Originally Posted by AlexK
It's not always to do with bad engineers - there are some venues with practically unworkable sound systems.
Any combination of factors could be possible. I travel with a band. I've been hired to run sound at events with equipment provided. I asked maybe five or six questions to confirm ahead of time what gear would be provided, get an email back with answers to two of the questions - if I'm lucky. When I get there, neither of those answers prove to be correct.
It helps when I can at least run the sound myself and not interface with another sound guy. The room plays a big part in it, as does those situations where I have to use equipment provided rather than the band's own system. Being promised adequate gear is normal - venue insists that band use venue's system and not bring their own, but actually having adequate system upon arrival is rare. So we pretty much insist on bringing our own system unless we absolutely can't avoid using provided gear.
When I travel with the band and a house engineer runs sound or a company is providing sound for a multi-band festival, it's usually a nightmare. Band's management calls or emails ahead with band's stage plot and input list, and we are told that I can assist with sound. We arrive - no one has the info we sent, and sound guy ignores any offer of help that I try to give. He keeps making major changes, because fans keep complaining and he is tired of hearing it. Band tells him I was the one he was supposed to listen to for advice. Either way, the constant complains from fans should have indicated to him something was wrong.
By the end, these guys are usually asking me for help or letting me take over, and fans are satisfied. Usually I'm not, because of having to jump in and start using an unfamiliar system in the middle of a show.
Or you get the nice guys with no attitude - easy to get along with, but don't believe in making any adjustments. Just set levels at unity and let the band work the mics.
Or the guys who initially listen to what I and the band suggest, and then after getting it right - they start changing things. Not a decibel or two at a time, but the full range of the fader in a quick jump or cut. Nothing needed adjusted. Even if it did, it didn't need adjusted that much. Or that sudden.
One of my philosophies is the sound system should be as transparent as possible. I try to provide the illusion to the audience that they are hearing the band
- not hearing the band through a PA system. Although of course the band with sound reinforcement is usually going to sound better than the band in a room with no sound reinforcement, but we are creating the illusion of a natural sound uncolored by the technology it's being filtered through. Ideally, anyway... still not there yet in reality. But some people are not even on the same planet philosophically.