The kiss of death


That’s how I referred to certain things over the years. The kiss of death. After a few years, you will start to see the patterns.

Working as a hired gun sound guy. Working festivals, rallies, conferences, state fairs or whatever. Band after band, singer after singer. Just taking the goofiness in stride. Trying to finish the day. Someone shows up for their soundcheck and says those magic words.

“Dude. We are going to be the easiest band you ever worked with.”

That’s the kiss of death. That statement tells me that I am facing one of those personalities that just might hand you chocolate covered rat poison. Normally, it told me that they were going to run me ragged with ridiculous demands. They usually have enough professional experience to brag about it, but not enough to actually be professional. You have been warned.

Sometimes, it’s not what they say, it’s what they do. They will walk in and do something ridiculous that tells you they are going to be a pain all night.

One night we were setting up for a legendary artist on a festival show. He had a very talented keyboard player who was in charge of virtually every aspect of his show. He did everything from rehearsing the local backup players to managing the stage setup to aggravating the hired gun techs. He was also late.

After spending several hours setting up the stage and house system to the specs he sent up, I went ahead and rang out the stage monitors for the band and headliner. I had plenty of time…. Since he was late. So, I got that rare opportunity to really dial in the monitors and get them loud and tight. Very proud of myself.

As soon as he shows up, late, he walks over to my EQ rack. Without saying a single word to me, he flattens every EQ in my rack. If I had a baseball bat close by, I would be writing this from a cell. Seriously. I contained most of my anger. I kinda yelled at him. Sorta. I asked him, very loudly, if he also salted his food before he tasted it. He had no answer. He just ran up onstage and went into psycho Igor mode with the band. He was a pain all night.

He was there because he figured that this guy would give a boost to his career. He followed the guy around like a puppy. He was a complete butt kisser to the talent and a jerk to the techs. Sometimes you get that kind. You still have to keep it together and remind yourself of what matters. Collecting the check and avoiding the electric chair. Just smile and stay quiet.

Another kiss of death is the random groupie types that are attracted to anyone wearing a stage pass. Yes, I am serious. The older and fatter got, the more I was hit on and messed with. No, I am not making that up. No idea why. I consider myself equally as attractive as Chewbacca. Maybe less. But, there is trouble out there if you aren’t careful.

I was working a show in Vegas, had a few guys out there working with me. About two days into the run, one of them had a minor tantrum with me. “Man, if we were working with anyone else, we would have hit every strip club here by now.” Sorry. I can’t do it. I was working to provide for my family, not lose them. I was smart enough to understand how fast you can ruin your life on the road.

If you are reading my other blog, you know that I still messed up the family. But, not by cheating on my wife while working unsupervised. I actually made a comment one night that became semi-famous in that group. The guys knew I wasn’t going to cheat on my wife, but they would bait me by pointing out attractive women. “What about that?!? What about that one? Whatcha gonna do when she walks over?”

Head down, hands in your pockets. They repeated that line for years. They didn’t do it, just repeated it. Actually, that advice was also part of my lecture when training the church techs. Not about the ladies, about problems during a show or service.

Picture this, guys. The service is moving along fine. Then, out of nowhere, something starts to rumble or ring. Something is cracking or popping through the system. What do you do? Well. If you have done it long enough to have developed good reflexes and fix things, go ahead. If you know where the problem is, go get it. If you think you know where it is, grab your headphones and make sure. But. If you have no idea what is happening and feel obligated to panic while grabbing every knob on the board, do this. Head down, hands in your pockets.

Take a breath, back away slightly and stick your hands in your pockets. If you start grabbing random knobs and turning them random directions, it will get worse. The odds of a first year church sound volunteer making a quick fix during a panic reaction is about like hitting the lottery. Twice. Without buying a ticket. Stay calm. Find the problem. Fix it.

Pastors. If you are reading this. Don’t expect perfection from a volunteer who also works a full time job. Unless you want to step up and have them trained or at least buy them the right books to read, just be thankful they show up. I demand a certain level of commitment from anyone willing to accept that role. However. I also have certain issues with pastors who don’t do anything but pastor and expect everyone else to put in an extra 10-20 hours at the church every week. Love to see them volunteer that much time somewhere else. Doesn’t happen much.

The overbearing, high pressure pastor who doesn’t care about your personal life or your family is another problem. Trust me, they are out there. Pastors are human. They make mistakes. For the most part, they are people who are just trying to encourage their church to live better and love more. But. There are the dog and pony show types that don’t care about anything except being on that stage and having everyone love them. They will work you to death and put someone else in your seat before it even cools off.

Don’t sacrifice you family or your sanity for this business. Learn to stay calm. Learn your trade. Know what you expect from this work and make it real. You will not find your purpose and meaning in life from a job. That comes from your family and your other relationships. This is just a job. I love this work. I love being a part of it. But, it will make you crazy and destroy your life if you don’t learn to manage it.

Learn to see things that are just going to cause trouble and how to handle them. The bible talks about handling problems. It says that a wise man sees the danger and goes around it, the fool walks into it and gets punished. Play smart. Eventually, of you are paying attention, you know when death is putting on the lipstick.

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