A Day In The Life Of A Drum Tech
11:00 a.m. McCarthy gets the snare drum tuning into the ballpark as a forklift shows up to help put the cases on the stage. The four-foot rise of the front section of the stage makes the forklift a welcome change from the usual practice of manually pushing the cases up a ramp. The cases are placed on stage in the order that they are needed and removed from the stage as they are emptied. Since the majority of the monitoring is done through in-ear systems, there are no monitor cabinets on the stage floor, but Springsteen still has a few wedges mounted under the stage and firing through grills in the floor. Other than the actual instruments and a few speaker cabinets for the guitars and bass, the stage is relatively uncluttered as compared to your average “stacks of Marshalls” rock setup.
11:30 a.m. For this tour, McCarthy isn’t dealing with an overly technical setup for the drums. Weinberg plays a pretty standard four-piece Drum Workshop setup with a hi-hat, a couple of crashes and a ride, all Zildjian. McCarthy has the set up and on the riser in no time, using permanently mounted place markers to insure that every piece of the kit is exactly where it’s supposed to be every time. In the course of setting up and tapping around on the drums, it becomes evident that the toms wouldn’t suffer if the heads were changed, which McCarthy takes in stride as an almost daily occurrence. In less than an hour, he’s got the drums re-headed, tuned and ready to play. Meanwhile the engineer is starting to string mikes on the kit.
12:30 p.m. Sound techs begin wiring in the monitors. In a gig like this, the last thing you want would be to lose monitors. The stage is huge and there’s very little onstage amplification to begin with. Weinberg gets his dose of the band through a set of in-ear monitors and two subwoofer cabinets that sit on the back section of the stage immediately behind the drum riser. They are the biggest speakers on the stage, and provide Weinberg with a realistic bottom end. In addition to the main input for headphones, McCarthy and Weinberg also maintain two backup jacks (and mixes!) mounted to the bottom side of the throne. In the event of a failure (which rarely happens) Weinberg can switch from a faulty connection to a working plug without having to look for the jack. Although it’s a safe bet that McCarthy would hear about it long before that, and possibly beat Weinberg to the switch.
1:00 p.m. Lunchtime! We take a break from set up while the engineer finishes putting the microphones on the set. After a scintillating meal of roast beef au jus, (a little on the shoe leather side) and a fine array of steamed vegetables, we were ready to escape back to the stage. Maybe McCarthy was a little more ready to escape. Everywhere we’d gone this morning, he’d gotten his fair share of jibes from the rest of the crew over his “star treatment.” It must have been a switch to have a photographer and writer following a drum tech around all day, while showing little interest in the rest of the band and crew.
1:45 p.m. Downloaded photos from this morning during lunchtime. We did manage to get a few photos that bring out the real McCarthy in there, which he grudgingly admitted were all right. The rest of them? Well, sorry about that Harry, there has to be some reality somewhere in this article!
2:15 p.m. The afternoon was spent going over the final touches on the drum set, taping down the pedals, replacing a hi-hat cymbal that had cracked, and getting sounds with the engineer. By the time all was said and done, the kit sounded about 40-feet tall and featured a low end that could cause bodily organs to rearrange. McCarthy also had to assemble and hook in his rack of electronics and prepare his workbox, which contains any piece of Weinberg’s kit that could possibly break or fall apart during the show. Of course, every surface of every door and drawer in the cases was covered with pictures of McCarthy’s wife Jodie and daughter Sydney. A recurring theme in McCarthy’s conversation is that the worst thing about being on the road is being away from his family.
3:00 p.m. McCarthy and the monitor engineer get together to fine tune the monitor mix in preparation for the line check at 4:00. Monitor mixer Troy Milner handles Weinberg’s side of the stage. McCarthy tells me that Troy is one of the best monitor men in the business. John Cooper, front-of-house engineer, recently voted “Engineer Of The Year” by Pro Production magazine, works closely with McCarthy in microphone placement. It’s obvious that these folks really do know their jobs. There wasn’t a bad sounding location in the venue, largely due to the talent of the technical support. It’s almost like the individual techs are jockeying for position with the sound reinforcement team to try to get the best possible mix for their “player,” so McCarthy is right there with him to see if there’s anything he can do to help out.