It’s coming up to Australia Day, meaning barbecues, fireworks and day-long outdoor concerts going late into the night. Some mates of mine are playing as a support band at one such event and called me to ask if I might like to mix FOH for them during the set? They didn’t believe the production company’s FOH guy would “get” their sound (and assumed I’d be allowed to operate). Really what the lads were saying is they didn’t trust the FOH dude to care – no doubt, of course he/she would be competent. The fear was of the “it’s only the support act” attitude messing with their groove.
Back in the days of analogue desks they’d have a point, although it was more a matter of logistics, not care-factor. Newton’s Law of Console Faders says that any band, at any gig, will use every channel available regardless. Support acts were usually given one par can, a single channel fader on the audio desk and told not to touch it anyway. Or the Mute button, which was on.
It can suck to be a support act. Rarely, it can be a real opportunity, but normally you’re either there to fill in time and appease impatient punters or you’ve cut a crap deal that makes you cheap road crew.
We had a gig like that once, except our band was all too long in the tooth to fall for that old trick. Offered a paltry amount to open for a rather mediocre Australian act we were also expected to bump in the main act’s equipment and set it up. No chance. We sat in the pleasant sunshine, drinking chilled ales and watched the “famous” drummer angrily set up his own kit.
Finally he snapped and asked us, “Are you blokes gonna help me set this up or not?” (expletives deleted, naturally)
To which our drummer called back, “Are you going to let me play it?”
“No, of course not”.
We then suggested a rather impractical, dark place he might want to put his drums and went back to the beer.
That guy never thought of us as a part of the show – as fellow performers. Instead we were slave labour who were extremely fortunate to bathe momentarily in his glorious lime-light. And carry his drums.
With digital consoles and scene-saving there’s really no excuse for not giving the support acts a fair chop at a decent sound. Still, you can ask whether that “it’s only the support act” mentality still exists. Do some main act FOH operators deliberately restrict a support act’s sound or, at worst, simply don’t bring their best game to the console when the support band is doing their set? Will you be mixing any support acts on that weekend? What will you do?
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