You Owe More to the Sound and Light Engineer Than You Know

Lessons learned from behind, and beside, the DJ booth.

by Oscar Bouwhuis; translated by Jens van de Meulenhof
20 May 2017, 11:00pm

There they are, hidden in the shadow of the stage. Every night they stand there again, bent over a giant mixer panel of buttons and slides, creating expressionistic landscapes of light flashes, smoke, and lasers. As a humble servant of the artists, they try to limit the damage your favorite DJ will inevitably do. Their one eye stares at the screen in front of them, while the other eye is aimed at the half-empty beer glasses placed terrifyingly close to the DJ equipment. Yes, we're talking about the lighting and sound technician you find in most modern nightclubs. Lars* is one of them.

Lars has done this job for over ten years. He still has bags under his eyes from last night and was late today. In the next hour and a half, the club will be flooded with thirsty, aspirant alcoholics, hedonistic pill poppers, and the non-stop partiers of Amsterdam's nightlife scene. But right now, in the fluorescent light, the club looks awfully empty. "I always start by making the whole room completely baby-proof," says Lars. "You need to be aware of the fact that people are strolling around with drunk, infantile baby brains. When they see a plug in a socket, they start pulling. You even have to mind the smallest details."

"In this club, the audience can go everywhere, even into the DJ booth," Lars continues. "That's great for the atmosphere, but it's a nightmare for me. Sometimes, tall people put their drinks on the speakers, dance on the booth, or twist the disco ball on the ceiling. That looks great in pictures— promoters couldn't wish for better advertising—but it's also just fucking dangerous." Lars points to the DJ booth. "Those tables over there aren't built to stand on," he says. "If someone trips and a monitor falls on his or her head, it's over. No more fun. Lawsuits. Club closed. And I'm responsible for it."

Read the full story on Thump.