This is the latest installment in Jeff’s Why Bother series in which, as he explains, “I will talk to musicians, fans, managers, roadies, bus drivers, promoters, artists, vendors etc. for a series I call “Why Bother?” The beauty of the whole thing is that those two words describe perfectly what the interviews, and series will be about. “Why Bother?” is the main question. Why bother driving all over the ends of the earth to perform, or to experience this music?
Jeff brings his own relevant perspective to bear through his efforts as a musician, photographer, promoter and perhaps most notably, via his steady gig providing concert visuals, as documented at his website, Garbaz.com.
Sometimes you hear something that is so simple … but makes so much sense. I had a conversation last year that I think about often.
I got a call on my cell early one day at Summer Camp. The Flaming Lips just pulled in and they needed an old-skool RCA something-or-other. I happened to have what they were looking for and when I ran it down to them, I noticed Wayne Coyne was stretching out just outside their bus.
I’ve had an opportunity to talk to him in the past and was glad he remembered me. He was talking about how cool it is to arrive at a festival, with a genuine smile he talked about how he loves seeing the mass sea of tents, the smell and the festival atmosphere. He talked about how while it looked like rain this morning, the forecast shapes up nicely for the show, one distraction that would be out of the way.
“When you get rid of the distractions, we can all concentrate on having a good time. You know, we can all let the music can take us higher and together we have a fighting chance at making some magic.”
So I asked him what he meant by “distractions”. He said #1 was bad weather at a festival. From the stage hands down to the last person in the crowd, bad weather can be a huge distraction from enjoying and making a concert a magical experience. When you are worried or uncomfortable because you need to stay warm and dry, while not impossible, it’s just seems little harder to REALLY get into the music. Then he talked about various factors such as getting the right sound check, stage being the right size, lights, video, props, too much security, not enough security, safety issues etc (Lord knows the Flaming Lips have a few details to attend to in the process of creating magic)
Today I wanted to talk about these distractions at a show, and how they are dealt with backstage. Obviously, you can’t control the weather, but many of the things that can be annoying to the musician and crowd are constantly being checked, adjusted and checked again. Why? One obvious example, we have all experienced — that loud squeak or unwelcome feedback in the middle of song. Besides being annoying and sometimes painful to the ear, it takes the players out of their mojo and that vibration translates to the crowd. Music is about feeling. Getting to that feeling is a process.
Who gets rid of all these squeaks, hums, lights and interference? As you sit in the crowd enjoying a show, you can see them in the shadows. You can see folks running and climbing … adjusting and twisting. Hanging off a truss with a cable that weighs twice as much as they do. They are a breed of their own, and they specialize in getting rid of the distractions.
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