Summer Solstice. It was a beautiful day. After a week of June gloom, a familiar weather pattern in Santa Barbara, the sun came out for Solstice. It always does. Nik and I got down to Alameda Park, loaded in quickly, the stage manager and folks were really great - helpful, friendly and seemed to know what they were doing. I parked the car about three blocks away while Nik set up.
This was our first gig in a while, and our first gig using a computer as a sequencer and a software program called “Ableton Live”. In the days preceeding the show, Nik was doing the all the programming because I was so busy on the logistics side of things for Solstice. The sequencing program had acquired a new name: “Evilton Live” or “Ableton Evil.”
Twenty-five minutes before we were supposed to start, Nik was hunched over the computer screen, barely visible in sunlight, in headphones, frowning. There was a glitch*: there was no audio coming from our sequencer - not through the external interface nor through the native audio out of the computer.
I went to park the car, helped Dawn set up two cameras, spoke to someone in volunteer check-in, and looked at dancing fairy wings. About five minutes before we were supposed to perform, I returned and looked at Nik’s body language - I knew he had fixed it*- Sighs of relief: we were not “The Away Team” unplugged. The show went on.
I couldn't really see much from the stage - the sun was blotting out my vision. I took off my purple tinted prescription sunglasses because they were falling down my nose; then I really couldn't see. I'm fairly nearsighted, anything past about twelve inches becomes wonderful impressionist painting.
About one minute into the first song, the stage monitor mixer-guy turned up the volume in my monitors so loud with only the backing track, the sound was only a loud rumble - almost impossible to tell what was going on- I was straining to distinguish between distorted rhythms and tonality. I couldn't hear my vocals at all. Neither could Nik; he was lip reading. The mixer guy kept messing with the monitor mix; it got worse. Finally I turned around and asked him to turn it down. Things got better after that.
Then after the show, even though our "official band packet" said that we could load and unload on Micheltorena Street right behind the stage between 11 a.m. and 6 pm, the cops were officious and would not let us get near the loading area. Finally, after an hour or so, and three requests to cops and traffic wardens, two trips to pick up car and driving around, one of the traffic patrol people said she could open the barricade for me, but then threatened to call an officer over to arrest me if I even looked like I was heading closer to Santa Barbara street (still a block away). It took us 3 hours to get our stuff out of there. Because they wouldn't let us load out when it was "safe", now we had to wait for the parade to be completely over. Some guy who had heard us at some other gig --got a few of his friends to help us carry all the equipment. Otherwise Nik would have had to have done it all by himself, since I needed to be guarding the equipment. Even backstage with a stage manager and bouncer, it's not really safe to leave things unattended. In the past, I've had $300 mics and miscellaneous other things disappear during the load and unload between bands.
I thought I would get to film the parade, but I didn't even get to see it cause I was dealing with trying to get our gear out. I spoke with the Festival Director, who says she has trouble with them every year. When the organizers all sat down together in their meeting with the police regarding the event, this was discussed and they agreed to let bands in, but that information obviously did not filter down to the lowly little fascists on the street. Nik told one of the traffic wardens that they "were exercising power just because they could". She aksed: “Why didn’t the organizers take care of this?” Nik said, “They did, but why has everything changed.?” The cop said it “was the fault of the organizers.” Why this failure to communicate down the ranks? Intentional or not, other bands certainly would be having a similar problem.
Other than that, it was a beautiful day. ;-)
We're thinking of having a house party concert in the next couple weeks where we have control of the sound, the elements.
*For geeks and musicos who deal with technology, all of the audio preferences in Ableton had changed. Nik is not quite sure exactly why this happened. It must have been the heat of the moment.