It’s finally March in Austin, which means more basketball, more visitors and more importantly – music! Next week SXSW will be in full swing and later this month we’ll host the first-ever iHeartRadio Country Festival. Music fanatics will travel from all parts of the country to the live music capital of the world to find out first-hand why Austin owns this title. Every music venue throughout the city, no matter the size, shares one common and very important element: sound. This aspect of a live show is crucial, and it takes a lot more work than you may think to set up all the equipment and make sure the sound is clear. Have you ever wondered who is responsible for setting up the sound and stage equipment to make these shows possible?
Our Sound, Audio and Visual team here at the Erwin Center collectively has more than 100 years of experience working live shows. Not only do they set up sound for live shows, but they also do the sound for the UT Men’s and Women’s Basketball games. Greg Lioon has managed the team since 1990 and has more than 40 years of experience. He has one main rule “no feedback.” The Sound, Audio and Visual crew includes Ian Ferrier, Jimy Gunn, Linc Warren, Chad Pavlovich and Curtis Myers. Each member has their own talents and skills they’ve acquired from past experiences. For instance, Jimy Gunn has toured with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Linc Warren works with his church band and Chad Pavlovich has toured with Blue October.
When deciding who to interview for this story, Greg assured us that Curtis has some of the best stories and would be the ideal candidate. We sat down with Curtis to learn what it’s like to work behind the scenes of these huge events at the Erwin Center and throughout the city of Austin. Curtis has been working in the Sound, Audio and Visual department for more than nine years and has built quite an impressive resume. He has worked an estimated 3,000 live shows in his career at the Erwin Center and beyond. Check out our interview below!
How long have you been working in the music industry?
I started playing music when I was 14 and I’ve been around it ever since, so over 40 years. I mostly do sound but I’ve also managed bands on the road.
How did you get started working sound and A/V?
I learned how to do sound working in a studio when I was about 18 or 19 years old. One night, I happened to be in the right place at the right time when a club manager needed someone to work the sound board. I was nervous at first, since working sound in a studio is much different than live sound, but I got through it. I got my first gig on the road when I was waiting for a Johnny Winter concert at a local club here in Austin. One of his roadies asked me to make a sign so I did and he liked me so much I was able to meet Johnny Winter that night.
What are some other venues besides the Erwin Center you’ve worked?
I’ve worked at almost every venue in Austin. The Saxon Pub, Palmer Events Center, Emo’s and Broken Spoke just to name a few.
Tell us what it’s like working SXSW.
I started working SXSW in 1990 and I’ve only missed three since then. I’ll usually arrive at my assigned venue around noon, get everything set up and then the bands will play. There will be a new band every hour so I’ll work about 12-17 sets each day. The most I’ve ever done was 21.
What’s a typical day like setting up for a show at the Erwin Center?
On the day of the show, the crew will arrive between 6 a.m.-8 a.m. There are about 40-80 local crew members plus the people the performers bring with them so there can be up to 120 people setting up for one show. We bring in tons and tons of equipment then start with the rigging. Once that’s done we build the stage. It can take about 6-8 hours to get a stage set up. After all that is finished they do sound checks. Once the show has ended, we have to break down everything which takes about 2.5 hours.
What are some of your most memorable experiences or favorite shows?
One of the coolest shows I ever got to work was the Jimi Hendrix International Guitar Competition because I got to meet Jimi’s dad and sister. They actually asked me who I thought should win the competition. Some of my favorite shows at the Erwin Center were Bruno Mars and Paul McCartney when they were here just last year.
Did you work with any artists before they became huge stars?
LeAnn Rimes, back when her mom was her manager. Selena, the Tejano singer. She played one of the 21 sets I worked at SXSW. A few others include Marilyn Manson, Los Lonely Boys and the Dixie Chicks, right before they got picked up by Sony.
What do you love most about your job?
I feel like I’m never working because I enjoy what I do and I’m good at it. I like that I can help make the music sound good.
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