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Day 5 - Barcelona - Assimilation

Long day. Gear is in and mostly up and running, a few patches and gremlins left to deal with but it is getting close.


Two PA systems! Dual left and dual right clusters for the mains plus dual side hangs as well. Typically, two sound systems covering the same area is a bad idea. Multiple sound sources in close proximity reproducing the same signal creates comb filtering (bad stuff). One of the big advantages of using a line array system, in the first place, is not having multiple horizontal sources in close proximity and practically eliminating that issue. But I do not have to worry about that, I wont have comb filter issues.

End SoundNerdSpeak

The concept is that there will be two sound systems and each will reproduce different instruments. There is an "outer" and an "inner" system with both covering the same acoustic space. I am currently running about eight feet between the clusters on each side. Additionally, the distance between the clusters will allow me to alter the acoustic source of any instrument or vocal by sliding it from one system to the other. The idea of sliding acoustic source came to me while watching Green Day at Staples Center.

The lights looked awesome, new angles, new looks for every song. The video was clear and looks kept changing and video came from various screens. The pyro jumped from new places each time with impact and surprise and the sound was excellent and song after song, that great sound pounded from the exact same unseen location behind the scrim. I started thinking that all the other crafts have developed motion, surprise, changing source location yet “sound” is still tethered to the 40 year old "stereo" paradigm. Why don’t our speakers move? Why not have the sound come from closer to the band for intimate acoustic songs and explode to bigger, wider speakers for powerful songs?

It is kind of depressing. I live in a world of sound and while all the other show production entities bask in the excitement of diversity, I am relegated to pump what ever I wish through the exact same portals. I have no depth; I can only emulate depth through the use of effects that simulate depth that I jam through my fixed points of sound.

What if sound sources moved during the show? Lights do. Video walls do. Why not sound? While they focus on impact, beauty and intensity; Sound remains trapped in the Grail quest of acoustic perfection in crap acoustics environments.To make matters worse, 'sound' has done a good job of evolving into the budgetary black sheep of the tour production family but it’s only due own our own lack of creativity and presentation.

Video humans make show reels to demonstrate their skills and sell their concepts. Lighting humans make mock ups and beautiful 3D cad drawings to show their ideas and ‘looks.’ Sound, well hmmm, how many speakers do we need to cover the room? Only to have them cut down for budget reasons, rigging weights or truck space. How absurd is it that in an industry built on selling music that sound is so low on the totem pole. How absurd is it that so few rock shows truly sound amazing?

Ok, end of rant, time for bed.

Dave Rat


Day 4 - Barcelona - Load In

My first 'call sheet' appeared under my door last night. Forty six humans listed plus Scott and Grier. First call time is 6:30 am, I am listed at 11:30am. The Rat sound crew on this tour consists of three system techs (Lee the crew chief, Manny and Neil), Nick the Fly as FOH tech and Daniel as monitor tech. The five of them are responsible for keeping this beast of a PA system set up on time and in the right spots, loaded out fast and running smooth. On monitors we have Mark with and at front of house, hey, it's me! Mark and I are the ones who pretty much spend the tour breaking the things that the techs try and keep running. Seven humans dedicated to noise.

Lobby call is now a 1/2 hour away, must find coffee.

Here are some pics of production coming together.

The Mess

They call these The Spines:

Dave Rat


Day 3 - Barcelona - Acclimation

Jet Lag

The bed-glue sensation that comes with jet lag is not like any other form of exhaustion. Heavy bloodless limbs sinking into the bed, head stuffed with molasses drenched cotton balls. Thick dreary mud.

It's puzzling to think about how the body knows, its not dehydration, must of drank 6 bottles of water, no alcohol in weeks. I don't take drugs, rarely even aspirin and no go on the sleep aids. I maintained my eating pattern so the only thing I can think of is the sedentary process of over-sitting or the air pressure changes of flight does something screwy to my body. In any case, going to try and break out of the muck and do some swimming. No desire to play jet lag games.

**** Highlight of the Day - The Beach ****

Back from the beach with Scott and his wife Anna and it was awesome!. Reluctantly agreed to a 5 Euro massage from one of many people offering various things in the sun. Talk about amazing! Who would of knew, it ended up being 45 minutes of bliss for 20 Euro. This rules!

**** Issue of the Day - Ear Molds ****

We have a new monitor engineer on this run (9th in as many years) and with the change came a rush order for In Ear molds to match the band's type. These things are little speakers like the ones that come with an iPod except they are custom fit to each human. It would not be good to start a tour with a mon engineer that has unmatched molds, shipping Fed Ex to Europe risks unacceptable import/customs delays.

