So we thought we would try out the blogging thing. Give you an insight into what we do, why we are doing it, our general thoughts and maybe some randomness. Hopefully readers will take something away, maybe learn something, maybe joy from our bad grammar or inspiration to try something new.
To start things off we thought we would talk about promoting and the recent gig we hosted at The Cellar. Before we continue, we should give you a little background about us promoting. Aberdeen has a lot of talented artists especially young promising indie bands. Over the years we have noticed quite a few bands start up, play Aberdeen to death then either split up and repeat or continue oversaturating their music in the city. The artists who weren’t scared to take the leap out of the city to play gigs, would get hit with the common problem of promoters saying that you need a following to get a gig and the way to get a following is to play gigs out with the city. Not good right? Not all bands have this problem but we thought with our passion for music and recording, we would take that into promoting to see if we could help with the situation and boost the local music scene. Looking to tackle the root of the problem, we reached out to an out of town promoter who was recommended to us by a local artist. The idea is that we build up a trusted relationship to help artists from either city get gigs which brings us to our second collaboration.
Falkirk trio Primes were put forward to us. The alternative rockers have been on the up after a successful 2018 and have quite a few festival appearances booked for 2019. A quick listen on Spotify to their catchy tunes (as well as their social media engagements) was enough to hook us into booking them. They were to be main support so we set out to find a headliner.
Local Indy rockers bliss were recommended to us by a local artist. They had been creating a buzz around the scene and had earned a headline slot with the reputable promoters This Feeling. Research showed they hadn’t played a gig out with Aberdeen so they fitted the criteria of what we were looking for.
With our headliners sorted we didn’t have look far for our second support. Having pulled out of the previous gig with illness, we asked our good friends Audiokicks. Having not long finalised their Album through our studio, we were keen to hear the songs live.
For our smaller shows we thought it would be fitting to have acoustic openers to warm up the crowd. We gave the opportunity to Pearl & Maurice who are an acoustic duo (now trio) as they had been looking to get more gigs under their belt.
The Cellar is great little venue in the heart of Aberdeen. It’s free to hire (with a security deposit) so its great for small budding independent promoters or bands themselves to hire for their own gig. The 80 capacity venue is very accommodating for 3 piece bands but it can be a bit of a challenge for 4 piece bands as the stage is very small. Normally one of the members has to go on the floor at the front of the stage depending on the stage set up. The in house speakers are a bit small so it can be difficult to get vocals to cut through the mix clearly without there being feedback. There is a back line that you can hire through the venue. Its £20 per item so if you were looking to maximise profits, you are best bringing your own gear or ask the bands to supply the equipment. The in house Pa is already set up with a graphic EQ so you just need to switch on, plug in microphones to the stage box and away you go. As the venue is small you only need to mic up the vocals. If there are any synths or acoustic guitars we would recommend putting it through a DI box then the desk instead of using amps, especially with acoustics as the guitar will most likely feedback being so close to the amp. With keyboards and synths you wouldn’t have this issue, going through the PA would mean there is less sound on stage so less instruments fighting with each other to cut through from the stage. It comes down to preference I guess. You can put the kick through the PA but the speakers don’t have the size and power to replicate the low frequencies well and we found from the previous gig, it just clouded the vocals.
We brought our own drum kit, microphones, mixing desk, bass and guitar amps. We also brought a monitor with us this time. A few people we spoke to had said they had tried to use a monitor but couldn’t get it to work. Lack of space discouraged us previously but we had room in the Rav so we thought f@#k it, why not. We filled in the for Audiokicks with the last gig and you could barely here the vocals on stage when playing. This can lead to shaky vocal performances so experiencing this ourselves, inspired us to give the artists the best stage sound possible to help get the best performance.
