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- EARS Networking Event at Schuba's
- Word from the Prez: "Teaching old dogs new tricks"
- SPARS and EARS working together
- REWIND: Brilliant February meeting with RUSS BERGER at SHURE'S S.N. THEATER
- Tips from "The Live Corner" - how to stay in the good graces of your fellow technicians
- EARS Book Club reviews: “Temples of Sound: Inside The Great Recording Studios”
- SXSW Report from Ki Shih
- Tribute to PineTop Perkins by Michael Freeman
- EARS featured in Streetwise Magazine article
- And more EARS in the news...
EARS logo

(The LJETPRO) Allen-Leake
Danny (The URBAN G) Leake

Volume 26, Number 3 • March, 2011

President – Blaise Barton
Vice President – Reid Hyams
Secretary – Bob Vodick
Treasurer – Eric Roth



TUESDAY, MARCH 29 – 7:30 P.M.

Following in the heels of our wildly successful networking night at Schuba's exactly one year ago, we are pleased to roll out V.2 for 2011. It is common knowledge that Schuba's is "Ground Zero" for EARS and the place where it all began back in 1986 when a fledgling EARS led by founder Michael "Razzy" Rasfeld hosted its first meeting here, then an eclectic Jazz/New Wave/Punk music club known as "Gaspars" (See an interesting Chicago Reader article about Gaspars here). We have the pleasure of hosting our event here yet again nearly 25 years later in Schuba's wonderful private party room upstairs.

EARS group shot 2010 EARS-Schubas 2010 EARS Group 2010

(1-3) EARS Network event at Schuba's in 2010

A fun time will be had by all and we will have a few more surprises as well. If you have been thinking of checking out EARS and getting to meet with your fellow comrades in the trenches, this is an excellent opportunity.

While you do not need to be a member to attend this event, we encourage any one curious about EARS to come check it out.

Kursten Bruderly The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. but you can land early at the bar downstairs even sooner. The entrance to the private room is on the right once you enter through Schuba's front door. Once again, a special thanks to events coordinator Terri Champelli for inviting EARS back for another year.

EARS favorite bartender and Full Sail grad
Kursten Bruderly

This is a cash bar event, but food is brought to you by EARS via Schuba's delicious menu. See you there!


A Word From El Presidente...

Hey Gang, hope you are all enjoying spring so far (if that's what they're calling this) and staying busy and productive. We look forward to seeing you at the Networking meeting at Schuba's this Tuesday and if last year's was any indication, this one will be a smash hit. In the ever shifting sands and ongoing upheaval of the music and recording business, I believe it is important now more than ever that we band together to strategize, innovate, swap stories, compare notes, and blow off some steam with others who actually understand what it is that you do. This is fundamentally what EARS was created for and it is just as relevant today.

While young audio engineer types stand to gain a lot of knowledge from seasoned professionals, we old dogs can learn a few tricks from these young candidates as well. I've enjoyed discovering a great deal from some of the young Columbia College interns who have been assisting sessions in the studio. From self-fashioned entrepreneur and engineer Dane Foltin, I witnessed a fascinating tour of his music website and how using Band Camp, he and a collective of other bands and artists of similar genre distribute and sell their music to fans without any record label involvement whatsoever. Nick Ledesma, a recent Columbia College grad and now independent producer/ engineer at Joyride Studio, is always sniffing out the latest hot new effects plug-ins and audio tools and putting them on our radar.... there's such a plethora with more coming out everyday; it's hard to keep up these days, especially if you are busy with the work. Having a personal "plug-in concierge" with time to ferret this stuff out is a welcome benefit. From Pete Landry, a recent graduate from Flash Point Academy, now also an independent producer/ engineer at Joyride, a unique insight on the way he likes to layer synth parts and sound design into a rock album. In every case, these young individuals are inventing, improvising, stumbling on new ways to get the results they want to hear, often using unorthodox methods, and it is important to keep an open mind and learn from each other. You will be hearing about these bright stars in the future and one day they will be steering the ship.

On another note, I was recently contacted by administrators at SPARS, The Society of Professional Audio Recording Services, the venerable 32 year old non profit association representing professionals in the Recording Industry. The organization is dedicated to providing education, networking and community to its members and the industry as a whole. After speaking with both Executive Director Paul Christensen and incoming President Kirk Imamura, we realized that EARS and SPARS have a lot in common and our two groups will be working together in the future to further advance our common goals.

