Monday, April 16, 2007

The Leach Amphitheater, PMI, Waterfest Too

Tony Palmeri did a column on PMI today. You can find it here. He did a good job pointing out what the community isn't getting at the Leach.

I have a twenty year background in live performance. I've played far too many places to even begin mentioning. They include dives, or as my black musician friends say, the chitlin' clubs, small country bars, hotel show lounges, the Madison Club, Maple Bluff Country Club, free-standing supper clubs, and backed up a dancing Root Bear at an A&W, nude dancers at times, Bucky Badger and UW cheerleaders, and for Wisconsin Governors and more. I have worked for very responsible and caring bosses, and for some of the most stubborn drunk bar owners you can imagine. Sorting through those bar owners I have learned what works and what doesn't. Here are some pearls of wisdom. See if they apply to PMI, Waterfest, and to the Leach Amphitheater.

A place which sits dark or is rarely used is not a place where folks are comfortable. A place should hum with activity every possible moment (in season). Mondays and Tuesdays don't make money but are extremely important. That's the time to bring in customers who go elsewhere on the weekends. It is also the time to experiment with other types of entertainment such as fashion shows, juggling competitions, chess competitions, arm wrestling...the list is endless. The Leach can lose money every Monday and Tuesday of the summer, get folks used to and comfortable with the idea of the Leach being the destination, and in the process build up other nights. Careful work in building up allegiance to the Leach will result in people going to the Leach rather than going to the Country Fest, the County Fair, or Sawdust Days. (I am not trying to take away from those things, just trying to prove a point.) One group which is comfortable at the Leach is the age group which attends Waterfest. Waterfest has done a good job just being consistent over the years, consistent meaning Thursdays, saleability of acts, etc. Other age groups need consistent entertainment to bring them into the fold.

Waterfest rates high in my opinion. PMI doesn't and should be replaced. The new vendor should be issued general guidelines which instruct them to open the restrooms and turn on the electricity and lights early in the week for a very low fee, even lower for non-profits. Music events could end by 9-9:30pm and low volume events could run a bit later.

There is no reason why the Leach couldn't be used for daytime activities on Saturday and Sunday at a reasonable fee. Wedding ceremonies, receptions, picnics, even Sunday morning revival meetings. Large tarps would take care of the lack of shade.

I would like to see the day when I overhear this conversation: "Bored? Let's go to the Leach to see what's happening tonight." Or: "Let's run by the Leach for a while before we go where we planned to go."

Volume is a serious problem at the Leach. Musicians and sound engineers are to blame. Waterfest is much louder than it used to be. Musicians have been kicking themselves in the butt for decades by being too loud.

Years ago I had a musician question me on why I was continually being asked to come back to a club to perform. I told him that I was the only one smart enough to turn the P.A. speakers around and face them into the wall.

One night last summer I stood at the entrance of the Hooper Building across from the Leach. I didn't stay there long. The volume hurt my ears. A key sign that hearing is being lost is if your ears hurt. When your ears hurt, immediately begin to distance yourself from the origin of the sound.

Musicians and sound engineers are their own worst enemies. Here are some key points.

Speakers hung high in the air project much further than those at ground level. This should be taken into account in dealing with sound levels at nearby residences. Speakers on or near the ground will do damge to the ears of the people who are too close.

Children whose ears have not matured will suffer some level of permanent hearing loss if they are too close to the stage at the Leach. I highly suspect that pregnant women should stay clear of Waterfest, period! You don't get a second chance with ears.

All this from someone with 20% of normal hearing. My hearing is corrected at this point but you don't want to be where I am. It's no fun.

On lights...

PMI scores at the top on this. They hired Steven Dedow. He and his crew do a fantastic job.

Waterfest continues to hire non-union people for lights. Waterfest should hire Steven Dedow to do it. Steve does it right plus the fact that he lives here.


Anonymous said...

Steve? His leadership, through political activities and endorsements, has resulted in binding arbitration fights in every City of Oshkosh and Winnebago County representative groups. Great, what a soothe sayer. Are we better off? Check it out,not!

Gary said...

That comment was 'off subject' but I decided to allow it. Yes! It's great to hear that someone stands up for workers, whether it's the public or private sector. I'll stand by Steve if it's lighting or labor issues.

It's a shame comments have to be moderated but certain lurkers and trolls attack people rather than issues. If a person disagrees with issues, that's OK.

Bloggers will always give preference to someone who gives their identity.

Keep those two items in mind if you choose to elaborate.

Thanks for writing and see if you can see the difference in Steve's lighting work versus his competitors. Steve's got the edge.