Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Lessons Learned: Our gigging boot-camp of a tour for Soundpad comes to an end and we look back at everything that we learned
The time has now come to take stock of the things we learnt on this tour. And there are quite a few.
First: there is a real buzz around India at this time. Truly, there has never been a better time to be an indie musician from India. Soundpad is one project that has broken new ground. Thanks to this, and the IYME award that the worthy Mr. Nair has managed to bag, there’s everyone from PR companies to merchandisers, bands to management agencies that suddenly want to hook stuff up with India. If we can get our act straight, there is a real international audience that is waiting to listen to us.
Second: There are friends to be made in the unlikeliest of places. We handed out flyers in the Tube Stations, made friends in the street, and got scores of email ids. Dogged facebooking has resulted in many more friends. Of the 50 or so, if even 5 remember us, we’re sorted.
Third:With a crew that know their stuff you can really let go and play a kick-ass gig. Allow me to introduce Messrs Mark Nicholls and Pete Carrol. They were our Tour Manager and Backline Tech respectively.
[Photo] Pete Carrol (2nd from left) and Mark Nicholls (extreme right) taught us a thing or two about touring!
To say that we learned a lot from them would be an understatement. Saying that they turned our ideas of playing live on their heads would be more like it. We met them on Day Three when we boarded the magic tour bus and the first thing Mark hands us is a small spiral bound Tour Schedule. It is pretty much all the info we’d ever need for the tour: venue details, addresses, parking locations, load-in times, soundcheck schedules, show flows, load out, curfew, emergency phone numbers the whole works. And all this for every venue, for every day of the tour. He even had the bands mixer input list (which he had got from us over email) on the last page.
That’s because along with being a tour manager, he was also the band’s sound engineer. Indigo Children and us shared Mark and Pete. Anyone who asked a question the answer to which was in that booklet paid a fine. Poor Sanjeev. Sometimes a questioning nature can go wrong.
[Photo] One page from the Soundpad Tour Booklet - click to enlarge. No really, click.
Now in India we’re used to the following guys: Main sound-wallah (the paan-chewing owner of the sound equipment, who sometimes has an idea how things work, but frequently lets his underlings do the work. Mostly because he doesn’t give a shit). Then there’s the ‘engineer’ who is an understudy, who mixes for sundry orchestra parties and has no idea about what the band needs and mostly doesn’t care. Don’t forget the motley crew of labourers and helpers who hang around, lift the occasional amp and lug all the gear in and out when told to do so. They’re mostly asleep during the gig. If you’re lucky you’ll have your own sound engineer who knows your sound – but that’s only when it’s a huge gig when you can afford a Sameer Mirchandani or a Fali Damania. Mostly, you can’t. The miracle is we still pull off acceptable gigs. Crowds still have a blast.
For all the above reasons, we couldn’t figure out what Pete Carrol was doing in the crew till we saw him in action. As backline tech his job was to ensure that we were in our element on stage. So when it was time for the gig, all our guitars would be tuned, cabled, amped, mics would be in place and water bottles would be exactly where we wanted them. If the Varun felt the guitar was too loud on the amp, he wouldn’t even need to tell Pete. He would get it from Varun’s body language and come in and set it right on his own. Bands travelled with their own backline amps. So Pete would lug, unload, unpack, setup, dismantle, pack and re-load all the amps, the drum kit and our gear into the van. With help from us of course, but in a way that was bloody fast and seemingly painless.
We played about 4 shows with no soundcheck. That’s quite unbelievable for a band like us that likes to take our own sweet time to setup and get the right sound. After one gig, Mark knew who needed what on which monitor. He would increase levels at the right time for whoever needed it (during a percussion solo, for example). On one occasion he even muted a channel when something went wrong – he knew the songs!
We learned that you need to play like a band that’s playing for the crowd – not for yourselves. So do away with the breaks between the songs, the leisurely sips of water and general banter. Play like you mean to change the world in your allotted 30 minutes.
By the end of the tour – we had been through gigging boot camp. And we loved it.
Text: Jishnu Dasgupta
Images: Pavan Kumar