Readers, Roadies, Skeptics and Crew,
Happy Holidays and Merry New Year,
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of Life on the Road, if you missed it – click here. This is part 2 of the series. I could potentially do a few more as time goes on, but I want to get into more specific topics after this post, and finally finish the product reviews I’ve been working on (or ignoring) since July.
In Part 1 I talked a lot about the road itself; literally the travel aspect of touring: the bus calls, curb calls, trucking, and oil spots. I wrote about the various types of venues that you will come across on your journey and the challenges and features that can make your day better or worse. This post will be more on the day-to-day of touring, and the parts that make the show go.
On most tours, your show day’s load-in starts at 8 or 9am. The first step is to mark your points – a rigging point is the spot marked on the floor that a motor chain must land to properly hang your rig. Generally, if you have staff riggers they will already have your points figured out and will take care of this for you. It is then your responsibility to run out your chain and float your motors (hoists in some circles). To float a motor is to power it up, and run it in the “up” direction until the motor is about 3′ off the ground… you can trust some local crew to do this for you, but be very selective, the last thing you want is a busted motor.
After you’ve run out your motors, they need to connect to your rig using shackles, gal-flex or span sets. Once all your truss has been inspected for safety, usually by your staff rigger, you can float it and when the truss is at a safe working hight, you can hang and wire-up all your lights, audio, video, soft goods, or special FX.
In my world, the lighting rig is raised up to trim about the same time that audio is ready to begin line-checks and system tuning. Trim is a pre-determined height by the designer that the lighting rig will be raised to each day for consistency and easier focus. A line-check is when your audio and back line techs go through each audio input and make sure that the audio boards are receiving signal from that input. System Tuning is when the audio guys make an obscene, but necessary amount of noise to determine the audio frequencies that the day’s room resonates and cancels out so they can then make the appropriate adjustments to the output from the Front of House console to compensate. (Not bad coming from a lighting guy, eh?)
Generally, if I have any moving lights on the rig, I don’t need to talk to anyone, so I will go through the tedious task of focusing them while the audio guys try to achieve an award winning sound. Lighting Focus isn’t like Video Focus. For every saved position that you can recall at the lighting board, you need to update it with the changes for the day. For example, if you have a Downstage Center Position (DSC), you need to tell every light that recalls that position, where DSC is that day by turning the light on, pointing it at DSC and repeating that process for each light, then selecting them all and updating your DSC position. Focus can get pretty hairy when you have several hundred moving heads, so I try to keep things as generic as possible. I will write more on this some other time.
Later in the day, after all your departments have successfully completed their tests, the band and occasionally the artist will arrive on stage for a soundcheck – during soundcheck the musicians and the audio crew work together to get their in-ears levels balanced for the show and make any adjustments to the overall look for that night. Most days I also take this opportunity to run some cues with the band, and tweak as needed.
After this step, the stage is clear, and doors are opened. The audience fills the venue, and a show happens. Immediately following the show, load-out begins. Essentially load-out is the exact opposite of load-in but takes half the time. Trusses are lowered in, lights are put into cases, and everything is packed into the trucks. The crew showers, jumps on their busses and in 4-6 hours it all begins again. The road is a very busy place with very little downtime, and its not for everyone. You have to love it or you’re going to be miserable. If you can deal with the long hours and the hard work, it is a very rewarding career.
I’d love to hear from you. Is there anything I missed that you want to know more about? I’ve started the next post already, but feel free to let me know what interests you. I’ll do the research and fire it back out. In the meantime check out the Facebook page, find me on LinkedIN, PLS or catch me on twitter. I’ve also added a Fan Photos Page which is full of my favorite twitter photos.