Joining a band for load-in at a venue on a Saturday morning is not the typical duty associated with this gig in Artist Relations at Shure. Occasionally, you’re asked to go above-and-beyond and help out a band or bands coming to town and in need of a few microphones. In this instance, I arrived equipped with two road cases filled with the latest and greatest microphones from the Shure catalog… A little bit of everything if you will.
Upon arriving to the Congress Theatre on a cold Saturday in late January for the Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival, I encountered the Drive-By Truckers and their faithful crew, all set-up and ready to try out a few “special” KSM9 microphones I brought specifically for their live stage. Once I opened the case of mics I brought along, it was like that scene in Pulp Fiction, when Vincent and Jules open Mr. Wallace’s briefcase and the characters are captivated by what’s inside and giving off a soft, angelic, golden glow. Soon Colin (monitor engineer) and Matt (front-of-house engineer), were asking what I had for guitar cabinets, pedal steel, cymbals, overheads… Shure mics were soon everywhere on stage and ready for critique by the band and the engineers. KSM9s were on the vocals, KSM313, KSM32, SM7B and SM57s were on guitar cabinets, Beta 181C on pedal steel, KSM141 on cymbals, Beta 98AMP/C on toms, and VP88 on overheads.
I proceeded to the front of the stage and listened as the band ran through a few tunes. I could tell the focus was very heavily focused on guitars and vocals as Matt and Colin made their adjustments. Once everything seemed finely blended and at an ample decibel level, I made my way back to the stage to get some initial feedback on the recent microphone placements. Colin was completely floored by the “special” KSM9s I brought along, pointing out the frequency response and rejection. Matt kept it simple and said, “I like it.” When asked which one, he replied, “All of it!” This could have gone a completely different way, it’s not often that a band will change that many mics in one soundcheck and use those same mics for a show later that evening. There was certainly an element of trust; in me and moreover in Shure’s product line.
Once the Truckers made their way back to tour bus world, Dawes showed up for load-in, traveling light as this was a fly date for the quartet from LA. Yours truly was on microphone duty for this visit as well, but Wes Delk (front of house engineer) and I sorted through the mics and where they would end up on stage weeks prior to this show. I handed out a few mics to Wes and soon enough the guys were ready for soundcheck as well. Watching the guys run through a few tunes, some gawkers on the side of the stage started to marvel a bit and made a note to check out the Dawes set later that evening.
So with everything in its right place, there wasn’t much left to do besides have dinner and maybe catch a few bands on the extensive bill. There was certainly a lot of down time and this is where life on the road gets a little mundane. Somehow, we found ways to make the time pass and soon enough Dawes was making their way to the stage.
This whole “festival” started at around 4 pm that day. There were bands in the lobby of the venue, in the balcony of the venue and bands sharing the main stage as well. At around 10 pm, Dawes launched into their first tune. Again, as I mentioned in my earlier post about Dawes, this is a band you have to check out and get to a live show the next time they’re in own. There’s something there that a lot of us feel will be there for quite some time.
With Dawes off the stage and their dressing room filling with fans new and old, the stage is readied for the Drive-By Truckers set. It was now about 11 pm and the Congress Theatre was still filled with eager fans. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and company proceeded to play for the next two and a half hours. They certainly have the musical catalog to support more than that, but a strict curfew made them complete their set by 1:30 am… making it officially Sunday morning. They sounded fantastic that night, maybe it was that microphone selection from earlier that day? Of course, Shure can’t take all the credit, the Truckers are a great live band; masters of life on the road.
As I packed up my last mic, letting Colin keep the vocal mics for their next gig (he wasn’t gonna let me leave with them anyway), I made my way back to the southside. Of course, no late night venture for a southsider is complete without a trip to White Castle, and at around 2:30 am, that’s where I officially ended my evening. Love this life.