Baptism of fire for the balsa wood P.A.
By Duncan Fry
The story so far: In order to stave off the rigours of imminent middle age (Yeah right, Dunk. Ed) our man has decided to put together the lightest, compactest and affordablest PA possible within his meagre budget. Now read on:
As luck would have it, my new and improved diet-conscious PA ‘Lite’ made its debut a couple of weekends ago.
A music trivia night for a local club was the ideal start to its stellar career. No pressure – the band would do a couple of short dance brackets in between batches of questions, and also a ‘guess that riff’ section where we would drag out all the guitar riffs that we could remember how to play.
The band had already done a few of these nights, and in the past we’ve spent hours if not days working out questions and answers, but not this time.
“Hey Mr Music Trivia smarty-pants,” wheezed drummer LL down the phone. “What are we going to do for questions and stuff? Can you knock up about 40 questions by the weekend?”
“What?” I yelled “Are you kidding? I’ve hardly got time to scratch my bum this week. Didn’t you think about any of this before saying ‘Yes’ to them? We’ll have to cancel it”
“Cancel? No way, I could really use the bread, man. Life here at the Xanadu retirement home doesn’t come cheap, you know.” He paused, then continued,
“Jeez, I can’t believe it’s just sort of sneaked up on me. I thought we had plenty of time. What are we going to do? We can’t very well use the same questions we used last time, can we…?”
A longer pause followed, so long I thought he’d nodded off – or worse! Then with an almighty cough he was back:
“…or can we? How long since we did the last one for these people?”
“About three years, I’d say,” I replied.
“Well, that’s it then – we’ll just use the same questions, the same riffs we used last time! I’ll get onto RH Positive (the bass player); he keeps a copy of everything, and we won’t have to do any new stuff at all!”
“You don’t think anyone will remember?” I asked.
“Course not,” he snorted. “The oldies certainly won’t, and the youngies will have been too tish-faced! If they remember any answers they’ll just think they’re getting smarter! It’ll be a win-win situation! See ya there.” And with a final cough he was gone.
Having had nothing but sunshine all week, the day of the gig dawned with nothing but unrelenting drizzle, steady rain, and more drizzle. Ideal loading-in weather, as long as someone else was doing it.
I rolled up at the club only to find that my regular parking spot out the front had been dug up to make a flowerbed, and some optimistic person had planted a row of Gladioli across the middle of it. These were now squashed underneath the turbo Capri, which had muddy water (or watery mud; hard to tell which!) up to the wheel hubs.
Putting on some wet weather gear, I opened up the trailer, grabbed a couple of stage monitors, and sloshed my way through the mud to the awning over the front door of the club.
I was just about to walk through the door, when the entertainment manager scuttled out, putting up a hand to stop me.
“Wait, wait – we can’t have you traipsing mud through the nice clean foyer here. That’ll never do. Hang on a minute.” He turned at yelled at one of the staff who was laying out the tables. “You – come over here and give me a hand.”
He turned back to me. “OK, you keep bringing everything to the door here and we’ll take it upstairs for you.”
What? He’s offering to load it all upstairs for me? Woo-hoo! I didn’t give him time to change his mind, just dropped the wedges at his feet and went back for more.
In about 10 minutes or less everything was waiting at the door for the two of them. Even having to stand in the rain, I thought I had the better part of the deal! I closed up the trailer, busied myself doing nothing at all for a few minutes, and then wandered over just as the last sub had gone upstairs!
I carefully cleaned the mud off my shoes before walking inside. No point in upsetting him, I reasoned. You never know, he may offer to load it all out for me at the end of the night as well!
I had laid out the new system at work the previous weekend, and worked out what new leads I needed, and where the power would come from, how many power cables I would need, and anything else. The thing with self-powered boxes is that you need a lot more power leads than with a standard amp rack based system, so I had gone down to Blokesworld and bought a bundle of new 5 metre-long black power leads with moulded piggyback connectors.
My initial thoughts were to run the subs from a regular rack mount amp, but I had managed to score a couple of high power bolt-on digital sub amps that miraculously fitted the speaker access door on my compact subs. It turned out to be a simple matter to replace the doors with the amps on both subs, and ‘voila!’ self powered subs at a bargain price.
A four-way power adapter box went behind each stack, and from it one power lead went to the Sub, one to Mid/High box, one to the pair of LED lighting cans that clamped to a mini lighting bar bolted on top of the Mid/High box, and one to power the closest stage monitor. Very neat, and surprisingly it all worked!
Leads carrying the signals to and from the mixer were all colour coded and labelled each end: red for the Front-of-House speakers, purple to the monitors, dark blue for all microphone leads.
The trivia quiz part of the night went well, although LL’s confident assertion that no-one would remember the questions proved to be a tad optimistic. Quite a few remembered the questions, but hardly anyone remembered the answers!
There were a couple of ‘Who am I?’ questions to pass the time while scores were being checked. However the first one threw a spanner in the works when someone knew the answer in the first few words..”I was born on the 5 September 194…”
Up shot a hand – “Freddie Mercury!” “Crikey – correct! “ replied our compere. ”Hmm, that was quick. OK, just talk amongst yourselves for a while until we get the scores sorted”
To be fair the compere had agreed to do it at the last minute, as the one we used last time was away in the country on an extended gardening course and was unavailable.
Other than that the night went well. Everyone had a good time, we remembered how to play most of the riffs, and most of the songs, no-one suffered from terminal trivia egomania, and no-one argued with the judges’ decisions. Just as well, or they would have had to argue their case before ‘Hanging Judge Fry!’
The new weight-loss PA worked very well; there was nothing but praise for the sound, the band loved the monitors, and it was fast to set up and take down. Can’t ask for much more than that, really – apart from twice the money, perhaps!
In fact, the only downside was that when load-out time came, there was no sign of the entertainment manager and his offsider, and I was forced to test the system’s portability on my own! To paraphrase a much used management saying, ‘A successful gig has many parents, but the load-out is an orphan!’
Still, at least it had stopped raining by then..