So I did an actual gig in Berlin. Believe it or not, that’s why I went. I was doing sound for the guys that performed at a dinner for a business convention. I only had to mix the show. Someone else did the actual work of setting up the system.
Gigs like that- conventions, meetings, seminars, trade shows- are called industrials. My part in it, only mixing the show and not dealing with the system, is referred to as briefcasing or white-gloving.
Most industrials suck more than your average other gigs for the crew. It felt odd to be the client and not part of the crew. I saw how industrials are pretty much the same, no matter what country you’re in. Here’s how:
1) The crew starts at an ungodly hour, completely contrary to any other gigs they do.
In this case, midnight, which meant that all the guys were coming off another gig, and working through with no sleep. The video guy (picture a taller, blonder Arie Luyendyk) had been up for forty hours straight. He told me he had been in a car accident on his way to Berlin from Austria the night before. He wrecked in the woods with no one around and waited two hours for help. And still made the gig on time.
I said, “You must be in pain!” and he said, “No, no, because before? I was driving the racing cars? So I know how to be hit? You go like this,” and he crossed his arms over his chest, each hand on the opposite shoulder. “And then you tuck your head like this?” and he tucked his chin down between his arms. “So no pain,” he said. Germans are so badass.
2) The suits are annoying.
The suits are the liäson between the guys doing the actual work and the clients. They were very nice to me, because I was the client. They’re great at overcharging, getting in the way, and moving things around so that the guys doing the actual work can’t find them.
When it came time for me to ring out the mics, Sven, the sound tech, couldn’t find the mics because one of the suits had moved all his gear around.
The suits had originally told me to stop by around 6am to test. Then they changed it to 8am, then 9am. At 9am they weren’t ready for me. I came back after breakfast and figured I’d wait. Then a lot of German swearing and running happened, mostly swearing in German but some in English, for my benefit I believe, because . . .
3) Something always breaks.
Smoke was POURING out of one of the speakers. I made some crack about how that doesn’t happen very often in America because our power is small. Nobody was amused. So I left again.
4) The shop always forgets something important.
We start rehearsal and one of the mics goes dead. I go, “Hey Sven, this one has a very low signal.” I say this with an affected accent, as if that will make up for me not speaking Germish.
He makes a German sound of concern and retrieves the mic and examines it. “Main problem,” he says. “Big problem. Battery run out.” and then cracks a smile. Funny, because we all know changing batteries is a much easier problem to fix than a smoking speaker.
Rather than send someone out to a drug store to buy batteries, a suit had them sent over from the shop. They didn’t come until an hour into rehearsal, so we were down a mic that whole time because, while they were charging 17,000 Euros for an average quality, large-sized LED video screen- a price that should have included scantily-clad virgins feeding the viewers figs- they did not include with their package any back-up mics, wired or otherwise. They didn’t send enough batteries to get through the show that night, which meant a second emergency delivery (not counting any previous emergency deliveries because of the smoking speaker). Then the lack of extra mics necessitated yet another delivery, because of course, the CEO always makes a speech a these things.
5) The systems tech guy is overworked and under-appreciated.
Sven was exhausted but never lost his cool. He kept cracking jokes. He spoke English. He fixed my computer problems by kindly standing to the side and offering helpful comments until I finally understood what he was talking about. That part wasn’t a language barrier, but a conceptual technological understanding barrier (me).
Again, I say Germans are badass, but beyond that, we’re pretty much all the same.