The Sound System

The PA for this tour is really cool! And I sure hope it all works as planned. Like the last Peppers tour I will be using a V-Dosc system again but this time it will be quite unique. Last November I was in Mexico on the most dreamy holiday when the email came. There is to be a phone conference ASAP with Peter (Band Management), Bill (Production Manager), Grier (Video and Set Designer) and myself to discuss the plans and concepts for the upcoming tour. It must be special, new and fresh, Peter asked us all "what can be done to push production to the next level and and make this tour extraordinary?".

Like a dream come true, to design a sound system that is new and exciting, I told him I would work on my part of the equation. It needs to be something that sounds great and is not a one-shot-wonder effect. Quadraphonic is too limited and only applies to audience within the quad coverage field plus it pulls focus away from the stage. I want something that benefits all that attend. The band changes their set every night so having a 'song based effect' would not apply either. Furthermore, Peppers' free form spontaneity requires a high level of flexibility.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

The idea that evolved was based on knowledge I acquired designing the MicroWedge monitors. I had done quite a bit of research and was able to recreate and prove that speaker have reduced clarity as you increase the complexity of the signal sent to them. It is fairly easy to demonstrate, just listen to a vocal mic through two speakers at a mid to high volume and then add in a 50 hz tone at high volume. It blurs the vocals. Now use two speakers with the vocal in one and the tone in the other and the vocal will stay clear. There are several issues but I believe the main one has to do with the speaker efficiency while the voice coil is centered in the gap. The speaker is less efficient when the voice coil is at its extremes, the 50 hz tone reduces the time that the voice coil is centered. Some monitor engineers run separate instrument and vocal wedges for this reason. What if I applied that setup on a grand scale? Two PA's!

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

Here are some pics from our production days at the Forum in LA


We are also doing some cool stuff with the subs and I will cover that on another day.

Also it is very important to notice the blow up doll that they use to focus lights.

Dave Rat

Day 2 1/2 - Barcelona - The Gathering

The Gathering is like animal critters arriving at the watering hole. Waves of familiar and soon to be familiar humans flood the hotel as each arriving flight dumps off new ones. Production is first to arrive. I sat next to Big Daddy, whom I met 20 years ago. We had a blast catching up on old times and Danzig/Soundgarden tour in 1990 we did together and it remains a constant source of funny stories. Who would have known that Danzig's body guard, Jessie James, would end up on TV married to Sandra Bollock!

I find 'our people' just wandering the street, searching for food or beer or just wandering then clustering and wandering some more. It is our new stomping ground. Lighting, riggers, sound and tomorrow we get backline techs. When all is said and done, there will be 50 or so crew from across the globe all here for a common goal. To build us a killer rock show!

Barcelona seems to have an amazingly high quantity of street artists that stand really still and each has some unique presentation, some are better than others.

These guys ride bikes with their skeleton friends

and some cowboys

and my favorite was just too realistic to even describe

  I almost failed the jet lag battle and passed out, fortunately to be saved by a phone call. Never nap on a trans-euro flight landing day. Stay awake till after midnight at least, or you will pay the price for many days.

Let's see, I am 43, we tour this year, we tour next year, if past experience is an indicator, I will be 45 when the tour ends and my daughters will be 12. Hmmm, that is kind of scary. Yikes!

This where I fall into "why am I here mode." Well, it's not out of need, Rat world is doing well and the challenges there keep me happy and financially stable enough. More cities? I have seen enough, I have a back log list of places I want to revisit, when I am not working, too long to ever fulfill. Ultimately the answer of whether the adventure is worth the sacrifice will unravel itself with my personal happiness as the barometer.

I do know that these are 'my people.' I feel a welcome-ness and depth of belonging that I experience in no other group of humans. At home, I enjoy a relatively solitary existence. Family, a few friends I see on occasion, peaceful, focused and wrapped in projects that I seek out to solve. But here I feel like I glow. I know this world. Strangely familiar cities and wires and knobs and endless streams of puzzles that appear in the form of broken things need fixing. The creation of sonic landscapes. This is the forest I know like the back of my hand and these are my people.

Dave Rat

Day 2 - Over Atlantic Ocean - Aeroplane

I wake up out of a jet fly haze to the sound of an upset voice. Something about a missing wallet. All her money, passport, credit cards in said wallet have disappeared on the plane, while flying! Yikes, talk about a bummer. To make matters worse, immigration was on the jet way and she was trapped in the nether world. Not allowed into the country and yet has to leave the plane, flying alone on business, ouch. Just before security I turned around went back and handed her a fifty English pound note (about $90 us dollars). She told me thank you but she was ok, they will surely give her some $. I insisted she take it and gave her my email address as she promised to pay it back. I received an email the next day that she had ended up needing the $ for a cab to the hotel after all. Who would have guessed it was a bank holiday and they cleared her into the country but gave her nothing.

