The school’s administration, apparently, didn’t get along all that well with the Motion City guys. The marketing contact more or less said, “they’re a bunch of assholes” after she’d dumped them in the student lounge that doubled as our artist dressing room. A couple other admin types made similar comments during our setup.
A couple of hours before showtime, I still didn’t know what the instrumentation will be or have a stage plot. The school’s live guy was more clueless than me. Information was doing the opposite of what is often called “flowing.” I lucked out, two of my students showed up for the setup; one for the duration and the other just for the setup before he had to go to work. While the kid who’d be there for the duration helped me run the snake and setup the recording equipment, I sent the other guy into to ask the band about their instrumentation. He was gone a really long time and I began to worry about him, based on the comments we’d heard from administration. When he finally made it back, he was drunk and had completely forgotten what I’d asked him to do. The band had generously shared their reception buffett, which was mostly beer. Summit Amber Ale, I think.
Not only was that kid pretty useless to me for the rest of the setup, but he was sort of screwed for work later that night. So, I sent in the next victim with instructions to stay the hell away from the beer supply. He came back pretty quickly with a stage plot and we got to work trying to optimize our 18 channels max on a five piece band with at least four vocals. We put up a minimal three-mic drum rig, DI’d the bass, keyboards, and mic’d the guitars and the bass amp. In the end, we had one open channel for a room mic. In the past, the audience mostly sat behind the FOH area in the cafe’s seating area. That was true, even for POS and Doomtree. So, it seemed like a fair bet that we’d get whatever audience participation there would be from that conservative location with a little isolation from the stage output.
The band came out for very brief sound check, looked at the setup and went with it. They had a couple of requests that required some grouping of the synth sounds to allow coverage for an additional stage amp. Otherwise, we were good to go and I, finally, took a breath, grabbed a bottle of water, and sat back to watch the crowd come in.
The crowd was unexpected. Most of the school’s students blew off the show, but Motion City’s fans were there in spades. In a few minutes, all of the seating was filled and a pretty decent sized group milled around the stage. The school president appeared and announced the band. Justin Pierre took the mic and said, “We’re not playing until you rush the stage.” Pretty much the whole crowd got up and packed the area between the FOH setup and the stage. No only could I barely see the stage, making getting levels sorted out for the usual changes in performance levels difficult, but it was pretty obvious that my audience-response mic was really positioned badly. A few minutes into the first song, it was also obvious that the audience really knew the band and their songs. So much so that Justin stopped singing often and let the audience fill in the spaces. And my one lonely, poorly-placed room mic barely snagged any of it.
In all, it was a great show and I became a big fan of Motion City Soundtrack, now owning four of their CDs. After the show Justin Pierre and Joshua Cain made a trip back to our area to thank us for doing the show. Good guys and good times.The video, below, was a mix from what we delivered to the Current's Local Show and it is absolutely representative of how great this band is.
Wirebender Audio Rants
Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.