Copyright 2016 A L Technical


A. L. Technical

By Ash Lawson, May 3 2016 08:24PM

Since my last update the stint with That'll be the Day is over...for now at least! The last few gigs took in Norwich, Epsom, Bromley and Lincoln; with a one off in Chesterfield last week back at my old position on monitors which made a refreshing change!

Immediately after the Lincoln gig I jetted off to Barcelona for five days, this time corporate work for Graham Hill at G.H.A.V, with Paula and Mairead of Prism Event Management. A five day conference for the HIV Forum, the event went off with minimal issues and a very happy client which is the name of the game.

For a bit of variation I've also started working with an emerging band. My roots will always be in live music and it was really nice to get back to basics and mix an exciting and dynamic act, in some of the UK's foremost venues for upcoming live bands. The Courtesans are a four piece female band, labelled as a doom-metal act they are so much more than that, with a combination of a solid rock/metal core, embelished with electro elements, dark and haunting lead vocals with tight harmonies and a very theatrical element to their shows. This will be a band to watch and its great to be a part of their formative gigs.

With a few shows in the diary for the Courtesans, plus some dates with That'll be the Day over the Summer and festival season just around the corner its shaping upto be a busy summer!

By Ash Lawson, Mar 22 2016 03:11PM

I've been a bit slack with the updates lately! Mainly down to the volume of work and trying to find time in the day to write something meaningful!

Not that I'm complaining of course its always good to be busy.

Since the last update the tour had been rolling on playing a host of really great venues and some fantastic sold out shows. Also we were in Weymouth again for the production rehearsals for this seasons Essence of Ireland tour, now re-branded into Irelands Call. Another tight turnaround again this year called for a late night programming session. I was primarily there to program the track and video content and sync everything in Qlab but also to oversee the sound requirements and assist the touring crew with the setup. An incomplete prep session meant that the audio network wasn't talking properly and with the show relying on a Dante network to feed track from the AV Mac into both the iLive desks on Monitors (T80 surface with an iDR32) and also to FOH (T112 with an iDR16) this meant the Qlab programming was suspended in favor of fininshing off the network set-up. Building a network with Qlab and Dante isn't a taxing job, it's simply a case of keeping track of IP addresses and making sure priorities are set correctly however it just goes to show the improtance of good prep, we lost almost a whole day to issues with the network and also RF problems which could have been mostly ironed out in the warehouse before rehearsals began. That aside the tour is now under way and receiving excellent reviews across the UK and congratulations are due to Ashley Chappell (FOH) and Sam Morgan (LX) and all the cast and crew for a great show.

As for That'll be the Day we're still rocking on. We've played 12 nights since my last update, from Fareham to Woking, including two nights in Tewkesbury this week, where it was very nice to be home and catch up with some familiar faces! Also a big thankyou to the crew there for a very speedy load-out. It really goes to show how important a good hard working house crew are and what a difference they can make to our day!

On a slighty more sombre note we were very sad to have a medical emergency at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne just before the opening of the show. We understand from the venue that the person involved sadly passed away, and from the whole cast and crew our thoughts are with those who were close to them.

The venue were excellent at dealing with what was a very difficult situation and much respect must also go to them for their professionalism.

What did affect me the most about the whole experience was just how unplesant people can be as a group. I overheard one person complaining to front of house staff in such an agressive and unplesant manor, only ten minutes into the delay. And he wasn't alone in his attitude either. I can understand peoples frustration but we absolutely strive to get our shows up on time so if there is a delay be assured it is for a very good reason. If you think you're having a bad day just stop and think what might be going on around you.

From Eastbourne we travelled to Southend which is guaranteed to be another excellent night (despite being one of a few venues on the circuit where the load-in is via a lift!) The crew are brilliant and the crowd are always up for a good night.

The room is testing for our PA, it requires it to be able to perform a variety of different functions: Long-throw, right to the back of what is quite a long room; wide near-field coverage; and also controlled off-axis dispersion, keeping as much sound off the solid walls as possible. This particular Opus rig never fails to impress me, managing about as smooth and consistent coverage from point-source boxes as it's possible to achieve.