They found her wallet on the plane sometime later, money was gone. I lose enough things in my travels, where having some credits in the "help me out department" can't be bad. That was at the plane change in Paris.

Starting up a major tour is kind of a big deal. Having already completed 3 weeks of Euro promotional dates doing TV, radio and small gigs. In the US there was Saturday Night Live

some small shows, a NASCAR event

and some web broadcasts.

Crunching a band of this caliber into small and awkward venues

is quite the challenge and can be frustrating. Doing the real deal with 13 trucks, full sized stages, proper loading areas and all our gear will actually be easier in many ways once the initial dust settles.

Sound, lights, video, rigging, barricade, catering, busses, trucks, dressing room and accounting departments all get to meet each other and figure out how to interface safely and efficiently. It pretty mind boggling to see it all come together. The time has come for The Gathering.

The order of business is #1 -Communication, #2 - Battle Jet Lag, #3 - Keep Battling Jet Lag.

Communication with the Homeland. Intentional communication with the Homeland, not the in advertant communication with Homeland Security that I guess is a given at this point. So, the plan is to buy a local SIM card for my spare unlocked GSM cell phone, in each country. I will then give out my Skype #, which is a Los Angeles 213 # to all that need to reach me. As I arrive in each country, I set Skype to forward to my cell/SIM card # for that country. The end result is; one phone #, worldwide, that rings on my spare cell phone. Since all the phones over here are free incoming minutes if you use them in their own country and the Skype forwarding charges are relatively low, I now can be reached easily and inexpensively via a single US phone # worldwide and I can monitor the costs by watching the Skype account charges. Sure beats the $1 a minute they charge to use my US cell overseas.  For outgoing calls, I will use Skype in my hotel room for long chats. The cool thing to do there is get a blue tooth ear piece so you are not attached to the computer when you talk.

Dave Rat

Day 1 - Boston - Fly Away

I feel like the luckiest human alive!

I am dropping my twin daughters off with their mom in Boston. She does monitors for Pearl Jam and will have the girls out with her for the next 11 days while I head overseas with Chili Peppers. Pearl Jam are magic people, I feel like they are my extended family and the rush of quick catching up since I saw them not 3 weeks ago in New York is wonderful. The whole camp, band, crew, management, the music, all is magic! Oh, and to make things even more heart warming, they play their song "Rats" during sound check.

PJ PA System, Boston

Don't know if it was a coincidence or intentional but it makes me happy either way. I remember that day that we got a call at the Rat Shop from Pearl Jam for a graphic of our Rat Sticker. We had no idea it would end up in the CD sleeve next to a song, Rats.

Tears hurt. The euphoria of seeing Pearl Jam family comes crashing down as my daughter Samantha's eyes well up with tears and she clamp hugs me with all her might, pleading me not to go. It hurts a lot and her sister Maddie holds strong but I can see and feel her swallowing the sadness I miss them already. It hurts and I don't feel lucky anymore.

Forever cab to airport.

Dave Rat

Big Rock Adventures

In the Beginning there was this and the beginning this is.

Year sixteen as front of house sound engineer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For those unfamiliar with the pro sound world, that means I control/mix the sound that the audience hears at their live concerts. A monitor engineer is the human that controls the sound that the band hears.

I also do other things. My work related passion lies with the company I started with some friends when I was 17, Rat Sound. I love to design/create things like speakers, solve problems, analyze complex systems and fix or improve them. Away from that and in conjunction with it, over the past 16 years I have joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers on nearly every show they have performed. I missed one Australian tour when I was hospitalized with spinal meningitis and another short trip when I had a 2 week overlap mixing Rage Against the Machine, I never did that again.

Over the years I have worked for many bands, 100's would be an understatement. I cannot remember how many tours or all the cities I have been to. Though I can remember mixing Blink 182 when they grew from clubs to arenas, Offspring on from Smash through Ixnay albums, tech'ing on a magical tour with Fugazi, setting PA and monitors for three Black Flag tours, two Sonic Youth album runs (Goo and Dirty), a miserable trip with Danzig/Soundgarden (Soundgarden was all good), L7 and quite a few years of traveling with Pearl Jam, whom I love like second family.

I never wanted to be a sound engineer. I learned to mix sound in order to test the speaker system designs and to operate the sound systems Rat Sound rented out. We could not afford to pay someone else anyway. By some round about way, I ended up with this this gig.