To check out some of their recent activities, head over to the SPARS website. Here you can sign up to receive their newsletter and meeting announcements. SPARS is a national society with many heavy hitters as members. They are interested in helping EARS get the word out by including on their website and blogs any EARS news items such as meeting notices, meeting coverage, as well as news related to EARS in general.

If that's not enough, here's an added benefit to EARS members directly from Paul: "We want to open the SPARS Directory to the membership of EARS. We would like to encourage EARS members to list their companies and operations in the SPARS on-line Directory. EARS members can list themselves by going to the SPARS site - Submit Listing. Listings are free to EARS members. However, if they wish to join SPARS, we are pleased to have them, although our commitment to EARS is independent of any SPARS membership. SPARS members do enjoy recognition in the directory and have the opportunity to display the SPARS Member Logo on their site and in their literature. But all the listings are free to EARS members. We are excited to have EARS as a partner with SPARS and are looking forward to EARS input regarding the issues we all face in today's challenging industry."

This is a great benefit to EARS members and I encourage you to check out SPARS and see for yourself some of the interesting events they have planned. Here is a recent interview I did with Kirk Imamura.

A HUGE thanks to Mr. Russ Berger for sharing his experience and philosophy at our last meeting in February. I for one was really moved by his conscientious and detailed approach to each individual project. We would also like to thank Shure Inc. and Dean Giavaris for once again opening their beautiful S.N. SHURE theater to EARS.

Finally, I would also like to offer my condolences and regards in the passing of venerable bluesman Pinetop Perkins. It was a sheer pleasure to meet and work with this incredible musician, his memory will live on for generations.

See you at SCHUBA'S for a great night!

Warm Regards,
Blaise Barton
EARS President


Russ Berger EARS members at Shure
(1) Russ Berger via Skype at the onset of his in-depth talk EARS members; (2) More than 60 attendees were present at the state-of-the-art S.N. Shure Theatre

Thursday, February 24, 2011: It was on a cold, chilly Thursday night last month that EARS met at The S.N. Shure Theater for its February meeting to meet the great Russ Berger. (For you CSI fans, some members actually showed up Tuesday and were treated to a fascinating AES discussion of Forensic Audio procedures.)Russ is a studio designer extraordinaire with over 2500 designs to his credit. He has designed and built everything from Whitney Houston’s personal studio to Sony Music to Shures own in house studio. (EARS members got a tour of it last year.)He also has eight TEC Awards for excellence and creativity in acoustic studio design and he was here (via Skype) to impart some of his wisdom to our eager congregation. (Around sixty participants showed up. It was a great turnout.) The meeting started out with usual EARS “meet & greet” in the lobby of the theater. A few new faces were seen among the seasoned regulars…a very good sign. Then we were wisked by our illustrious Prez, Blaise Barton, into that wonderful performance venue we know as the S.N. Shure theater where Russ Berger was waiting on the projection screen. He talked a little bit about his history; his pathway into his part of the industry as a former musician/engineer and how this led to his current career. I enjoyed his philosophy on the primal need for an accurate reference in terms of bass response in small rooms. (I have a small room.) He had examples of some the rooms he designed and built including the NPR studios, Sweetwater’s performance venue, and Whitney Houston’s studio. A Youtube video was played that showed the in progress construction of a studio, Blade Studios of Shrevport, LA. We were able to get a “before and after” look at the facility. His cat tried to hijack the meeting but Russ persevered. He talked about how piracy and file sharing was hurting artists which had the trickle down affect of hurting studio owners and lovers of good audio everywhere. Fran and I got a personal thrill when he said he read the EARDRUM and liked its content. (RUSS BERGER IS READING THE EARDRUM!....Oh, oh! We’ll have to be VERY careful about what’s printed from now on smiley emoticon)

Russ Berger / Blaise and Amanda at Brick House
(1) Brady Blade of Blade Studios discusses how Russ Berger made his dream a reality (2) After the presentation, EARS attendees repaired to a nearby restaurant where Blaise welcomed Streetwise writer, Amanda Elliott (see Streetwise Article in this issue!)

After the meeting we repaired to a nearby Restaurant/Bar where the conversations of the night continued. We also celebrated Fran Allen-Leake’s Annual 39th Birthday (EARDRUM Co-Editor) with Blaise, David Moss (A WWII buff, who would have thought?), Amanda Elliott (of Streetwise Magazine), Joel McCarthy, Harry Brotman, and a host of others. It was a wonderful night for all.

