Daily Archives: July 5, 2009

Soundcheck*

Chewy030 from the Vancouver thread at the GDA found this wonderful soundcheck photograph on Twitpic. From what I can tell the person who took the shot works at the Vancouver stadium where Green Day is performing tonight.

Green Day Sound Check by Kevinmiam on Twitter

Green Day Sound Check by Kevinmiam on Twitter

I remember when I used to do theater (God, how I miss it), and the rehearsals prior to a performance or warmup. There was always a sort of sacred vibe of being onstage in front of that empty and hollow space and knowing that in three or four hours, that space would be filled with living, vibrating people… all of whom are judging you and waiting for you to entertain them, move them. Just the thought of it reminds me of the fluttering sensation I always got in anticipation of what would happen when the space was filled with an audience. What a delicious, exciting, and terrifying sensation it is.

In theater, there are basically two kinds of rehearsals: the technical rehearsal and the performance rehearsal. The performance rehearsal primarily takes place prior to the audience actually showing up at the theater. It’s those long, grueling weeks or months where the lines are memorized, the director’s vision is melded onto the playwright’s words, the actors become the characters, the blocking (the actual steps or actions an actor takes in the course of the play) is set. The technical rehearsal usually only occurs a few times until the entire play is coordinated with sound and light cues. Once a play opens, there might be a few more performance rehearsals to tweak scenes here or there. However, unless there are drastic changes in the technical aspects of the show, there will never or rarely be another technical rehearsal.

The theatrical technical rehearsal is closest to the soundcheck in music. The biggest difference in music, though, is that the soundcheck occurs in every city or club that a band visits. When a play goes up and is running to par, there may not be another performance rehearsal after the initial previews.

I remember back in 1983 when The Police came to Cobo Hall, now known as Joe Louis Arena, in Detroit. I wanted to meet them so badly! I was studying theater at Wayne State University and was interested in both onstage and backstage aspects of the art. I had designed sound for a few shows, and I created this elaborate ruse (UPDATE!: and I was writing a paper!) to get backstage to meet the band… I was “on assignment” to learn more about concert lighting, so I went to the Arena with this elaborate story of wanting to meet the lighting director of the Police show. It kinda worked: I did get backstage and actually heard of bit of the Police’s soundcheck prior to my ass getting thrown out of the place. I’m glad I didn’t meet the Police. In retrospect, I have come to the conclusion that they are assholes (or at least Sting is) and it probably wouldn’t have turned out to be a pleasant experience meeting them! :)

Every band goes through the soundcheck, whether they are as big as Green Day or not. Bands have to make sure that the venue’s system works properly with the traveling equipment, that the sound levels are right, that the video equipment is coordinated properly, and that the massive soundboard works. Concerts on the scale of GD’s take an enormous amount of manpower, setup and breakdown. Theatrical productions, even those that play out-of-town are usually in one place for a number of weeks, not days, unlike bands. Bands can be in Albuquerque one day and Des Moines the next;
that’s a lot of setup, breakdown, and rehearsal.

At least a few things are consistent between theatrical rehearsals and music soundchecks, however, and it’s that feeling that this picture evokes to me: the performer onstage inside that hollow space, waiting for the audience to walk in and fill it up with their anticipation, their adoration, and their judgment. It captures that delicious, exciting and terrifying moment that few people outside of the world of performance know or think about, the time between rehearsal and performance. I remember that moment fondly, and miss it.

Thanks for the photo. Nicely done.

*This post was written a bit because it sucked and needed to be rewritte

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