Another fine fiasco

It’s about customer service. Really. When you think about it. All business is about customer service. We have to make people happy. Happy people write checks. Unhappy people don’t like writing checks and eventually stop.

Going to throw another story at you here.

I was hired to run a show in the other side of the country. All I knew when I got on the plane, was this; country music legend, one night show, several thousand people in a private party, big room, locally rented gear.

The only thing in that list that worried me was the gear. Turns out I was right to be concerned.

This was a room I had worked in before. There were guys there who I had worked with before. This was a audience I had mixed for before. Fairly familiar event. I had even mixed for the headliner once before. However, there was a lot of gear rolling in that I never saw before.

Due to some scheduling issues, we could not truck our own rig out there. Had to rent gear. The problem was, that we had to rent gear from five different companies. The system and mics from one, the lighting from another, the staging from another, the snake and feeder cable from someone else and finally the big Yamaha console from somewhere else.

Seriously. What could possibly go wrong?

Some of these rental company guys didn’t like each other. Only one shop actually had someone stay and tech their gear. Turns out he was the owner of the speakers and mics. Good guy. He ended up working his butt of to make the show happen.

Doors were scheduled to open at 6:00 pm for dinner service and the show at 7:00 pm. Load in was scheduled for a leisurely 10:00 am. Soundcheck was scheduled for 5:00 pm. Best I can remember.

We had everything except snake and feeder at 10. That didn’t show up for a few hours. Not a big deal. Except what arrived was something from a black and white horror movie. The trunk looked like it had rolled itself into the Grand Canyon a few times. The feeder was World War Two era, maybe. The snake was something that you could scare small children with. Forty channel snake, missing a few ends. Missing a few labels on the good ends. Wearing a good 5-6 rolls of electrical tape.

Now. You are not going to believe this, but most of the channels in that snake didn’t work. The crew pretty much threw the boxes into the venue and left like they had robbed a bank. Not encouraging. The snake was about what I expected when I saw the box. It reduced us to about 26 channel including running the house mix through it. Nice.

The speakers and mics were fine. The lighting was not really professional grade, but it all worked ok once we finally got it set up. The staging was mostly flat and stable after some shims and bolts were adjusted. And the Yamaha board seemed to be fine.

Until we actually turned it on.

After spending almost an hour wiring up front of house and running that evil snake, we turned the whole rig on. The board had a bad channel. No, two. Wait, here’s another one. What do you mean by noisy front fills? Is that a radio station? I think I see smoke coming from the console. Crap.

Fortunately, the owner of the PA had his trailer on site. He had a decent Allen and Heath 32 channel board in there. He grabbed it, I ripped old smokey out of the mix position and stabbed in a new board. Powered right up, worked perfectly. Plenty of channels, considering the snake.

Now when I say country music legend, I am serious. This guy has at least one song that any American knows the chorus to. Really. He deserved much better than the circus we were throwing together in that room. His crew knew it, too.

We were still tuning the system and wiring the stage at 5:30. Just too many problems, even with what felt like six months to setup. Our legend was finally rushed onstage about 5:45 for a very quick soundcheck. The crowd outside the doors could have been from a bad zombie movie. They didn’t want to wait any longer. We finally rushed everyone off stage and opened doors at exactly 6:00 pm.

The show went perfectly. Nobody that hadn’t ridden out the previous eight hours or so, knew what had happened. They didn’t see the panicked repairs and replacement of damaged gear. They didn’t hear the crew cursing and complaining. They didn’t see the nightmare road cases that were lurking under the stage. They had no idea how aggravated everyone in that room was.

They just enjoyed the show.

The road manager was able to stay pretty calm through that storm. I finally got to talk to him during load out. He made a confession. He had worked with my crew before. He had been burned by the owner more than once. When he saw our name on the paperwork, he cringed.

“I knew this was going to be a fiasco. That guy always throws stuff together like this.”

I had never heard a client tell me that before. I knew that some of our shows were stressful and things weren’t managed properly. But. I never heard a client tell me something so bluntly. He said our crew was great about making promises that they couldn’t fulfill. He said he appreciated the effort I made and how we had pulled it together. Our legend didn’t catch any of that stress. He just knew we were running behind. He was thankful for that. But, he felt like I was out of place with that crew.

All said and done, it was a rough show. In fact, it was rough enough to retire the owner of the system. He said it was just too much for him. He couldn’t take any more shows like that. Literally retired that night.

Take care of your clients. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Deliver more than they expected. Be the hero. Watch the attitude.
That’s all.

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