Considering the recent bacon debacle, I’m starting to get a little sick of fried breakfasts. I consider going for more fruit and yoghurt based food this morning but the waitress then asks what I would like and I instantly say
“Full English please”
Doh! Oh well it’s done now perhaps some fruit juice will help. Todays 4 hour drive to Sheffield will give me plenty of time to digest the monster plate of food in front of me and hopefully allow me some extra shut eye too……… Then we stop for lunch and I have a Katsu curry with rice. I realise the tour gluttony is starting to set it. I’m really going to need to cut down my calorie intake for a few days. The drive to Sheffield is uneventful and Paul and I have recently started playing a game of who can get the best average m.p.g. on each car journey (truly riveting stuff). In the other car Saul and Benji have been playing #shittourrhymes on twitter for a couple of days now. It’s helping to stave off the boredom for the time being.
We arrive at the Yellow Arch venue on time. Another new venue for all of us, quite different from the usual places we play. This looks like a gig venue for rock bands and D.J’s rather than a theatre or dedicated folk club. It’s a hive of music activity with rehearsal rooms and recording studios in other parts of the building and musicians coming and going all the time. The P.A. here is a permanently installed DB technologies line array with 2 huge subs set in a centre cluster at the front of the stage. It reminds me of clubs I used to work in years ago when I first started out. I start doing my usual setup routine that I go through each gig. Firstly, listening with pink noise to each monitor on stage and then the left and right FOH speakers to make sure that everything has been cabled up the right way and find any possible issues that the system might have. The P.A. sound is slightly louder on the left than the right which could be for many different reasons and I don’t have time to go through testing everything to find the root of the problem. So I balance the output of my mixing desk slightly to the right to compensate. Then I play my usual track Still Raining by Johnny Lang that I use to listen to how the rig sounds each day. It gives me a reference point as I know how the song is supposed to sound. I can then make any corrections I need using E.Q.
We start the soundcheck and things are proving quite difficult. All my normal settings sound way off today and it takes me a long time trying different ways of mixing to get the results I’m after. The system won’t do the crisp top end I like to get with these guys, it sounds like there are protection limiters on the main P.A. to stop it getting blown up on the loud rock and D.J. nights. I decide to take a different approach to mixing and make the sound a lot more mid range heavy than normal. It lacks some of the subtlety that I normally get but gives a lot of energy that pushes the vocals right in your face. It’s going to wake people up tonight for sure. After a quick dinner we are back at the venue and the audience are arriving, we get chatting to a few friends and through the evening I meet a couple of people who have been reading this blog and a lady that has heard my recording of Paul Sartins Kites, Cars and Cor Anglais that was played on BBC Radio 4 a few weeks ago. The guys walk on stage and there is a slight nervousness in the audience as nobody is quite sure if they are starting and so should be clapping or not. Faustus jump into the first song Slaves and we are slapped in the face with a huge 3 part harmony vocal line. Little bits of the mix seem to drop out and reappear at random intervals and it feels like I’m hitting the limiters on the system. The next couple of songs are spent trying to find the best level to keep energy in the mix without it smashing hard into the limiters and sucking all the dynamics out of the music. I get it to settle at a good point and enjoy mixing the show.
The audience numbers are down a little bit tonight but the gig is still really good, full of energy and exciting to listen to. It’s great to catch up with a few people tonight before we pack up and head off to Leamington for some sleep. Unfortunately we start hitting road closures and diversions which adds a lot of extra time to our journey, just what we don’t need tonight. After you have done several self drive tours you begin to realise that traffic cones and other plant machinery are in fact nocturnal creatures that come out at night to feed in the fields of concrete of our nation. I can only assume that this is true as we are in times of austerity so surely we can’t afford to splash out hundreds of millions on resurfacing roads and upgrading to “Smart” motorways. Another tell tale sign is that in the 2.5 hours drive I don’t recall seeing a single man working on the roads at all.