I would like to second Blaise’s thanks to Shure Inc. and Dean Giavaris for having us over. I would also like to thank Russ Berger for sharing his time and expertise to EARS. And last, but not least, I would like to congratulate Blaise on these series of Skype meetings he has put together. It has opened a window for EARS members who don’t have the opportunity to attend AES Conventions to get a chance to interface, on a semi personal level, with some of the great personalities of our industry.

See Ya at Schuba’s

Danny Leake

The Live! live corner logo Corner

UGE Pro Tips

I was advancing a tour into Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates when it occurred to me that even though this was a Full Tilt Class A Stadium touring job, there are concepts used that could help smooth even the smallest gig:

Tip #1 Do your homework and properly advance the gig

By that I mean get together with your band and find out if there are any “Oh, By The Way’s”. Find out what’s coming and put together a proper input list and tech rider to work off and PERSONALLY send it to the system tech or the “House” guy. Don’t allow the production manager, cousin, girl friend, buddy, or anyone else to send it. You will have no way of knowing what they sent; it may be incorrect, it may be a list from two years ago, it may have nothing to do with the changes the band gave you last week. (That’s right, you may have talked to the band but no one else did.) The last thing you need is for unexpected changes to show up on the day of the gig right before sound check. If it happens, it ALWAYS happens at the worst possible time. “Oh, By The Way, There’s a 20 voice kids choir showing up to sing on the next to the last song. They’ll be here in 5 minutes to sound check”. (Don’t laugh, I’ve had it happen before)

Call the venue and find out what you are working with and plan accordingly. Don’t ask for some esoteric thing that the venue doesn’t have and is not going to rent. Asking for something they can’t or won’t provide is just a lesson in frustration….also you’ll be labeled a “primadonna” which will set the tone for the rest of the day. If it is that important to your show, bring it yourself and you know you’ll have it. If it is not that important, work with the tools you’re given and make it happen. It’s called engineering.

Find out what kind of boxes you’ll have to work with (JBL, V-Dosc, Mackie, “FrankenPA”, etc.), how they are tuned and if there is permission to make a change, if there is a separate monitor position and engineer or are you sending it from the FOH. (Doable: but much harder if you are labeled a “Prima Donna” and everyone sits on their fingers waiting for you to fail.)

Tip #2 The System Engineer is your Friend or he or she can make your gig a living Hell!

This is a true story:

I was hired by a record company to make sure that their artist, who was opening for a MAJOR artist (who shall remain nameless) did NOT sound like an “Opening Act”. The Major artist’s manager, who was also the show promoter, had ordered the sound company to shut down half the PA on the opening act. (Unscrupulous, but it’s sometimes still done.) I knew that on my artist rider it stated that he got a bottle of Champagne in his dressing room every night after the show. He was on the wagon and never even bothered to open it. I made it my mission to grab that bottle before the other musicians got it. After the first night I walked up to the audio crew chief (System Engineer), handed him the bottle of Dom Perignon and said, “I really appreciate all the help you guys have given me during the setup this week…..a little token of my appreciation”. The manager didn’t think it was a little strange that the normally coffee drinking, beer guzzling audio roadies were walking around drinking from champagne flutes……the next night I had the ENTIRE PA system; All boxes, ALL amps, ALL subs, etc. When he complained, the crew chief said, “Man, that cat gets more sound out of less Sh*t than anyone I know”. Yes, The System Engineer can be your friend.

This involved one of the biggest sound companies in the World. (Hint: Rhymes with Chair)Now what does this story have for a local guy? PLENTY! Your average “House Guy” (System Engineer) is usually an underpaid person working with whatever the owner will let him use and those decisions are usually made with an accountant’s eye rather than an engineer’s ear. He or she may only get half of what they need to do the gig properly but they make it work anyway. They are usually very proud of what they have accomplished.

Another story:

It is common knowledge among my friends that I don’t particularly care for Yamaha PM5D’s. I had a gig in Las Vegas where I had to work on one. I didn’t have an attitude. I wasn’t condescending. I introduced myself, smiled and put up my tuning CD………and I was astounded! It felt like a Midas. I told the System Engineer that I thought it sounded magnificent, how was it configured? Turns out that he had spec’d a Midas H3000 or a Pro6 but they bought him a PM5D. He hated it but figured out what didn’t like; he externally clocked it, ran it at 96K, and connected the digital outs to better D/As which, in the end, was cheaper than getting a more expensive board. He was immensely proud of what he accomplished and because I didn’t come in with a preconceived attitude and acknowledged his achievement there was nothing he wouldn’t do to make my gig happen in the best way.

