In fear of sounding cheesy, August 15, 2010 was one of those magical summer days. Por que, you ask? Because I got the opportunity to work the live sound for Gordon Gano (of Violent Femmes fame) and his band, the Ryans, at LIC Bar. Ask anyone who was there and they’ll confirm: the entire one-and-a-half hour experience was unforgettable.
Allow me to conjure up that night: In the back patio, after the second act finished, storm clouds above became darker and a light drizzle began. “As long as it stays like this we’re fine,” was the professional opinion [LOL] of me and the management. I was mixing the sound on a PreSonus StudioLive covered in a giant clear plastic bag.
They began. I made sure Gordon’s vocals sat on top and were supremely clear and free of sonic mud. Thankfully, and not surpisingly, the other musicians knew how to maintain levels and dynamics like pros. To my relief, the guitarist had no qualms about staying nice and low; and the vocalists were happy with my monitor mix (a common gripe with vocalists, sometimes justified, sometimes not.)
My confession is that I was not very familiar with Gordon’s catalogue of music at the time. (That has since changed…) So one particular cover struck me in the middle of the set. Gordon introduced the song promising that no one would know it (“If you do, let’s chat afterwards!”) but everyone would love it. It was an immigrant tribute song to America — I think of Eastern-European/Jewish origin — about how wonderfully it felt to have arrived. It was infectiously fun and his singing (in the accent) was brilliant.
They played one long set — an hour and a half — rather than two standard-length ones. Afternoon turned to dusk; dusk turned to evening; the drizzle persisted throughout; and nobody gave a damn because it was only drizzle and there were umbrellas to share anyway. In fact, in a dramatic sort of way, the rain was probably the most endearing non-musical element of the performance. I’ll spare you lame metaphors of “baptism” and “being reborn”, but believe me when I say the rain became a sort of poetic halo around the entire evening.
As evening closed in, the rain picked up. Some people had relocated inside the bar (which had open windows to the patio) and others packed under the rear awning. The set finished and the musicians put down their instruments to frantic applause and encore pleas. Then Gordon reached for his violin and plucked the signature riff of “Blister in the Sun”. Everyone went nuts. They re-encored with “You Are My Sunshine.” Lovely.
At this point, after having sufficient time to reflect on everything — both technically and romantically — I realized that I didn’t have to ask anyone, “So, how was the sound tonight?”
Thank you Mr. Gano and the Ryans for the unforgettable evening, and the opportunity to be, for an hour-and-a-half, the extra member of your band.