Starting off on the wrong foot

Well it finally happened. After seven years of introducing the Bride and Groom onto the dance floor for their first dance, Dave got a name wrong. In this case, the misdemeanour was to call the groom James instead of Justin. So please, watch out for it on youtube.com, with angles from three different cameras all primed and recording the momentus events, hmm. Naturally, a hasty apology ensued and the sharp intakes of breath from the guests turned into laughter as the happy couple stepped out.
Could’ve been worse, at least it wasn’t the name of the bride he forgot!
Rox apologised for Dave’s mistake as the band launched into the first set. But by that time, it was pretty much forgotten – which was a shame as Rox immediately reminded them of it again – ha, ha. Anyway, with the dance floor packed and the Bride and Groom smiling and starting into each others eyes, the party got started. Importantly though, it highlights that things do go wrong. And sometimes all you can do is laugh and get on with it…

Did I mention the band were playing at The Old Kent Barn, Swingfield in Kent? They have a lovely barn for the day’s more formal events, whilst the actual evening entertainment itself is in a marquee set to one side of the barn.
The venue also has a rather aggressive noise limiter.
As a band, The Love Junkies are used to noise limiters – most aren’t a problem. If you don’t know, noise limiters are designed to cut out the band’s equipment if they go above a certain level – dead, as in no music for up to 30s (until the power reset kicks in). Although they are a professional hazard and go with the turf. If you ask honestly, the band would always rather play without them. “The Love Junkies aren’t one of the louder bands around anyway, but for us playing to a badly configured noise limiter is akin to being on a musical leash” says Dave. “Though we do take the issue of noise pollution seriously, when noise limiters are set too low, you get a tetchy band who instead of enjoying the evening are looking at a box of lights on a wall and adjusting their instrumentation levels to try and stop it from cutting their power and spoiling the show”.
However, the band are constantly amazed as to how random they are in their set-up. At the Old Kent Barn the limiter is set to a low 85db. The average encountered is around 90db. “The lowest one we play at on a regular basis is at Cambridge Cottage at 80db, however we get along with it fine. It all comes down to frequencies and configuration again” says Dave.
To add complexity though, one venues 90db meter is not the same as another’s 90db limiter. Some are set to respond to the very harshest frequencies, i.e. mid range, whereas others respond to the bass/ low end frequencies. The problem is, until the band actually turn up and do a soundcheck with the limiter they can’t work out which frequencies to EQ out so that they can get the maximum volume at the venue. And by maximum volume they don’t mean the best volume for the band, they mean squeezing the most out of the compromised (leashed/limited) volume so that the show is as good as possible.
When new venues ask if we’re okay with playing to a sound limiter, we have to be honest and say that it “depends”. “It doesn’t really mean much to us if they say it’s a 90db, 80db or whatever because there are so many other factors involved in setting the things off. Our approach is to explain that we have to have a longer soundcheck, and we will contact the bride and groom or booking agents to explain the position. We are not rocking the boat here, we are being professional and covering our own reputation.”
And as for the gig? Honestly, the band’s feelings were that the 85db limiter at the Old Kent Barn is a difficult noise limiter to play with. However, they managed to get through the night only setting it off twice. Both of these times they were able to cover up and continue without any real break in the proceedings, plus laugh it off with the audience. And the couple who booked the band? They were really pleased and that’s the bottom line.
What was really useful to The Love Junkies, was the very helpful member of OKB staff who kept looking in on us and tutting as we triggered the amber lights of the limiter, shaking his head and then attempting to explain to us what a noise limiter was and how it works. Rox, very tactfully and professionally gave him the short shrift he deserved. The band do not like being treated like naughty schoolkids when they are trying to give their all for a performance. Grrrr.
’nuff said. Anyway, noise limiters are really another topic, and Marcus could go on about them until the cows come home, but that’s for another article. Perhaps something a bit more technical, eh Marcus?
Good to see the return of the chocolate fountain. Haven’t seen many of them this year. Nice people at The Chocolate Volcano (and that topic really is reserved for another post).

4 Comments

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  1. I had an amazingly similar problem at an amazingly similar venue with an amazingly similar helpful member of staff. My method of thanking him was to take him firmly by the hand and shake it thoroughly whilst offering him some words of encouragement. Im considering going back there with the equipment that was damaged just to make sure he and his boss are under no illusions just how pleased I am with the advice he had for me,and how impressed i was with the venue. Bloody lucky he was there that night it could have been MURDER otherwise.

  2. There's an interesting thread about the Noise limiter issue here. http://www.mrgig.com/discusstopic/43038/1

    Whilst we are able to play within the threshold of the limiter at the Old Kent Barn, it seems there are other bands who have had difficulty. Love Junkies have a particularly tightly controlled PA which means we can do a good performance. I would recommend caution to other bands though especially if they have bigger line-ups than a 4 piece with backing tracks.

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