Occupy Oz



“Pay no….attention to that man behind the curtain. Go – before I lose my temper! The Great and Powerful …. — Oz — has spoken!”

Watching The Wizard of Oz, as a family, was always part of our Holiday celebrations when I was growing up.

As an adult, I have a new appreciation for the film –with its creepy flying monkeys, the rumored suicide captured in the background during the segment shortly after Dorothy and Scarecrow meet Tinman…and ooh and let’s not overlook the ruby slippers…oh what I wouldn’t do for a pair of those with a 4 inch heel!!!

But I digress…

The Great and Powerful Oz was just an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision, hiding behind a curtain.

Oz never took credit for the beautiful castle, and all of the magic that unfolded within its walls. Oz could make or break someone’s dreams from behind that curtain.

Hmmmmmmm… I can’t help but think that there are many Great and Powerful Oz-es out there…some doing phenomenal work that never gets recognized…

Nope, these guys don’t hide behind curtains in castles…

In fact, they are usually very easy to see. They are the ones manning the controls of the soundboard at your favorite live venue. They aren’t hiding at all…they’re right there in plain sight yet somehow they are often overlooked, under-credited and sometimes unaccountable.

Let’s face it, when the sound is great we all get so caught up in enjoying the band that we don’t really give it a second thought. We leave the show completely satisfied. The vocals were discernable, the snare had just the right snap & brightness, the guitars were mixed perfectly. Ah it’s so perfect – we don’t think about the dude who is sweating behind the board, tweaking levels and listening critically to be sure that he’s getting everything that’s being done on the stage out into the club.

We might talk about how great the band sounded with our friends as we’re leaving the club, but do we acknowledge the skills of the soundman that just delivered?! Do we take a stroll by the soundboard on the way out and nod, smile or give him a thumbs-up? Chances are that we don’t. It’s just not a “visible” part of the show.

The Great and Powerful Oz remains hidden behind his invisible curtain and doesn’t get the kudos he deserves.

Even the band often can’t thank him properly because they can’t hear what the people in the club are hearing.

The only ones that can truly appreciate the mastery of a good soundman are the people in the audience. Yet we rarely care to ask WHO was doing sound – so most of us never know.
But what about when the sound absolutely SUCKS?

You know the deal…
The lights go down, you’re standing there in anticipation, wondering which tunes the band is going to offer up. Suddenly there is a wall of mud being spewed out. You can feel the bass thumping in your gut. You’re watching the vocalist belting out what you suspect MIGHT be your favorite song off their latest record…you even know all the words but can’t figure out WHERE in the song the band is…..

Yeeeeesh… I shudder…I’ve seen my fair share of shows like this.

Patiently you hope and wait for things to improve but they don’t. You look around to see if you can see anyone else in the crowd who is equally horrified, yet all you can see are the drunken fans having a blast. (Somehow sufficient beer seems to protect the auditory senses.)

The show continues, as the Great and Powerful Oz wrestles with the levels…but the sound just never recovers.

The band is giving it everything they’ve got – unaware that they sound so terrible.

A train wreck, a total disappointment, not the band’s fault but anyone who wasn’t completely inebriated leaves the venue dissatisfied, having spent hard-earned money and precious time at a show that didn’t refuel their spirits.

Later, reviews of the show start popping up with critiques of the poor sound sitting front and centre. The sound is torn apart with a bevy of new adjectives and clever anecdotes. But WHY was the sound bad and WHO was working the soundboard????

“Pay no….attention to that man behind the curtain…”.


I know that there is a huge team of people responsible for putting together any decent show. I know that there are background people who will remain just that “BACKGROUND” people.

I don’t absolutely need to know the names of the drum tech, the guitar tech, the stage sound tech, the light tech, wardrobe, makeup, the tour manager, the bus driver, caterer…. They all have undeniably important roles…however… I’d very much like to see, going forward, a whole lot more attention given to the soundman who can make or break a show.

Would it be too much to ask, when the band is introducing its members to the audience, to take the extra 9 seconds to recognize the soundman?

I don’t think so.

So as 2011 winds to a close & the Occupy encampments all over the word are being torn down…change is in the air.

So I encourage you to swing by the soundboard after a show. Start paying attention to who is doing a phenomenal job behind that invisible curtain!

Give credit where credit is due.




To read more about Ashton click HERE

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