I’ve have seen novice engineers “dog” a person’s system and wonder why their show “crashed and Burned”. Sometimes I do some mixing for friends in small local clubs. With my experience I could, but do I go in like I’m a “BTE” (Big Time Engineer)? No, I let the SE know that it is his or her pool and I’m not gonna piss in it.

I will respect the SE’s knowledge of what happens in his or her room but I will check it with my tuning CD and I make sure that I can make adjustments if they are needed. I also do this on the road when I trust my touring SE to get the system to where he’s happy and then I check it.

I practice good gain structure on the console so I have a clean signal hitting the amps. I let them know I am paying attention to how hard I’m hitting the drive rack or processors because this is directly tied into the possibility of blowing drivers or amps and that DIRECTLY affects their job security. I find that if they trust you, you can usually get them to bypass any limiting or compression they have on the system to protect their drivers.

At the end of the day, if the gig is big or small, it is about being professional.

- By advancing your show properly you are giving the SE respect by showing that you are taking the gig seriously.
- By showing up prepared you are making the SE’s gig easier….and yours.
- By respecting his/her setup you are showing Professionalism and that gets you respect and the cooperation you need to do your gig properly.
A lot of these tips also apply to the studio. A pissed off assistant can make your life….shall we say, interesting.

More on this topic in next month’s issue.

Danny Leake

EARS Book club logo

Earlier this month I was traveling to Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on a job. It was a 14 hour direct flight from Chicago. I never watch inflight movies. To me, as a movie buff, watching a movie on an airline is comparable to listening to fine Classical music as compressed files on a badly tuned IPod so I use the time to catch up on my reading. I usually carry a small library with me; Entertainment magazines, Tech articles, New books or Old books I want to become reacquainted with. On this trip one of the books I carried was “Temples of Sound: Inside The Great Recording Studios” by Jim Cogan and William Clark with a Forward by Quincy Jones, Chronicle Books (2003). I remember a time when you could listen to a record and tell who made it and where it was done just by the sound…..and it wasn’t just mike technique, it was the unique sonic character of the studio. I, for instance, fell in love with the sound of Universal Studio A and after it went under no amount of digital manipulation (which I’m pretty good at) or plugins could reproduce that sound. In fact, the closest I could get was at a studio on Sunset Boulevard by Oceanway Studios in Hollywood……that’s because it was designed by Bill Putnam, the brilliant audio guru who also designed Universal. (ED Note: it has since been sold and “Modernized” by the new owners. I’m not sure what it sounds like now.) Jim Cogan, a friend and former Chicago Engineer, and William Clark address this in their book. It is similar to “Studio Stories” which I reviewed in the December 2010 EARDRUM except where “Studio Stories” concentrated on New York Studios “Temples” took on the more complicated task of examining 15 studios from across America and what a great bunch of studios they are: Capitol Studios, Sunset Sound and United Western Recording in Hollywood; Universal Recording and Chess Studios in Chicago; RCA Studio B in Nashville; Sun Studios and Stax in Memphis; J&M Studios in New Orleans, Motown (The Snake Pit) in Detroit; Sigma Sound in Philadelphia; Atlantic and Columbia Studios in New York; Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey; and Criteria Studios in Miami. The book doesn’t exactly go into specific technical explanations about what made these “Temples” tick as much as it draws the reader into the camaraderie among the Artists, Producers, and Engineers that help make these brilliant records. And there are some AWESOME pictures. (ED Note: No, Leonard Chess did not look ANYTHING like Adrian Brody)There are shots in the studio of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and many others. There’s even a studio shot of the Stax crew crowded in the control room listening to the ONE “Voice of the Theater” monitor. I love the cover shot of a young Aretha Franklin belting “Respect” into a vintage U-47.

These studios were involved in the making of some the Classic recordings of the Sixties and Seventies.

