Using the First Prototype on a Real Gig

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By the end of 1998, I sent this account of my first live music gig with the system to Ken:

From: Henricksen, Clifford
Sent: Monday, December 14, 1998 10:35 AM
To: Jacob, Ken
Subject: MUZO Muzin' Part "n"
This is to document my recent experience with the MUZO stack (2: 4' arrays) in a live music application. Joe and I put one together, with nice big guitar-amp handles, and I voiced it on Friday afternoon in the Monster Lab using a Rane parametric and Bose 1800 amp with 402 controller cards as a place to start. Mongo, The Lab Troll (Steve) was a big help with putting it together. We put it on a 20"x20" plywood base, which has to change, but it worked for the moment.
I get calls semi-regularly to play with a rotating band of musicians who are experienced enough to do a tight pro gig without rehearsals. Everyone is cool and plays well, and we all get better-than-average pay. I played with the same core of players last Saturday and two Saturdays ago, this week being a blast (biker Christmas benefit bash at Ashland Fish & Game: trolls and babes).
Two weeks ago, (hereinafter, the "former" gig) I played with my usual AM Pro at head-height on a stand. I set up far stage left. Next to me was the bass player, then the drummer (traditionally in the center) and on far stage right the guitarist playing a Fender Twin (typical guitar 2x12 amp). In front of the drummer was the singer and bandleader, with a stage monitor. I played at a level that gave me a good mix with what I heard of the rest of the band, although the guitar could have been louder for me. Bass sounded great to me, as did my keyboards. The bass player, being a bit closer to the AM Pro, complained about high levels from the keys and could not "fade" towards the backline because it was too loud from the keys, which I found out after the gig (ah, communication). The guitarist and the drummer thought the keys were too soft and the singer/bandleader thought the keys were "just right". Can't please everyone, eh?
Contrast this to the biker bash a few nights ago. Of course, as predicted, when I set the 8' stack up, it was like the monkeys around the monolith scene in "2001: A Space Oddyssey". The big base was cumbersome but my impression is that these will be very easy to cart around. Once we started playing, everything was forgotten. After the first set, everyone came over and commented how "awesome" my sound was, and "what was in that (magic) speaker?". There was another keyboard player there, who was really a veteran pro piano (as opposed to "keyboard") player. We quickly got into him playing piano rhythm and some very funky clav parts and I happily played organ. We had a blast all night with this, the ultimate church rhythm section format. He was totally knocked out with my sound and wanted to know where he could buy one. I passed it off as something I was just "fooling around with", but everyone was amazed. On this particular gig, we were spread out much more than the former. I was way-far stage right, the piano player was to my left, then the drummer and singer in the middle, then the bassist to the left of drums and finally the guitarist at far stage left. This was a much more severe spacing than the former gig. Nevertheless, everyone complimented me on my tone, independent of where they were on the bandstand. The drummer was especially vocal about how good my sound was and how clear he could hear it, especially compared to the former gig two weeks ago. I, of course, set my level so that it was clear for me, and I still got these comments from the guitarist who was way far on stage left. As a personal reaction, I was totally satisfied with the sound I got and it had plenty of output for a totally commanding level on solos. I got some genuine applause on some solos, so the audience could hear me clear and clean also.
Now, I don't exaggerate or inflate things, unless it's just having fun with words. That's certainly not what I am doing here. Read this again and let it sink in. Basically, the thing works. I don't mean that it makes sound. I mean, given its original intention (not UIOA, but allowing musicians to be heard playing together on the bandstand), it has fulfilled its promise. It is at least a new and order-of-magnitued improved format for electric musicians' backline systems. It is so much better than amps at the knees decapitating the audience or amps at ear level decapitating whoever is next to it. Next is a demo of some kind with a full band. We'll have a few at the Christmas party.
You can build a new business on this (and put it in the pro catalog also). Just thought you'd be interested, pardner.


What's interesting to note is that at this time we were still thinking of this invention as basically a backline amp.

In other words, even though we done a lot of earlier thinking about complete systems, this was not in our minds here.

Here's another communication I got from Cliff where he describes what it was like to play in a group using a triple system and he brought his new 8' tall speaker to use with his keys. He would do these shows, go out and play, and report back to me in emails. Then we would discuss what happened and what to do next.

I got a call to play keys in the backup band for an "oldies concert", basically backing the groups (or people from the groups) that had big radio hits when I was a teenager. This on its own was amazing, especially the backstage hang. Everyone was totally friendly and it was a very congenial atmosphere, full of war stories and good musical vibes. It was the usual big-theater show with a big rock and roll PA on either side of the stage, rhythm section amps, drums and monitors along the backline and a compliment of mics and stage wedges out front for the parade of singing groups that would perform that evening. There was lots of room on stage.
Behind the bandstand was a tall, stage-width, 8-foot-high pipe-and-drape curtain of black scrim, used as a backdrop for the show. It was pretty much like speaker grille cloth, as I could easily see through it, standing backstage. So I decided to set my system up behind the scrim, right behind where I was set up. Nobody paid any attention to this, as everyone was tuning up and the sound guys were busy doing their thing. But my setup was (to me anyway) like magic. The system was totally hidden, invisible, and the sound was everywhere. I had tons of gain and it sounded great, so I felt like King Kong and was anxious to start playing. We ran through tunes for all the acts and the sound guys got a balance out front. Halfway through the sound check, the sound guys came up to the front of the stage, pointed at me and said I was “too loud” (“Out, damned spott!!!”). Ever been singled out on stage, while everyone else stares at you? Not that great. And I thought the balance was perfect. “What’s this all about”, I thought. The conversation went something like this:
“Am I in the monitors?”
“Yeah, of course”
”Am I in the front system?”
”Of course…”
“Look; humor me. Take me out of the monitors and take me out of the mains. I know this sounds weird, but my system will cover everything.’ I told them to see what they ended up with as a mix by having my setup just naturally bleed into the open mics on the front line.
They looked around a bit, couldn’t tell what “system” I was talking about, but with “oh my goh-idd, not another sound dweeb” on their faces, the went to the mixer and did it, probably just to shut me up. But, now there were no keys in the monitors and no keys in the house system. We started to play again, to finish up the sound check. No problem, no pointing, just playing. “Must have worked”, I thought. Afterwards, they came up to me like wide-eyed “moonies” saying it sounded “great!!”.
By the time they adjusted the mix out front, there was "a touch" of keys in the house, probably because they could. The system pretty much covered the entire stage and the house. Everyone on the show complimented me on my sound and all said they could hear me well. My experience was totally satisfying too. I just love how my instruments breathe through the system.