Leave Our Gigs Alone

Enda Kenny and Ian Bland
Enda Kenny and Ian Bland (photo by Jools Thatcher)

Jools and I went to see Ian and The Lamington Drive Orchestra (and yes this is the infamous MFI Ian for those of you who came in late). Needless to say I  had my bag of toys with us and for once all our tech worked.

This is one of those priceless moments where you get to capture a performance that while it was not one of  the performers best it WAS one of the highlights of the night.

Enda Kenny joined Ian and The  Lamington Drive Orchestra on stage for a song that had been written in response to some really really really stupid Victorian Govt. legislation that requires music venues to have security guards (mainly I suspect so that all the small venues will close down and their mates at the casino will be the last venue standing – but that would be me  – I may be cynical but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – I digress)

So here it is, rough around the edges,  a PA that was struggling to keep up,  a song that had never been rehearsed before and so far from perfect that there is a gap bigger than the governments credibility on defending the arts, the musicians and the communities who are lucky enough to still enjoy the pleasure of a night down the local.

And for all it’s imperfections I love it.

Leave Our Gigs Alone [audio:LeaveOurGigsAlone.mp3]
You may recognise the tune but it is really totally different to that other song.

Recorded on the ZoomH4n and there will be some other highlights from the gig posted later.

My Friend Ian, A Pub and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008
Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008

It’s been a while since we have taken the Zoom H4 on an outing but last Sunday found us at the Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick (Jools and I used to live across the road from it a long time ago). My Friend Ian (hereinafter MFI) had a gig with his band, the Lamington Drive Orchestra.

Jools decided to take along a video camera we had picked up a while back  to see what it did in lowlight etc. We mounted it on a tripod about 3 metres back from the stage, set it on wide and then just used the pan to keep it all nice and simple. Like I said, it was it’s first outing and I’m an audio geek.

It didn’t turn out to bad really. There were no lights to speak of and the vocals were coming out of a PA that was 12 feet up in the air and not really focussed anywhere near where we sitting.  It’s a strange room but when you are there with the band playing it has a nice vibe about it.

Here is the video of “God On The 67 Tram” one of MFI’s more irreverent pieces of social commentary. It’s not one of the pieces that’s on the album, I think it was song Ian wrote for a performance he did on 3RRR a couple of years back.

Next up is a  video of  “Not Going Back”. This is one of Ian’s newer songs and it’s about change. I like this one.

Boring Tech Stuff:

Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand
Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was mounted on the video tripod using a Gorilla Pod, but below the pan head so as not to interfere with the operation of the camera. . It was 3 metres back from the stage more or less pointed at Ian (roughly stage centre) and as usual I crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on on L and the limiter was turned on.

The audio recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along. I then used Vegas to drop the Zoom audio into the video. It scrubbed up OK I think for a first attempt at this stuff.

My Friend Ian, A Party and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland Live At BackwaysLast weekend Jools and I went to the 30th “Festival Of The Sun”, a party held annually by Rob and Doreen. My Friend Ian (yes that’s My Friend Ian of MFI fame) played as usual with his band as he has since the first party. But unusually he also did a couple of acoustic tracks. just voice and guitar so here is a great live version of“Kilcunda Wind” [audio:kilkundawind.mp3]

and also for your listening pleasure, here is “Crashing Into Walls“, [audio:Crashing.mp3] again just Ian on guitar and vocals. I really did well that night I got two of my favourite tracks live (you can checkout the CD at http://ianbland.com.au/)

Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares

Next up was the band “Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares“, this where MFI rushes into the nearest telephone booth and changes into his Jack persona complete with costumes (hopefully Jools will put some photo’s up at Joolsweb sometime).

There are three tracks here I recorded at the party, first up is a medley of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band tunes that the band did when it first started up.

Bonzos Medley [audio:01_BonzosMedley.mp3]

It’s a bit rough and loose in places but considering these songs haven’t seen the light of day for going on 30 years(back when I was a member), it is understandable.

Here are a couple of more recent tracks,

Middle Class White Boy[audio:04_WhiteBoy.mp3] more funk guitar riffs than you would believe it was possible to be put in one song. Alan Lawson is the guitarist here. Damn he’s good.
and

Toy Boy [audio:05_ToyBoy.mp3] I will leave you to wonder about this one. I always do.

To Rob and Doreen: Thank you as always for a wonderful evening and I look forward to another 30 years of party.

Boring Tech Stuff:

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. There was a bracket in the ceiling so I used a Gorilla Pod to fly it above the punters heads. It was 3 metres back from the stage and slightly stage right. I angled the Zoom at about a 30 degrees down to more or less point at Ian and as usual crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on M and this proved to be totally inadequate, the first bracket was a washout. I changed to the L setting and turned on the limiter for the Second bracket. Never trust a sound check… or the guitarist. I should know better. I used to be one.

The recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along.

Ross Ryan, Spectrum, MFI and a Zoom H4

Zoom H4 ToyNow as some of you are aware I am a toy junkie, and for some months I had been reading about the Zoom H4 and it’s brethren (actually I was lusting after the Sony PCM1 back in 2005). You can read the O’Reilly Review of the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder by Mark Nelson or just Google Zoom H4 if you are interested. I actually tried to buy one for the Evermore/F1 concert but there wasn’t one to be had in Melbourne (or Canberra) and it was too late to fly one in from the states.

Bear with me, I’ll just do a little more scene setting here.

It was a dark and stormy night… actually it wasn’t it was just a cold Friday night but Ross and Spectrum were playing at the Trades Hall Bar in Carlton. They had jointly announced the dual CD launch via their respective email lists (some a few more announcements than others… yes that would be you Ross). I actually wonder how many people are on both lists… but I digress. 10 hours earlier I had picked up my new toy (batteries included) from Manny’s in Fitzroy and having had a busy day “server wrangling” (it was a draw), I had only read the manual.

OK,I lied I took the recorder out on the tram, I’m a toy junkie remember and the batteries were included, and in less than 30secs was making a test recording. It worked. Put it back in bag and then read the manual.

{time passes}

I walk in to the bar, spot some friends (including My Friend Ian who is now back from the UK), order a drink, chat and then realised I had to setup. The actual setup took less than 90 seconds. I took it out of my bag, pressed record to arm it, set the level, (turned on the built in limiter ’cause I’m a wimp), put in the middle of the table and aimed it above the heads of the punters in front and went back to drinks and chat.

When Ross started I had a quick look at the levels figured they were a bit low but experience has taught me that it would be a self correcting problem as the evening moved on. I was right.

“So”, I hear you say ” What does it sound like?”

Stroll over to duggup and check out the MP3 samples I recorded on the concert review there (yes I am too slack to upload them here as well).

I love it, as a recorder the Zoom performed brilliantly. If the table we were at had have been about 6 feet closer to the stage and the mix a fraction better, I suspect the results would have been even more impressive than they already are. MFI (you remember him) is in a band and it has a gig next week so I will go along and see how that works as a theory.

So after getting home after midnight I plugged the unit into my workstation (it was the Windows one) and once again it just worked. It appeared as a USB drive. I just copied the .WAV files across and they were there ready to be played back in Soundforge. No fuss no hassle, it just worked.

Now those of you who read the MFI or What Bland Did Next post may have worked out that this would be a killer toy to get round the recording problems I detailed there. Well yes it would be, but next time he can take me and I’LL push record, you can’t be too careful with technology.

UPDATE: Further adventures can be found at Ross Ryan And A Zoom H4 At Capers/