I was behind the mixing board upstairs at the Marquee, chatting with Troy (one of the other sound techs). A guy came up and tried to hand me a cardboard plate and a napkin.
“What is this?” I said.
The guy kept trying to press it into my hands. “Don’t you have a garbage can back there?”
“No, man,” I said. “What do I look like, a janitor?”
“Oh,” he said. “I just saw you behind the counter, there…”
I looked down. The “counter” is actually a TAC Scorpion 24-channel live mixing console. It has two or three hundred knobs on it, about three dozen faders and red and green blinky lights everywhere. I looked at Troy, who was laughing.
The guy shrugged and decided to go somewhere else with his napkin and cardboard plate.
“Idiot,” I said.
And so began my weekend.
~Remy Shand was performing at the Marquee on Saturday. I had never heard of him, but someone told me he’s a huge star in Europe. Remy was described as “kind of like Jamiroquai, only he’s Canadian so he’s not as cool.” The show was sold out.
Everyone was talking about how many cougars were in attendance. Oh Remy, Remy, whoever you are, you are obviously beloved of older women; and the cougars were on the prowl on Saturday, with their make-up and teased hair.
I saw a cougar wearing glowstick bracelets and a glowstick around her neck. Go get ’em, girl!
But the overall feel of the night was slightly upscale, so I didn’t get to see any occurrences of that quintessential cougar characteristic: acid-washed jeans.
“Jesus,” I said. “This place is Cougar Central. It’s like the National Cougar Convention in here.”
“I know,” said my friend Pete. “The bar even smells different tonight. There’s like a whole different set of scents and odours in the air.”
“Hey, yeah, you’re right,” I said, sniffing. “That’s pretty crazy.”
Upstairs was packed, but the show ended early. The club emptied out quite quickly. That’s the trouble with cougars–no staying power. A fair number of them wound up hanging out downstairs in Hell’s Kitchen. When cougars get drunk, you can hear them laughing throughout the whole bar.
~I was working downstairs that night, doing sound for a soulful, bluesy rock band. They were easy to work with, so I was inclined to like them.
Hell’s Kitchen is shaped roughly like a rectangle, with the stage in the corner. The dancefloor and the main bar lie in front of the stage. There’s also some seating along the short back wall. It’s actually possible to sit in a corner so that you’re behind the mains, which is not the best seating location, from an audio perspective.
Anyway, I was tearing down after the band had finished. Some woman approached the stage. She looked to be in her early forties. She seemed to have an urgent need to speak to me.
“Come here,” she said, as if she were going to tell me a secret. “From where I was sitting, over there…”–she pointed towards the corner–“…the drum was too loud.”
She looked at me expectantly. I have no idea if she thought she was doing me a favour by telling me this, or if she was really pissed off, or what.
“Well,” I said. “You see these speakers? That’s the PA. All the music comes out of there. See what direction they’re pointing in? The music comes out of the PA, and then it goes this way.”
“Oh, is that why,” she said, and scurried back to the corner; presumably to share this piece of acoustic theory with all of her friends.
I resumed coiling up my cables. The stage lights were in my eyes, so I couldn’t really see anything offstage. But I’m sure the bright lights caught every nuance of the withering dirty look I threw towards the back corner of the room. (You have to be an asshole when you’re a sound guy. People expect it.)
~I mentioned this to the drummer, who found it amusing. “Drums are loud,” he said with a shrug. “Why would that woman even come to a rock show?”
I like how the woman said “the drum” instead of “the drums.” I know exactly what she was referring to. When I was teenager bashing away on a $50 drum kit in my parents’ house, my mom would come into the room and point at the bass drum and say, “THAT DRUM IS GIVING ME A HEADACHE.”
There were also quite a few younger women at the bar on Saturday. But when I looked at them, I couldn’t see them for what they were: attractive young women in their twenties. All I could see was a bunch of cougars-in-training.
~Sunday night was “Open Mic Night in Hell” with your host, Al Tuck. Doing sound for open mic is stressful; working with amateurs is stressful. It’s much easier making people sound good when they already sound good. This was as gruelling an open mic night as any I’ve ever done down there.
Some guy with a harmonica kept jumping on the stage to jam with whoever was up there, regardless of whether he was invited or whether he was in key. I could see Al hovering by the side of the stage, looking anxious, but not wanting to disrupt things further by climbing up there to pull the guy off the stage.