We arrived later to the venue than we would’ve liked. There was a tradesman van blocking the rear exit at the studio and it took them around 20 mins to move the van. On top of this, when setting up the drum kit, one of the kick drum leg bolts threads went. Talk about a bad start. We sighed and grumbled for a minute then set off to get the back up kick drum we had. No matter how much stage planning you do for promoting a gig, most of it can go out the window when you get to the venue. Some like to put the drum kit in the corner of the stage at The Cellar. We prefer having it in the centre with bass and 1 guitar to the left and the other guitar to the right. Our back line was a Fender Rumble bass head with a 1x12 cab, Marshall Valvestate combo amp, Marshall MG combo amp and a Gretch Blackhawk drum kit. We have 2 bass cabs but this time round we went for just the one and it was powerful enough to fill the room. Headliners bliss brought their own guitar amps so we stacked them on top of ours. We set the monitor on the stage against the right wall facing across the stage.
With the stage layout set, we set up 2 vocal mics for the first 2 acts and Eq’d the room. Last time round we struggled to get the vocals to cut through the mix and get volume without feed back so we were thorough. We then Eq’d the monitor but you can’t fully test it until there is a band on the stage so we got Audiokicks on to sound check as they were the first full band on. We only sound checked Maurice & Pearl and Audiokicks as they were on first. We thought sound checking all the bands would be counter productive in small venues as only vocals are going through the PA. bands may need the amps switched around too so it just causes more hassle. We sound checked both artists and we were delighted with the sound coming off the stage. The vocals were clear and cutting through the overpowering drums. The only thing that we weren’t happy with was the reflections from the cymbals but there isn’t anything you can do due to the size and shape of the room. The artists were delighted with the monitor and we were surprised with how clear you could hear the monitor mix without their being feedback. It did help that we were using Sontronics Solo microphones which are hypercardiod dynamic microphones which have fantastic off axis rejection, this helps reduce feedback and get a clearer, crisper vocal sound.
The desk we used is a Mackie DL806. It’s a fantastic 8 channel digital desk that is perfect for small venues. You need an IPad to control the software that goes with the desk. Like most digital desks it has graphic EQ’s, reverbs, delays, compressors, parametric EQ’s and gates built in to the software. Each aux output has its own graphic EQ too which is very useful. To have the same components for an analogue desk you would require a lot of gear and cables and we have it all in 1 small desk. There has been debates on analogue versus digital but that’s a topic for another day.
With sound checks done, we were ready for the doors opening. We tried a paid guest list approach for this gig. We didn’t go for physical tickets as it’s an added cost of around £15-20 which we would rather pay the bands with. If we were charging £5-£6 a ticket we would go down the physical ticket route. The idea was the bands collected the discounted price money and would give us a list of names. It was so their main followers would get in slightly cheaper. It didn’t go as we’d hoped with artists getting confused or their followers not willing to part money without a physical ticket. We didn’t want to do a normal guest list as no doubt people on the list wouldn’t show up and we wouldn’t be able to sell their allocation as we would have to honour the guest list. Hindsight we won’t do this approach again but it was worth a try.
The sets of the first 2 artists went great with no feedback issues. The main support Primes had 3 vocals as the drummer sang too. We weren’t sure if his mic would work being on a small stage and next to the drums but we had no problems. The guitarist’s strap broke but with some cellotape she was good to go. Their set went great, their 3 piece harmonies were amazing and they sounded so big for only being a 3 piece. One of the few acts We’ve seen that sound even better live than they do on CD.
For bliss, it was a quick run through all their pedals to balance the levels then balance the levels between the guitars and they were good to go. They are one of the few bands in Aberdeen that the drummer plays with a click track in his ears. This is great to see as it tightens the live performance and overall the bands playing improves. We have found that bands who do this have more efficient recording sessions. Their set had a minor hitch with the bass guitarist having some issues near the end of the set. Apart from that it was sounding great.
We bring one of the cameras that we use for the sessions and take at least 1 video of each artist as an incentive. The agreement is that the artists can do what the like with the footage as long as they credit D-Range every time they use it. We encourage artists to use the footage for promos as we have noticed there is a lack of good live footage of bands in the area.
Overall it was a great turn out, great sound and we look forward to our next gig.