As we are back on our world tour of nowhere in particular, I I'm finding that running a band is often harder work than it needs to be. Thankfully though, I am now able to drive once more and can find my own way to and from gigs. Saturday night we were playing in Sheffield at a venue we play three times a year and go down very well at. Sheffield in one of Yorkshires largest cities, if not the largest. It is a city built on steel production and there are still some big foundries in the city. However, although there are a fair few venues in Sheffield, it's not an easy place to get bookings in without and agent.
We're all nice people in our band of wandering minstrels, each of us with our own perculiarities, but as I go along , I am finding more and more that the un asked for role of manager which I seem to have ended up with can be very much managing people. Graham, our drummer, is rock solid, turns up, sets his kit up and follows the set up plan. PA first, Drums next, then guitars and amps. Shaun, our bass player, is so laid back it is unbelievable, the worlds greatest fence sitter when we are hammering out band policy, but as decent a human being as you are ever going to get. Robin, our other guitarist, who I affectionately refer to as Moaning Myrtle (see Harry Potter) always feels under pressure, he's landed the job of running the PA purely and simply because he owns the mixer. Complaints? Oh yes - The Pa actually belongs to me and is a pretty good one, if basic. But it does handle the venues. Poor Robin get's very frustrated, he's not a natural sound guy, but he knows more than any of us about setting the PA up as he's learned by trial and error. I'll say this for Shaun, Graham and myself, we have our sound sorted. Shaun has some great bass's, nice big bass rig that produces great sound. Me, I know what I need to do to get a nice full tone without scorching the ears of the audience. Now for the fun bit. Robin plays a lovely Gibson R9 Les Paul through a Fender Vibroking amp. The thing is so loud it's unbelievable. My main amp is an American built Peavey Classic 30 which has hade a a rather expensive speaker put in and now sounds great. I also have a Fender Hot Rod Delux. Now I know that these two amps are far from top of the range, but they go out and do the business and I make them work. I know my tones and settings and all is well.
So, we come to Saturday night. Robin, with rather expensive kit, can not get his amp to sound right. He may well have a superb guitar and great amp but in between those two lies his pedal board, which I personally would like to strip out, and throw all his pedals except one into the dump and start again, minimising what he has on it and replaving the cheaper pedals with better quality. In cutting a long story short, his sound was truly horrendous on Saturday and was so far up the treble scale it was hurting my ears. No matter what he was playing it sounded. Now he is a nice guy, as nice a person as you could wish to meet and will do anything to help. But he was becoming somewhat snappy with me as I was getting a couple of negative comments from the audience and the guy who runs the venue, with an audience of about 250, we had to be right as we don't like complaints. So, when the opportunity arose and we were on our own, I asked my friend why he was so short tempered with me? Right away his voice rose and he lost his cool shouting and swearing, saying that I was putting him under pressure and he can't handle it. I soaked it up for a minute or two and calmly asked him to hear me out - there's a proverb that says "A soft answer turneth away wrath". I like that and try to remember it when I'm in challenging situations. I told him that no one was being criticised, but I get all the complaints about sound and as we are being paid by the club and return bookings depend on the enjoyment on the night of the club members. Well, I reacted kindly rather than with anger and Robin soon realised that there was no criticism of him but rather we need to help him get his sound right. He's no slouch, but in my opinion, he could do with a decent quality class A 30 watt amp, a decent overdrive pedal, a delay and a boost. Add a tuner and that's enough. I have never understood having a hue amount of pedals in fro nt of you when you don't use three quarters of them. Recently I have come to the conclusion that the less gear you are using the less likely you are to have problems.
In fairness to my band mate he immediately apologised for how he had spoken to me and was most sincere, I told him not to worry, it's done and forgotten. So now I am finding that so much of managing the band is actually people management, making sure every one is happy while sorting out problems. Robin is, as I said a nice person and he was quite bothered that he had been the cause of a problem and apologised again several times during the evening and went out of his way to be pleasant.
I'm pleased to tell you that even with the sound problem he had, we went down exceptionally well, plenty people dancing and a few encores demanded and three bookings taken for next year. I get on exceptionally well with the venues management, and the boss really likes our way of doing things, which is to turn up early evening, get set up and all ready for playing long before all the club members are ready for the evening to start. I was quite surprised when I was told that many bands turn up later and are setting up while other parts of the evenings activities are taking place, which I feel is totally unacceptable. So, in the end, we worked through the problem, Robin realised he has to do something about getting his sound right and the club members were all going home having had a great night and enjoyed what we did. My next challenge is to get Robin playing sixties style guitar and to not put Led Zeppelin into ABBA - poor analogy, but it makes the point. It's amazing how many rock players can't get out of that heavy chugging style. I spent all my early teenage years as a rhythm player and it did me a huge amount of good, laying a great foundation for later years.
By the way, I used my 555 on Saturday night, what a guitar!
On a totally different vein, I have joined Slimming World and at the end of my first four week period, I have lost 15 1/2 Lbs. I have eaten like a horse and not been hungry at all. I am fed up of being the fat guy in the band and now I'm doing something about it. As I was walking up the stairs in our home to go to go to bed in the early hours of Sunday morning, I was carrying something and by the time I'd reached the top, my six week old jeans had fallen round my ankles. They fitted just right when I bought them but being fifteen pound lighter they now don't stay up. I'm hoping that this time next year I look completely different.
Thanks for reading.