Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tech Talk

It is very interesting how the performing arts has different lingo when talking about the same thing or the same word could have a totally different meaning.
What I mean is, in traditional theater when talking about the person who runs the sound board, they refer to them as the SBO (sound board operator), while in the concert world we refer to them as FOH engineer (Front-of-House). However, Front-of-House would usually refer to the House Manager in a theatre setting.

When theater people are talking about "effects" they are usually talking about sound effects that go through speakers on stage for sound cues like a gun shot. Sound designers will use these speakers so that shot sounds like it came from the same side of the stage as the performer. However, in the concert world "effects" are delay and reverb that is added to an instrument or vocal for more ambience or depth to the sound.

Monitors or fold back are used for the artist on stage to hear themselves, but when you say monitors to a non-musician, they would immediately think of let say a computer monitor.
When talking about lighting fixtures, theater refers to them as instruments. The actual bulbs are referred to as lamps.

What are some other confusing language differences?

Shane and Shane

I was extremely impressed with these guys. There were several people that told me that this was one of the best concert that they had been to.
They used an uncommon drum kit/percussion setup that gave the music a completely different sound. In fact, mixing these instruments was quite an exhilarating challenge as I had never heard them before. The kick was hand made by Joey their drummer and the snare and tom were Remo made. The loop technology that was used, made the sound even more complete.
The lights, sound and musicianship all came together for one great performance and delivered a great experience for those who attended.
A big THANK YOU to all the crew that made it happen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Robert Cray & Kevin Burt photos

There was one point early on in Kevin Burt's set the other night, opening for Robert Cray, where I got all tingly.

Apparently I wasn't the only one, because as Kevin kept building and building and building momentum, channeling a growl not unlike B.B. King, finally reaching a feverish pitch and exploding into a quiet refrain, practically the whole audience burst into applause and whistles.

What an amazing performer, voice, songwriter and talent.

I didn't see the whole Robert Cray show because, frankly, I was exhausted and needed to catch some sleep. But from what I saw, they lit this place up.

Our awesome volunteer photographer, Todd Adamson, posted some great photos on his own blog, right here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Took the words out of my mouth...

Diana Nollen at the Gazette wrote a great review of the Dar Williams/Shawn Mullins show that described what I was trying to describe in the post below, only better:

"But an evening with East Coast folkie Dar Williams is like meeting up with a college pal every few years, catching up on the latest happenings, watching time melt away.

Every song is a story and every story sings, as she connects with her adoring fans. You almost forget 499 other people were listening, too, at The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St."

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Apparently, you can't just stack people up in seats when they have the same tickets.

A word to the wise: you can't sell the same two seats to three different pairs of people. They get upset (and understandably so).

Another piece of advice: if you do, for some reason, sell two seats to three different pairs of people, do your best to make sure that it hasn't happened in the past to any of those people.


No transition is ever painless, and at tonight's Dar Williams/Shawn Mullins concert, the Great Ticketing Software Change of 2008 doled out the hurt yet again. It doesn't matter that 99% of things have gone smoothly (well, okay... maybe 95%). What matters is the 1% that has not.

It's our job to make sure everyone has a great experience at the Englert. I think, after a lot of quick problem-solving, talking, listening and hoping, that the three groups of people affected by tonight's little ticketing snafu all ended up happy and enjoyed the show. If you're reading this - thank you for being patient and understanding. You didn't have to be, so I appreciate it.

I only saw the end of one song the entire tonight, but I heard most of both sets from the box office. Wow! I'm not just saying this to say it - both Dar and Shawn sounded amazing. In addition to effortless singing and sharp songwriting, both of them interacted with the crowd as if they were all sitting around in the living room of their houses.

The show got over around 10:40, and when I left at 11:30, Dar and Shawn had been out in the lobby for a good 45 minutes, talking with a (still) pretty deep line of fans and signing autographs:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Took the Railroad...

