… Or, Everybody Complains About the Weather, but Nobody Does Anything About It.”

Another fun weekend outdoors. We were sub-contracted by another firm to cover a double-booking. I tend to grit my teeth on shows like these because no matter what our paperwork says, invariably the band TM or FOH has a different recollection of the advance than we’ve been given by whomever hired us. They smell the “oh, I didn’t talk to *you*” and suddenly memories change. This time I don’t have to take the heat; “our” boss is sending a rep. Life is good. 🙂

The community festival was in a very pretty city park and came with “community service volunteers – district court” (who were pretty good help) and festival volunteers who were solidly behind their event. The stage was an Apex 32×24 (highly recommended, and no, I don’t get a commission…) with the owner as part of the delivery crew. We move in on Thursday night, hanging lights, PA and setting subs; building FOH and running snake. We fire up the rig, do a little delay alignment. Cover, tarp & head to the motel.

Friday begins with the arrival of the headline act, who’s FOH/TM is convinced that he was told there would be 8 4889 over 6 4880 per side. The coverage area is roughly 80′ wide and 120′ deep. The company that hired us specified 5 4889 OR 6 4887 per side with no mention of sub woofers (left to our discretion). I took 8 4887 over 3 4880 per side. FOH/TM guys makes his obligatory noises about not having what he believes is supposed to be there. “I need more subs, I specifically advanced ‘6 double 18s a side, not 6 18s a side’.” The rep calls his boss, I call my boss to give him the heads up that he might be getting a call about delivering more sub woofers… 30 minutes later the back line gear is going up and no more has been said about the PA. Not sure what transpired in the background, but FOH guy left his grumpy hat in the bus and we had a fun time doing Olde Skool Analogue at FOH while the digital kids looked on. Our rig is I-Tech powered and he asked for more input gain, at least 6dB more than the stock VerTec v4.2 presets. I hooked up the lappy and reset input sensitivities for him. It was ironic to have a guy mixing on a Midas XL3 but never seeing a red light. He didn’t want to drive his desk that hard 8O~8-O~:shock: . The crowd loved the show and everyone was a hero at the end of the night. If you’re wondering about the subs, I checked System Architect a few times and he was just tickling the limiters on peaks; he was consistently about 1dB into limit on the 4887 MF/MF, a very comfortable place. And the rig sounded very, very good. :)~:-)~:smile:

So, what’s this about weather? For those who’ve never worked in the Plains, weather is more than variable, it’s instantaneous. Will Rodgers said of Oklahoma weather, “if you don’t like it, wait awhile and it will change.” The same applies in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Top it off with being the white stripes down tornado alley. Saturday starts off with 10am back line arrival and a weather forecast that predicts rain, heavy at times with a chance of severe thunderstorms, 60% or greater after 5pm. Okay, we have plans, we have tarps & the festival has rolls of plastic.

Our rep is already watching the weather radar, and it’s only lunch time. The festival committee is running kids events and other things from a small side stage, the skies have light clouds and the wind has picked up from yesterday. The “V2” time for moving indoors is 3pm.

At 3, the radar is showing storms popping up along a 200+ mile line from Oklahoma, across Kansas and into Nebraska. They’re moving our way but still 150 miles or so out, and often such storms break up before reaching our location. Our rep talks to the festival chairman and confirms that a relocation decision needs to be made Really Soon Now. They opt to remain in place. After the festival chairman leaves, I look at the radar, the storms have built while we were talking. My comment to the stage owner and our rep was “they’ll have us play til it rains, then we’ll cover up, wait it out and then they’ll want the show played for the 5 people who were stuck here during the storm. By the time it quits it will be too late to play.”

By 5pm the storms are getting more intense, with 70mph winds and are now about an hour out. Festival makes an announcement to inform the crowd and about half the folks leave the park. There are events in front of our stage that need PA, so we hand them a wireless mic and they do their thing. Storms are weakening a bit and starting to split, perhaps bypassing us and the Doppler radar is showing wind velocity going down… the opening act is expedited onto the stage. By the time they get their gear uncovered, tuned up and ready, 20 minutes are gone and the radar is now looking worse, not better. It’s about 6:45 when they start. I notice that the turkey vultures that had roosted on the water tower have sought other shelter. The band plays 30 minutes and the festival SM gives them the 1 more song cue. They play 3 more songs and decide to throw in an original. Our rep is frowning and having an animated conversation with the SM while pointing to the weather radar on his phone. About the time the song is done, I see people start to jump up from their seats. It’s begun to rain.

I kill the band’s inputs. The festival chair comes out and makes the weather announcement… “we’re going on hold, when the rain is done well be back with our headline entertainment, you can take cover in the bingo tent”. We cover FOH with plastic, set case lids over, and then tarp the whole pile. Monitor beach is covered with a layer of plastic topped with a tarp and we bring in the PA to rest on the subs. Headline back line techs are moving electronics down the ramp and into the trailer and the festival breaks out the Big Plastic to cover the back line speakers and drum kit. We strike front line monitors & mics, power down all our stuff and have the electrician kill the big breaker on the genset.

There is now a meeting being held in the slow rain, discussing the re-set. Band management, staging guys & our rep are being consulted. The rain abates somewhat and the drum tech, thinking the worst was over in 30 minutes, pulls Big Plastic off and upstage and starts putting cymbals back up. Obviously he’s never been in Kansas 🙄

Faster than you can say “where’s the high hat clutch?” the clouds open full force. Thunder, lightning. Big Plastic is becoming Big Wading Pool. Tech grabs a tarp from our bin on stage and looks sheepish. The runner has arrived with dinner, so we dine [I]al fresco[/I] in the thunder storm while he corrects his mistake. Eventually he determines that the tarp won’t do and ends up covering the back line with the Big Wading Pool.

