Archive for April 13th, 2009

Sometimes “Free” Is Way Too Expensive

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Gina and I drove down to Houston this past Friday to see son Erik’s band performing at a Rice University event. It was a “night to remember,” but not for all happy reasons.

Erik’s band was one of several groups appearing at an outdoor concert. Sound was being provided by volunteers (which is to say – in this case – “amateurs.”) The power to run the PA system was all coming from one standard 50-foot extension cord, run from a floor outlet in the nearest building. No one had bothered to tape down or otherwise secure the cord, which ran for much of its length across a pathway. Any number of disasters could have occurred. People could have tripped over the cable, and even – under the worst of circumstances – have suffered injury. That didn’t happen, fortunately.

What did occur was that the extension cord was repeatedly knocked loose from its outlet by folks who either stepped on it, or who closed the door into the room to which it was run. Every time this happened, the PA went dead. Then, every time the PA went dead, a mad scramble took place to plug the cord in again. Never did the well-meaning volunteers think to secure the extension cord (with tape, by laying something heavy on it, or by stationing someone by the outlet to sit on the cord.)

It happened to Erik’s band during their very first song. Rather than stand around doing nothing, he called up an instrumental, which the band played while PA issues were being sorted out. It was a shrewd move, in that it kept the band members occupied (and not focused on the problem) while keeping the audience entertained. Later, the sound went out again. And again, the band played on.

Bottom line: free PA is great, if those providing it have enough experience and/or savvy to prevent most of these foreseeable problems from occurring, and to deal quickly and decisively with them when they do. When – like last Friday in Houston – such is not the case, countless hours of preparation by dozens of folks can go down the toilet. Your party can crash as badly as that PA system did.

Just remember Mr. Murphy and his law. Plan accordingly, hoping for the best while expecting something less.