Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Through Deception Pass and into the Boiler Room

One of the challenges of documenting this tour is sound, not only recording shows at a wide variety of venues from campsites to coffee shops to large clubs, but capturing their conversations about the journey and the band's interactions with strangers that they meet along the way. We want to be as unobtrusive as possible, and holding a directional microphone a few feet away from them as they have casual conversations on the side of the road doesn't seem like the best tactic.

We had briefly discussed at dinner the night before the idea of Israel wearing the wireless lavalier microphone so we could capture sound while still maintaining some distance, which he was into. In Anacortes, the rest of the group headed out away from camp to start the ride towards Port Townsend and left Israel to finish packing up his trailer. We took this opportunity to ask him to wear the lav- more because he was not talking to anyone else and we had his full attention than to keep it a secret from the other members.

The process had an undercover informant feel to it nonetheless and we joked about it. Adding to the mob movie feel of the whole operation was how perfectly Israel's Camelback concealed the wire. It provided a mesh pocket on the shoulder strap to both filter out some wind noise and hide the mic.

Besides being a less obtrusive way to gather sound, the wireless mic also provided a way for us to know when they are close. This is invaluable when we have gone ahead to find a shot and once we are set up have no idea how long it will be before they pass through it.

Even with our covert operative / makeshift tracking system in the form of Israel and the bug, we ended up losing them shortly after they passed through ironically named Deception Pass. We knew they where headed to the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry later that afternoon so we headed there monitoring for signal through the car stereo.

When they rolled up to where the car was we where no longer sitting in it, and our eyes saw them before the receiver picked them up. Not thinking to unplug the car audio hookup, the jig soon became up when the whole band heard Israel's usually soft voice booming out of the speakers. Before this it hadn't occurred to us that there was any real jig, but as the rain was closing in and the skies turned grey, the ominous clouds added to our realization that perhaps the bug was a violation of the band's trust.

The other members where taken aback that we had done this secretly, more that Israel had not told them about it, but after we talked about our intentions things seemed to smooth over, and we all sailed to Port Townsend for their show that evening at the Boiler Room. Communication on all levels is not to be underestimated here. It is the backbone of covering their story as well as maintaining the mutual trust and understanding that will lead to a great documentary.