by Curt Taipale
Last year, I wrote to our ChurchSoundcheck Discussion Group to ask about their Most Embarrassing Moment serving on the tech team in their church. Doesn’t matter if we minister on the sound, video, lighting, or music ministry — we all have them. I told the group “If you have a good story about a mistake that you’ve learned your lesson from, let us know — I’ll gather them up and who knows where they’ll end up.”
Well, here are just a handful of them, and I have to say these stories are absolutely priceless and wonderfully cathartic! Not to mention the fact that everyone reading these should feel a deep sense of reassurance that we’re all human and we sometimes make mistakes. Enjoy!
We have just finished a major overhaul of the system in the main sanctuary here at Dayspring. We took ownership of a new APB Dynasonics Spectra T 48 console, two new DSP’s and added Surge-X protection to the racks.
When I first installed the Surge-X (two units in the rack) I still had all of the analog processing in place, two dual 31 band EQ’s, a crossover and two digital delays. With that many units in the rack I had to plug all EIGHT power amplifiers into the second Surge-X knowing that once the new DSPs were installed that I need to move some of the amps to the first Surge-X unit to balance out the load.
Well last Sunday with all the new equipment finally installed, the system freshly tuned and praise team getting into a really rocking song, I decided I needed to push the system a little to kick the tires and see just what it would do. As the lead guitarist was finishing a beautiful solo in the bridge, I started to bring him back down into the mix; he “just faded away”. I thought I bumped the mute button on his channel until I realized I could no longer hear the lead singer, the keys, the bass player, the backup vocals, etc. (as I am running the list in my head I realized I had lost all power to the amp rack) I sprinted to the amp room.
For those of you that have met me, I do not typically move that fast. I am frantically looking for tripped breakers as I clearly see in my mind the back of the amp rack with all of the amps still plugged into the one 20Amp Surge-X power conditioner. A quick reset of the breaker on the back of the unit (after moving two power cords) and we were back in business. Oddly enough the whole thing kind of fit into the service God IS GREAT) the whole congregation and singers on stage just continued to sing the chorus until power was restored.
I must say that I wanted to test the Surge-X to see of they would fail gracefully and I can say without a doubt, they do. It will not happen again, but I would have rather it had never happened. After the service the guitar player asked what had happened because he thought that was the greatest effect he had ever heard and wanted to be able to reproduce it. I told him that was not going to happen.
Contributed by Greg Pierce
Chief Fader Monkey
Dayspring Assembly of God
Bowling Green, Ohio USA
Well, this story really isn’t even “my” story in that I wasn’t operating sound when this happened, I was backstage. We were doing a “Hells Fire Heaven’s Glory” type of production. The Youth Pastor was playing Satan with a great costume and of course the wild vocal effects. Apparently he didn’t tell his toddler son that he was in the production.
During the opening night, his son frantically noticed that Daddy was now the devil! He was so horrified by this that his mother decided to bring him backstage during the show so that his dad could show him that it was all just pretend. Somehow, right as he was leaning down to talk to his son and explain everything, FOH accidentally un-muted the mic and the devils voice came over the backstage speakers! All of us backstage were severely torn between laughter and true pity for the little boy as he ran in complete fear.
Don’t worry, all turned out ok.
Contributed by Aaron Poff
I was about 18, and had been running FOH audio for a few years in smaller venues. I was just “promoted” to running sound in the main room on Sunday nights, and was pretty excited about it.
We had a special music guest that night – not named to protect the innocent, but some of you might recognize the name – and I went down to the green room to meet him before service.
The guy looked at me, a kid, and looked a little concerned. “Are you a good sound man?” he asked. Our MOM hopped up and lavished praise on me. “Yeah, he’s great! One of our better sound men! He’s great! He’s going to do a great job tonight!”
So the singer handed me all of his cassette tracks, but pointed out one in particular. This tape looked like it had spent a lot of time on the road…the printing was mostly rubbed off.
