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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Gig Report: ETC (Hangover editition)

I started yesterday by sleeping in a long time. Then I went to get a haircut. There's a great haircutter here in Amsterdam. So I got a haircut. On the way out, my bike tipped over, alas, which is a common enough occurrence. I got to the venue early in the afternoon and proceeded to drink like 10 cups of coffee and eat a lot of sugar.

Then I went to set up and my synthesizer wouldn't plug in. The power transformer plug got bent when my bike tipped over. Oh No! Oh no! So I used my pocket knife to bend it back, but, um, yeah, it would have probably been smarter to unplug it first.

My synth wouldn't turn on. After some experimentation with a volt meter, we determined that the transformer is dead. And just try finding something that puts out +15V, -15V and ground. I'm not 100% certain that the problem is actually the transformer, but I really hope it is because trying to fix the synthesizer itself is beyond me. It's an evenfall minimodular, so if I broke it, bah, they're not being made anymore.

I wet and bought some Jenever, a type of Dutch gin. Then I tried to figure out what the hell to play. 40 minutes of live sampling was down the toilet with nothing to sample. I quickly assembled a program and put together a very alpha version of of my crotch-mounted joystick piece - with the wrong game controller, so the visual element was lost. I got it finished just in time for my sound check.

The right speaker connection was janky, so the person running the sound check, was all "we'll have to tell the engineer to jiggle this if it drops out." The next person trying to sound check just could not get her system working at all. So finally, about an hour late, I was on. Nobody from The Hague came, but I didn't exactly give them advance notice and anyway, I wasn't even playing my program so whatever.

I started playing the silly phone sounds piece that I wrote for brumcon. And I hit the button on my joystick. And nothing happened. I knew it had loaded the drivers correctly. Jesus, the batteries must have died. I wasn't on a stage, I was back by the sound booth, which was lucky, but nobody had batteries. I ran up out of the performance area and found bag, overturned it, grabbed my spare batteries. The moral of the story is that spares must be kept with me. The cool thing was that as soon as I got the batteries in, I could start controlling the piece, even from outside, so I was able to make it kind of play ok while I was coming back.

That piece sounds great in a bedroom, playing out of genolec monitors. It sounds like crap on any other equipment with any other acoustics. Sine waves are unforgiving. And the acoustics at Plantage Dok are crap. Yeah, so great start.

Then I went to play my little movie about getting an injection. (I know, a few days ago, I'm all weird about shooting T and two days later, I'm performing a video of it. Whatever.) The right speaker dropped out completely. And then proceeded to allow bursts of sound in only on the really loud parts. all of the nice, sustained bass sounds are on the right. I turned to the sound engineer, "the right speaker is out!" She had no idea about the janky connection. Somebody sitting next to the speaker, said, "no, it's fine! I hear sound!" It was not fine. It's kind of suboptimal explaining a technical issue to a sound perform during a set while an audience member insists that it's all working fine. This whole situation can't have lasted more than a minute, but it seemed a bit longer. And then the sound was back. on the right.

I don't even remember what else I played. Finally I did the piece with the joystick and the moaning porn women and it worked really really really well. Which was amazing because I had done less than a full run through of it ever. It was the maiden voyage. so to speak.

I decided to quit while I was ahead. I think everything must have been less than 20 minutes, but I actually have no idea at all. But to summarize: we have a dead synth, a dead joystick, a dead audio channel, a sudden exit, and playing pieces about male-embodied masculinity and sounds of porn to a feminist, women audience. It went over really, really well. This is one of the friendliest audiences ever.

I think also the performance aspect was working very well. I was projecting my screen contents so that I could show my video, but it also showed them the source code for my pieces, which was not cleaned up at all. My phone sound piece is still full of cuss words. The piece with the porn sounds has "naughty_piece" for it's file name. They could see all the weirdness, which created a connection. And also, running out and upstairs and madly throwing cables everywhere, digging for batteries is dramatic. People like drama. I want everything to be really clean and professional and together, but folks seem to connect more when it's more obvious how precarious things are. I mean, I always test my music a bunch of times before I play it. (well, almost always), but I never make it perfect. some of my pieces dance on the verge of completely crashing and print out tons of error messages. People like that.

So I didn't do any live coding, but I think I see the mechanism that attracts people to it. They don't just want to see somebody play violin, they want to see them do it on a highwire without a net.

Anyway, after I was off, I opened the bottle of jenever and proceeded to drink a lot of it. It's really good! Tasty. Not harsh. Really fucking strong.

And today, I want to barf.

Just randomly, about a year ago, I went to a show at this same venue. Somebody was making sounds with a wireless joystick exactly like the one I have now. The show ran into major technical problems and wasn't really going. They had thrown something together at the last moment, but it sounded cool at least.

Ugh, I fee like sick.

1 comment:

Polly Moller said...

Hope our gig doesn't go like that! I got a new shirt for it and everything! Except for you drinking jenever afterwards, that would be fine.