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Day 162 - Travel to Grand Rapids

----- Rare and Heartfelt Special Bulletin ----

For the first time I will break the time smear and actually acknowledge that my blog posts are a bit late. If I could post real time I would but the conflict between enjoying the experiences to blog and blogging absorbing missed experiences is a challenge. Regardless, all of that has nothing to do with the thought I wish to share. Today is Nov 7. Today the humans that have some relation to the land mass and political entity called the USA get to vote. In my mind and in many ways in the big picture I know that my vote most likely wont matter. But that does not matter. What matters is how I feel about my own humanly self. What matters is whether I find myself making excuses of smiling because I did my part, irrelevant or not. Not for me, not for anyone else but you your own inside smiling self, I would like to highly recommend you vote. No excuse, just do it so you earn the validity to complain when things are not they way you feel is right. Do it so you can smile to know you were part of the wave of positive change.

Vote green or vote greed or whatever you wish, but think of how much nicer it will be to look back on today and know that you did.

----- End Rare and Heartfelt Special Bulletin ----

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Digital vs. Analog Mixing Boards

One of the more common questions I get asked by other sound engineers is "Do you prefer digital or analog mixing boards?" Though the answer would seem obvious by my analog choice, what I am really being asked is "why?"

In the sound industry, like many industries, there is a major trend toward digital this and digital that. Many of these digital devices offer such clear advantages over old analog units that sometimes it is tempting to assume that digital is always better in all circumstances. Eventually that may be more universally true. New digital sound boards are smaller, cheaper, offer tremendous control and save money in shipping around the world over their analog counterparts. Many sound engineers are left no option than to switch for financial reasons and even more engineers embrace the new boards like a new toy, a shiny new laptop or a new car.

I have actually put a good amount of thought into justifying my preference. I can feel that I prefer the 'hands on' analog approach instinctively but is that just a familiarity or that I lack the will to find comfort in the digi world control surface? Though those are factors, learning new things thrills me and mastering control over the things I desire is a challenge I love to embrace. So I decided to weed my way through the various assets and detriments of both console types while stepping clearly around the 'sound quality opinion debate,' as that is unsolvable. What I came up with was an analogy, because it seemed fitting to 'analogize' analog and I love analogies like I love all the parallels in life that seem to lend credibility through repetition. Sooo...

I have realized that I want to mix the rock show like a I drive a motorcycle. I like to see what is going on and have access quickly to all the things I desire. I would feel very uncomfortable having to call up a separate menu's to access the throttle and another screen click to steer and yet another to use the brakes. Let alone clicking on a separate window to see out of each rear view mirror, speedometer, fuel etc...

And each rock show is like a motorcycle ride and though the same destination is the goal, the route can vary and road conditions are never the same, nor traffic and the experience of the unexpected is fulfilled in some manner, every time. A well designed motor bike offers visuals and control over everything instantly with minimal body motion and the ability to access what I please effortlessly. I want my sound mix position to be the same. My sound world is set up in such a way that I can sweep glance from side to side and gather all the information I need without touching anything. It is that instantaneous summary that allows me to relax and enjoy the ride while doing my best to steer this giant powerful motor bike, following the map they call setlist, down the road we call rock show.

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

And speaking of driving and analog control, check out the control surface that operates this Semi-Truck. The red and black thing is a shock mounted seat where the human sits and gets to hold the wheel that turns. Digital screens have yet to replace the older analog windshield method and the driver actually looks through a piece of glass at the road he or she is traveling on.

Turning around we can see truck driver Chris sitting on his analog bed. These mini hotel rooms are decked out. Microwave, stereo, DVD player, fridge, Homer, scary skulls and pretty much everything a human would need to live the gypsy life, in style.

The wondering when Harley Davidson will bring out a digital motorcycle,

Dave Rat

Day 161 - Cleveland - Halloween! Special!

Finding a suitable Halloween costume worthy of being worn at a rock show while out on tour presents some interesting challenges. Things like rubber masks are not only uncomfortable but the fact that they often inhibit hearing or reduce the ability to see clearly make them less than optimum. Furthermore, mobility, safety and other factors are key need to take into consideration. Finally, the effort required to assemble an interesting, unique and acceptable costume can be quite prohibitive while traveling on a rock and roll tour. Fortunately, during a pow wow discussing the optimum costume, Scott came up with an excellent and quite feasible idea of becoming The FOH Swim Team. So while Leif and Nick the Fly were setting up the gear and unaware of the plan, Scott and I went shopping.

After the four of us cautiously got dressed in the back lounge we headed out of the bus walking only in a single file line and adding in an occasional light jog. First stop, the dressing room and with a referee whistle blow we started our loosely choreographed callisthenics routine for the band and then off to do a few photo shoots:

Next order of business was a lap around the venue backstage and a lap through the audience area before settling in at FOH to do our job of presenting the sights and sounds of the rock show. Judging by the reaction we received it became quite clear that swimmers are very popular in Cleveland. Who would have guessed?

Setting the equipment up properly is crucial:

As it turns out we all agreed that we were quite fortunate that no one else came up with same idea. How embarrassed would we have been if there was a Mars Volta swim team? But as you can see, we lucked out.

We were not the only ones dressing up. Have you ever heard anyone say Chad looks like Will Ferrel? Well, I just don't see the resemblance but whatever.

And I don't have pic but Chris Warren dressed up as Chad.

Oh, I got a shot of Flea the flying witch, zooming around while playing Bass.

And in order for Flea to Fly. The system had to be rigged. Here you can see test subject Casey preparing to be the guinea pig. Casey, by the way is a way cool Lampi that is on the Mars Volta payroll. As I was doing research into the R.A.W. though, there was a unanimous request to include Casey in the Peppers crew. Turns out that Casey has been so helpful during load in's and load out's that he actually is depended on as an active member of the Peppers crew. Please welcome Casey, the flying test witch:

If all that was not enough excitement for one day, check this out. Higher Ground has migrated back into the set list and it was amazing! I have always liked the song but forgot how much energy it created when they play it.

And to bring the evening to a close, after a long day comes the hard work of load out. For today's sign off I will leave you with one last glance at Nick the Fly going above and beyond the call of duty, much to the local crew's dismay.

The hoping I have not traumatized anyone with the pics,

Dave Rat