Other venues to feature in the last few weeks are The Playhouse at Weston Super Mare, a venue which the show enjoys a long and happy history with, being home to the anual DVD filming for many years and also a very local gig for many of the company; ensuring a very family atmosphere; and one of the best crew's on the circuit too! Also The Grand in Swansea, another great traditional style theatre split over three levels. Welsh house crews are lovely as a rule. All the Welsh venues we play have really friendly, helpful crews and it's always a pleasure to work with them and Swansea is no exception. The dimensions of the Grand necessitate tying in to some of the house system for complete coverage. As well as the very Upper Circle fills, the width of the stalls and the presence of overhanging boxes presents an unusual set of circumstances very similar to Buxton. The solution again here is to cover the majority of the Stalls with the main PA and point a couple of boxes out wide (in this case Meyer UPA's which sound fantastic). A bit of tweaking and it's possible to get seamless coverage across the whole room, even with a huge pillar sitting right between some of the seats and the main boxes!

Check out a selection of clips from the last few weeks!

By Ash Lawson, Feb 23 2016 04:58PM

We returned to play another sell out at the Hawth in Crawley. The crowd here are another great one, always up for a really good night.

From a technical point of view its an excellent venue, easy load in, big stage with plenty of space in the wings. This makes it easy to put the full set and lighting rig in. The Auditoruim is still wider than the Prosc here though, and without careful placement of the PA it's easy to encroach on sightlines to the wider seats, however its then possible to loose a portion of the sound to the wider seats because the PA can't face them properly! Always a delicate balancing act and one we try to get right wherever we go! Also the mix position, under a small balcony, can be a bit harsh, causing you to want to reign in some of the higher frequencies which of course is a mistake as it would leave the rest of the room lacking!

Another excellent crew making the load out nice and quick for us to be on our way to Yeovil.

The Octagon is another theatre this show has a long history with. It's an unusual auditorium given that is octagonal (incase you hadn't guessed!) and also has solid brick walls and hollow seating. That said, it's wide enough that with careful placement of the boxes its a really clean room without much in the way of reflections you would expect in a room with solid walls. The guys here are always excellent and today was no exception, setting a record time for the load in and fit up! Full set and lighting rig again completing the package and looking really great on this stage

The Somerset crowd is always "in the mood" and we had an excellent night, a nice easy room to mix in and everyone seemed to enjoy it!

Last stop on this leg the Queens Theatre Barnstaple. A really great reigonal theatre, despite the stage size and space lacking somewhat, we always have a great night here. Around three years ago the stage underwent a fairly extensive upgrade, new lighting equipment and most importantly, a complete set of 20+ motor bars all controlled from a fully programable automation system, a vast improvement given that previously the entire flying system was manual hemp!

The stage is still one of the smaller ones we visit, this always makes life interesting particulary for Ben with his Vi3000 monitor desk. The desk plus radio rack takes up the footprint of a medium sized Heritage or ML4000, meaning the already tight wing space really is streached once he's set up!

From my perspective it's a nice easy room, and whilst the narrow prosc limits you to one stack per side, its easy to achieve nice clean sound here. A tie into the upstairs delay's ensures the very furthest seats get good vocal coverage.

Mike enjoyed the luxuary of not only getting his whole flown rig in, but also tieing into some in-house Qwash 560z fuxtures which enhance the backlight with nice smooth washes and good punchy saturated colour. Check out the video below and see if you can spot them. It looks particularly good in here with the starcloth and also very even, uniform haze distribution, certainly not always the case!

Also I realised Ive been excluding the girls in my video snipets so check out a little something from them below!

By Ash Lawson, Feb 16 2016 07:04PM

Bedworth (or Beduth as it's lovingly pronounced by the locals!) is a 700 seat concert hall style venue near Coventry. With a very low, wide stage and big, solid walls it can be a lively room if not treated properly but with a bit of careful PA placement its no challenge to get a good clean sound. The rear half of the seating is raked and quite hollow so it can also be a very bassy room but again with careful management thats not always a bad thing!

This is one of the few venues where the FOH position is easily accessed from the back stage area so often you'll turn round to see one of the singers loitering by the desk having a nosey at one of the other pieces, occasionally it'll be the boss!

Flying is limited here so Mike opted for just his Mac101s and Alpha's, and I was down to the last choice AV config: Small screen & Small projector. This set up can sometimes struggle to cut through especially with some of the lighter hue's from the 101's but in some spaces theres very little choice! We tour enough kit to put on a show without any in house lighting apart from specials, however Mike will always make use of whats available, usually in the form of a 6 color wash on stage. Very occasionally he has a few toys to play with and on this occasion he was able to tie into some Chauvet Qwashes in the auditorium and rather excitingly a mirror ball too which made an appearance late on in the second half!

