Monday Aug 19

emellis1 Lady Gaga – The Monster Ball “In the Monster Ball all the freaks are outside, and we lock the doors.”

On Feb. 26, when I pulled up to The Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, I had no idea what I was in for. Little did I know that I was about to be attacked by “Little Monsters.” If you are unfamiliar with this term, it is someone who lives and breathes Lady Gaga. I was intrigued by the amount of people wrapped around the arena dying to get in, literally dying, because it was freezing outside and many of them were scantily clad in their best Lady Gaga costumes. The following that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta has acquired is unheard of. Her following is a worldwide phenomenon. And for one night only, the over-the-top Monster Ball (or as a non-Little Monster would say, “The Lady Gaga World Tour”) made its way to Pittsburgh.

As an outsider to this craze, I, as an aspiring sound engineer, was much more interested in the technical aspects of such a huge production than in becoming a “Little Monster.” I was kind of bummed when entering the arena because I realized how far our seats were from the stage. But I shouldn’t have been too upset. We were seated second level, directly behind monitor world. What more could I have wished for? I then started counting, and counting, and counting, speaker after speaker, light after light. The final count was something like 64 line arrays, 18 subs, 18 Mac 3000 movers, plus so much more. This was by far the biggest production I had ever seen. It was also the first time I had such prime seating. I could see all of back stage and monitor world. Everything I want to be a part of some day was right before my eyes.

The Monster Ball was astounding. The production was flawless. At one point, my friend, a Little Monster herself said, “You look bored.” I then responded with, “No way, I’m amazed.”  Gaga has described this tour as “the first-ever pop electro opera.” It is a two hour show with more than 15 costume changes, a burning grand piano, and a 40 foot mechanical monster. Gaga and her team created something unimaginable, so modern and strange that even if you’re not interested in this, you would have lost your mind. Although I was focused mainly on the technical aspects of the show, I was overwhelmed by the insanity and infatuation of what Lady Gaga has created.
I left speechless. Although I was not changed, nor did I become a newfound Little Monster that night, I was stupefied. I can only hope that I will someday be picked up by a tour that will produce shows to that degree. I want to make people feel the way I felt that night. I guess for now I can only dream.

zachbright1 Zach Bright – Sound Engineer

Zach Bright originally from Buffalo, NY now spends his time traveling around the country with amazing and talented artists such as Toby Mac, Skillet, and Mad Dog. While not on the road, Zach spends his time residing in Nashville, TN. After studying for a semester at The Contemporary Music Center on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, he decided to leave Indian Wesleyan University to pursue a career in the music industry. At the young age of 21, Zach has accomplished many life goals and has experienced things people like myself could only dream of.

Thank you for sitting down with me and talking a little bit about what it is like getting started in the business and the projects you have worked on in the short amount of time you have been in the industry. First of, while on tour, what is your title?

I usually am the Tour Audio Patch/Monitor Engineer. For the opener.

You also work in the studio. What is your title in the studio?

I guess you could call me the Assistant Engineer/Drum Tech/Extremely awesome Coffee Tech.

zachbright2 Since you spend so much time in both places, which do you prefer, studio or tour?

I prefer the actual work in the studio, but I also enjoy touring life and traveling.

Who all have you toured with?

I have toured with Toby Mac, Skillet, Shonlock, Brandon Heath, House of Heroes, and I am about to go out with the band Mad Dog to SXSW festival as the Stage Manager/Drum Tech/Monitor engineer.

What’s a normal day on the road with any one of those artists consist of?

A normal day starts at 8:30 a.m. when I wake up and crawl out of my bunk on the bus. I get dressed and crawl into the venue looking for catering to grab a quick bite. From that point on I get to work, unloading the truck and moving gear to where it will live for the show. After the gear is unloaded I begin to set the stage, set up microphones, run cables, set monitors, and side fills. After this we have line and sound checks, then the show. I mix in-ears for the opening act, help the local hands get the set changes and pull cables for video during Toby's set. After the show is done, I do everything in reverse and pack the truck, after that I crawl back into my little bunk, and sleep till the next day.

What has been the best city to work in on tour?

So far, it doesn't seem to matter what city you are in while working, it only matters when you have a day off. If that’s what you are talking about, then I like both Portland and Seattle so far.

What is the best venue to work at?

Best venue so far was the Gibson Amphitheater in LA. The local crew guys were amazingly cool and good at their jobs. We setup super fast and loaded everything out in 42 minutes. Also, the dressing rooms and catering were sweet. Oh, and an added bonus: the theatre is inside of Universal Studios so we snuck on to five or six rides in the afternoon.

