Excess Baggage Tour Diary Day 4

Today is the BIG day, by big I mean the biggest misnomer in music. To coin a phrase/joke from an excellent sound engineer friend Mike Osman,

“EVERYBODY PANIC IT’S THE LONDON SHOW”

Traditionally the “industry” and upcoming bands think this is what it’s all about. Nothing matters more than having a great London gig. After all it’s where all the record company big wigs, press, friends, family and hordes of paying customers will all see you perform your masterpiece. It will unite the planet in musical harmony, the stars will align and we will all transcend to a higher dimension of existence and live forever in peace and love (wait isn’t that the plot to one of the Bill and Ted’s movies?).

It’s a beautiful fantasy with only one small problem. It’s total bollocks. This town, for all its pomp and ceremony, is usually a let down. There is so much to do here that your target audience is going to be split between lots of different things, and when you live in a place how often do you actually go out and sample the local culture or tourist attractions etc? The fantasy would have you believe that in London everyone is out every night, because that’s what they do there. In reality, areas where sweet FA happens generally have a better turn out because there’s nothing else going on. To add insult to injury, record company bods always promise to come, take up half the guest list, and NEVER show. This isn’t going to be an issue for us though. The Excess’s record company is in Germany so we won’t hold it against them for not wanting to do that commute.

So with that cheery start it’s nice to know we have sold tickets in advance for a venue Benji and I know pretty well. The Slaughtered Lamb. It’s a cool pub. All the Camden Ales are on tap and there’s some nice food upstairs. As you delve into the depths you find the venue. If you need reminding what type of venue it is you’ll find it’s right next to the pub toilets! It’s a dark place, I mean really dark. No natural light has entered here for a 1000 years. You can’t see the corners of the room for they are…….well………um……………….dark! It’s a strange shape too!The opposite wall from the door houses the bar to the left and the stage to the right. Theres a big support pillar in the middle and on the back wall, hung above the stage, is the visual centrepiece (although it’s hung on the right hand side) an upside-down pentagram in blood red neon! One can only wonder what black magic terrors have plagued this unholy place for centuries. What sacrificial practices have taken place here? (probably lots of lamb slaughtering if the clue is in the name!)

We have struggled in the past to get Faustus on this tiny stage so I had been wondering how we would fit a drum kit and double bass in here, but black magic has played its part and the stage seems to have doubled in size in the last 3 months. It all fits quite well and nobody is hampered as if they were trying to play pool in a pub where the walls are too close. Sound wise its an odd place.

It’s really DEAD! (lets see how far I can string out this gothic joke hey!)

There aren’t any reflections to cause any problems but the shape of the room has meant that the P.A. has been set up quite strangely. There are speakers in each of the 4 corners around the room and an extra one in the middle, right next to the stage to cover a DEAD spot, where some of the audience will be sitting. Because of the layout, the system is not set in stereo as such. It’s set as front to back so, if you pan all the way to the left, the sound comes out the front, and all the way to the right, the sound comes out the back. Because of this the stereo HAAS effect that I have been using on the tour will not work correctly so I decide to switch it off. (Sorry Andy) The mix position is also in completely the wrong place, although there isn’t really a right place. Every step you take around the room it sounds completely different and there isn’t anything you can do about it. We are clearly in the depths of sonic hell! At gig time I find a spot that I hope is as neutral as possible and have to keep walking back and forth to the mixing desk to make changes. It’s at this point I wish I had used my iPad controlled mixer rather than the house one. Laziness on my part came back to bite me and I must say I deserved it. Strike 1 for the Lord Of Darkness

The gig again was great. Unfortunately for Benji his voice has been struggling the whole tour. He’s pushed on through like the consummate professional he is, but each gig has been making his throat worse and he’s been losing more and more of his voice. He soldiers on through to the end of the show and still gives a great performance, but on the drive home we have the inevitable conversation that he can’t keep going like this as its going to cause serious damage. The next 2 gigs are going to have to be cancelled then we have a few days off for him to recover. It’s a decision neither of us want to make but its definitely for the best.

And the Lord Of Darkness wins by TKO!

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