Here’s small sampling:

“Johnny B. Good”
“Killing Floor”
“Light My Fire”
“Stairway to Heaven”
“Tutti Frutti”
“Running Scared”
“It’s Now or Never”
“That’s Amore”
“Nature Boy”
“A Life Supreme”
“My Girl”
“What’s Going On”
“Higher and Higher”
“Walk Like a Man”
“Great Balls of Fire”
“I Walk The Line”
“For The Love of Money”
“Young Americans”
“Hotel California”
“Kind of Blue”
“Like a Rolling Stone”
“California Girls”
“I Can’t Stop Loving You”
“Strange Brew”
Chuck Berry
Howlin Wolf
The Doors
Led Zeppllin
Little Richard
Sam and Dave
Roy Orbison
Elvis Presley
Dean Martin
Nat King Cole
John Coltrane
The Temptations
Marvin Gaye
Jackie Wilson
The Four Seasons
Jerry Lee Lewis
Johnny Cash
The O’Jays
David Bowie
Derek & The Dominoes
The Eagles
Miles Davis
Bob Dylan
The Beach Boys
Ray Charles
Aretha Franklin
Sunset Sound
Sunset Sound
RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B
Capitol Studios
Capitol Studios
Van Gelder Studio
Universal Recording
Universal Recording
Sun Recording
Sun Recording
Sigma Sound
Sigma Sound
Columbia Studios
Columbia Studios
United Western Recording
United Western Recording
Atlantic Recording Studios
Atlantic Recording Studios

Engineers are also acknowledged. Personalities like Joe Tarsia (Sigma), Tom Dowd (Atlantic), Bruce Swedien (the World) and the greatest of them all, Bill Putnam (Universal Recording and United Western Recording) an excerpt:

“Those studios were built with some incredible technology. For instance, the studios were built on four or five inches of cork. A cement slab was then floated (suspended) inside the building that did not touch the walls of the building, and then the wall of the studio was supported by that slab. There was no physical contact between the outer walls and the inner walls. This was all Bill’s design. A huge studio, about eighty feet by sixty feet, with a thirty foot ceiling, it had variable acoustics with rotating panels. Magnificent room.”

That’s how sound engineer Bruce Swedien describes the design of Universal Studios in Chicago, built in 1957 by Bill Putnam.”

The book goes on to describe how Bruce talked of the studio like it was a lost love that got away. It’s observations like this that makes “Temples” special.

I really enjoyed reading this book eight years ago when I got it for $24.95 at the AES Convention that year. Unfortunately, on my return trip, after another 14 hour plane ride, fatigue caused me to leave it on the plane. While writing this review I thought I’d go online and order another one. To give you an idea of the esteem with which this book is held among studio connoisseurs, a new copy on Amazon will run you around $232 US. I thought it was a typo or a computer glitch but that was the price at all the outlets I checked (Used copies can be had for around $60) So, If you run across a copy, guard it like the Gold that it is.

Danny Leake


Ki Shih and Juan Garcia-Spitz at SXSW
(Columbia College Students and EARS Correspondents Ki Shih and Juan Garcia-Spitz at SXSW)

BACKGROUND: This spring, AEMMP Records offered two Columbia College Audio Arts & Acoustics Live Sound Reinforcement majors the incredible opportunity to mix the AEMMP Records Showcase and Day Party at SXSW 2011. With generous funding provided by AA&A and AEMM, Juan Garcia-Spitz and Ki Shih were able to experience SXSW for the first time, and add some knock-out venues and acts to their mixing resumes! The following report is a “snippet” of their experiences.

SXSW: Day 2

Juan and I meet with the AEMMP team at Iron Cactus for a pre-production meeting, which is a great thing since our call times have changed! Our first AEMMP showcase is at Easy Tiger, featuring the bands Moon, Horse Thief, Hoodie Allen, Astronautalis, Alex Skolnick, and Green & Wood. We can’t get into the space until 6pm, and the first act goes on at 8pm. I’m nervous, as I couldn’t reach anyone from the venue in the weeks before. They might not know we’re coming!

At 6pm, we lug all our audio and video gear from my Outback to Easy Tiger and hope for the best. We run into some friendly band members from Moon outside the venue, blowing up balloons for their set. Inside, we meet a guy with a sound company, and find out the equipment has all been rented for SXSW. This is a basement show, on 6th Street! The sound guy Tim is contracted from a separate company, and drove in from another city. He seems reasonably happy to see us, and learn that he’ll be getting paid to babysit the system tonight. Everything’s on schedule, and running surprisingly smoothly!