In the late 80's, Peppers were one of those bands that would always hire us Rats whenever they could. It was Mark, Robbie, Cathy and Chris Grayson. Chris was their FOH engineer from the beginning of the band. He would always hire us for sound and we would always bring too much gear, regardless of what we got paid. We referred him gigs with other bands and Rat eventually ended up hiring Chris to help with other Rat shows.

The call came from Mark Johnson that they were firing Chris and they want me to mix them, I refused. I could not take my friend Chris's job. When Mark told me that if I don't do it they were going to hire someone else, I agreed to cover for Chris till he got his life in order. Chris was having some issues as he had been a no-show on a Rat gig the week before and we were unable to reach him. After leaving a message on his machine, I reluctantly agreed. I have a PA company, I am not an engineer by trade, I will fill in and when he resurfaces, all will be patched up soon.

I never spoke to Chris again.

Chris was murdered in a drug deal while I was in Hawaii with Peppers doing a show at Pink's Garage. So here I am sixteen years later and still covering the gig for him.

We are currently embarking on a world tour supporting their the 5th album since I started and to be honest, if it was any other band on earth, I would not have agreed to go. The thought of tour no longer thrills me and yet, the thought of not joining this beautiful and eccentric group of life long friends is beyond comprehension.

There are two parts to this adventure for me. First is the rock show, diving in and creating something sonically unique and special. The challenge of great sound in bad sounding venues. The sensation of being the conduit that connects the artistry of the band in the the most intense method possible to those that bask in the experience. Secondly, my life. My own passions and desire to come home with more than a secondhand experience of building someone else's dream. Something with a bit more substance than a wad o cash, some frequent flier miles, a sad heart from missing loved ones, ringing ears and the distant memory of screaming fans. The key to happiness is merging the two.

Each tour I try and do something personally new and special, something that I can look back on with a smile. Once it was learning to weld and I had a 225 amp MIG welder sent to my hotel room on By the Way tour

and I made an electric go-cart with the help of Scott, Nick and Tim and I was determined to finish before the tour leg ended

Other adventures have been fishing

designing the Rat Web Site on Rage tour, designing MicroWedges, patenting the Rat Sniffer and writing articles like The Audio Quiz and Large Tour Logistics to name a few.

For this tour my project is to share the experiences of being a modern day rock and roll gypsy, glorified carney and/or living the dream job of world travel, celebrities and music, however you wish to look at it. I will do my best to show the warts and beauty of the adventures and bring whomever wishes to join, along for the ride.

Dave Rat

Roadies in the Midst

Roadies in the Midst: The Story of Touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)

Directed by

Dave Rat

Genre: Drama

Tagline: In lands of beauty, wonder and danger, roadies follow a dream, fall in love and risk their lives to perpetuate the rock show.

Plot Outline: The story of how Dave Rat, a sound engineer, takes two year journey with the Red Hot Chili Peppers studying the roadies and later fights to protect them or just possibley just hang out with them.

User Comments: Not boring at all

User Rating: 8.9/10 (2 votes)

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Kiedis.... Vocals
John Fruciante .... Guitar
Flea .... Bass
Chad Smith .... Drums
Gage .... Tour Manager
Bill ... Production Manager
Lyssa .... Backstage Coordinator
Dave Rat.... FOH Sound Eng
Nick the Fly and Tenacious Lee... FOH Assists
Daniel .... Monitor Engineer
Dave Lee.... Guit Tech
Tracy .... Bass Tech
Chris .... Drum Tech
Scott .... Lampi
Leif ... Lighting Assist
Grier ... Set Design
Andrew .... Pro Tools Eng
Lee ... Sound Crew Chief
Manny ... Sound Tech
Neal ... Sound Tech
Jamie ... Sound Tech

Also Known As:
Roadies in the Mist (USA) (short title)
The Adventures of Dave Rat (USA)
Runtime: about 2 years
Country: Earth
Language: English
Color: Color (Ratnicolor)
Sound Mix: Fairly Loud
Certification: Worldwide "PG" rated for the most part

Trivia: The roadies used in movies up to this time had obvious anatomical differences from real roadies; for instance, the real roadies were rarely seen, forcing many preconceived perceptions of roadie traits. For this series, wanderer Dave Rat wanted to use real roadies where possible, regardless of the obvious dangers involved.

Bill: Dave Rat, you are a knucklehead.
Dave Rat: Uh, oh!

Awards: None

User Comments:

"Not boring at all!" - Larry

"I thought it was gonna be boring but then it wasn't - Joe

"I thought it was boring, except for the parts that were not boring" - Dave Rat

"I think roadies are cute!" - Stacy

"I was captivated about the parts about Scott " - Scott the Lampi

"A definitive insight into the mysterious ways of the roadie!" - The English roadie

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