From The Desk Of Rings

I don’t know why I am coming back to Ringo Starr; it’s not like I’m a huge fan or anything. In fact I haven’t even heard anything he’s written in the past, um, fifteen years? Perhaps I simply love it when we get real, unadulterated quotes from rock’n’roll personalities.

Ringo Starr has said that The Beatles’ musical ability wasn’t helped by screaming fans during their mid-sixties heyday. He says: “By 1965 we were turning into really bad musicians because we literally couldn’t hear ourselves over the screaming from the audience. I was going downhill as a musician, and so was everyone else in the band”.

He adds: “Then, we only did 25 minutes on stage. Now thanks to Led Zeppelin and The Who, everybody has to do two hours”. – from CMU Daily

So anyhow, I can understand this. Back then they didn’t really have monitors, or PAs (a rock concert was actually just a concert), but I mean, they still rehearsed, didn’t they? But maybe not if they were on tour all the time. But waitasecond: 25 minutes on stage? Playing short sets is super frustrating. Sometimes The Dears would get to a show, and the promoters would tell us: “you have 30 minutes.” Generally the band would grumble: by about 20 minutes into a set we’ve just gotten comfortable on stage and after that point all of us just start to let loose up there. It’s that point of no return, that “runaway train with no brakes” feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, the two-hour set doesn’t always work either: it’s all a matter of calling it as it’s happening, of doing what’s appropriate for the situation. And being comfortable: I feel Ringo’s 1965 Beatlemania-induced pain. It sucks when you can’t hear anything – especially the drums – but the show must go on, and I don’t think any one of those thousands of screaming teenagers noticed for a second that the musicians couldn’t hear each other. People don’t go to shows to find out about the technical problems, even though it can ruin the show for a musician.

I remember back when we toured with this Yamaha A4000 sampler connected to three controller keyboards via a flimsy MIDI network. That system would crash half the time and we would have to scramble to keep the show going while I troubleshot the cabling and, in the extreme situation, re-loaded the sampler. Now that sucked. We’ve since switched over to these super reliable Roland FantomX keyboards, so no more mid-show meltdowns. Now I can focus on other things, like playing a good show, which is much more fun for everyone involved.

3 Replies to “From The Desk Of Rings”

  1. I reckon the thing that most suffers with bad PA’s, foldback and/or mixers is harmony vocals. Trying to hit pitch and sing while playing an instrument is hard enough without having to wonder whether you’re completely off because you can’t hear yourself at all (even though the audience can, loud and clear).

    I think my worst on-stage experience was having my bass rig blow all its speakers mid-set, leaving me playing DI’d through the desk with no onstage sound at all – it was the tinniest sounding gig ever. But the punters loved it 😉

  2. With regards to the length of a set,I am on the Arcade Forum(as well as The Dears where I’m a moderator)and a topic of discussion some time ago was who would you like to see support Arcade Fire when they tour.I said I would like to see the Dears as a support but the only problem is that they would have to compromise their set and that would not be good thing.So long may you be the headliners

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