The following was written a few years ago by a fellow sound engineer whom I respect greatly. I am posting it here because I believe it should be preserved in light of current events. We have a huge problem in our industry that is still going on right now.
Being a feminist in 2015 shouldn’t be a remarkable, nor controversial thing, but here we are. I consider myself to be a pretty hardcore feminist, and I carry that over into my career. For a long time, I wasn’t vocal about my feminism, seeing that I was pretty much always surrounded by male coworkers… I was scared of offending people with my radical notions of equal rights. Now that I look back on it, I feel kind of ridiculous. But I was scared. I was scared of it hurting my career being known as the crazy feminist, or gasp, feminazi.
I compromised my moral compass many times in my first few years of touring. I also cried in secret a lot about those compromises, and at times, I still do. I am going to tell you a horrifying story right now, and I just want to give people a chance to hit the back button. Coming up is a story of blurred lines of consent, rape, hate speech and misogyny. I can tell you 100% that this story is true. I will not reveal identifying details about the people involved because here I am, still scared that it could adversely affect my career in some way.
Okay, here we go.
My first year of touring was pretty insane. I landed some of the biggest tours at that time, and the biggest tours of my career. I was typically just a PA tech, patching the stage and sometimes mixing monitors. I was not new to sound as I had many years of local experience in [redacted], but I was still new to touring and everything that came along with traveling with the band.
I was fans of the band I worked for and was very excited to be out with them. A close friend of mine had toured with them in the past and had great things to say. I came into the tour fresh and really stoked to be there. It didn’t take long for that feeling to wear off.
Within the first couple of shows, I realized that I was quite literally, the ONLY female on the tour. It wasn’t unordinary to be the only girl on the technical crew, but I really valued having women around me in production, catering, merch, the back of the house jobs that many women excel in. But nope, not on this tour. I was it. I had no other women to talk to on the tour and honestly, in the beginning, it didn’t really bother me. I was fairly used to being the only woman around, and I wasn’t worried about carrying myself around a bunch of dudes.
The misogyny crept in kind of slow, and I could tell some of the guys were holding back a little. The moments were sparse, but they were there. A crude joke, an inappropriate comment. Then it became much, much more noticeable as my guard and theirs, I suppose, came down. I was reprimanded frequently for quite literally, saying the exact same thing that a dude on my crew would say, mere moments after they would say it. I remember getting yelled at over radio by the FOH guy because I had called out over radio that the riggers were in the air, and they were asking us to cut the music for a few minutes while they finished pulling points. I remember talking to my crew chief about it, asking him why my male coworker wasn’t getting pulled aside and talked to about their attitude. When all my crew chief could do was shrug and not give me a definitive answer, I asked again, didn’t he see the inequality of this situation? Unfortunately, I could not get through to him, so I gave up trying to plead my case and instead stopped talking to people unless I absolutely had to.
After one particularly bad reprimanding, I went to the bus and cried my eyes out in the back lounge. You know what they say, never let them see you sweat (or cry, I guess). I remember one of the backline techs consoling me and telling me not to worry about it, that the FOH guy was always a dick… I couldn’t help but think, why wasn’t he a dick to everyone else? Why was he only a dick and verbally abusive to me on the daily?
About a week into the tour, the bus because unsafe. The band members (who had their own bus), would bring drunken groupies to our bus and laugh when the girls were too drunk to realize everyone was making fun of them. It was like a sport to them. They clued the audio crew into a special that they had going on. If we trolled for chicks for them, made sure we checked IDs and the girls would come backstage with the unspoken arrangement that they would blow a band member, we could get a $50 bonus. Even more, if the girl would get naked and shower for one particular member, we would get an extra $50.
I just remember shaking my head and thinking there was no way I could ever troll for these guys. They were prominent members of one of the biggest rock bands that year, how could they not pull their own? It didn’t make sense to me, but I kept it to myself.
Another occasion, I recall it was one of the band guys’ birthdays. One of the backline guys was cajoling two very drunk chicks back near the buses. They wanted to meet the band so badly, and the backline tech spelled it out to them in very plain terms. They could get on the bus, but only if they gave the band member a birthday blow job. One of the girls was totally into it, but the other was not. So he told her that if she got topless, right then and there, the other girl could blow the guy, and she would just have to watch. Disgusted, I looked on but figured these girls were there on their own accord, so I couldn’t really protest much.
