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Played a Big Room with no PA Support - And Survived!

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by jaywa, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Last Saturday night I played a private party with a band I have been playing some side jobs with while my primary band is on hiatus. Venue was a banquet room that probably could have held 500 people (although only 200 at most in attendance).

    The band was 4-piece playing mostly jazz standards and older soft rock. Acoustic drums, bass, keys and guitar with 3-part vocals. Total P.A. was two small full-range "cube" speakers on sticks and a powered mixer. BL said he wanted to run only vox through the P.A. and I was thinking, "seriously? in this room?" Well we set up, started running a soundcheck song and I walked out into the house to take a listen and incredibly, it actually sounded good. Went out again when the room had filled up a little, and was still really happy with the sound. Not high volume and no "thump" like with a full P.A. but I was really thrilled with how my little Line6 150w combo was carrying the room. The biggest adjustment for me was I had to turn up a little louder on stage than I'm used to in order to get enough bass in the house mix but none of the other guys seemed to mind that at all.

    Maybe this is standard operating procedure for some of you but in my case, my main band runs everything through their [much bigger] P.A., all the time so I figured that was just something you always had to do, especially in bigger venues. So it really shocked me. Just wanted to share a success story.
  2. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    We play quite a few medium to large size rooms using a setup similar to that. Funny thing is we still get told to turn down by some of the old folks. We have a full system but don't seem to use it very often anymore.
  3. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yeah and this was a gig where high volume would have been neither required nor welcome.

    I'm 46 and pretty sure I was the youngest person in the room that night.
  4. My 4 piece (guitar, bass, drums, and vox) played on the shore of a lake last summer thru a couple of JBL-Eon clones with just the vox going thru them and our own amps and it sounded fine. Guitar players amp died in the second set and we ran it thru it a little as well and kept on truckin. Louder for this show would have been nice, but this was sufficient.

  5. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Done it a thousand times. There was one old boomy ballroom where it was best to play softer. When we hit the sweet spot, volume-wise, it was...well...sweet. Never woulda thunk it would be so. Actually, I like playing at lower volume, even for rock. Things seem to mix better. Most of my gigs are without me in the PA, although sometimes it's required.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    What really helped in this situation was there was about 150 combined years of live gigging experience onstage including a drummer who knows how to get a good sound out of his kit without pounding it to pieces. It was very easy and drama-free for all of us to self-balance both onstage and in the house.
  7. I do this all the time now. Hardly ever run any back line through
    little FOH PAs in small venues. Most times I am running a 100 watt combo on a chair so I Don't couple to the floor and get loud and it is OK I don't need the big guns, just breathe you'll be fine DJ Bebop, just breathe :)
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    When going through a P.A. I do put my combo up in the air but since it had to carry the room, this time I put it right down on the floor of the stage to take advantage of the coupling. Worked pretty well.
  9. A nice mix is nice mix whether it's too loud to talk over or 10dB down.
  10. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    And, there are always the older folks who sit right in front of the band and complain that it's too loud and they can't talk and yet they could sit in the back of the room.
  11. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    The thing to remember at these sort of gigs, whether it's parties, wedding, corporates, is that you don't have to play to fill the room. You only need to play to the dance floor, which is way smaller than the room itself.

    There's usually a lot of people who haven't seen each other in a while (esp at weddings) and want to catch up and chat. If you're playing to fill the room they can't do that. But if they can talk comfortably, yet still hear you and fancy a little boogie at some point, then that's just about perfect.
  12. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yup, that's exactly what happened at this gig. Most of the night we were "wallpaper" but every now and then we'd get a few couples up on the dance floor for a song or two. Definitely not a gig that was gonna stroke anyone's "rock star" ego but a decent check for not a lot of work and home by midnight.
  13. Groovy_Gravy


    Apr 26, 2012

    I prefer NOT running everything through the PA..to me it makes it sound stale and it just loses the vibe to Rock n Roll..for me anyways.

    In my band we only run vocals and my bass through the PA ( line out from amp and into board so it can go through the sub-woofer :bassist:) sometimes we mic the kick drum but thats it. the rest is taken care of by guitar amps..putting them to use the way it should be.
  14. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Knowing what you need - or don't need - to do a gig is as important as knowing the tunes. I play "background" music a lot. My favorite way is trio with no PA. Acoustic drums with a drummer who understands dynamics, a guitar player who understands dynamics, and myself. Small combo for he guitar player and a little Genz Benz Shuttle 3.0-10T/110 extension mini stack for me. Set up nice and close to each other. Makes for the best listening and playing.

    Now, I do think there is something to be said for using a PA and having everything run through the PA - even if you don't really push it. Having everything come from a "single source" create a nice even balance and a (potentially) good balance and mix. Just because something is in the PA or one is being used doesn't mean it has to be loud. There is a certain "presence" when stuff is all in the PA.

    I enjoy each set up, but I think better playing can happen in the "acoustic" trio setting.
  15. I have fun going without PA support. Means I get to turn my amp up quite a bit more than usual :D Great story!
  16. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Westchester County NY
    I've played a bunch of these corporate-type gigs in large hotel ballrooms/banquet rooms with a PA that was too big for the room and a (hired - not ours) sound man who put way too much into the PA. Every freaking instrument is miked, DI'd, etc. -- so of course you need the big vocal monitors, and let's get the instruments mixed in those monitors too while we're at it. (Particularly the kick drum - what is it with these sound guys and the kick? Makes it really hard to hear the bass.) The band was too loud for the room. You can't get the right stage volume and "grit" in the sound, certainly not for rock and roll. It sounded like sheet, but of course the sound man knew what he was doing and I was a complete idiot...... Not much you can do when you roll up and the big-ass PA is already set up. I much prefer a smaller PA in those settings.
  17. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Brings to mind the old joke about the band that shows up for the wedding gig and starts loading in racks of power amps, guitar stacks, huge subs etc. and George turns to Ethel and says, "that's the loudest band I've ever seen."

    People really do hear with their eyes and it seems like on these lower-volume gigs one of the best ways to get your client to immediately assume the worst is to show up with way more gear than required... even if you have a sound tech who can get a good mix at low volume. They see a bunch of P.A. and a big backline and perceived volume goes up about 20 db more than it actually is.
  18. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Westchester County NY
    :) Also brings to mind the scene in Spinal Tap at Lindberg Air Force base, when they roll up with all the gear:

    Lt. Hoekstratten [Fred Willard]: . . . I would like to get the playing on about 1900 hours, if that is satisfactory?
    Derek [Harry Shearer]: When will that be?
    Hoekstratten: I make it now it is about - 1830 hours.
    Derek: So that's what? about 50 hours?
    David [Michael McKean]: 120 hours?
    Hoekstratten: That's actually about 30 minutes, about a half hour, give or take just a few minutes. I don't want to rush you. The idea is that we get it on and we get it over with and I have just one request, would you play a couple of slow numbers so I can dance.​
  19. Sir, you are speaking truth and knowledge that many do not understand.

    These type of gigs, one must understand, you are the entertainment, not the event. :)
  20. nicopiano

    nicopiano Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Levis, Quebec, Canada
    +1 I totally agree and I wish every sound technician could understand it as well.