Soundcheck is both the most important and the least exciting part of a live performance.
The soundcheck is always my favorite time with the bands. In my case I get to hang out with friends, but it’s great to get a preview of the set. The other advantage for being around for soundcheck, is getting a preview of the sound and all the angles on the stage.
In all my time shooting bands at their shows, I never see other photographers at a soundcheck. That’s right, NEVER. I don’t think they know what they are missing.
This evening’s shoot takes place at The Liquor Store in Portland to photograph Surfs Drugs who were billed with Weezy Ford and Kyle Craft. During this particular soundcheck, Kyle Craft did have his whole band and Surfs Drugs only had two members, so their soundcheck was short.
A soundcheck is very straight forward. Set up the stage as it would be for the show. The sound engineer checks that every cable is working. Then each instrument and mic has its level set one at time. The band will then run through a few songs next. Each channel will get tweaked while band plays. It is at this point that every player tells the sound engineer what they want to hear and what volume they would like their monitor set at. If the venue has a dedicated monitor engineer then that would be a different engineer. A dedicated monitor engineer is rare luxury in smaller venues.
That’s pretty much it.
Boring? Oh yeah, it’s boring because it’s not a show. It’s set up.
There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and getting to know how things work at a live show is very helpful for planning. Getting to know the players doesn’t hurt either. There are opportunities for getting great images when the band has their guard down. However, there are some musicians that are nervous wreck and there is no way a photographer is coming in to catch them at their least perfect. Fortunately for me, my friends are not nearly as uptight.