My Wednesday started at 8 AM with a radio interview out at KCJJ and ended Thursday morning at 12:30 by paying the band. In between I did so many things that by the time I got to my car Thursday morning, I felt like it was a different day than the one I had started.

Ignoring the obvious literal fact that it was actually a different day, running with me on the spirit and not the letter, I thought this must be like the schedule presidential candidates keep, day in and day out. Except a million times easier. No matter who you support, you gotta admire their endurance.

Anyway, the night ended with a great show by bluegrass/rock band Railroad Earth. I had heard their newest album, Amen Corner, a handful of times and thought that it was catchy and well-produced, but bluegrass isn't my "thing" as much as other genres. But their live show, as with all good bands, brought the songs to life in a much more powerful way. I loved it. They also brought their own light show, which totally transformed the space and made things look as good as they sounded.

I'm not a music critic or concert reviewer, so I'm not going to go down that path. But I will say that they were very tight, the crowd loved them, and they were easy to work with. Can't say that about everyone.

Check out some pictures here. Video coming soon...

Oh - and last night Beth had a great idea to start a new photo series on this blog: Confiscated Item of the Night! We'll kick things off with a bota and two flasks - one engraved from a prom night. Sounds like they had more fun at theirs than I did at mine...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Englert Goes Clubbing

Finally the phones have stopped ringing and the window traffic has subsided enough to have time to post what I've been wanting to post all week long. (The King & I is this weekend, so last-minute ticket buyers are coming out in droves)

Last weekend's very first Alley Cabaret was a lot of fun, and a huge success.

I love the feeling before a show, or any kind of event, when you just know it's going to be cool. Walking around on stage at 11:30 PM last Friday night, 15 minutes before the doors opened, there was an unmistakable vibe that something cool was going to happen: small tables set up over most of the stage... a stage-within-a-stage erected at one end, set up with an accordian, piano, drumset, string bass and some microphones... a DJ up in the catwalk, bumping out some ambient electronica that makes me realize why that music gets most of its following through the after-dark club scene... streaks of light against the brick wall...

We opened the alley doors at 11:45 and within 5 minutes had already let in 80 people (5 over capacity). We actually had to turn away around 20 people.

Vocal trio Rock, Paper, Scissors sang old-school cabaret classics and original material alike, occasionally joined by sexy and spot-on choreographed dancing from students in the UI's dance department.

I was on stage for awhile, and then sneaked up to the balcony to get the bird's eye view. It just looked and sounded amazing. The whole evening was flawless: no security issues, no technical issues and everyone seemed to have a good time.

I'm looking forward to the next one, in a couple of weeks, where they're going to put on Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. I'm curious about how the vibe will change, as that play isn't quite the same "scene" as sexily-costumed women singing "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy." The Zoo Story was also the first play I "produced" when I was an undergrad in college, way back in the day, and I haven't seen it since.

It's nice to see something experimental, that was just an idea a few months ago, work out and work so well. Kudos to everyone involved, especially Anthony, Brandon, everyone at the university, and our awesome technical staff.

Here are a few pics from last week:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Radio Free Bennigan's

I did Tommy Lang's radio show this morning out at Bennigan's, talking mostly about Second City but also about everything else that's going on right now... lots of shows because of the floods... big names this fall... fundraising... Bruce Willis...

Radio is always fun - it goes fast, the DJs on the other side of the conversation are always pros (literally, professional talkers), and it gives me a chance to elaborate on things that are normally confined to an ad or brochure.

Tommy's show was even better: there was a free meal involved. Now, unfortunately I wasn't able to take advantage because I had to be back at the theater for another meeting... but that's a pretty sweet deal: "come on our show, talk about what you want to talk about, and when you're done, help yourself to a Monte Cristo."

Thanks, Tommy and KCJJ.

On another note, things are picking up in the box office. Phones are ringing more, people are stopping by more... fall is officially underway. We're slowly but surely learning the new software, getting the routine down, getting more confident. Getting better.