Easy Tiger
(Set-Up At Easy Tiger)

We set up the Canon XHA1s on a tripod, and try to hang our Flip HD somewhere on stage. After Tim sets up the mics, we get the first band on stage. Juan and I take turns mixing the bands. While he’s mixing Moon, I take out the Nikon D7000 and try to get some artsy shots up close. I am in NO WAY a video gal, but I love playing with the focus ring! It’s loud, it’s boomy, and I start wondering how our shotgun and room mics will fare against the low frequencies. We’ve got my Zoom H4N hooked up to the board as well, but it’s impossible to mix for the recording in such a live, small space.

Juan and I switch off, with one person mixing and the other shooting video. Horse Thief goes on, and I instantly love the lead singer’s two mic set-up: he uses the 58 for dry vocals and my E935 for the wet, and “mixes” it himself by singing into one or both mics. They sound completely different live from their recorded album, and I decide to pick up a cd. Around 11pm, it starts getting crowded as Astronautalis goes on. He’s a great performer, and by the time he does his crowd-sourced freestyle, I’m a fan for life. His lyrics are shockingly smart; allegorical and historical, to quote the man himself. It’s no wonder his audience is so well-behaved, especially compared to what we’ve seen on 6th Street so far.

After his set, break down is a breeze. Juan and I load everything back out to the car. Our first showcase was a success!

SXSW: Day 3

We have the day off! Juan and I wake up and go to check out my friends’ band from Portland, The Quick & Easy Boys, at the Ghost Room. It’s a little off the beaten path, but I’m utterly relieved when I walk into a spacious, elegant, and - most refreshing - clean room. And they have a tree with a beer garden outside. What a cool venue!

Guitarist Jimmy tragically lost his voice 7 days ago, so the bass player is flying solo on vocals. Despite the early hour, they play a killer set and win over the crowd. The next band decides, on a whim, to play their set outside! Their horn players climb up a tree, the guitars turn their amps down to a whisper, and they play a picture-perfect acoustic set. I find out they’re called Lovett, and swap some promised video recordings for a cd.

Leaving the Ghost Room utterly charmed, The Quick and Easy Boys and I head to the heart of SXSW to catch a performance by their friends, Deer Tick, at the hugely popular Brooklyn Vegan showcase. We get there after the set’s started, and settle on watching it through the cracks of the tall white picket fence at Swan Dive. For the first time since we got to SXSW, I’m in the thick of it. The audio’s terrible, from where I’m standing at least. The fence is about to fall over with so many people leaning against it. Everyone is sweating. It smells terrible. Welcome to SXSW.

Our day off turns into quite an adventure, as we continue on to Erik and Joe’s house show. We arrive to a crowd of family and friends, crowded around the Chicago band Dastardly while they play an acoustic set on the lovely porch, which is quite possibly the most perfect setting to hear this band. Their harmonies are strong, their musicianship substantial. This is how music is *supposed* to be experienced. I wish every band had the chops to perform this way! Window Theatre moves the crowd inside, where the piano lives. I set up the XHA1s and room mics, and as soon as Joe and Erik start playing, I fall in love with the sound of this band in this room. This is the show I’ve been waiting for.

The night ends with a surprise visit from my dear friend Nathan Christ, who directed a film close to my heart called Echotone, an inspiring and devastating documentary on the Austin music scene. It couldn’t have been a more timely encounter. Walking across nearly all of downtown with him, I start seeing the festival as an invasion. I have yet to see a single performance by an Austin band, or even have a conversation with an Austin resident. In fact, I haven’t even tried! I start getting depressed, and for half an hour, Jimmy and I sit in silence (since he’s lost his voice) and stare at all the people clogging the sidewalks on 4th Street. SXSW, I conclude, is Wrigleyville for rockers.

Physically and mentally exhausted, Jimmy and I jump in the car and head away from the crazy. We end up getting coffee and tofu tacos at Bouldin Creek, on a tip from Columbia College’s own Ted Cho. We sit down next to a guy on a laptop with a friendly dog, and proceed to eat ourselves back to health. Here is some real Austin, where *we* are the only things SXSW. Afterwards, we drive back into the belly of the beast to reconvene with Erik, Joe, Juan, and Joel. I have only one thing in mind: Sam’s BBQ. Having been warned various absurdities (it’s great but don’t go there after dark!) I decide we absolutely must go.

Shockingly, we get there in about four minutes. As it turns out, Sam’s BBQ is less than a mile from where we’re staying. So much for the “bad neighborhood” rep; the humble staff and owners are the only ones at the joint, and seem to appreciate the fact that we’re respectful out-of-towners. Everyone digs in, and at 3:17am in Austin, we proclaim this to be the best barbecue on the planet. Sam’s is the big hug I’ve needed all month.

