earlier.

“Aah”, he confessed. “You can’t have the DJ as loud as the band”.

This exposed the stage manager’s earlier reassurances as empty and somewhat economical with the truth. I was incredulous. I just pointed at the exasperated crowd again and beseeched, “Why can’t THEY have a good time ALL the time? Why do you only want them to have a good time when the band come on?”

The man actually rolled his eyes, turned his back on me and walked off. My fair point had not only fallen on plugged ears, but he and his preposterously named stage manager had forgotten a fundamental truth: we’re all on the same side. We all have a job to do, and that job is to entertain, or enable and facilitate the entertainment of, a crowd, that have mostly paid good money to be entertained.

I’d just finished my last, ahem, ‘set’, when a girl caught my eye through the gap between fence posts. “Eddy”, she said, beckoning me over. “My boyfriend came all the way here to see you, when are you on?”

They had been in the tent the entire time. I almost wept.

Looking at the big picture, the biggest shame is that Get Loaded In The Park is, sound restrictions aside, a great little festival, for the fact that it is clearly all about the music. Secret Garden Party, with its sound issues, gets away with it because music, great though it always is, seems subsidiary to the whole experience. But GLITP is only about the music, that is its strength. So it seems odd that there are people deemed part of the organisation who are wilfully depriving the audience of that music. It is lunacy.

I’m picturing a literary festival. A promising writer is about to read to an eager crowd. A man in a branded T-shirt approaches him and in a very business like manner, punches him hard in the mouth.

“Sorry mate”, he tells the stunned writer. “But Dan Brown is on next and he’s reading some ‘Da Vinci Code’, so we have to handicap you a bit, just to make him sound better. You know, can’t have you on a level playing field now, can we?”

The writer about to go on stares at him, wide-eyed, blood dribbling down the front of his shirt and with a head full of fresh questions manages only an astonished “Why?”

“Just doing my job mate”, says the man as he turns and walks away.

Eddy Says from this edition of the CMU Remix Update.