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Last Thursday night, eight student bands played for Cen­tral­hal­la­palooza Showdown, an annual com­pe­tition orga­nized by the Student Activ­ities Board. Like most SAB events, the venue was well chosen, the dec­o­ra­tions were appealing, and the food and bev­erages were excellent. Unfor­tu­nately, the live sound engi­neering the College’s Audio/Visual department pro­vided was so riddled with mis­takes that it almost ruined several student bands’ per­for­mances.

Incessant feedback screeches through the PA system under­mined tal­ented per­formers, and micro­phones died on mul­tiple occa­sions. As a musician with expe­rience in live sound pro­duction, the poor quality of the mixing appalled me. When problems arose during the concert, the student per­formers on stage looked to the mixing board for help, but the sound engineer was fre­quently nowhere to be found. The audience tried to stay pos­itive and support their per­forming friends, yet the show was side­tracked by lengthy set changes and com­mu­ni­cation problems.

The belea­guered A/V student assis­tants looked on help­lessly as sophomore Isabelle Parell, a fea­tured vocalist for the student band ‘Deaf Davey and the Wineboxes,’ struggled to be heard over a dead micro­phone. Senior Nick Archer, the frontman of another student band, ‘My Dog’s Name is Keith,’ also lost vocals during his set, and drummer junior Dean Sin­clair called exas­per­atedly for tech­nical help when he could not hear his mon­itors. The student behind the mixing board called for her absent boss in vain when musi­cians needed level adjust­ments onstage. The bass boomed in the echoing hall and the mix unfor­tu­nately swal­lowed the guitars.

Freshman Matt Mont­gomery, who attended the concert in support of several per­forming friends, said the sound engi­neering was so poor that it likely cost well-liked bands valuable votes.

These problems do not nec­es­sarily have to ruin student band per­for­mances. Phi Mu Alpha has run Battle of the Bands for years, and hosted three of the same bands as CHP Showdown last semester. Even with less expe­ri­enced sound engi­neers and inferior music tech resources, the music fra­ternity pro­duced a show that high­lighted the bands’ talents with clear sound. If the A/V department is not willing to commit to pro­ducing quality per­for­mances, perhaps other musi­cally-inclined orga­ni­za­tions would be.  

Student bands might not be pro­fes­sional, but the work that dozens of student per­formers put in over the last few weeks should be rec­og­nized by clean sound pro­duction and a worth­while per­for­mance oppor­tunity.

Anthony Manno’s team pro­duces quality campus-wide events. The SAB crew, however, is entirely unfa­miliar with what it takes to pull off a suc­cessful musical pro­duction, and the sound engi­neers aiding them are decidedly sub-par. The A/V crew could use the extensive tech resources afforded them by their department, invest in some training, and stay attentive and ded­i­cated during campus events, regardless of the “pro­fes­sion­alism” of the band playing. Alter­na­tively, Manno should reach out to other groups on campus who actually produce quality shows for help with the music for SAB’s oth­erwise-excellent events. Either way, these simple changes would result in sound quality worthy of the stu­dents’ musical efforts, and would improve the caliber of the Student Activ­ities Board’s already-enjoyable events.

Mr. Lieb­hauser is a junior studying mar­keting man­agement and the pres­ident of Phi Mu Alpha Sin­fonia.

  • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

    Two ques­tions:
    1. are those running sound student employees, or vol­un­teers?
    2. If they are student employees, and you are a student employee some­where else, have you asked to work in that department. If they are vol­un­teers, have you vol­un­teered to help?

    Having no idea what the quality level is for the gear, I question that mul­tiple orga­ni­za­tions have similar tech­nical pro­duction gear. That’s going to lead to mul­tiple groups having mediocre gear, and lesser expe­ri­enced folks mixing. If SAB wanted to fix this, pool all the gear that gets used in these various battle of the bands type events, train a cross section, including getting some freshman doing some of the work, in 2 – 3 years, you have a self sus­tainable crew that refreshes itself.

    Depending on an A/V department staffed with folks gen­erally putting out pro­jectors, TVs, DVD players, single mic lec­tures is unlikely to result in a good show. Having mixed live shows for over 20 years, including a time in college where the SAB equiv­alent had vastly expanded the tech capa­bil­ities, needing house and monitor engi­neers, part of the role was to teach younger folks how to do the job. Part of that is unfor­tu­nately learning on battle of the bands type things, but when it is someone that is respon­sible to SAB, not the college A/V, they will be a lot more attentive to what is going on.