12
Oct

Some friends, as The Dead Pets Society, run an irregular series of club nights, for which I’ve been “the sound guy” at most of the recent ones. They held another of these “occasionals” last friday, and I helped out in my usual fashion. The venue, Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington, holds regular music and club events. The manager likes The Dead Pets a lot and begged them to return – they’re quirky and host off-kilter shows with a diverse range of acts and ideas. This one was themed to celebrate Lief Erikson day, the US’ memorial for the real first European to find North America. I’d mention the yellow submarines, but that might be too obscure a reference for most…

There were three bands, plus DJs.

  • Lonesome Cowboys from Hell play a twisted country sound, with added spooky atmospherics that match their American gothic look. Their lyrics will turn your stomach if their outfits don’t get you first.
  • Bolide improvise spacious, agitated soundscapes, with more than a nod to the free-jazz of the late 60s.
  • Justin Paton has a solo act to compliment his role in Now, jamming simple but very effective acid house on minimal gear.

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Here are my notes on the set-up, for those so inclined.

The venue often hosts music events and they’ve tweaked a fairly basic set-up to really help out visiting sound engineers. A box on the wall by the stage has mic and line-level tie-lines to the desk at the back of the room. The desk is a Peavy PV14, with 10 mono and 2 stereo pair channels, on-board effects etc, connected to stereo powered PA speakers (maybe JBLs, but I forgot to check). It sounded pretty good, for a simple pub set-up. Frustratingly, the venue had built it into a cabinet in such a way there was no access to phantom power controls. I understand the desire minimise risks, but this was limiting when the venue’s own DI box needed power and it’s battery flat.

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Lonesome Cowboys use two guitarists and a keyboard player. One of the guitar players also brings a variety of instuments: his harmonica was played direct to a vocal mic, and I rode its level to keep a balance; his guitar and uke go through a little on-stage mixer before his amp, which seemed odd but worked well; the accordian struck me as a potential risk so i took the line from its pick-up through a compressor and limiter. The comp was gentle to allow for a slow attack, but the limiter was a brickwall to protect the sound system and our ears. I’d not mixed an accorian before so I may have been wrong, but when you hear them live, they can produce a huge dynamic range so I thought it best to be careful. Two of the players also sing. I was liberal with a ringy, plate reverb which suited the ghostly nature of their stage show.

Bolide brought a drummer, three brass/wind players, two guys with indeterminate electonics and a bassist. The wind player also had a few glitchy devices and sometimes used her voice as a sound source. My instinct said to split the bass player’s signal with a DI box so he could monitor through his amp, but the rest of us hear it via the PA.Unfortunately, they’d missed soundcheck, had to set up and line check the band between sets, we were already behind & his amp looked meaty enough to project well in the small room so I decided not to do this.. I was wrong and we couldn’t hear him well at all.

Bolide’s kick drum ahould probably have been mic’d up but as the audience is very close to the stage (and they crowded intimately, which was good for a London audience) it probabky didn’t mattwr.

The band had said I should feel free to jam effects along with their set. The desk had some built in delays and reverbs, which were fun and made a difference. They’re good at improvising moods, players working together rather than across each other – which is impressive. I tried to reinforce the “changes” in their flow by picking “spaces” for some of the instruments to exist in. I wasn’t as musically interpretive as the band, but they liked my additions. If I get to work with them again I’ll run more through my own effects and remotely control a performance.

Justin’s set-up consists of a drum machine and two boxes for performing “acid”, although neither were a “real” 303. He ran these and a distortion pedal though a little mixer with a mono (!!) output. I put all this through the compressor, with harder settings than the Cowboys used Initialky he said I could “dub” his set, like Bolide, but just before he went on he changed his mind. His music is so direct that it didn’t need the effects I could have supplied.