While driving the other day, I started thinking about a question I was once asked. "What's your favorite place to be when you're on stage?" I answered pretty quickly at the time, but the truth is I'm really not sure. If you're a performer and you've fallen in love with what happens on stage, you know what I mean. Every stage is different, but there's something about 'your' little spot. The place you feel most comfortable when the lights come up. In that last few seconds before the first note, at the peak of the adrenaline rush before all hell breaks loose. And even more so when things aren't going well, and you're looking for the strength to not run off the stage.   Ren Baker

The 4Cs of Sound Reinforcement

Tool List for the Well Equipped Live Event Production Technician

Tips for Writing a Proposal for
Production Services - with Example

When the Lights Come Up...

My stage experience has been varied throughout the past 20-some years. I've been playing in bands since I was about 12, in bars since about 14. Although I mess around with other instruments, drums have always been what I'm most comfortable with, and it's the only instrument anyone else has ever really heard me play. While I'll always say that the rhythm section of the band is the most important part, I'd also say that the spotlight belongs somewhere else. But nothing moves a crowd like Kick, Snare, Hat and the thump of a dropped-D bass-line crammed into a 50kW house PA. Nothing is more exciting and endorphin inducing that slamming my kick pedal with the subs pumping, the entire stage shaking with every kick, and when I hit the snare—it hits every member of the audience right in the chest—shaking their very foundation, threatening to rip their head off. that release of all the stuff they've had to put up with all week. somehow, my drumstick can make their pain go away, even if it's just for a couple hours.

Every person has their own way with the stage at one point or another, and for me I'd rather hide behind my drum kit when I'm playing music. So I guess that means that the introvert in me comes out on stage or I'm just not comfortable with my playing. But in my other life I also do a lot of public speaking and presentations, and in those scenarios, I'm uncomfortable sharing the stage with anyone else—it always feels like someone's interrupting my flow, throwing me off, losing the audience. So whenever it's anything except music, I want to be (expect to be, have to be) downstage center.

Then there's the other aspect—production. I fell in love with the job of chief sound engineer 15 years ago, and have always viewed the role of FOH mixer and/or producer as one that's the single most important (and stressful) job at the show. When the guy/gal behind the console does their job right, nobody notices. When they screw it up - everyone notices. On top of that, there's 1,000 things going on that are outside your control, a million things that could go wrong, and a whole lot of people with their own opinions on how it 'should sound.' (My favorite war story on that one is the guy that said - "give me some more sparkle, and the bass woofers are too loud.") I view this job very differently than most. It's a job with a lot of responsibility—to bring the artist's performance to the audience in a way that truly projects the emotion of the performance. It's not just about making stuff louder. That's easy. The true FOH mixer is to the performer what the performer is to the songwriter. Great songs are only great when they are performed by great performers. Great performers are only truly heard when they're mixed by great mixers. Most great musical talents know and appreciate this point.

As a drummer, I've played everything from jazz to country, thrash to r & b. As an engineer, I've mixed everything from classical to rap, from deathmetal to theater. I've had great nights and awful nights, and I've met some of the best and worst people ever through music. Famous, not-so-famous, and soon-to-be famous. Met some that I hope are never famous, others that already are and I wish they hadn't disappointed me. Every one of them finds something in and on the stage that draws them there, beckoning and pulling them back to drink from the well.

So some days, my favorite place is upstage, center, and hiding behind painted wood and metal, hitting stuff with sticks and getting all the aggression out. Putting everything I have in me into the music so that the audience feels what I feel— the release, the energy, the way each part of the music brings an ultimately true emotional expression out—free to be interpreted in any way the listener chooses. Other days, my favorite place needs not be blocked, needs no introduction, no spotlight, no monitors, and no curtain. It's behind the console, taking every expression that happens on stage and reproducing it with every emotional nuance, every breath of every instrument and bringing it to every ear—with perfect representation of the sound's true meaning.

So—what's your favorite place to be when you're "on stage," giving them everything?
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