This weekend is Pride weekend. Pride Center of WNY is a non for profit entity that is focused on making the community a safe and respectful place for the gay and lesbian public. They put together a big event that has a lot of activity. Yesterday I did sound and stage for the Ambush party.
It was a rather amp’d up affair, to say the least. Everyone appeared to have had a great time.
I arrived at 10am and the interns had the stage already constructed under the tent. For the rest of the day I worked with another engineer and an intern. We first unloaded all of the sound and lighting. It was already over 80 degrees with very high humidity. It only got warmer as the day went on.
About an hour later we had subs and horns up, lights, and stage monitors. The generator was warming up as we got a small, front of house area set up. We were able to use a small format, 16 channel, Allen & Heath by using the 1/4″ line inputs as well as the XLR, just having to toggle back and forth between sources when needed.
The sound check was at 2pm, I had no idea what I was in for. First, we had to go find Amy’s Food Truck and get the best $6 falafel pita you’ll find in WNY.
We got back around ten til 2 and were ready to start sound checks. One act had one instrument. Another act had a sax, 2 trombones, 1 trumpet, 1 guitar, 1 bass, a drummer, and 3 were singers. The total number of instruments for the rest of the line up, everyone included, was 1. There were DJ performances, a drag king performance, a lesbian burlesque performance, 2 other acts using prerecorded backing tracks, and a duo that was a laptop and a violin.
It took us until show start, 6pm, to get through sound checks. It wasn’t because of any gear issues or unforeseen catastrophes. In a nutshell, bands were either late, not showing up, or unprepared. It was actually a lot of fun to manage through it for me but not for the show organizer or the artists themselves. In my experience, only the best bands and performers ever really have their shit together.
Here’s a rundown of who we had performing at Ambush:
The MC of the night was Kristen Becker. She’s a local, lesbian comedienne. She had an intro monologue before the first act and also between every act. She has a lot of charisma and was quite comfortable in front of a rather large crowd. She didn’t really have any jokes for the most part and was winging it the whole day. I love comedy and was hoping to hear some of her material.
The first act was DJ Milk. He played songs from his laptop for an hour. He played the 4 on the floor stuff everyone knows and loves. I would have linked him here but I couldn’t find an online presence for him.
The next act was Reign. They were 3 women. 1 rapper and 2 singers. They performed over a CD. The singers were very talented and had a lot of power. This was another artist that I could not find an online presence to link here.
The Drag Kings were next up. I thought that was a band. I soon realized that it was actually lesbian women that looked like men. Then I felt dumb for not realizing that ahead of time. When I heard the name, Drag Kings, I just thought it was a cool name using race cars or something. My sister was at the show and teased me about it. Anyway, 5 songs. 1 from a CD. 2 from an iPhone. 2 from a Macbook. 5 songs, 3 playback devices. At first they showed up with a laptop. The laptop had only 2 of the songs. So someone had to run home to get a hard drive. When they returned, they had a CD with one song and a hard drive that didn’t have any of the songs on it. So that’s when they grabbed their iPhone and bought 2 of their songs. 5 songs, 3 playback devices.
The only full ensemble for the entire show was next. The Stamp Lickers. They were a pretty tight cover band. They played standard party music. A multi-genre, top 40 selection from several decades. They were the only act that required any mixing.
After the Stamp Lickers had the crowd pumped up and sweating, the 2 burlesque dancers took the stage. They stripped down to electrical tape covering their “key areas” using a CD of 2 songs.
The next act, and last and only one to have a live instrument, was Bitch. It was 2 women, one on a laptop, one with a violin through pedals. They were quite interesting. They had some crowd friendly hooks and it appeared that everyone there knew them and loved them. Turns out Bitch toured with Ani DiFranco and also was in a John Cameron Mitchell movie called “The Shortbus.” Bitch is commonly known as Bitch and Animal. They are signed to Righteous Babe Records, Ani DiFranco‘s label. Animal Prufrock has a project of her own.
When Bitch wrapped up we hung a banner across the back of the stage for God-des and She. God-des was a rapper and She was the singer. What a singer she was. She sounded like Adele on steroids. So much power and control. While I didn’t really care for the music, I loved the singer. They also performed over a CD. God-Des and She appeared on the L Word on Showtime which gave them a nice bump in popularity.
DJ Milk took the stage again for another hour and since the alcohol had been flowing steadily all day, the crowd was very prepared and starving for those 4 on the floor favorites. I was surprised that he was able to work this crowd after the last two acts, considering their style, popularity, and how much the crowd loved them.
The last act was DJ Yama. Not to be confused with DJ Y.A.M.A. I could not find an online presence for her. She played a bit more obscure but still 4 on the floor. She had the toughest slot since it was so late, so much happened, and a lot of people were pretty beat down. Wind picked up, temperature dropped, and it started to rain as DJ Yama was finishing her set. When she was done we fire drilled the tear down. After most of the snakes and cables were cased and the monitors were cased we noticed that DJ Yama had left her laptop and Numark on the stage.
In general, this was one of the easiest shows to mix. It was a long day, 10am til 3am, but an easy day. Only one band needed to be mixed. Everyone else was either on a laptop, iPhone, or CD with canned music. When I think about it, taking a CD to a gig and taking the stage with only a microphone is not much different than karaoke. No matter how talented, I just prefer live musicians. I was really surprised at how popular and well received the acts that didn’t have musicians actually were.
I’m considering a touring karaoke show myself now.