A live concert can do more than entertain…
While in New Orleans for a conference in 2017 I had different Lyft experience that caused me to think, again, about what might have been. Riding back from an Uptown restaurant with my colleagues, I shared with Margo and Cheryl my audio experience in that city. The Lyft driver turned to me and said, “I work in live sound here in New Orleans, too.” It turns out he and I learned concert audio from the same man, Simon, and missed working with each other by a year. That random Lyft moment caused me reflect on my past and wonder why I do what I do.
Admittedly, I felt a little sad. Things weren’t going all that well at work and I was starting to feel a bit bottled up and rudderless. Then the last three months of 2017 happened; then the first six of 2018.
I started a new job in August 2018 and a last minute opportunity popped up to attend the annual user conference in Las Vegas that October. While my company party had Cheryl Crow as its headliner (which was very cool), the closing event was a private concert on October 4 with Imagine Dragons.
Flying solo I wandered into T-Mobile Arena and headed to my favorite spot at any show — the mix position. To my right was an array of consoles — lighting, video and audio — and I figured that the big SSL board would likely be the main mix and the spot with the best sound. I was right. I stayed next to that console all night.
The opening DJ set was pretty good with some deep bass (the 24Hz of the subs made my nostrils vibrate), but was disappointing in an unexpected way. I disconnected from the music and thought more about how out-of-balance sound was and wondered if the night would just be one big nightclub dance party (I did a lot of club gigs in my youth and never really enjoyed them). Had I become a jaded old man who had finally given up?
The lights dimmed and a percussion and strings sequence started.
Then it got dark.
I’M WAKING UP.
A wall of light hit my face, a sonic wave crashed over me…
I FEEL IT IN MY BONES.
ENOUGH TO MAKE MY SYSTEM BLOW.
WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE…
TO THE NEW AGE
WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE…
TO THE NEW AGE
I’M RADIOACTIVE. RADIOACTIVE
To experience Imagine Dragons’ music in their hometown on that night was so special and something I personally needed at that very moment. I became lost in the music, the mix, the performance. Energy was flowing through me.
It was clear that the band was experiencing something different, too. Yeah, we were an appreciative private event crowd, but everyone young and old was having a shared moment. Thirty minutes prior to the start of our concert, Imagine Dragons announced the release of their next album, “Origins.”
As I’ve written before, it was in the winter of 1989 while sitting in the basement of my parent’s house in North Dakota watching Pink Floyd’s “Delicate Sound of Thunder” when I turned to my Mom and said “I want to do that.” At that moment, I figured out I wanted to create experiences for people. Although I thought I wanted to be a live concert engineer, in hindsight I really wanted to craft and launch experiences that change people in memorable, deep and meaningful ways.
The feeling I had 29 years ago welled back up, blew open all the things that created doubt in 2017 and pulled me down in 2018 — layoffs at my old employer (including my own), a death in our family, depression, the stress of a new job. Everything that motivates me to create and inspire clustered into a ball of energy that was released that night.
Watching the audio engineer do his choreographed magic on the SSL, the lighting engineer triggering changes with impeccable timing and the video artists painting digital experiences on canvases of light had the power to reset, no reboot me. I could experience it all come together in an amazing live performance and not care about the mechanics of any of it.
I realize that to the people working the concert, it was another night and another job. While it is easy to write the event off that way — it wasn’t. There was something happening in that arena that everyone, including all of the engineers and producers felt at the center of it all. Heck, even the lighting guy for the DJ set stayed and recorded the Imagine Dragons live stage performances on his iPhone!
While I wanted to be the dream engineer behind that SSL, I realized that I’m not — it is still a dream of a life I nearly had. No regrets because I have the chance to create, energize and inspire each and every day, but with a stronger desire to do that much more.
ALL SYSTEMS GO
THE SUN HASN’T DIED
DEEP IN MY BONES
STRAIGHT FROM INSIDE
Thank you, Imagine Dragons.
I’M WAKING UP