It’s a conversation which I imagine takes place between stage managers and artistes the world over all the time. “I’ve got you a piano”. I tapped the flight case propped against the back wall of The Maverick Festival’s Peacock Café reassuringly.
Rose Cousins, Canadian singer, songwriter, and woman who had flown in from Cork that morning, caught a number of trains and then been delivered slightly bleary-eyed to a farm in the middle of rural Suffolk bearing a guitar and a battered suitcase gestured toward the stage. “What about that one?” she enquired, not wishing to disturb the audience enjoying the country blues stylings of Brooks Williams, currently performing on stage.
“That one” I replied, with one eye on the sound desk and one attempting to convey an air of calm authority and professionalism “…belongs to Gretchen Peters”.
“And we can’t use it?”
“I don’t think so”
“Have you asked?”
“Because I am afraid of her tour manager, who is bigger than I am”.
“You’re scared of her tour manager?”
“Very slightly, yes”.
“We could probably use her stool though?”
She brightened. “Well, there’s something at least”.
“Fifteen minutes – make ‘em good ones!” I hollered back, cheerily.
“Oh, they’re all good!” she replied, ever the trouper.
“I’d have said twelve minutes” said STM, flashing a wolfish grin and melting back into the crowd.
Next up, Otis Gibbs. “I just need a vocal mic, I have my own DI box, and what time do you want me off?” he said.
“Otis, you are a stage manager’s dream” I gushed.
“Well, you haven’t heard me play yet…”.
Back at the desk I tweaked the onstage mix as directed, trying hard to read the expression of a man in a baseball cap, wearing glasses and with a foot-long frontiersman’s beard standing forty feet away. “Aw heck” he said affably after a while “We’ll split the difference”.
By the time Gretchen Peters was in the building (right on time, right on cue) the cavalry had arrived and I was grateful for the opportunity to revert to my preferred role of moving things from one place to another without dropping them. The professional sound engineer cast a benevolent, but critical eye over the mixing desk, alighting on a recalcitrant red fader hovering somewhere around the halfway mark. “Why have you got that there?” he enquired.
“...and how are we supposed to follow that?” she twinkled.