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Day 129 - Ottawa Show Day

Today I set up office in the luxurious 'crew' room. The crew room is the prestigious name given to the allocated space that our friends in Production reward to the other fifty or so roadies in the herd to utilize amenities like a land line phone and internet access. Here you can often find roadies relaxing, chatting, catching up on business and connecting with far away loved ones. It is the coveted escape spot where for roadies to find peace and happiness. The crew room is also the definition of the appreciation and respect for the roadies that make the show happen. Come join me for a peek inside:

Here you can see that this crew room is set up for multiple 'one's' of roadies. This multi faceted shangri-la provides for up to 4 roadies to sit simultaneously while also providing standing zones for four more. No roadie finds boredom here in this virtual playground. While two roadies sit, one can talk intimately with their far away lover as the other uses the internet just inches away. Add in the added bonus that the two other seated roadies can simultaneously be creating 'butt babies' and filling the room with the essences of intestinally processed catering meals from days gone by. That is not all! The standing roadies are pleasantly obliged to fill the already full air with the calming sound of tiny waterfalls.

This is the part of tour that makes it all worth while! Not only did I get a very small amount of work done, I also got plenty of exercise while doing wind sprints for "fresh air" breaks.

Later and much less enjoyable, of course, is harassing Scott the Lampi.

Several of these recent Canadian hockey arenas are very tall and square-ish. Though the shows have been solid and fun, they are a bit less than optimum acoustically. Oh, ice. Guess what! Hockey arenas have ice under the floor during hockey season. In Canada I think it is always hockey season. Makes your feet ache after walking on it all day. Strange situation thermally but not uncommon. Next time you go to a rock show, take a peek and you may be surprised to see that the floor is plastic or wood cover plates over ice.

The looking forward to going home,

Dave Rat


Day 128 - Montreal

Today is a Mars Volta special feature day!

**** Dave Rat Meets Mars Special ****

Several years ago I was at the Troubadour in Hollywood mixing a John Fruciante solo show. Opening for a band called "At the Drive In." All I remember beyond John's performance was these two skinny little guys with crazy huge hair.

A chunk of time passes....

And answering a ringing phone brings a query as to whether I would be willing to mix a band next week, a showcase. I don't do it often and when I do, it is only for certain people or favors or friends. It is not a money thing, it is an enjoyment and happiness thing. Mixing a new band I have never seen in a small club is a treacherous endeavor with much opportunity to have less people like me after the show than before. Lots of things can go wrong and without high end audio gear to depend on, it really can easily go pear shaped if I am not extremely careful. Two days later The Tremulant EP arrives Fedex to the Rat Shop.

The Tremulant EP then entered my car cd player where it resided on continuous repeat as clutched the steering wheel driving too fast and full blast for the next three days. I agree to mix the band The Mars Volta. Whomever they are, they rock.

"Hello hello, my name is Dave Rat and I am looking for some Mars Volta's" In a happy and somewhat sarcastic announcement as I enter the Troubadour, day of show. Holly shit, it's those crazy looking guys with big hair! "Hey, I know you, I saw you here last time I was here for John's solo gig" and I feel a better that I actually have a thread of familiarity with the band I am about to mix. Omar then asked me if I know anything about guitar cabinets as his was sounding funny. With a big smile I like him already, and let us take a look and see what the issue is. A screw gun from my car and a bit of wiring later we are all good and ready to rock.

"My name is Jeremy, do you want me on stage or up here in the sound booth?" That's right, I remember now, at some point I was told the band has a dedicated human that does nothing but vocal effects. "Jeremy, where would you rather be?" I ask as I ponder the advantages of both scenarios. "Up here with you" he says and so it's decided, Jeremy and I will hang together and we unravel the best way to make that happen.

Mixing The Mars Volta in that little club was euphoric, Jeremy next to me buried in headphones with a mind boggling array of effects dedicated and locked into creating insane vocal effects that showed up as another instrument for me to blend into the sound. Absolutely magic!

I have mixed them a few times since, including a Coachella show and a short trip to South America a few years back. Part of my heart still hurts that I could not continue on as their sound engineer as they grew and toured but that does not change the fact that the bond and friendship built, carries on as strong as ever.

Jeremy died. Mind crushing sad. A magical part of their musical equation passed with him. Not to be replaced as reliving the past is a waste of time. A memory both sweet and tragic from which to launch forward. The Mars Volta is magic music of sensation and emotion.

