Your Sound Check Shouldn’t Last Forever

You want to annoy your fans?  Take forever on the sound check.  It’s funny because in the last four shows I’ve seen the bands that took the longest on the sound check actually sounded the worst.  Most of their vocals were lost in the actual music.  That’s another blog about trusting the sound guy and only making changes if you actually know what you are doing.

This article is more about the audience than the sound.  Many fans don’t want to  give up their spot in the crowd during the sound check.  This means that while you are up there playing with the sound, your fans are sifting foot to foot waiting for you to start.  They’re watching you and often getting impatient if it seems like you are taking too long.  Plus the longer you take the more the energy built up from the previous band evaporates into thin air.  Instead of having a crowd that is pumped and ready to move with the music, you get fans with lactic acid building up in their muscles and yawns escaping to the surface.  Good luck turning that one around.  Not that it can’t be done, but why warm up a crowd, let them get cold, and start from the beginning again?

Recently I saw The Builders and The Butchers following Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets.  Now if you’ve read my thoughts on The Minor Prophets you know they put on a hell of a show.  This sound check took forever!  It was a Sunday night and the crowd while pretty good about the situation was grumbling.  I even heard the word divas thrown out once or twice, which I found pretty funny because they didn’t seem like divas.  Personally I figured that they were perfectionists, because they were on stage and were pretty active in what ever they were doing.  It wasn’t until after the first song that it became obvious that there were sound issues and that what seemed to be an obnoxiously long sound check was really something that needed to be fixed.  Now this obviously wasn’t a band issue, but an audience can only make assumptions without communication.

That communication didn’t come until after the first song when the band realized there was no “boom-boom”.  Now I give them credit because after the first song while they were trying to fix the issue they began to interact with the crowd.  They told a couple of jokes and talked, before deciding to play some songs that didn’t need the “boom-boom”.  This is where they invited Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets up for some spontaneous backup rhythm.  It was indeed a great move.  The crowd was appreciative that the music was continuing and the spontaneous nature of the set created an experience that’s unique.  I have no doubts people talked about this show the next day.

What it was though was a good example of the need for communication.  If you’re going to take forever on a sound check, even if it’s a sound issue, talk to your fans.  Don’t allow the energy to slip from the room.  Build on what’s there.  It doesn’t take much, some stories, random singing, or even a few lame jokes.  Just keep them from getting bored.  They could be home watching TV, but they are not because they want to be entertained, so entertain them at all times, even during the sound check.  It is your first impression so don’t blow it.


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