Today is going to be easy. We wake up in Whitchurch, our gig is in Whitchurch. The P.A. system is all ours and it’s in a room we have gigged in several times before. Saul and I had an accidental late night wine drinking session until 4:30am. One of the joys of our work and lifestyle choice is that we can get away with that sort of behaviour, even on a school night. We have a leisurely day nursing our hangovers until we try to load in at 4pm. Unfortunately the venue is shut and so a couple of phone calls are made to get us access. We get to spend about 30 mins in the fresh air which does me the world of good and by time doors open I’m ready to get on with it.
We set up the gear pretty quickly and thrash through a soundcheck. This is my first real show mixing on our new speakers and I’m looking forward to using them in anger to see what they can do. These QSC K12’s have been a faithful workhorse as monitors for Bellowhead for the last 5+ years but I have never used them for FOH so tonight I’m going too learn something new. The Gill Nethercott centre is a slightly harsh sounding room but nothing too drastic and in the past I have always managed a great sound in here. The new speakers are doing a pretty good job too. They are slightly harsh in the high mids while the room is empty and I have to notch out a bit on the graphic E.Q. to compensate. The soundcheck is over in a flash and we disappear off to dinner.
Tonights gig is a special one. It’s Pauls home village and we also have Rupert Christie, producer of the new album and Sam Burden who mixed it in the audience. By the time we walk back into the venue the seats are already filling up and it looks like the crowd can’t wait for things to get started. With 5 minutes left to go before the show starts, I regret not having put a reserved sign on any of the seats that would have been great to mix from. I find one spare against the left wall near the back and figure I had better just grab it before somebody else does. I could mix the show standing up but I prefer to have my ears at the same level as the audience. It is a common occurrence especially at festivals that the mix position is raised above the crowd. Often it is done for practical reasons but there are occasions where it is completely unnecessary and personally I hate it. When I mix and the audience are standing I like to stand. If the audience are sitting I like to sit. It gives me a much better reference point of what they are actually hearing and removes a lot of the guess work. Today however I am in completely the wrong seat. The show starts and as Tim Minchin once said to me
“All I can hear is mud”.
Because I’m so far off to one side I’m not sure how any corrections I make are going to effect the rest of the room. I’m also getting the occasional smack in the face from the right hand of the melodeon. Saul’s box is a very loud instrument and tonight it's reflecting off the wall and firing straight at me. It’s “guess work” time so I carefully start adjusting bits and pieces to try and improve things. You have to be very careful in a situation like this, luckily you can gain quite a bit of information from watching the audience to see how they are reacting. If they are tapping along and getting into a show you are probably in the right ball park. If they are pushing there seats back to try and get away it is probably sounding quite offensive. Tonight the crowd are definitely getting into it and are in a boisterous mood. As the beer flows and the locals get more and more merry the banter between them and the band increases. There are lots of jokes and chat coming from both sides that can only happen at a home show. The atmosphere is great and by the start of the second half I’m confident I have it sounding pretty damn good.
It’s a difficult choice but this is probably the best gig of the tour. We definitely had the most playful crowd of all and that always creates an amazing atmosphere that helps Faustus get into it even more than normal. We have the first full on after party with the beer and wine flowing fast.
Just 2 more shows left and it’s going to be a shame to see the back of this tour, but for now we are on a great high.