Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wacky Tales From the Northern Peninsula

Just got back from a 10 day trip to northern Michigan with my family. I have some funny stories to tell. Stay tuned.

Pictured are my awesome neices and nephew.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Three Days Of Vocal Training

This past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I attended a vocal clinic down at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus. It was an amazing experience. I would encourage anyone to take this class, singers and non-singers alike. I find it amazing how we grow up learning to walk, run, eat, ride a bike, etc., but so many of us are not even conscious of how to use our voices correctly. The course was much different than your typical "voice class" as it involved actual video of the vocal folds/throat and audio analyzations of the voices of our instructors, as well as our own voices. The class of 15 students was diverse... a 60+ year old Opera singer who had been teaching music for 35 years... several 17-18 olds studying music theatre... a group of gospel singers.. a worship leader. There were even a couple non-singers there, one of which just wanted to learn how to project his speaking voice more in noisy restaurants and other overpowering aural situations. I felt like I was on some episode of "Making the Band" where diversity was good for ratings. You can check out this program at It is full of ground breaking concepts, and is spreading across the world as a totally new way of looking at the voice. My good friend Diane Sheets (she sang background vocals on "A Thousand Gods") was one of the teachers. The other teacher actually works at the hospital as a throat specialist.

I may write more on this experience later... above is a very cheesy picture of our class...I felt a little uncomfortable with this pose if you can't tell...

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Show Must Go On

I have been busy the last couple days. Monday, I was setting up / tearing down lights and audio gear for one of the music stages at Columbus’ Red, White, and Boom downtown fireworks celebration, and on Tuesday I was doing the same thing, only at the Park of Roses in Clintonville, OH ... both 16 to 17 hour work days. On wednesday morning, we finished tearing down the lighting trusses we had set up in Clintonville on Tuesday, and that afternoon I was back at the tv station, mixing commercials and enjoying the air conditioning and mesh backed office chairs. It’s definitely been an eventful week, between the tornado warnings on Monday evening and the thunder and lightning storm on Tuesday night.

This Has Been a Test...
I’ve never been a fan of huge crowds, and hanging out all day at Red, White, and Boom was no exception. More than half a million people sandwiched the streets of downtown Columbus, while baking in the afternoon sun and blowing their money on overpriced lemonade, elephant ears, and meatball subs. As early evening approached, the sky darkened, the wind picked up, and we began hearing rumors of tornado sirens spinning up in nearby towns. I shuttered at the thought of a twister ripping through a glass fronted city deluged with concession stands, porta johns, and unsuspecting holiday eyed pedestrians. The “so bad they're free” local bands continued to entertain the middle aged beer toting friends and family bunch while I and the other stagehands watched the sky and discussed our plan of attack in such case that locomotives began sounding in the distance. Thankfully, the twister didn’t steal the show that evening. Instead, the sky cleared and fireworks went off as usual. I wonder if that was a sign of God’s loving intervention. Can you imagine if we were able to see all the calamity we’re spared day in and day out? Wow.

The fireworks were great, but I could have done without the hand and lip happy couples which surrounded me as I tried to enjoy the explosions above. I’ve become pretty good at tuning out such gag-me-with-a-spoon distractions. Anyways. After the grand sky-shaking finale, the crowds quickly cleared only to reveal brick roads littered with pop cans, water bottles, and bottle rocket debris. The blinking yellow brush-bellied street cleaner trucks began to roll in, the concession tents collapsed, and we undertook “striking” (tearing down) our lights, stage, and sound gear. I sometimes contemplate the number of mic cables I’ve wound in my days. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every foot of XLR spaghetti I’ve untangled. To give you a better picture... our 8-person crew loaded 8 4x5’ speaker cabinets, 2 large audio boards, monitor speakers, lighting trusses, lights on “par bars,” and cases and cases of various cabling... all into the back of a 25 foot truck. After this stuff was cleared from the platform, the actual stage roof was lowered hydraulically and the entire stage folded up into a semi bed. Pretty cool. The complete tear down process took about 3 1/2 hours, and we left the abandoned trash scattered streets of downtown Columbus around 1:30 am. Not a lot of traffic out at that hour.