Today I sat in the front row and bring you glimpses of TMV:






Do you recognize this now white mic?

Shaun, Mars' monitor engineer, has taken the microphone mod to a whole new level, now white with custom white mic cord and some internal retrofits to improve upon the initial creation, it is now one of four that have become the standard for Cedric.

**** End Mars Special ****

And for a final smile, here are JF and AK pics. Sorry about Flea and Chad, will grab them soon enough.

The sentimental

Dave Rat


Day 127 - Sept 27 - Travel to Montreal

Hmmm, My plane ride home  is Flight #25, American Airlines from Boston to LA at the end of this trip. Why does that sound so damn familiar and why does it give me the chills?

Payback is a bitch and today I lay in payday. Locked in my hotel room I play catch up. A normal day for me has been averaging 100 plus non spam emails and it does not take much of a distraction to leave me drowning. Rock shows blog world, food, sleep, Rat Sound and adventures of life and happiness occupy the rest of my time and every so often I have to lock down and dig out. Today is that day. Fifteen hours straight with a 1/2 hour break for room service and a shower and double digit email counts. I remember pretty well what Montreal looks like from last time I was here anyway.

Not one to want to deny you at least some sort of adventure please join me for

**** Fairy Tale Time! ****

Once upon a time, long long ago gathered many friends from near and far to journey on an aero plane:

to a land far far away. Where upon they mount the grand yellow stallion:

Through the tundra they gallantly gallop

hundreds and hundred of feet from whence the stallion was greeted

where the posh and luxurious dwellings in which we will reside to rest our weary souls:

The valiant knights of infinite bravery

prepare to embrace the musical festivities of the Violet Femmes

and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

in the warm and inviting landscape that inspires roadies to frolic:

on our journey to the North Pole.

The end.

**** End Fairy Tale ****

The nostalgic

Dave Rat


Day 125, 126 - Toronto Show Days #1 and #2

The Toronto shows, all good! I am currently immersed in researching the effects of temperature and humidity on sound of rock shows. And the strange coincidence, though unrelated, that the Toronto shows varied from too cold to an over compensated too hot is a perfect opportunity to share.

In the not to distant future the sound nerd speak below will evolve into a bit more technical article for a sound magazine. In the mean time, here is a sneak peak at my most recent mind binge into the concepts of sound.

**** Sound Nerd Speak Special ****

It's getting hot in here so let's take ............

The Thermodynamics of a Rock Show

into consideration.

Ambiance, environment, connection. I have mixed sub freezing rock shows and insanely hot ones. The effects of temperature and humidity upon the audience's perception of the event, can be dramatic. Beyond the human experience of intensity, comfort or sweaty overload, the thermodynamics of a rock show have a surprisingly complexly and interesting effect on the actual sound we hear.

The technical side of understanding the sophisticated concepts of the what 'hot and humid' does to the sound cruising around inside a venue would require a big pile brain hurting thinking, (my job) but for now, I will spare you that part. Instead, I will divide the mess up into three somewhat simple adventures that the those sound waves get to journey through.

1) Muggy and Struggling. When it is humid, all those little waters in the air like to absorb the high notes. The really strange thing is that a little humidity is makes the sound very dull but a lot of humidity only makes it moderately dull. This 'humidity absorption of sound' issue is a major factor in causing the sound to be muddy sounding up in the nose bleed seats. Achieving zero humidity is tough except in the desert or sub freezing gigs, so going the other way is best. Having the venue above 40% humidity is all good!

2) Skipping and Jumping. Have you ever gone to a lake and skipped flat stones across the water's surface? It is all about velocity and angle of incidence. Too slow of a throw and under the water the rock goes. Too steep of an angle and the rock dives in the drink as well. Well, our 'rock' funny enough does a similar thing! And though our 'rock' is music, the sound waves actually will and do reflect/refract/deflect, off of thermal/humidity layers. Where do we get a thermal layer in a rock show you ponder? Aside from the thermal underwear layer, how about 15,000 happy dancing heater humans often take it upon themselves to form that steamy pool of warmth. Velocity and angle of incidence. Sound already has the velocity part built into it and travels at around 1200 feet per second. So that means 'angle of incidence' becomes our focus.

The mantra "We will fly the PA, we will fly it every day!" To be sung with the emphasis on the the words "fly."

