Ben Hammond: FOH Engineer

Instanbul, Turkey. Another day, another festival…

At this particular festival, we were main support and had a nice, early load-in. As the headliners set up their touring FOH, I tracked down the local FOH Tech to check he had received my showfile, and had loaded it onto the Yamaha PM5 console as promised. He politely told me that he had indeed received my file, but “couldn’t be bothered” to load it up, and had forgotten his PCMCIA card – so couldn’t help me.

I slightly less politely informed the house guy that I would go and get my card from the dressing room and load the file myself. He told me that was fine as the first few bands of the day were on the DiGiCo SD10 that sat behind the PM5 in the FOH tower. On returning to FOH, card in hand, I was overjoyed to find the FOH guy for the opening band building his show on the PM5, a mere 3 hours before their scheduled load-in. I again, politely, relayed to the house guy that this would not have been a problem had he been bothered to do his job, but as there was also an SD10, I would load my file from a previous show mixed on an SD8. This was met with laughter by our trusted babysitter, who insisted you simply cannot “just use the same show file”. I informed him that he should probably educate himself a little more on the matter, plugged my USB key in, and loaded my file with no issues. After configuring my outputs, and the patch, I left FOH and headed for catering.

Hours later, I returned to FOH. Contrary to what I was told, the bands before us were using the PM5 and not the SD10, so I used this to my advantage and did a little last minute work on my file.

The last notes of the band before us faded away, and in came house music – changeover. I was asked to send some noise to the PA to check the outputs. As I hit un-mute to send everyone’s favourite Pink Noise into the world, I and the much-prepped SD10 were treated to multiple pints of various local beers that one of the lighting staff above me had kicked over. The desk, to its credit, seemed absolutely fine, but our favourite FOH Tech pushed me away and told me that it was simply impossible to mix the show on this console, and that I must now mix my show on the PM5.

At this point, I had forgotten the meaning of the word polite, and in no uncertain terms, reminded him once again, that had he done his job in the first place, this would not have been an issue. The aforementioned PCMCIA card entered the PM5, I recalled my show and began the laborious task of re-patching. After 10 minutes of what felt like the most intense game of Mega Drive International Track & Field to a soundtrack of Frustrated Stage Crew Waiting For A Line Check, I delivered the glorious news that I was ready to go. Last thing to do, hit save. I don’t seem to remember my finger being that far away from the store button, but in the time it took to get there, a couple of well-dressed women carrying wine glasses had descended the stairs from the unfamiliar lighting world above me (possibly the perpetrators of the SD10 beer monsoon, we’ll never know). Upon exiting FOH, the second of the well-dressed women took it upon herself to trip and use the obvious dangling power cable, loosely connected to the PM5, as a makeshift bannister. The screen went black microseconds before my finger hit store, accompanied by an almighty bang through the PA.

Now 20 minutes into a 30-minute changeover, I waited for the PM5 to restart, wondering what I’d be greeted with upon startup. It was at this time that, because there had been a complete loss of SR power, someone up there decided it would be the perfect moment to conduct a totally unannounced pyrotechnics check onstage, which resulted in the complete removal our SR guitar technician’s eyebrows and facial hair while he placed a downstage pedal board. Suddenly, my problems seemed somewhat insignificant, as I was overtaken with an undeniable feeling that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t our day…

Ben Hammond