Julius’s call for a “roadie museum” last CX issue got me thinking. Whilst my involvement with heritage and museums over the millennia indicates his dream will probably stay just that (a dream) unless a way can be found for it to sustain itself, it revived an idea I had years ago. The problem with museums is they’re very static things. In order to inspire, we need to really demonstrate things working – kind of like a steam loco shown cold and lifeless in a museum Vs. in steam and screaming down the track.
After reviewing Jands’ excellent growing section on their website (http://www.jps.com.au/company/history/) on rock technology, my dream is a bit different and more specific. A show.
A charity show, with all of the gate going to (insert name of worthy charity here). But this gig will be different. Very different. For want of a better name I’ve called it “the time machine”.
How many “old rockers” are out there still belting it out today? Imagine if you could walk through a time warp and experience a show exactly the way it was done back in 1982? No line arrays, no digital, no wireless, no orange vests!
I think it would be possible to get enough “big names” enthusiastic about doing this kind of “once off” show. We’re talking outdoor, probably capacity between 10k and 20k, at a heritage venue (Fox’s Entertainment Quarter comes to mind, previously the old “Sydney Showgrounds”). Festival style gig, one day, about six main vintage rock / pop acts plus a few supports, maybe even one of them international.
So.. what are the rules? OK. Now obviously we can’t really use 30 year old gear exclusively to do this gig. A lot of the stuff coming out of the trucks is going to have to be much, much newer than that. But hey that’s OK because if we have just walked through a timewarp and it’s 1982, most of the gear on stage would only be a few years old anyway.
I’ve chosen December 1982 as our technology cut off point. I did this because this point represents a pivotal time when the tide of locally produced gear began to be overcome by imported gear and a lot of things soon after changed in the industry in a very short space of time.
Here in 2012 some things are going to be very hard to replicate. Others are still in daily use and we can buy them over the counter almost anywhere (take the humble PAR can for example.)
In 1982, three or four way ground stacked PA (W Bins, 4560s etc) were still the mainstay but composites (The S4 and Jands’ “Concord” box) were just beginning to make a stand. Amplification was still limited to around 300w per side with Jands dominating the local manufacturing scene and Phase Linear, Crown and ZPE the only other choices out there. Lights too were all analog, two preset affairs with very limited intelligence. Generators were rare with power provided mostly from local grid hookups.
The overriding rule is:
“Every piece of equipment used must be of a type that was available for hire or purchase either in or prior to December 1982”. It would make sense also if the musical material on stage was subject to similar constraints although in this case the rule could probably be relaxed to include most of the ‘80s.
Obviously this rules out anything digital, anything that moves (except for followspots), anything LED, any sort of video and anything without wires. Chain motors? Hmm. Going to have to research that one. Token Patt. 23’s welcome.
Stuff which really will need to be 30 years old and restored to it’s former glory:
- Mixing desks, Outboard, EQ, Compression, Crossovers.
- Amplification & Backline
- Dimmers & Lighting Control
- Speakers FOH & Foldback (if available)
Stuff which can be much newer but built to near original designs:
- Speakers (if originals unavailable or not in enough quantity)
- Talkback & Comms
- Staging, Platforms, Scaffolding, Truss
- Light & Power distribution
Stuff which should be new or modern (same style still available today):
- Par cans (with 120v lamps & splitters or wielands)
- Microphones & Stands
- Leads, Cables & Multicores, Gels, Consumables.
Where is this stuff going to come from?:
Obviously the rig is going to depend on what’s available and plenty of prior planning to get it into tip top shape before show day. There’s a lot of old gear still out there and I’ll hazard a guess that laying hands on it isn’t going to be a problem, given time. Plenty of old timers are going to really like this idea and plenty will want their name on the credits.
Lighting controls will be the biggest challenge as this kind of gear has been well out of circulation now for over 20 years. Amplification is going to have to be restored and well tested. The potential to produce a documentary telling the story of “the time machine” is high, as is the likely media attention such an event will bring.
Who is going to produce it? At the end of the day whose bank account do the cheques have printed on them? And.. who will rise to the challenge so a generation can, once and for all, find out where it all began?