The moment that killed me, and still haunts me to this day was a gig at The Eagles Ballroom at the Rave in Milwaukee. We all know that spot. Awful load in, too many stairs, but great exploring. I’d had a pretty great day, had spent some time on the roof overlook the creepy murder hotel next door. Found a bunch of secret rooms (this was well before they opened the pool area) and took lots of fun photos in places I probably shouldn’t have been. The show was rocking and we were about half way through our load in when the FOH engineer came over radio and said, “Hey guys, there is a girl set up in Dressing Room A. Put your name on the list outside the door with your radio channel and we’ll call you when it’s your turn.” I knew I was not the target audience of this all call, and I am pretty sure I audibly shuddered while my stagehands just laughed and asked if they could put their name on the list.
I continued my load out, occasionally hearing a name come over the radio to notify them that it was their turn on the train in Dressing Room A. I consoled myself with the notion that this woman, whoever she was, was a consenting adult. She knew what she was doing and I couldn’t judge the men who were taking part, many of them “happily” married with children. It wasn’t my place to judge.
I finished my load out, took an exceptionally long shower that night, hoping that when I got back to the bus that all the disgusting behavior would be out of the guys’ systems, and I could get to sleep quickly.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Everyone was swapping stories about this woman and their experiences with her. They talked about her intoxication level, yet had no qualms that she was obviously blacked out, or close to it. They made fun of one of the hired guns because he had made out with the woman when he was third in line. They called him a homo because he had made out with her post blowing other guys. I just tried to ignore what was going on.
As the bus was departing, a security guy came running to our bus. He stopped the driver, and our FOH opened the door to see what he wanted.
The security guy said, and I will never forget this moment because a piece of me died that night, “That girl in Dressing Room A is passed out and naked. Is anyone going to take care of her? Do you have a number of a friend or someone we can call?”
The FOH just shook his head as the other guys on the bus laughed. He shut the door as the security guy looked down at his shoes and the bus pulled away, and part of my heart blackened and fell to the floor.
I cried that night in my bunk. I should’ve left the tour. I should’ve spoken up for that woman. I should’ve defended her. I should’ve gotten off the bus that night and picked her up off the bathroom floor, found her panties and made sure she was okay. I should’ve known her name. I should’ve done something. I should have said something.
So this is what I’m doing. I’m writing about this experience. I’m giving her a voice. Sure, she may have given consent, at least in the beginning of the evening but I can’t imagine anyone consenting to being used, abused and left naked on the floor in a bathroom in a crummy club in Milwaukee. Where ever you are, Woman from Dressing Room A, I’m sorry. I will never let this happen ever again, on any tour that I’m on for the rest of my life.
And this, my friends and readers, is why I am a feminist killjoy. This is why I raise eyebrows when you say dumb stuff around me. This is why I almost left touring. This is why I have curated my career as of late to be working predominately with women.
For Dressing Room A, my heart still hurts for you and all the women who came before and after you.
As audio technicians at the Triple Door, we are in a Customer Service position. This means everything- we are in charge of the way the customer experiences the event taking place on stage. The customer experience is our Number One priority. By delivering on our part of a world-class experience, we foster customer retention and word-of-mouth and ensure the continued viability of the venue.
Our customers arrive in this world-class space with high expectations. I see that as a blessing- we get to deliver world-class results every day. How many sound jobs have we all had where nobody really cares about sound quality?
We must do everything in our power to try to keep the show from being uncomfortably loud. This also solves a lot of typical problems with sound quality of live events. Quiet and comfort are our friends. I have noticed that the quieter I can make a show work, the quieter the audience will be. Then the sound system “disappears” and we get that magical interaction between the humans onstage and the ones in the seats.
Although we do some rock and roll, we are not a rock club where the audience is expected to get used to the volume by way of temporary threshold loss of hearing. Older audiences are more sensitive to noise and distortion. Some people will be quite forthcoming with their opinions, others will ask for refunds, others will just leave. Fortunately, we have a great batting average in this regard. And obviously sometimes the act on stage isn’t a good match with everyone’s expectations, but there’s always room to learn something, work harder, and improve. Even for me. 🙂
Occasionally, a customer will question or complain to us directly. The tricky thing about music and sound is that everyone can hear, and everyone can have an opinion. By definition, they can’t be “wrong.” They just don’t know what we’ve dealt with to get to that particular result.
Take a deep breath. Let any defensive instincts you may have just float away and don’t take it personally Listen, empathize and apologize. Go and try to hear it through their ears. Maybe there’s nothing you can do, or maybe there is something. A little kindness costs us nothing and goes a long way toward the customer having a positive impression instead of a negative one.
One recurring source of customer feedback (not that kind) has been excessive subwoofer energy along the side walls. What sounds good in the center of the house might be overwhelming when you sit on those bench seats. I recommend spending a minute there during soundcheck, it was a real eye-opener for me. Good use of high-pass filters can help tighten that up.
Thanks for all your great work at the Triple Door!
June 20, 2013
It’s a thrill for me every time they come to my work and I get to do this: