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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Taping 411 on Austin, TX Live Music Venues (Part 1)

I always have questions about venues and how taper friendly they are both in terms of the soundman, the audience, the physical layout of the venue and the atmosphere/sound of the room. Here's my humble assessment of the situation at the places I have taped. To Austin's credit, most places are ok with taping although their layout may not always be so conducive.

I'll split the list up into two categories, soundman vs. no soundman (aka the band runs their own sound). We'll start off with the soundman positive venues.

**as always, ask the band before recording**

Venues With A Regluar Soundman
-Continental Club, 1315 S. Congress, has some really excellent soundguys who have always been friendly towards me when requesting a sbd plug. The room itself has decent sound. If you're looking to just do an audience recording, you can put your mikes on the rack that is directly in front of and to the right of the soundguy (if you're tall enough). Otherwise, it's a crap shoot because the Continental has a lot of foot traffic during most shows and the crowd can be very chatty. Warning: for some louder acts, the performers won't run their guitars through the board instead just playing off their amps.

-Stubb's BBQ (Inside), 801 Red River, has some good sound and friendly soundguys. If you're not plugging into the board, your mike placement options are limited on the floor (standing room only with a low ceiling). You could probably hang them from the railing that overhangs the main floor (or otherwise place them on the 'balcony'). The room usually sounds excellent so if you can get a good spot for your mikes, you'll be in luck. Otherwise, I'd just go with the board feed.

-The Cactus Cafe, 2247 Guadalupe, is my favorite place to see a show. The soundguys are always friendly and accommodating. You could place a mike anywhere (and I have) in this room and get a pretty decent audience recording. Recording is easier when they have the tables out (for smaller shows) but definitely still doable when the room is filled with chairs.

-The Saxon Pub, 1320 S. Lamar, is an enigma to me. I know people who love this place whereas I am somewhat lukewarm towards it. It's my understanding that they don't give sbd plugs to non-band affiliated tapers and actually, they prefer to record the show themselves (as a a service to the performer) and sell the recording to them. In my opinion, the sound of the room is hard to dial in because of the shape of room (vaulted ceilings, big bar, lots of bodies in motion). I have seen some excellent sounding shows there but I've also seen the flipside to that. From a audience recording perspective, it can be a crap shoot. Caveat emptor.

-Threadgill's, 301 W. Riverside, has some of the best outdoor sound in town. The soundguys are usually friendly and accommodating. There's plenty of room to spread out and usually some tables (for your gear) up front if you get there early enough. Warning: I taped a show here where the recording off the board cut in and out. It could have been my cables but just be mindful.

-Jovita's, 1617 S. 1st, soundguys are friendly and accommodating. Since Jovita's is a smaller room, they don't always have all the instruments running through the board (especially electric guitars and bass) but you could do a decent matrix hanging mikes on the overhang behind the board. This isn't my favorite place but you can definitely get some decent recordings here.

-Headhunters, 720 Red River, a decent but small room with friendly soundguys. I've never been there for a crowded show but there are plenty of ledges and miscellaneous areas for setting up mikes and other gear. There are a couple of stages at Headhunter's but I've only ever taped in the main room.

-Momo's, 618 W. 6th, is a really excellent bar and club for live music. It's got a weird shape (big bar, oddly placed stage) but great sound. The soundguys are excellent but there is a catch. Some louder bands don't run all their guitars through the board. The other downside is that unless you're at a table, your options for mike placement are limited. You'll figure something out.

-Cheatham Street Warehouse 119 Cheatham (San Marcos), has decent sound and the sound guys are usually accommodating. If you want to do some audience recording, there are lots of rails, tables and ledges for you to put your gear. I recorded most of the 2006 Hill Country Mess Around from just to the left of the stage at a table and it sounded pretty damn good. Not really a bad spot in the house really but there are pool tables and sometimes a lot of people not paying attention towards the back and bar.

-Triple Crown, 206 N. Edward Gary (San Marcos), has an interesting setup. The sound guys there tell me that there's no easy way to plug into the board. I think all the aux jacks are in positions that are isolated and unreachable based on the console that the board is in. That aside, the room has good sound and you can put your recording gear on top of the board-console. The crowd can be chatty but you'll have that.

-Gruene Hall, 1281 Gruene Road (New Braunfels) is a great place for a show. If you're there for a big (night time, weekend show), the sound guys are typically accomodating but if I remember right, the board only has XLR outs so be mindful of that. If you're there for a daytime show, the bands are typically running their own sound. There are plenty of tables and places to put your gear.

-The Parish, 214 E. 6th, has, as far as I can tell, a policy of not giving soundboard plugs but I think you could talk your way into a plug if the band is ok with it. Right next to the board, is a stack of sound equipment where you can place a small recording rig. Anywhere else in the room is going to be tough because there aren't ledges and the shows there are usually standing room only.

-Antone's, 213 W. 5th, recently moved its soundboard from the balcony overlooking the bars and stage to right below the balcony. Prior to that, they would be accommodating with soundboard plugs but now not so much. On the upside, the balcony is not being used so you have a great place to put your gear (get permission first) where no one will be running into it.

-Poodie's Hilltop, 22308 W. Highway 71 (Spicewood), is a fun bar. Not a great place to record as the (band) performers are almost always playing off their amps. If it's just a couple of guys and guitars, a sbd plug might work. Anything more (drums, electric guitars) and the board won't have it. There are lots of tables and places for mikes. The soundguy there swore the best sound in the room was right in the back, next to the door farthest from the stage (with every person in the bar between you and the stage). I'd love to have someone try recording from there and let me know what happens.

-La Zona Rosa, 612 W. 4th, has a pretty strict no-soundboard-plug policy. On the upside, the sound is decent (it's a big long, open room) and there's an 8-foot high support rail on the right of the room that's perfect for mike-placement.

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