Let’s Make A Lightning Rod
Saturday morning started early at the Park of Roses in Clintonville. With a Tim Horton’s coffee in hand, I pulled into the rain drenched park, blurry eyed, about 7:30 am. The rest of the team didn’t show up until around 8:00 and by that time, the rain had increased to the point of heavy drizzle. We started by unloading the metal lighting trusses, and after pulling several from the truck, the forboding sky broke loose with unrestrained downpour and highlights of thunder cracks and lightning flashes. We all jumped into the back of the smaller truck and waited it out for a few minutes. Somehow, in the moment, the thought of raising four 25-foot lighting rods wasn’t terribly reassuring. Basically, a huge square of metal trussing was to be slid into the air on 4 25-foot metal “legs.” (using hefty motors and chains). It’s hard to explain in writing... let me just say this isn’t the type of stuff you want to be messing around with in a lightning storm.

After the rain subsided, we hopped out of the truck, and continued our quest to unload the packed-to-the-ceiling trucks (we had two... one 25 footer and then a smaller Enterprise rental). The show had to go on. Imagine rolling 3-foot square boxes of heavy cabling across the mud smeared grass. It was a sight to behold. My leather work gloves had darkened a few shades from the rain, and my Nikes were slowly becoming sponges, and the few hairs I have were soaked. We started unloading more stuff. Again, the rain started to pick up, but we decided to keep working. At one point, our boss showed up with some yellow rain ponchos, donuts, and coffee... a nice gesture which helped to make the whole experience a little more pleasant. Thankfully, later that morning, the rain cleared and most of the afternoon set-up went pretty smoothly.

The first band (an independent rap group) showed up around 4pm. One of their tunes , “I Hope You Like The Junk That We’re Making” was especially touching. They were followed by a middle aged band covering a gamete of classics, spanning from Elvis to Sheryl Crow. The late 40 year old lead guitarist sported a Jimmy Buffet floral shirt, glasses, and the unconvinced antics of an 18 year old rock punk reved up on Red Bull. The last group, “The Street Players” pulled off convincing covers of Doobie brothers and James Brown hits. They were actually rather seasoned and tight as a musical group. However, half way through their set, the thunderstorms and winds resurfaced, and after lowering the tarp cover stage roof so it was only several feet from our heads, we spent the next hour or so holding up the ceiling to keep the rain puddles from collecting on the tarp top above. (Meanwhile, one of the band members was watching a local news station’s doppler radar on his laptop. I still have no idea how he was getting wireless in the middle of a park....maybe through his cell phone service carrier.) All this time, during the downpour, some of the fireworks enthusiasts hid beneath their lowered tents (while they burned candles for extra light), whie some headed for their cars, and others just sat there in the grass on soaked blankets, anxiously waiting for the band to reappear (apparently, you don’t have to be very smart to get into the fireworks).

After an hour of this holding pattern, the park “entertainment committee” decided it would be best to send the band home, and cancel the remainder of the music attractions. After hearing this, “The Street Players” packed up their truck full of PAs, keyboards, drums, and guitars, while we began another episode of cable winding and stage clearing.

By the time the fireworks started to go off, the rain had ceased and the sky has cleared. Six of us on the crew sat by a shelter house in front of a pond and watched the fireworks exploding nearly above our heads. We had a great view, and I think I enjoyed those fireworks more than the ones I saw down at Red, White, and Boom.

After the fireworks, we loaded up all the audio gear, and headed home around midnight. The next morning, we were back at the park at 9am to tear down the remaining tarp roof and truss. During the night, the roof had collected quite a pool of water, and at one point while we were working in the morning, the hundreds of hooks holding the tarp roof to the truss square suddenly began bending and snapping out of the holes in the tarp roof (making a rapid fire pop corn type sound as they disconnected in machine gun succession) and gallons of water spilled on the stage as we jumped back in surprise. Thankfully, all equipment on the stage had been removed the night before.

We finished loading all the truss and gear around noon on Wednesday. I was pretty sore when I woke up this morning.