I spent the summer of 1999 working sound for the Interlochen Center for the arts. It was a great opportunity to see how professional artists tour. I was amazed by how quick a touring staff is able to set up and tear down within a day. Two of the artist that made the most impression (for very different reasons) were Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam.
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Lovett for a number of years. His album “Joshua Judges Ruth” is still one of my favorites. Tremendous song writing and an amazing group of musicians. This staff and group were exactly what I expected, totally professional and ready to go. They set up full lights, sound and instruments like navy seals. When the show was ready, Lyle stepped off the bus, hot lady on his arm, both dressed like they were going to an opera.
The show was great and tear down was exactly like the setup. Everyone knew what they were going and it felt almost effortless. The staff and musicians were cool and confident and worked well together. The experience with Mr. Yoakam was the complete opposite.
Once Dwight’s stage was set, they began the sound check. Apparently they had just released a new project, but no one could remember the the single. They had to scrape up a copy of the CD to play over the PA in order to relearn the tune. The poor front-of-house tech had to play the track at least a dozen times in order for the band to memorize the chord changes. Mr. Yoakam had the safety of a teleprompter for the lyrics, but even he was struggling with the music.
The show that night went equally as bad. There was nearly constant feedback from the monitors, and I’m positive that was the last night the monitor guy was employed by the Yoakum organization. The band was adequate and Dwight was a decent showman, but there was nothing professional about it. The musicians were agitated and the roadies looked beat up and worn down.
I learned a lot that summer about how I want to work. I want to have the experience and confidence that I know my job and will execute as expected, even when things don’t go as expected.