Gigs, bogans and doing sound. How or why I do this confuses me
It's the morning after an Oz Icon's gig with feature artist retired cricketer Mike Whitney. Arriving at suburban Sydney pub mid arvo in the biblical downpour of July, the manager is very pleasant. This aspect of my Gig Life (V4.0) is deeply appreciated after the days of yore where Roadies Were The Enemy.
'You wonder why roadies get bashed', the manager at Selina's sprayed, spittle flecked and purple faced in the 80's (Gig Life 2.0) when we had broken the rule, opened the dock doors, and were shovelling backline into the car park to get away after a support bracket. We got the gear out, and avoided the beating. Possibly because the three of us were more than up for one-on-one with the two goons and the manager.
Things went smooth despite the torrential cold rain this 2022 night, with a certainty that if you pitch a four-to-the-floor covers band into a slightly upper-class burb pub full of cashed up middle aged punters, it will progress through three loud sets of predictability. They love the Aussie bangers – sing the roof off to 'Horses', do the call and collect to 'Will I Ever See Your Face Again?' and invent silly dances to 'Eagle Rock'.
Unlike Gig Life 3.0 (90's edition), I am stone cold sober and all the prisms are removed. Valery from the public service (46, married, 3 kids) is there with Kylie and Amanda and they are very slick in their expensive gear, heels and newly done hair. Sometime earlier they'd crossed the Rubicon of respect, having enjoyed the quite good pub meal and glugged through the first of a bottle of bubbles. I only noticed them because they were at a table next to the dancefloor and because of all those, theirs was getting exponentially louder. By the final set, they were having a very good time.
For reasons slightly unclear I am back in live sound, plying a trade that comes naturally, interacting with the creatives and making a show work as well as possible. "They told me it sounded great", enthuses Whitney, and I take his compliment because I know it was as good as this genre can be – refined not; loud yes; everything audible especially the vocals. They are lit constant with four carefully aimed lights in a warm pink. You can hear and see everything, no flashing no haze no effects.
They have five sends of loud wedges with just vocals. No band mix. No effects. The kick, bass and floor tom move air from my subs placed across the middle of the stage on the dancefloor, to couple up, and deliver more where the action is. Out in the seated area it's less loud.
But why. Buying all this stuff and a van, bundling it all up for less than a grand, working solo? I started after lockdown because it seemed like a good filler to avoid the menial crappy casual jobs I did for almost two years faced with low choices – school General Assistant aka repair guy; bus driver. What I could get; aged mid 60's.
October until early December when the insidious 'no singing no dancing' edict shut every gig as politicians climbed over themselves to get on TV to stupify us with the same update, same words, 'following health advice' - and blither on in bad suits, the ugly persons showbiz.
My newly reconnected musician community suffered terribly through the pandemic, worst of all over Christmas until we were reluctantly unleashed, unsupported financially, broke and battered back to the stages in February for a slow start. My book filled up with a liquorish all-sorts of work across festivals, concerts, setups, clubs, a circus and shows – I worked hard on learning new tech and saw the old hard skills and knowledge were still there. I was unlocking fifty years of show tech.
The highs are a happy cohort, band and crowd wandering into their night, leaving the smells and the heat of the escape from the week, the term, the project, and the lockdowns. Leaving me with an enormous pile of cables to roll, gear to pack, van to load in the cold winter.
And my flashback to Gig Life V3.0, 1990 in another deep July winter, at a Bachelor and Spinster's Ball at Rydal in the Central West. The B&S ball is a whole extra layer of crazy. Refined grazier's sons and daughters plan for months, visit cities for outfits, and arrive in utes for a very basic dinner of mass catered carvery washed down by massive amounts of cheap bubbles and keg beer.
The marquee had five HUNDRED of them inside, a humid bleary drunken mess of farm workers and town girls, teachers, nurses and off duty coppers. Farm hats and millinery, a timber dancefloor on a slight slope that guaranteed spectators plenty of amazing flailing as jackets and ties were flung onto tables and girls hit the deck sliding away grappling at dignity. No pain was felt.
With absolute certainly birthed from observing too many of these 'events', I can report every B&S ball features robust shagging outside of the four walls. This may happen in or on a ute, against a tree, or even horizontally atop a once pristine suit jacket laid out on the paddock.
When it all eventually ground to a halt, the band had long gone and the DJ had spun the last dirge. 'Nutbush' had had exceeded its city limits, and the fucking Proclaimers had 'Walked One Hundred Miles'. The pack up was now in dim fluro light, cold slicing through the fading crowd heat, winning fast as our breaths daggered clouds, zipping up windcheaters as we raced to coax now cold cables into coils.
Van loaded to the roof, wheels spinning on wet frost grass. Demount, feeble torch reveals the only possible escape path is down the slope, in reverse, to salvation – a dirt track 150 metres distant. With my trusty assistant leading the way, avoiding wombat holes, that van slipped and revved down to terra firma.
As the van groaned up out of the valley, the feint thin winter light heralded the frozen dawn, and I crept into our bush retreat and after a shower fell deep asleep, ears ringing, back sore alongside Caroline – who had just come home from hospital after having her Gall Bladder removed.
Deep in a troubled, exhausted slumber, her screams woke me bolt upright, blinking in the cold half light. Stumbling upright I pull on the heavy dressing gown, and grope for the fleecy Ugg boots. Stagger outside to the white frosted tundra drawn to more screams from the wood pile. Poor darling was on her bum, clutching at her slippered ankle, a nasty nail through a piece of wood completely through into her foot. I pull it out, and gather her, delicate and moaning, post operation, we stumble in and I build the fire, put the kettle on, and settle the family.
Fatigue. Tinnitus. A van full of cold gear. Some but never enough money for the toil.
And a headful of memories. Oh, Gig Life 1.0? I had long hair. It was 1973. I was 'the lightshow boy' putting psychedelics on Doug Parkinson or Sebastian Hardie.
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