Off to bed, a full and early day of mixing tomorrow.

Ki Shih, EARS Student Correspondent



(ED Note) Last month, our EARS family celebrated a Grammy win (Best Traditional Blues Album for- Joined At The Hip) for 97 year-old Pinetop Perkins, his collaborator, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, producer Michael Freeman, and recording engineer Blaise Barton. This month, we – along with scores of fans worldwide – are saddened to learn of Pinetop’s recent passing. Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins succumbed to cardiac arrest on Monday, March 21. This always dapperly-dressed (remember the electric blue suit with the emerald green hat?) was one of the last of the really great Mississippi Delta Bluesman; his virtuoso piano was second to none. He was one of the most incredible individuals I’ve ever been privileged to meet. Pinetop left us all a beautiful legacy of music, of perseverance and of life! Sleep well, Professor.

(The following is from Michael Freeman who read this at the Services for Pinetop Perkins on Monday, 3/28 in Austin)

I first met Pinetop, briefly, over 30 years ago, introduced to me by Muddy Waters who I was interviewing, at a venue where the band was playing, about 50 miles outside of Chicago called Harry Hopes, in Cary, Illinois. We walked across the stage together that early evening as everyone was setting up for the gig. Muddy introduced me to Pinetop who of course playing the piano and warming up. In mid phrase he raised a hand, nodded and had that hand back on keys on the one!

Little did I know back then that I would leave the world of journalism a year or so later for the world of recording and that I would see Pinetop playing a piano whenever he could find one near, many times! We would meet again on many occasions on the various sessions I recorded with him in the coming years, culminating in this last record for him and for Willie "Big Eyes" Smith that has received so much acclaim and a Grammy award for the two of them.

What a joy to see them receive that award and share in it too, but also to be in awe of the journey they took to get to that stage in Los Angeles.

Pinetop shared some very special times with me, both personal and musical. From the visits to his home here in Austin sitting with him at the piano listening to his music, to the conversations and the celebration of birthdays with late night sit-ins, to the mischief and the fun, and to those magical moments in a recording studio when it all comes together.

Thank you Pinetop - they were all rare gifts in my life that I will always treasure. More importantly, thank you for the legacy and the music you leave behind for all of us to admire and enjoy - and pass on.

Thank you for sharing your remarkable life with us and now, may you rest in peace.

God bless you.

Street Wise articles

Thank You, EARS!

In Response to the January Editorial “Food For Thought…….The Next Generation” in which we asked:

“Speaking of the EARS community, Fran and I are having Ball editing the EARDRUM and we really appreciate the compliments we’ve received. However, we are worried that the EARDRUM might start to seem like a semi-personal Blog. WE NEED SOME MORE INPUT FROM OUR EARS COMMUNITY! Come on guys….let’s have some more ideas on articles, tell us things that are affecting you, tell us what bothers you these days, tell us about a great new piece of gear or technique that makes your day…..tell us something. We need your help.”

Well….we have indeed received input!!! In keeping with the Next Generation theme, some of our Student Members contacted us; as a result, this month we unveiled a new section in the EARDRUM that is written by them. Ki Shih, an absolutely brilliant young engineer (4th-year Columbia College) is leading the editorial charge. (Check out the SXSW article written by Ki) A bevy of great ideas are already unfolding, so watch for upcoming issues!

Also, a few of our Veteran members have expressed an interest in penning articles. We are looking forward to presenting them to you soon.

So, Thanks for stepping up folks! Keep those ideas coming!!!

Send any ideas to Fran at or Danny at

Fran Allen-Leake & Danny Leake
EARDRUM Co- Editors

In case you haven't seen the invite, here's an opportunity to sit in with producer Phil Ramone ... brought to you by The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter. If you are not an Academy Member, here's an opportunity to join and attend this event for free. Academy Invite with Phil Ramone

Magnifying Glass We Want to Know…

What have you been working on lately (and with whom?!) Do you have an idea for an article in an upcoming EARDRUM? Do you have a tech tip? How about an idea for an EARS event? Don’t be shy… contact us:

Fran Allen-Leake, LJet Productons – 312.405.4335 or e-mail

Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers –312.310.0475 or e-mail eardrum.editor@ears-

Check out our FACEBOOK page(s)

Look for the New EARS Website!! – COMING SOON!!

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