With the threat of not being able to get in and more worryingly not being able to get out again because of forecast snow, we made our way to Buxton. Typically because of the lack of a premier inn we stay in Chesterfield over night and make the final leg across the hills in the morning. We awoke to clear skys and made an uneventful journey to one of the most stuning theatres on the curcuit. However problems began before we even got through the door. A Paul Matthew truck was still parked at the venue from a previous show, making it impossible to get our truck parked properly. After much debate and a few heated phonecalls to Paul Matthew we opted to spin our truck and load in backwards as it were, not fun when you consider the angle of the street the truck parks on; anything that wasn't secured made a beeline for the truck doors! The Opera House is also one of a few venues that requires a lift to get the kit from the street level to the stage, making everything just that little bit more tedious and time consuming.

Once in, it's another case of making things work as best as possible. The stage is very deep with quite a narrow Prosc. Also the auditorium is considerably wider mid way back and also rather challengingly its 4 storeys high. All in all this makes for a few considerations when placing the PA and choosing where to hang the screen and projector. If the screen is too far upstage or too high then the upper levels will struggle to see the images, however the lower the screen the lower the projector will have to be, which will leave it hanging right in view! Also with the drum riser at 2ft, if the screen is too low the stalls seats will be looking through the kit! Just a few things to think about! As far as PA, it's only an option to put half the rig in here as sightlines from the wider seats in the stalls are already tight. Getting decent level to the Upper Tiers is impossible with one top box per side. On top of that the overhanging balcony makes getting clean sound to the widest under-balcony seats very difficult. The compromise here is to tie into the house rig, a stereo main matrix to the Balcony feeds and a mono vocal matrix patched to the main stalls boxes. All the house rig is Martin WT2 which is quite a nice clean box so with a bit of careful positioning and EQ its easy to get even coverage to most of the house. In terms of LX Mike opted for the same rig again with the screen and Mac101s hung on the same bar, a configuration we've found that works well and saves time on the build and strike. Also being a complete hemp house it saved too much lifting for the house crew!

The show currently runs on an old Avolite Pearl Expert. It's been doing the rounds now for about 10 years, with only a few trips back to Avo for repairs. However the Pearl is an old system now even with the recent Titan upgrade, and with a show thats ever increasing in terms of complexity, with the desk trigging AV or receiving triggers from other sources, plus mapping across the LED's in the set and running two or three universes, it's starting to struggle a bit. One of the highlights of That'll be the Day's productions is a drum duet, or in this case trio! Three kits and three drummers with a stunning lightshow. Sadly during the climax of the piece in Buxton some of the flash buttons on the pearl decided to quit causing Mike a momentary heart attack! Ever the professional he overcame the issues, but it just goes to show how shows of ever increasing complexity quickly put demands on the equipment we rely on to control them!

Watch this space for an upgrade to the LX department, we'll review the replacement desk as and when Mike has had a chance to purchase and play with it!

Check out some videos below from the last two nights.

End Medley in Bedworth with a hint of mirror ball!

End of the night blinders!

Stunning gold inlay around the Buxton Opera House Auditorium

Frank admiring the decor!

By Ash Lawson, Feb 13 2016 04:17PM

...and then headed off to Stevenage for two nights.

We have a special relationship with the boys (and girls) in Stevenage. Ash Chappell from the venue is a talented engineer and also not bad on the lighting board too! He's covered most positions on the show at some point, often bailing us out when somebody is ill or needs cover. Chief Tech Dave Nott, along with many of the other crew have worked with the show over many years and always goe out of their way to look after us. They're also pretty handy with a screwdriver and soldering iron, and are always happy to help with annual maintenance and repairs when we're in.

After a great first night we always head for a curry at the local curry house, cast crew and house crew. This time happend to fall on Spuds birthday! Caroline (Spud) has been the face of the show for nearly 20 years selling Merchandise and greeting the audience as they arrive. Any excuse to have a company night out!

It's always a great crowd in Stevenage and although the mix position sounds a bit iffy so long as you trust the rig you can get a good rocking sound in the room. They've also benefited from a PA install recently and have a lovely centre hang of d&b boxes to plug in the gap up the middle making it a nice even coverage. Check out the pic below of 600 people all on their feet at the end of a great night!