Reason #367, "Why I hate Phantom Power."
Subtitle: Robert Francis in-studio, June 7, 2010
I should have know something was a little off when we were late setting up the conference room. You know, like that little feeling one might have on the Titanic, when you watch the rich people climb to the highest parts of the ship? There may be a slight exaggeration here, but today was a great lesson for all of us. Too bad Robert Francis had to unkowingly share this lesson with us. At least he's uber-cool, he was so laid back. He kicked his shoes off and didn't seem to mind a thing.
For us, a little different story. Rocky and I did a quick sound check. We're in this weird little conference room downstairs, while people do computer training upstairs. I actually prefer it, because we're set up to mix in stereo. Things seemed fine. Moxie Java brought us fresh coffee and warm cookies to share with listeners. Guido's brightened my day and set us up with tons of pizza to share with in-studio guests and winners.
Warning: geek tech talk to follow.
Something first seemed strange when I heard Robert's guitar, it sounded "out of phase." It's like putting a guitar through a phaser pedal, sounds a little funky. I thought maybe it was just the 12-string, but I''m still thinking "no." Our engineer Rocky calls me, and says in the prod room upstairs, he can't get the right channel from the mixer. He tells me to wiggle some cords, so I do, 'cuz I'm high-tech like that. He has me reverse some wall cables, I push a few buttons, change things back and forth, and Tim is patiently wondering if we really can go live in 3 minutes and why am I on the phone? Since we're downstairs, there is not even a radio for Tim to monitor what is happening
Then it happens. (Insert thunder and creepy movie music here to change the scene.) (Hold on while I double-check that a period goes BEFORE the parenthesis to close a sentence? It does. Curses to that person who put doubts in my head!)
Now, visualize this in slow-motion. We go live. Tim is talking. I don't hear him. He doesn't know it. Robert doesn't know it. I push every button I can think of. Ken is suddenly peering through our window. Ken actually calls Tim's cellphone...and it's ON!
At this point, slow it down Matrix-style, because time just started blowing calendar pages in the wind when it's only seconds.
Tim asks me what's wrong, I say the mic isn't working and suggest we go to a break. There is panic. We all feel it. I'm not sure I was heard, so again suggest a break or a song...something?! I grabbed Robert's guitar mic and put it in front of Tim, suggested he use that. "What about his guitar?" It's also through a D.I.," is what I respond with. Thinking all is well, problem solved, Tim once again starts the introduction.
Nothing. Ambient room noise. Really loud Robert saying, "thank you, great to be here!"
Rocky then calls me, my phone is off but I'm mortified and whispering, "hello?" He tells me Tim's mic isn't working. Withholding a giant sigh and groan, I say that I'm aware of it and not sure what's wrong. Also, I cannot believe we're still live, Tim asks if we are, and I realize there is NO way for any of us to know without...a RADIO! I put yet another mic in front of Tim, he says "there are THREE microphones in front of me, and none of them are working!" Stress level right now for Tim, Rocky., Ken, myself..about 150%!
Right here and now, let me tell you about collective radio consciousness. It's a common recurring dream to be in this exact situation! For years, I've had nightmares about being at work and trying to play music, but everyone has taken the cd's out of the room and I have to just keep talking. It is painful, it seems to last for hours and the discomfort is indescribable. At a radio conference years ago, I heard a guy from across the country describe this same dream and I felt so connected! Today, we helped Tim's nightmare come to life.
We find out indeed, a song is being played. The engineer has me wiggle some more cords, and then asks about Phantom Power.
More than once, Phantom Power has been the bane of my existence. More than once, when half of a mixer just weirdly stops working, weirdly someone has accidentally turned off the Phantom Power button. Condenser mics sometimes use Phantom Power. In my wiggling and switching, I turned it off. Why didn't my brain put this together quicker, since it's happened to me before?! Ugh. We're back in business now, Tim is understandably rattled and frustrated, aplogizing for introducing Robert Francis for the THIRD time!
We're good to go, the first song he does for us had crackling guitar so I can't use it. My entire board is jacked now from my changing settings and plugs to find the problem. The trim was all the way up and finally halfway through the song, things were back on track.
Here is his single "Junebug." His B string is a little flat and there is nothing I can do, but it does bother me. He has a friend in town, a north-ender type girl who brings her dog in (?), but I love dogs and Blue Heelers are my fave, so we get along great. The puppy loves music and hangs out with Robert Francis in this video.
He loves his mom and has a huge tattoo on his right arm. Robert Francis is our latest "River Rendezvous" free concert tonight at the Knitting Factory. He has a great voice, and can't wait to work with people like Lindsay Buckingham, and Neko Case. Here is a fantastic song to end with, called "Mescaline."