Flying the PA means hanging it from the ceiling versus the not so great alternative of stacking the sound system on a riser. The two main reasons to fly are; firstly it helps with sight lines (PA between audience eyes and band = bad) and secondly it improves the 'angle of incidence' that the sound hits the listeners, to a steeper angle. Unlike throwing rocks skipping across a lake though, we do not want our sonic rock to skip over the heads of our heater humans. By hanging the PA way up high it improves the ability for the sound to penetrate the thermal layer and reach the desiring ears below.

3) Wet and Fast. So hopefully all that was not too complex. Now the clincher is that sound does not always travel at the same speed. Hotter air = faster sound, increase humidity = faster sound, lower altitude = faster sound. That means a rock show on the beach in the equatorial humidity and heat of Costa Rica is going to have some fast sound. Especially compared to a sub-zero temperature, zero % humidity of rock show on the slopes of a ski resort. In the real world rock show venues sound only changes speed about 8 % or so from one extreme gig to the other. For direct sound from the speakers to your ears, the sound's speed does not really matter much. It is when the direct sound combines with indirect sound that has bounced off of a wall or the roof, that we run into issues. In the cold room with slow sound, two particular sound waves may combine together in a positive way (in phase) adding together and increasing the volume at that frequency. In the hotter faster sound traveling room, the indirect sound which travels a longer distance, shaves more time off its journey than the direct sound does and the waves will combine differently possibly now in a negative way (out of phase) reducing volume.

All in all what this all means is that no matter how long we sound check and how much we measure an empty room, the sound of the rock show is ultimately determined by many constantly changing factors that often change the sound completely. Some factors we can control, some we can not. How many people? How active will they be? What clothing will they wear? 10,000 skin heads you say, yikes reflective heads! Heating vs AC inside the venue? And on and on they all intertwine to create each day, a unique sonic landscape. It is that uniqueness, that interaction between so many aspects of the audience, venue and band that one more thing to make every live rock show truly unique and hopefully magically memorable experience.

What it also means is that warmer and humid environments tend to be more acoustically stable than chilly ones. Cold is drafty, sterile and often crisp and edgy sounding. The hot liquid atmosphere of a muggy rock show not only speeds up the sound, it also seems to enhance that connection between the performers and those immersed in the performance.

Ohhh an I love that delicious excitement of that first note, the tones, the balances the volume and the intensity of when the band first walks on stage. One of the biggest challenges any sound engineer faces is to have the sound come up clear balanced and correct at show time.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak Special

Today was study day, so no pics for you but I will saturate you in them soon enough.

The immersed in thought,

Dave Rat


Day 124 - Travel to Toronto

I promised seemingly ages ago, that there would be a test on the material, well I hope you have been studying as today is that day. Though I know many have taken it already, it is important that we are all up to speed.

Take the Audio Quiz

Here are the strict rules:

Go to this link here, take the quiz, see what you get, post your results and let me know what you think!

And I hear by with the power vested in me, dub all that pass the test, Advanced Roadie Status.

Professor Dave Rat


Day 123 - Baltimore - Virgin Festival - Show Day

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Being the curious roadie I am, I did a bit of research on the subwoofers (subs) and their curious setup. For the super sound nerds out there you can read more here:

For the rest of you that would rather have me smooth over and summarize, basically what they are doing with the backwards speakers are trying to cancel out the sound behind the subs. On paper it looks good and there are some good parts to the idea though attractiveness is surely not one of them. Loud they were but more like the boom boom of an over-stereo-ed low-rider car than the smooth soothing sound I seek. These subs really liked to reproduce some of the notes Flea played and did not like to reproduce other notes so much. For any of y'all there, you may have even heard me take a small sound slapfrom AK for over subwoofering them stage. Getting lots of nice low end to my pals in the crowd without blurring the vision of my other pals on stage is a tricky trick indeed. But hey, it was all good enough to make for great show.

OK, now back to the important stuff like being a pirate!

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Arghhh, me boat awaits me:

Arghh, me first mate Nick the Fly and I feasting tasty ice treats, arghh:

I watched the Killers:

Gnarls Barkley and our friend Josh is in the band!

And the highlight was seeing The Who for the second time in my life. It made so happy thoroughly enjoyed it as did all the rest of band and crew, guitar arm windmills, little steps and microphone acrobatics mixed with hit after hit made their show pure fun!

And of course, closing the evening once again in the strangest string of coincidences was surprisingly my favorite band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, hurray!


And hurray for happy surprises and super heroes!