Who have you worked with in the studio?

zachbright3 In the studio I have worked on various custom records for mostly independent and smaller artists, artists like, Johnny Swim, Mad Dog, and Mike's Pawn Shop.

What does a normal day in the studio look like?

Studio work varies day to day. Some days it feels more like being a janitor, other days it means setting up a session, choosing and placing mics, patching outboard gear into the chain and attempting to get some basic good tones to make the producer or engineer happy. After that, it is a lot of punching the computer in and out of record while the producer talks the musicians through their parts. Other days, it can be heading to someone else's studio and assisting the producer with other basic duties, or, like last week, tuning and choosing drums to get proper tones for an album.

So since you have worked in multiple studios, which has been your favorite?

Both Blackbird and Oceanway are awesome. Huge rooms, tons of gear, and sweet consoles, but I also love our studio in Franklin, TN: EMac. It has its own charm and it always feels great going back there after being on a tour.

What has been the most rewarding project you worked on?

I don't know... all the projects I have done with Bryan Lenox (Yamaha Entertainment Group) have been awesome, they are fun to work on and always have great results.

Who has been your favorite artist to work with, studio or tour?

Toby Mac has been my favorite artist to work with. He is very nice and always seems to stand for what he believes in. He demands a lot from people that work for him, but he always treats them very well.

Have you ever had a bad experience either in the studio or on tour?

zachbright4 I have had some trying days in the studio, usually just a misunderstanding between engineers and the producer. The producer sometimes comes off as overbearing or inconsiderate because he wants something done and doesn't realize it means a ton of extra work for the engineer, things like that.

Since you are so young and you have so far to go with your career, where do you see yourself in five years?

I have no idea what I will be doing in five years. Hopefully something related to music, and not a real job. I am happy to do whatever I am supposed to do. I don't really worry about it, I just kind of fall into things.

Do you have ideas on a dream job? Something you have always wished for?

Dream job? Pretty much anything where I can make just enough money to live and be around music, art, or production.

Stage AE – A Day to Remember

Stage AE, located on the North Shore in Pittsburgh, Pa., is something that the area hasn’t seen in a long time. Of course, a nerd like myself had to check this place out. I recently attended a show in one of the three performance spaces available. Stage AE offers something most live venues cannot. It offers both an indoor and outdoor stage, as well as a small club venue. The capacity for each is outrageously large considering the area. If you know anything about Pittsburgh venues you know that they are usually small club like venues or arena/stadiums. The only venue remotely close to the area that does not fit into those categories is the First Niagara Pavilion, located about 30 minutes west of the city. Seating 22,683 people, First Niagara is obviously a great place to see a concert in the summer months. But lately, the number of concerts has dwindled, and traveling to nearby cities has definitely become more common. A place like Stage AE is necessary for smaller acts, as well as for the year-round availability. It is definitely going to help the music scene in the Pittsburgh area grow.

Stage AE can accommodate 2,300 people indoors, which includes the balcony reserved for VIP ticket holders, 400 in the club area, and 5,500 at the outdoor stage, making the venue diverse for any type of show. I saw A Day to Remember at Stage AE, and of course I did some research on the place. Stage AE runs a very impressive PA System designed and provided by CLAIR. According to “Clair is the premier global sound reinforcement provider and acknowledged audio industry leader, offering a complete array of state-of-the-art products, technical staff and services to the professional touring industry.” It was awesome. I was like a little kid in a candy store when I first walked in.

Stage AE is part of a larger company called PromoWest, and through its website I was able to see all of the technical specs for Stage AE. I’m not going to go into full detail, but the gear offered is the best around. While tickets may be a little pricy, and a draught beer may cost $5, the experience is worth every penny. The venue as a whole is astonishing. To the average consumer, Stage AE has the potential to be the best venue in the city.
Things that the consumer wants are all available. Great parking is available surrounding the venue. You also have an amazing view of the North Shore and the surrounding three rivers. Additionally, the bathrooms are clean and the bar’s drink prices were reasonable.  They were only missing one thing: me. I would love to be on Stage AE’s staff.

While at Stage AE, I was able to enjoy the show I had paid for because I not only thoroughly appreciated the sound system, but I was a paying customer as well. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience at Stage AE. I definitely won’t be a stranger to this new venue in Pittsburgh.

Lastly, I would like to thank PromoWest for bringing such a great venue to our city. Because of you, more artists will stop in good ‘ole Pittsburgh on their tours now and I appreciate that more that I could ever express. Oh, and I would love a job at your awesome venue. My experience was definitely “A Day to Remember.”