In the fall of 2008, I was called to set a stage for another legendary artist. He had a twenty piece band backing him with a handful of backup singers. He travelled with his road manager who also mixed front of house for him.
The road manger met me early for load in and made sure I understood what I was up against. Our star had spent more time on stage than I had been alive. He was meticulous in how the stage was set and how each performance ran. He had been burned by more monitor guys than anyone could imagine.
I was walking into a death trap.
I had agreed to work a show that carried almost the same horror stories as Cyndi Lauper. Someone notorious for retiring monitor techs. Great.
I treated it like every other gig. I was as professional and courteous as possible. It took a matter of minutes to click with the band. System went together perfectly. Setup went like clockwork. Everyone happy. Great group. Very solid band.
Once our star arrived, the tension set in. He wasn’t rude or barking orders. Just on edge. Wanting perfection, but not really expecting it. Wanting things moved and changed, not sure how he felt about our setup or system. Asking why this was this way and why that was like that.
It took most of soundcheck and rehearsal to get him comfortable. He finally hit a groove and started working the band. It got good then. They were rocking that little arena.
Somewhere in the early stages of that massive feat of diplomacy and technical mastery, someone interrupted me. The video guy, working in another part of the venue came by looking for some adapters. The only video tech on the property. Right. The only one.
I found a box near a pile of road cases and gave it to him. Back to work.
Maybe ten minutes later, the roadies show up digging boxes out and pushing them to a truck. A couple wandered in and watched a few minutes of the soundcheck. Nobody said a word to me. Back to the truck and gone.
A hour and a half after the roadies left, near the end of the rehearsal, the guy who hired me walks in. At the point where I am practically part of the band, eight hours of making this show finally come together, he throws a tantrum.
Right next to the stage. Right in front of our star. The same guy I had been working all day to convince we were going to make this show perfect. He screams in my face.
Apparently, the highly intelligent, liquor motivated roadies arrived at another gig without a certain box of video adapters. Apparently this was a really big deal since their gig was in the middle of nowhere. Not even a radio shack close by. Apparently the whole schedule was wrecked while they figured out how to make that setup work. And… Apparently it was all my fault.
Now. If you are taking notes or looking for some amazing life lesson, good luck. Here’s the break down of all that happened.
I was working as a freelance engineer. Not an employee of that company.
I was hired to setup and tech a fairly large show, on a few days notice.
I built a house and monitor system for a room that would hold about 8000 people.
The system went up fine, the soundcheck was smooth, the star was happy.
The only video guy there needed adapter, I found some and gave them to him. This was another freelance tech, hired by the same crew.
The Einstein gang came by and took a bunch of stuff to another show.
The other show didn’t feature a genius, problem solving tech like mine did. Poor guys.
The owner screams in face and accuses me of costing him a thousand dollars for delaying that show. He threatens and insults me while the entire band, and our star, watch.
The confidence level on stage drops to zero.
So. At this point, I have been working with this crew for five years. I have taken the blame for other guys mistake several times. I have also been yelled at, in front of clients, several times. I have watched this guy yell at other techs multiple time. I have taken it all in stride and dealt with it. I have always managed to stay calm and diffuse the situation. Most days I can diplomatically control whatever is thrown at me.
However, that was not one of those days. I let him have it. I informed him of exactly how I felt about the last five years of stupid crap and how he has handled it. He allows the most useless people to handle critical gear. He allows one show after another to run like the wheels were falling off. He refuses to inventory gear or communicate with anyone. He constantly throws us all under the bus to cover himself. I refused to take the blame for one more stupid mistake.
“Well then, you can just go home!” So I did.
First, I walked another tech to monitor world and went over the show with him. I made sure the show was covered and reassured the band that there was a competent tech on monitors. All was well. Except for my head steaming.
That day cost me two years of freelance work. I lost about 85% of my income from one moment. It was a long silent drive home. Nothing like getting to walk in and tell your wife a story like that. It also cost me my rig. I ended up having to sell off every piece of gear I owned over the next year to keep our house.
We ended up working together again. He is a good guy, fun after work, but really difficult to work with. He was very helpful when we relocated to Florida. I honestly miss working with him
The point? Well, I don’t know if there is a neat little point to this one. We can’t be prepared for everything. Some things happen that are beyond our control. But, that whole scenario took over a year to play out. It cost me a whole lot of money and my personal rig. It was a great example of how critical attitude really is.
If I had kept my cool for ten more minutes, it would have diffused and we would have kept going. My mistake.