Finally I leaned forward and hit the “mute” button on Harmonica Guy’s mic. Then I sat back and folded my arms and watched as he cupped the microphone, honking away like mad with no sound coming out.
~There was a woman in Hell who kept buying me drinks and trying to make out with me. She would come over and rub my fuzzy skull; which, I’ll admit, I am partial to.
“I’m all about the love,” she said.
“I’m not,” I replied.
“Awww,” she said and gave me a hug. Then she gave me a kiss that turned into a little lip-lock.
I was aware of the bouncers and the bar staff.
“All right,” I said, detaching myself from her embrace. “I’ve got to get back to work.”
~There was another woman who was running around the bar and just being obnoxious in general. She would stand in front of the stage and try to talk to the performers while they were playing; stuff like that.
Al was about to introduce someone when she jumped up on the stage, grabbed a microphone off a stand and started to sing. I couldn’t tell what she was singing or if it was even anything coherent. But she was being very grandiose about. So I dialled up a huge reverb effect that made her voice sound like it was coming from inside the Hall of the Mountain King.
She was the star. She was in the spotlight. She was Celine Dion. I started to go over the top with more reverb and crazy delay effects. A couple of people turned around to give me knowing looks. The woman kept smiling and belting out her song, seemingly oblivious to how she was being received. I gave her the epic treatment.
By the time she got off the stage, everyone in the room was laughing at her.
Philip Clark: one cold motherfucker of a sound engineer.
~I was sitting at the console when a young woman came bounding up and jumped into my lap. “Hello!” I tried to see around her to the stage while she sat and talked to me. She was wiggling around and babbling on about I know not what. Possibly it was a drunken case of mistaken identity… but who knows, really.
She had her arms around my neck. “So I was talking to my guy,” she was saying, “but he’s not going to be here for another twenty minutes, so…” She looked at me and made a “whatever” face.
“So you’re going to pass the time by making out with a total stranger?” I said.
“What? No,” she said. “I’m not going to make out with you.”
“Then get the hell off my lap,” I said. I shoved her away quite roughly. She recovered herself and stood there, looking surprised.
I think she tried to introduce herself at this point, but I had stopped paying attention. I can remember saying, “Then what are you doing jumping on a stranger’s lap, ya weirdo.”
“I’m friends with so-and-so,” she mumbled. “My boyfriend is so-and-so. I know Victor [Syperek, owner of the club].”
“Yeah,” I said. “Congratulations.”
~I had to go to the stage because Harmonica Guy was up there again, and he seemed to be arguing with Al. “Is this guy giving you a hard time, Al?” I said.
“Oh, no, it’s all right,” said Al wearily. (“The music! The music!” Harmonica Guy was saying.)
We finally got Harmonica Guy off the stage, and Al got ready to play his final set. I returned to the mixing desk to find that two or three thugs were occupying my space behind the console.
One of them was sitting down, and another guy was bent over him. I couldn’t tell if they were arguing, or what. It just seemed like they were having some kind of intense, drunken macho-man conversation.
The guy who was standing had one hand in the other guy’s hair, and the other hand curved around his neck. He was swaying slightly. He was bent over, leaning in really close, lips against the seated guy’s ear. I daresay the effect was slightly homoerotic.
“All right guys, break it up,” I said. They didn’t seem to hear me. “All right, guys,” I repeated. “Go make out somewhere else.”
The bent-over guy turned to look up at me. “Beat it,” he said. Then he tried to go back to his conversation. (I couldn’t believe he actually said, “Beat it.” It made me feel like I was in a movie.)
I put my hand on his shoulder and pulled him back. “I work here, so I can’t beat it,” I said. “You beat it.”
“Got a problem, buddy?” he said. I found myself on the receiving end of a couple of ugly dirty looks. Both of the guys were really sweaty.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re sitting in my seat.”
“So,” I said, “you’re sitting in my seat.”
“This isn’t your seat.”
“Yes it is. I work right here. Go sit somewhere else.”
The guy who was sitting down got up slowly and said, “This better be your seat, because if I find out it isn’t, I’m going to be very upset.”
I took the chair and pulled it over to the console but did not sit down. The guys were muttering behind my back. I stood at the console with my hands at my sides and tried to keep tabs on them out of the corner of my eye.
One of the guys made a sudden move towards me as if he were going to punch me in the back of the head, but then he backed off. Yeah, go ahead and try it, I thought. I pulled the chair around and sat down.
No one fucks with me in Hell’s Kitchen.
Ten minutes later, the guy got thrown out for throwing a glass at a drag queen.