He had put a little pen mark on the side that was the performance side. “Now, make sure you play this side tonight, not the other side with the demo,” he stressed.
I nodded and smiled.
“Oh, and this track has a false ending…you’ll think the song is over, but just let it run, and it kicks back in after a couple of seconds.”
“No problem, sir.” I said.
“Now son, remember that…it’s very important,” the singer said, with a serious look.
“Oh, don’t worry! He’s great!” our MOM chimed in again, “he’ll do a great job for you!”
So I went back to the sound booth and the evening went well.
Until we got to that song.
I accidentally put the cassette in with the wrong side cued, and started it.
Of course, the demo started playing, with someone else’s voice!
I stopped the tape, flipped it over, and started rewinding. It was the slowest rewind ever!
The singer was gracious and made a little joke about it, along the lines of “I should have just lip synced, and you all would have thought I was a better singer!”
So I started the tape again, and things seemed to go okay, but I was pretty flustered at this point, and the song came to a big crashing crescendo and faded out.
Then I stopped the tape.
The singer pulled the mic up to his mouth for the real ending of the song, and it wasn’t there.
“Don’t stop the tape!” he said, and every head in the room turned to me.
I started it back up, and played the big, big ending. The crowd loved it, and the senior pastor came up, grabbed a mic and said “That was great! Chris, rewind the tape, let’s hear it again!”
At this moment, I’m thinking two things: First, why does my pastor hate me? And – did he really have to say my name? Just in case someone in the room didn’t know who the imbecile at the sound board was?
So I rewound it and started again. This time, after I started the tape, I stood at the other end of the booth, so I wouldn’t be tempted to stop anything early.
The song got to the big crescendo, and as the first silence hit, he sang, in perfect pitch: “Don’t stop the tape, brooothhheerrrr!!!!’
There was a red glow coming from the back of the room. From my face.
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, but after it was over, I packed up all his tracks and dropped them off in the green room. I shut down the system, and, not looking at or talking to anyone, I walked right out of the building, to my car, and straight home.
I still get the willies thinking about it. 🙂
Contributed by Chris Lesher
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Hey ya’ll my most embarrassing moment was a few years back and we had a guest singer at our church that was using soundtracks. At the end of the first song it went into an silent moment and it was then was to have a big musical finish. Well, at the silent part I hit the stop button, wiped down the CD and put it back in the case. Well the singer was waiting for the musical finish.
Contributed by Paul
I was sitting at my computer reading email one morning about 10 minutes to 10 when the phone rang. My pastor asked if I was planning on doing sound for the wedding.
Well sure. I will be there about 10:30 Plenty of time for a 11:00 wedding. No Frank, it starts at 10:00
Very fast drive, I called the pastor from my car and asked him to put fresh batteries in his and the grooms mic, and every thing came up as it should. The wedding started about 10:10.
It was about a week later when I got up the nerve to call the mother of the bride and apologies. She told me that at the last minute Grandmother had decided she could make it after all but didn’t want any one to wait on her account. She showed up 7 min late and sat down in time to watch her granddaughter come down the isle.
God is good.
No one seems to understand why I ask the time of the ceremony when they call to tell me the date, again at the beginning of the rehearsal, and again at the end of the rehearsal and write it down each time.
Contributed by Frank DeWitt
There was the time I was running sound for a local high school choir using the church auditorium. They were using CD track and like many accompaniment disk each song was divided into several tracks. The rehearsals were done early in the week and everything was fine. At some point during the week I made some adjustments and repairs to the audio feed to the video booth. I played tone on the CD while I adjusted levels at each recorder. To make things easier I set the CD to loop the track, which of course I thought I set back to normal when I was done. About 30 seconds into the first song the music stopped abruptly and suddenly started back at the beginning. It only took a few seconds to realize what had happened and I quickly fixed the CD player to the right setting, the director told the crowd we had some technical difficulties, and we were going to start over. We restarted the song and the rest of the evening went just fine. To this day I still have to triple check my CD player to make sure everything set right.
Contributed by Brant Harman