Arts Desk

Across the Europeverse: Prague, Czech Republic

Monitors: for wimps.

With little fanfare, we leave Germany for the Czech Republic. Driver D. is unenthusiastic. Born in the Ukraine, he says he prefers speaking Russian to speaking Czech. He is more excited about listening to Arcade Fire, again.

In Prague, we drive straight to the venue. The club is called 007. It is on a hill in Prague next to the city's derelict stadium (excuse Wikipedia link) amid Communist–style housing blocks.

007 is reknowned for its grumpy, easily angered sound man who, legend has it, is known for providing the perfect mix after a perfunctory, two-minute sound check. Unfortunately, this legend isn’t quite true; during the show, I hear a familiar feedback that I remember from my previous two visits to 007. However, at least 007’s sound man provides a mediocre mix in a very short time.

At rock concerts, live sound is always at least a little bit bad. If you’re in a band and are shaking your head in disagreement, you probably have low standards or money to hire your own sound man.

The problem: Bands practice in a circle but, when playing in front of an audience, “aim” their music at the crowd. This prevents them from listening to one another. This necessitates monitors—a different set of speakers aimed at the musicians so they can hear what they are playing. (i.e., “Turn up the kick drum in my monitor.”) Monitors create feedback—if the kick drum is too loud in the monitor, the kick drum mic reamplifies the sound of the kick drum coming out of the monitor, which then comes out of the monitor even louder. This means a lot of squeaking and squawking.

For example: In Current Band E., we have three vocalists, a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer. One vocalist, seasoned by years on the road playing through broken/substandard equipment, sings loudly (and, in conversation, talks loudly too). Because he is bitter and angry at not being able to hear himself in monitors, he has become indifferent to them, and often refuses to use them. But, if his voice is in the monitor, other singers—one who sings at average or below-average volumes, and one who sings almost inaudibly—complain that they cannot hear themselves. One insists that her own voice be turned up as much as possible; the other seems indifferent.

We haven’t even gotten to the drums yet. The drummer, stuck at the back of the stage instead of in the center as she should be, must have the singers, bass, and guitar sent to her own monitor—which can also feed back. No magical Czech soundman can fix these problems in two minutes.


We make 300 euros at the show, and sell about 200 euros of merchandise. After the show, the band makes a group trip to a Czech casino called Magic Planet. I lose 4000 Czech crowns, or about $225, playing shorthanded Texas Hold ‘Em. In one particularly heartbreaking hand, I get all my money in heads-up pre-flop with 6-6. My opponent turns over A-K. I am a slight favorite to win. The flop and turn are blank for my opponent, but he is saved on the river by an ace.

All you can do in life is get your money in with the best hand. Whatever happens next is irrelevant.

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  • SoArcadeFire

    Huge fan of Arcade Fire, finishing up a new fan site