Above is a photo I took on Saturday night during soundcheck. I played at Club Maria in Berlin. It was packed and overall a great evening. Other acts included Thomas P. Heckman, Adam X, Luc Van Acker and Dan Monox. If you click the photo it will take you to it’s flickr page where I labeled each piece of gear using the “notes” feature.
The show is an hour long and a woman named “Festes Weiss” is on stage with me. When I run around the stage she takes over the computer. She also sings two songs in the set. As mentioned in this post there is a video that plays in sync with the music during the entire show. Ableton Live controls everything. There are several audio channels of music, a video channel and a mic channel with several effects on it. I use an M-Audio Firewire 410 audio interface which outputs directly to the house or DJ mixer. I have the venue prepare a monitoring system for me which I control from the Firewire 410’s system preference control panel. I use a Shure PGX-24 cordless microphone system connected to the Firewire 410. We have an M-Audio Oxygen 8 keyboard controller and an Evolution XSession controller assigned to various effects and samples. Because they are very loud and have a closed ear I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones. I have a 500watt powerlight that I shine on myself when I sing. We have to small strobe lights aimed directly at us from the table. To complement the video screen we have a large banner with my record label logo hang off the table.
This set up gives me 100% complete control over every aspect of the live show. As long as the sound system is ok and people are in the club it will be a great show. I control the overall eq, microphone, effects, monitor system, video and even lights.
All the equipment I bring to the live show is exclusively for performing. For example, I do not need to take any cables, interfaces or controllers from my regular working recording studio. This lessens the chance of creating chaos or forgetting something. I also have a checklist of everything I need to bring with me. The checklist is very detailed with a separate line on the page for each item. Everything from the large obvious items all the way down to things like extra contact lenses are on this list. I make sure before I leave for a gig the list is checked twice. Other important reminders on the checklist include reminders to bring the invoice, flight details, hotel details, passport, important contact numbers and more. If any one single item is missing it can make an event highly painful. Remember that part of the evening relies on you.
At soundcheck after I set everything up on the table I tape almost everything down. I put a small piece of tape on each plug going into any sockets. I follow the path of electricity from the my surge protector to the house electric taping any plugs into sockets on the way. There’s no reason for your power to go out while you are performing. Once it’s dark and drunk people are everywhere you can count on them tripping on any exposed wires. I tape the cordless mic unit to the Firewire 410 and Dexia laptop stand to the table. Once the bass is booming everything can slide around the table. If I have any cables that are hanging off the table because they are too long I will rubber band a section of that wire to make them shorter. Don’t give someone the chance to pull your equipment off the table.
I swear by Shure cordless microphone systems because they rarely give any audio feedback. I can aim my mic directly at a speaker without worry. When I switched my live gear to only run on 220V from USA power I tried another manufacturer’s cordless mic system and it was a disaster. I returned it and had a discussion with one of the employees at Sound and Drumland here in Berlin. He told me Shure was known to be the least feedback producing cordless mic. If you do vocals in your live set cut most of the bass frequency out and give yourself a bump around 2k. Make sure your test your vocals anywhere you will walk during your show.
The most important tip is to be kind to the soundman! Ask him what his name is and remember it. Ask him if he will be at the venue during your time slot. If your going into the DJ Mixer take note of which channel your on and what the eq settings are. Be sure by the time you play everything will be different. Most likely someone will have put the bass all the way up. Don’t be afraid to reset things the way you liked it at soundcheck!
In my contract with any event they are responsible if any of my equipment is stolen. However, when soundcheck it over I take the computer and LCD projector with me to the hotel.
With everything set up correctly and your peace of mind satisfied you can now annihilate the crowd!