Dave Rat


Day 122 - Baltimore - Set Up Day

Upon arrival last night my phone informs me that the hotel has been changed. Turns out that after the fairly grueling flight, the hotel was filthy and in disrepair enough to inspire relocating. My phone also informed me that there is a crew dinner and I should head over. So off I headed, travel bag in tow

The place is a famous steak house and in the photo you may notice that everyone is looking in Dave Lee's direction. This is because he is about to be served that largest cut of prime rib that anyone had ever seen.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Walking into a pre set venue brings with it a bit of anticipation. By pre set, I mean one where myself or the crew I tour with is not in total control. First order of business is a quick wander to determine what my challenges will most likely be. Mental notes of anything out of the ordinary. Today it all looks solid, plenty of gear and a curiosity. As you can see from the photo below, there are six twelve foot high tower like stacks of speakers in front of the stage. Furthermore, the middle speakers are facing backwards. Hmmm.

D & B subs, never used them that I know of before, been interested in hearing them though it also appears that much to the dismay of lampi roadie Scott, we will to do a lot of seeing them as well.

So today we do a setup and the backline roadies will rock out their preferred roadie jam of "Give It Away" for a change, again. Hurray for V-Dosc PA, though I already miss the dual system, it is all good, I know several of the crew and I feel confident. As far as the subs, not sure yet, wow are they loud but not sure if they are the right loud. Will find out soon enough though. In the mean time......

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ever wonder where all the power comes from at a big outdoor festival? More often than not, generators. Kind of like those stupid little things that rubbed on your bike tire to power your headlight. I hated those things. Huge generators and like the bike version, they make electricity by spinning a something kind of like a super giant tire rubbing device. Big diesel engines built into truck trailers and if you follow just about any wire long enough, sooner or later you will end up standing next to one of these things. Here I have located the end of all wires. One would think that this would roadie gathering area with their well known affinity for wires and all. But nope, turns out that power central is a lonely place with not a roadie in sight.

Ooooooo, look at all those wires. Thump thump thump goes the roadie heart.

The dreaming of wires

Dave Rat


Day 121 - Sept 21- Fly to Baltimore - Day off

**** The Old Roadie Lap Story Continues ****

With the van now conveniently parked two feet from where is was before and the battery clearly still dead, time has folded back on itself as we enter a deja vu This time though the air of frustration has boiled and flared in Kira's direction. I do not recall what exactly was said but I remember things not so nice before the amazing Kira once again set out on a journey. The peanut gallery commentary of impending death is now thankfully muted in embarrassment and with the confidence that we will live strong again, the whole ordeal had dropped back into merely misery.

And just as before, Kira disdained upon leaving and heroic upon return, shows up with two the brothers and a pick up truck. Whether it was their desire to do something else that evening besides drive back and forth jump starting my van or sympathy for the stranded punker sardines, this this time they attached a rope and pulled us to their home a quarter mile or so, away.

While the van was towed into their barn for battery charging, a pile of greasy punkers unwrapped and loaded into the cozy Christmas living room of this family's house for some milk and cookies. Warm, finally warm. Magical humans, happiness, trading stories. Pure open human kindness and as a gift of gratuity, they were given a pile of Black Flag tour swag. I still can smile at the awkward moment of decision while pondering whether gifting bright red t-shirts and stickers depicting a nun with her arm around a naked male leg and the words "Slip It In," was going to be properly appreciated by the family that saved us, on Christmas eve day.

**** End Old Roadie Lap Story - The Frozen Van ****

I did not leave my hotel room till noon and that was just to get coffee. The five am lobby call occurred some 2 hours after I finally got to bed after an adventurous and as you may have noticed, fairly rare, night on the town. A night out with friends and hanging and talking. I guess it is kind of like nearly every other night out here except it was not at a rock show and not on a tour bus. Anyway, in a last minute epiphany, I inquired if there was a spare seat on the band's chartered jet. Though I did feel a wave of guilt abandoning my comrade roadies, it was too tempting to resist. Of all the ways to travel, I must say that this is high on the list. On this tour, the band party has mostly traveled by bus/commercial air but with the awkwardness of the fly schedule the crew is currently experiencing, the chartered jet makes sense. Those hopefully these planes are not what we will be flying:

And though very fast, I think the fact that this jet would have to make several trips makes it an unlikely contender, though the missiles I guess could come in handy:

but further on down the road was this baby. As seen in this post flight photo you can check out the modern day flying van that made for a much more pleasant cross Canada trip than the old days:

The enjoying alternate travel methods,

Dave Rat