The storm system is now 90 miles deep, so it’s taking a long time to pass. BE asks me to make a final weather call because we’re now at the point in time where the reset will take at least 2 hours (drying electrical stuff, getting the stage dry, trouble shooting whatever isn’t working, etc), they’ll have to play the full show and they need to be on the road, with their back line, by midnight. It’s 8:30pm and still raining.

While I’m certainly sympathetic with their situation, I tell him that 1) I’m a sub contractor and the decision is not mine to make unless something is life-threatening (like clearing my crew from the stage when we saw lightning) and 2) that the band can cancel without significant repercussions, but if the production cancels a performance there’s a very good chance they won’t be back and a decent chance they’ll be sued unless [I]force majeure[/I] is specifically defined to include weather within the contract; and again, because the primary contractor has a rep on site, it’s between him, the band and festival committee. By now it’s obvious from the radar that rain is still going to come down for at least another half hour and the band, at this point, will not be able to perform before they need to be packing up. The festival committee reluctantly cancels the concert. It’s 9:30pm and still raining.

Volunteers take the stage and begin helping the back line techs, we go up and strike the remaining DIs and mics and start coiling cables. At 10pm the rain is finally starting to slack off and we bring the PA in the rest of the way, land it and break it apart. By 10:30 it’s stopped, the volunteer hands are still with us and we unwrap FOH, find no water in anything and pack it up. By now the staging guys have the upstage roof folded down and our lights are coming off; we have enough gear cased up that I can start the truck pack. By 11:30 the stage is being hitched to the tow vehicle and I’ve got about 2 rows of stuff left to pack. I have my LD finish the truck while I say good bye and thank yous to the stage guys. The owner says “Tim, you called it. It came down just like you said.”

But really, I’d love to have been wrong in any of several different ways.

The festival people are disappointed, of course. They really wanted their show, as well they should. The difficult decision they faced was “move indoors, have the weather turn out good and waste a show in their lovely park, piss off vendors that paid for space, and generally not have the same vibe” or risk what actually happened: their show completely cancelled as they held out hope that rains would be brief and light if they came at all. As we left the site we drove past the rain venue and my ME commented that we’d be pulling out of it right about the same time, but there would have been a show instead of disappointment, and neither we nor our gear would be wet.

Our warehouse is now full of stuff drying out, to be cleaned/tested while I’m on holiday this week. The on-site assessment was that nothing appeared to be damaged.

Did I mention, life is good?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Been there, done that, glad I do it less often now than I used to. My particular favorite pastime after such shows is sitting with a pile of rags, wiping/cleaning several miles worth of muddy cables. Joy O Bliss!

    Tip: Never use Audix OM series mics on rainy shows. They quickly deteriorate into sounding almost un-usable awful when they get wet, especially when paired with a drool prone singer…..

  2. We did a beach festival a couple of years ago with an outside stage (local acts) and an inside stage (nationals). I (the boss) was on the inside stage and had a couple of my less experienced techs on the outside stage. Weather started to look grim and I checked my phone and saw a big red and black mass headed our way with about 30 minutes til we were going to get hit. It was nasty looking enough I knew 100% without a doubt we were going to get nailed.

    After the second to last band finishes on the outside stage I go out and tell my techs to strike and tarp both consoles (LS9 and DM2000), move everything upstage except for 1 pair of wedges and a couple of vocal mics. I grab my Mackie 1642 backup console out of the truck and set it up side of stage, patch the mains in and 1 monitor mix and a couple of vox mics. Meanwhile my guys are putting most of the mics other away and tarping amp racks. At this point the wind is starting to pick up a lot. Outside guys have it under control so I head back in to work on getting the national headliner set up.

    I get a call on the radio 5 minutes later from my outside guy that there is a problem. Head out to see what it is. The leader of the local band starts ranting to me about how I am shortchanging his band and the audience (it’s a 100% free admission event put on by the city mind you). Calls me unprofessional, don’t know what I’m doing, etc. etc. At this point the sky is starting to drizzle.

    After a few minutes of listening to this, I turn to my techs and bark “Kick, overhead, bass di, 2 vocals” and turn to the band leader and say “Turn your amps up, We’re about to get nailed” and walk away.

    Outside band starts up and it sounds reasonable with the minimal mic’ing. By this point there’s maybe 30 people in the audience. Not 10 minutes into the band’s set the sky opens up BIG time. Buckets of rain falling and nearby lightining strikes. I run outside to help my guys and the parking lot is under 2″ of water and the rain is blowing in sideways all over the partially covered stage. Fortunately the only thing getting wet is the old mackie, everything else is tarped.

    I see the bandleader cowering near the back of the stage and lock eyes with him with an icy glare. He sheepishly says “well I guess you were right”

    Yeah, not my first rodeo…

  3. I love it when the national act’s PM comes to me with “you gotta call this show off!” (Which I will for the reasons Tim mentioned, if it comes to that, and I have before). I tell ’em “no, YOU grow a pair and call it yourself because….” And explain it to the PM just as again, Tim did. And when I get that sheepish look and statement from being right, I put up my hand and say “Don’t even bother.” Dealing with this over the years has made me a mean SOB.

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