My Most Embarrassing Moments, Part 3

Stories compiled by Curt Taipale

I have to say, these stories are absolutely priceless! Not to mention the fact that everyone here should feel a deep sense of reassurance that we're all human and we sometimes make mistakes. Keep the stories coming. They're wonderfully cathartic.

Okay, here's my most embarrassing to date.

Several years ago, I was running the board for a Saturday night service, and we had a guest speaker. I kept hearing something "funny" in the mix and was trying to isolate it, and get it out. So, once again I grabbed my phones, held one cup up to my right ear, and hit the solo button on the speaker's channel. It took me about 10 seconds to realize that all I was hearing was very faint and through my left ear. A quick look down at the board, and I notice the red mute light is glowing, not the amber solo light. I quickly unmute the channel and decide that what I was hearing wasn't that annoying anyway. I don't think I touched the board the rest of the service except to shut it all down at the end :)

Contributed by Matt Sorrell

Okay, here's one... So, my first time running FOH on a digital console was on the Venue at our church. There was one point where I had to crossfade between our pastor and a video, which was on a different layer. So, I had the video cued up on the assignable channel section - one finger on that fader, one on the Pastor's E6. I faded him out and the video in, and left my finger on the assignable channel's fader (up mind you). I then reached over and selected the Pastor's channel, which put him on the assignable channel fader, which brought him way up in the house, which started a low-frequency feedback! Luckily, I had better instincts than I thought I'd have, given my lack of time on the console. I yanked his channel down after only a second or two, but it was more than enough to shake me up!

Contributed by Martin E Massinger | Texas

There was the Sunday morning where the band started to play "on time" ( I quote here cause our normal start time was at least 5 minutes late, but this week we managed to start right on time). Me and the rest of the tech crew had just finished praying and were not quite ready for down beat. I caught the signal from the MoM to start and nodded that we were ready. Lights, projection and video recording all hit their cue. I noticed very quickly that the room was strangely quiet, all you could hear was the piano, winds and brass and the sound of the sticks hitting the E-drum pads. Almost as quickly I realized I still had all the mute groups engaged. So I pulled back the master cleared the mutes and faded the master back up. Fortunately it was only a few seconds of the intro and no words were missed, but the looks from stage and the front row (pastor and senior staff) were more than enough to make we want to shrink into the background.

Contributed by Brant Harman | Texas

In a former life I ran sound for a weekend country/western band. On one really bad day during setup I couldn't get anything to come up on the first channel I checked. Nothing. I check all of the solos, mutes, buss mutes/assigns, masters, connections, etc. After a few minutes, I'm standing at the mixer and the guitar player walks up reaches up to the rear of the board and flips the power switch on the mixer and says ... "Think that'll fix it?"

Let's see... there has to be more.

Contributed by Scott Probst | Texas

My most embarrassing moment came in 1961 when I was asked to go on my first solo live recording gig to a civil rights speech that was being made by a prominent black college professor. I loaded up the VW mini bus with all the equipment which included an Ampex 16" reel to reel recorder, preamp, cables etc. and drove almost 50 miles to the gig. When I arrived, I discovered that I did not bring a blank take-up reel for the Ampex. What I did was, I taped the guide arm down to the faceplate of the machine which meant it would run and then I let the tape spill off onto the ground in a huge pile as I recorded. It took about an hour to rewind after the speech but I got every word.

Contributed by Wray Moxley | North Carolina

Hey ya'll my most embarrassing moment was a few years back and we had a guest singer at our church that was using soundtracks. At the end of a the first song it went into an silent moment and it was then was to have a big musical finish. Well, at the silent part I hit the stop button, wiped down the cd and put it back in the case. Well the singer was waiting for the musical finish.

Contributed by Paul

Here is an interesting one...

A Music Minister on one of my churches has been having a terrible time with his Ear set mic and the wireless transmitter. Unfortunately, it is a Shure SLX lavaliere that has a "push on," "momentary push again to mute," and "push and hold," to turn it off.

As I counseled him, I noted that the LED on the top of his transmitter was green when on. It was amber when muted and out when the transmitter was turned off. When questioned about the color of the LED, his comment was that the green was just brighter...

Color blind!

He gets to use their new ULX-Pro system with a single on/off-mute switch!

Contributed by Russel L. O'Toole, P.C. | Illinois

Several years ago my church did a night of singing. Probably 10-15 different people all with split tracks on cassette. I cued every one and double-checked. About mid way thru I hit play and the song was cued on the demo side. Of course I flipped the tape over re-cued and played the song. After it was all over, almost in tears, I handed the tape to the performer and apologized. He smiled and told me he could not remember the first words to the song and had it not been for me playing the demo he would have bombed.

He does work all things together for the good doesn't He?

