VAN DYKE: On the road with DVD
I have always viewed vacation time like cold medicine. More often than not, you feel great when it takes effect, but when it is over, you feel worse than before you took it. Then you have to wait way too long before you can take any more. I had to do it though. So I broke down and took a week off before Memorial Day. I left town a couple times.
The first trip, I went to Springfield with a couple of friends who were filming a musical performance for local television there. The room looked ideal for hosting a wedding reception. White round tables that would seat maybe six around them were scattered throughout the room along with the token square wooden dance floor that most reception halls seem to have. You know, the one that looks like someone took a laminate flooring display from Home Depot and just threw it on top of the carpeting. There was a rather elaborate stage there that had curtains and everything. The walls were lined with framed photographs taken by a local photographer and a few historical shots that looked like they were from the 1930s or ‘40s. It was actually a nice place that probably costs a bundle to rent.
On the far side of the room was a bar area. In this space, there was a long table with various totes and cases for all of the television equipment. Along the wall opposite the bar was another long table that appeared to have all the equipment that those ghost hunter guys use on it. Monitors, keyboards, headsets and stuff you may find in the control room at a television studio. Well, the portable version of it anyway.
Other than myself, and the two musicians, there were four other people present. There were two camera operators, someone who I am guessing was the director, and a lady who seemed to be their servant walking around attaching cables and focusing the equipment. They informed us that the host of the program would be there in about an hour, and they would try to get the performance taped first, then tape the host interviewing them.
So, the performers went ahead and got their instruments and amps out and set up. They had begun tuning up when I heard someone ask if anyone had a microphone. Judging by the way everyone turned paler than Val Kilmer in Tombstone, it looked like the answer was no. Luckily, my friends are always ready for such things and had a decent microphone out in the car. Then the TV people found one too. Problem solved. Or was it? Well, sort of. There was no PA system being used since this was a video taped performance with no audience. No PA system means no power for a monitor, or a speaker for the performer to hear what they are playing or singing. For a vocalist singing over amplified instruments, this is almost a must-have. If you are a singer, you understand. I am not, so I could go without it and sound just as awful as I would if I had one. The TV folks found a PA system over in the corner of the stage area and tried using it to monitor the video tape machine audio, but there was about a one second delay, so that was a no-go. Finally, the guys just decided to go without and give it a shot. I think it went OK, but we did not have time to hang around and watch any playback.
As I watched, I thought about how strange it must feel for them performing to a room full of empty tables and trying to act like someone was there. Most musicians have had to do this a few times in their career in actual venues. Some get their spirit broken by it, others break out the spirits because of it. I have seen some local bands when there were only a handful of people watching. They did not seem to care one bit and had a fantastic time anyway. That is because our area has some players that would go down to the bandstand in Washington Park and play for free all the time if they did not have to work, even if no one was there. Maybe you know some of them.
The other trip I took was to Keokuk for the Back Alley Band Fest. A really cool event that showcases several area musicians and groups on storefronts, back yards, and alleys within about a six block radius. It was a great time. Maybe something like that could be done in Quincy. What do you think?
Until next time, get out and see some local music this weekend. I will be out trying to find something to write about. I need more ideas…and a guitar teacher…
Don Van Dyke
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