How to give good sound check

Posted on August 15, 2010


The Jabberwock, my son. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. And yes, I did that all from memory so there nyah!

This is sort of how the other team felt at the time

I figure when you’ve got a job to do, you’ve got three choices: to be bad, to be good, or to be AWESOME.

Guess which one I like best?

If you prefer awesomenosity to mediocrity, you probably like to bring it in places it is unexpected: places like routine sound checks. Sooner or later, if you live your life out loud, someone will invite you to live an hour or so of it on a stage somewhere, and you’ll need to do a sound check. Want to know how to awesomenize it?

Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, in a studio far, far away, your humble blogger was on her school’s Reach for the Top team, which was rather like Quiz Kids, only harder because, after all, we went to Canadian schools. The opposing team consisted of four nearly identical drones in red Shetland sweaters, crisply collared white shirts, proper wool trousers, mad scientist nerd glasses and blue ties. Their bios were along the lines of “President of the Astronomy, Physics and Chess Clubs, Robbie enjoys taking college calculus courses in his spare time, and building sentient robots.” Our bios, however, were as follows: “Lorraine is President of the Riding Club (Riding club, Lorraine, is that a thing? Really?), John is the captain of the lacrosse team, Rob is the quarterback of the football team, and Chris doesn’t have any hobbies except moping.”

We thought we were doomed. The PR war had been won by those goddamn Shetland sweaters and tortoiseshell glasses. And  because we believed it, we were doomed, right up until the pre-air sound check, when I got one of my bright ideas.

Their sound checks went very professionally, “Check one, check, check two, check three…” etc. Then it was my turn.

“T’was brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. All mimsy were the borogroves, and the mome raths outgrabe.” Jaws on floor at this point, but the best part is, I know not only the first stanza of Jabberwocky, which anyone could memorize: I know the ENTIRE THING, and proceeded to recite it. The sound engineers loved it, because it’s full of sounds they need to modulate for, and the host was just too stunned to cut me off.

So far, so awesome, right? Well, that’s when it was John’s turn. Keats, I think it was, and then Rob did some … I can’t remember if it was Milton or Wordsworth, Wordsworth I think. By the time it was Chris’s turn he could have recited Happy Birthday and the result would have been the same: those nerdlings in their preppy uniforms were thoroughly cowed, and probably wished they’d worked on transporter beams instead of robots so they could book it.

Needless to say, we wiped the floor with them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why you memorize poetry: to intimidate people. I mean, sure, respect for immortal words and all, but mostly: to intimidate people. Just be sure not to pick any Omar Khayyam or anything featured on Oprah for God’s sake and you’ll be fine.

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