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Trying A Different Approach to a Djing Gig (Part 1)

June 14, 2011

I was approached by Anna McCarthy (a promoter who has being putting on various interesting events around Waterford over the last 3 years or so with Luminous Live), about djing in a new space in Waterford called the Boom Boom Room. Up an a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ alleyway in the oldest part of the city there’s an old building with ‘Central Hall’ in stone above the door. On its second floor there’s a large rectangular room about twenty five meters by eighteen that could probably accommodate two hundred people but, due to fire regulations, is currently restricted to fifty people only.

Photo Montage by Keith Currams

The Venue

The room has a high ceiling and loud reverberant acoustics. It also has, among its other large windows, a large circular stained glass window that connects into a church next door. The whole thing adds up to nice effect. The owner of the building was very supportive and although there wasn’t a single socket in the room for my first tests, by the night of the gig it was fully powered and heated

Possible problems

The acoustics of the room, while appealing, have the effect of smearing the details of anything percussive or fast moving, everything can build into a loud, grayed out, blur. Also the gig is to take place during bar opening times with my set to go from half ten onwards when a Waterford crowd typically aren’t really primed for listening to a dj perform, they would be coming into it ’cold’ so to speak  without having been out on the town for a few hours to warm up.

Good Points

Working in the gigs favor is the special feel of the room itself and that it is a relatively new venue people wouldn’t have seen before. Also visual projections would be performed on the night by Conrado De Velasco, who works with Luminous Live and is also a very accomplished artist and designer. This is a huge help in selling the night as an event and it will make up for the fact the crowd won’t have a musical performance to watch (what I do doesn’t translate as a performance to anyone except other producers if they can be arsed to watch me). I’ve worked with Conrado before (he made the ArpAnon video and Logo) and our styles seem to complement each other quiet well.

Also Anna organized a Mulled Wine stand for the night (thanks Denise) and a  local artist Marie Lynch to paint canvases over the evening that a lucky punter got to take home.  This all helps people think of the event as something different.

Room Acoustic as Effect

Instead of fighting the room acoustics I decided I would try including them as an effect. After all I find it hard not to put at least one hall reverb in my production work so why not see this as an opportunity to work with a real hall? The only problem with this is the lack of control. For example it’s a good rule of thumb with reverb not to add too much to low bass as it muddies the sounds rhythm, killing the momentum. Also reverb can make music sound distant and can mask mid range frequencies. As well as taking away the bass’ definition the drum track can sound like it’s been dragged at. (the rooms diffusion was around 3 seconds in total). On the upside nice rooms like this can make music sound huge, mysterious and majestic, so the issue is how to control this ‘effect’

Central Hall Layout

Basic Layout

So the further away a sound is the more combined it becomes with its reverb tail as both tend to reach your ears at similar times and amplitudes. The closer a sound source is you get more direct sound at higher amplitude so the reverb is less distinct. The solution them is to have two sound systems in the room, one close to the crowds position, which would need to be restricted, and another away in the corners furthest from the crowd. I would then send two separate mix buses from my set up, one to each sound system giving me the option of sending an element, like a song or loop, to a close and direct sound system or to a further away sound system that would have all the effect of the halls cavernous sound. This simple idea triggered several others such as the possibility of moving sounds around this real space 3D field or having the bass element of a song nearby while its mid range and top played from far away. I could have different effect treatments for each system, I could have one track playing in one rig while another was mixed and playing in the other and they could slowly swap places. There was a lot of possibilities so I was in no doubt this was the way to go, if it worked.

Next Post, after a test run with small speakers Muc gets on the seen and the heavy liftin begins.

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