“Sir, I beg you…” I asked the promoter of my show in Amherst, Mass. “Might I run sound?” Sound guys, who doff Zildjian caps and wear shorts in inclement weather, are easily identifiable. None were present.
“The job is yours,” said the promoter. For the next half-hour, I ran around the venue, connecting XLR cables, digging through crates of broken mics, and fussing with reverb units alien to me. Then, the first band approached the stage.
“Just mic the bass,” said Birdsinourbackyard’s bass player. I had met this bass player—-he was also the promoter of the show!
“But what of the drums?” I queried. “You are a bass/drums duo!”
“Trust me,” said the bass player/promoter. “Just mic the bass.”
“All right,” I consented, shaking my head. Then, Birdsinourbackyards performed, blessing the crowd with witty, grindcore-ish, post-Minutemen compositions. During the performance, I stared at the soundboard, ostensibly “running sound.” How do I turn up the bass? I wondered.
After Birdsinourbackyards completed its delightfully brutal performance, five rakes in drab attire approached the stage. These drab rakes—-heavy metal enthusiasts—-were the next band.
“I am the sound guy,” I informed these drab rakes. “What instruments, if any, do you wish me to mic?” Before the rakes could answer, a third party approached us.
“You are not the one true sound guy,” this party declared. “I am the one true sound guy.” Though it was raining, this interloper was wearing shorts. Thus, I believed that this interloper was, indeed, a sound guy.
“So, Mr. Sound Guy,” I said. “You have shown up late to our performance. Do you dare now run sound?”
“I usually do,” replied the one true sound guy. This man is an unrelenting negotiator, I thought.
“I propose a bargain,” I said. “You will run the sound for these drab metal enthusiasts. Then, I will run the sound for Rahim, baroque-rockers from Long Island with whom I am currently on tour.” A deal was struck!
An hour later, I was ostensibly “running sound” for Rahim. I stared at the soundboard. How do I turn up Rahim’s baroque vocal harmonies? I wondered. After the show, I hyperbolically boasted to the band of my sound guy capabilities, using profanity to “break balls.”
“You layabouts sounded like a million dollars,” I boasted. “You lazy twits never sounded so good! I pumped up your precious baroque vocal harmonies, by God. You useless dilettantes should hire me on future tours. I am a goddamn sonic genius!” Rahim stared at me blankly, nodded, and walked away. When the band left, I looked down at the soundboard. I realized I had been tweaking the wrong set of knobs during Rahim’s set. Nervously, I reached for my Zildjian cap. I realized I was not wearing one.