The sound man had a benign tone about his delivery, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve done this before – it’ll be really cool.
The first part of that sentence is a moot point – I am stymied by a burden of proof – but the second proved to be woefully incorrect and as such I have learned never, ever, to trust anyone claiming to be, or even anything that looks remotely like a sound man, again
I had been asked to play drums at a Christian youth event at a college in a small town just outside London. The event assumed the moniker Fresh Fire: a welcome title since it was a bitter November night compounded by an absence of heating in the venue. The crowd and God’s almighty presence, we were sure, would warm things up
I set my kit up on stage at the side: I have come to hate the cliché of the drum-riser-centre-stage arrangement. The sound man worked around me, miccing up the drums and arranging monitor placement. It was a relationship of total silence, yet we worked with efficiency and alacrity. Our work, soundcheck and all, was complete in an awe-inspiring 15 minutes
Then the lighting rig. Our sound man, it appeared, was a multi-tasker although, to me, he might have wanted to work on his communication skills which consisted of little more than a few grunts and a limited array of hand gestures.
I didn’t mind: the job was being done and I began to appreciate the simplicity of it all. Then, without warning, he used his first subject-verb-object sentence: ‘I’ll put this floodlight behind you. It’ll create an amazing silhouette.’ It was surprisingly erudite particularly in view of our earlier exchanges, and then he placed the high-powered unit about a foot behind my drum stool
‘Won’t it get a bit hot?’ I enquired. He reverted back to type with grunt
Fast forward an hour. I am in the thick of exuberant worship. The band has chosen to play a three-song medley to warm the congregation up
Song one is completed without incident, yet song two is accompanied by the smell of burning. The floodlight is being used without restraint: the silhouette creating the perfect visual impact. Thing is, I was getting extremely hot – sweat is pouring from my brow and my body is burning up. I suspect a medical drama is in the offing
I was, in fact, in perfect health, but there was a more pressing problem. I was on fire or, more accurately, the jumper I wore to stave off the cold, was. Now the final throes of ‘I’m Not Ashamed Of The Gospel’ had a distinctly incendiary feel: Fresh Fire had a completely new meaning, for me at least
I had no choice: the jumper had to go. I brought the song to a premature end in order to dispense with my flaming garment. Thankfully the heat had not transferred to my T-shirt but the sweater had a wonderful ‘camp fire’ look about it. I stamped out the flames, moved the floodlight three paces back, sat back on my stool and clicked the band in for ‘They That Wait On The Lord.’
The tempo was a little fast, if I remember rightly.
Tim Bowdler has been playing drums for around 20 years. He played at Soul Survivor Church in Watford for about 7 years working with worship leaders Matt Redman, Martin Layzell and Tim Hughes.
He is a part-time drum teacher with Musicademy and is currently working as a motoring journalist with Channel 4.