Contributed by Gary Vieth | Texas

OK I have two from years past:

I've shared this with more than a few folks, but never put it in writing. I was in charge of wireless for the Miss America Pageant - which at the time, was a live to air broadcast. I had carefully mapped frequencies around the casinos and the convention center in Atlantic City. Still it was no walk in the park, and it took a lot of trial and error to get things working and stable. After a couple of days rehearsal with no major trouble, life was ok. Then, out of the blue, I had a loud intermittent buzz on one of the hand held mics. Then the same thing on one of the spares. I opened up the transmitter and all looked fine - it was perfectly stable - then I would tilt it and BZZZ - then nothing. Maddening. I would shake the mic - nothing - touch up solder on the power switch and on/off switch, microphone connections etc - all would be fine - then BZZZZ. What I didn't notice was the rest of the crew trying to stop laughing in the background. It seems that one of the crew (Larry - I won't reveal his last name) was catching live flies in a jar - then managed to transfer them inside the windscreen of the SM87's. Genius.


I was doing similar duty for the Country Music Awards, which at the time, was also live to air. All of the rehearsals had been flawless. Receivers were located in a rack under the stage with multiple remote antennas. When the show opened, there was an unexpected flash of light from the front of the stage. A photographer had been given access to set up without proper authorization. He had plugged his strobe lights into the power that was feeding the wireless receivers. When the strobes lit, they blew the circuit breaker. The primary wireless was dead - out came the spare, which was also dead - within 5 or so seconds the director went to commercial. No fun.

Contributed by Steve Barbar

"It seems that one of the crew (Larry - I won't reveal his last name) was catching live flies in a jar - then managed to transfer them inside the windscreen of the SM87's."

That reminds me of a stunt pulled at a recording studio I once worked for. We had gotten a brand new Neve console. This was back in the days when those consoles were made out of steel enclosed modules, and the audio in and out of each module was transformer coupled. Besides sounding great, those Neve consoles were the next thing to totally RF proof.

After we had owned the console for a few months, the president of Neve USA came by to see how things were going. We told him things were going great except for this one channel where we were getting a bit of a radio station. Of course he was very concerned and started to troubleshoot the console. It took him almost 3 hours to find the mic laying on the floor of the vocal booth, with the transistor radio at the other side of the booth :>)

Contributed by Ray A. Rayburn | Colorado

Then there was the time a number of years ago when I was to record a series of live Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts. I had my mics placed pretty much where I wanted them except for one.

There was to be an operatic vocalist that night and I was afraid that she might sound too distant with just being picked up by the ambient mics in front of the group. I had come out from backstage with a couple of things while the stage crew finished setting up and there was a fellow moving some things around the podium and concertmasters seat, apparently making room for the vocalist. He asked who I was. I told him and related my problem with the vocalist as there wasn't much room for a mic stand and many times people can be very picky about not seeing mics and stands during concerts. He said that he felt like since we were doing the same concert four times, that we could just do without that mic the first night and see how it went. Not liking to take chances like that, I replied that I would ask Mr. Litton (the conductor) when I saw him, and see what he thought. The fellow smiled, extended his hand and said "Hello, I'm Andrew Litton."

I had never seen him before and he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He looked like a stage hand. He was very nice and we had several nice conversations during the series. For someone that I would have expected to be snobbish, he proved to be nothing of the kind. He is truly a nice man.

I'm sure I'll think of more, just give me time.

Contributed by Scott Probst | Texas

I was sitting at my computer reading email one morning about 10 minutes to 10 when the phone rang. My pastor asked if I was planning on doing sound for the wedding.

Well sure. I will be there about 10:30 Plenty of time for a 11:00 wedding. No Frank, it starts at 10:00.

Very fast drive, I called the pastor from my car and asked him to put fresh batteries in his and the grooms mic, and every thing came up as it should. The wedding started about 10:10.

It was about a week later when I got up the nerve to call the mother of the bride and apologies. She told me that at the last minute Grandmother had decided she could make it after all but didn't want any one to wait on her account. She showed up 7 min late and sat down in time to watch her granddaughter come down the isle.

God is good.

BTW, no one seems to understand why I ask the time of the ceremony when they call to tell me the date, again at the beginning of the rehearsal, and again at the end of the rehearsal and write it down each time.

Contributed by Frank DeWitt | New York

There was the time I was running sound for a local high school choir using the church auditorium. They were using CD track and like many accompaniment disk each song was divided into several tracks. The rehearsals were done early in the week and everything was fine. At some point during the week I made some adjustments and repairs to the audio feed to the video booth. I played tone on the CD while I adjusted levels at each recorder. To make things easier I set the CD to loop the track, which of course I thought I set back to normal when I was done. About 30 seconds into the first song the music stopped abruptly and suddenly started back at the beginning. It only took a few seconds to realize what had happened and I quickly fixed the CD player to the right setting, the director told the crowd we had some technical difficulties, and we were going to start over. We restarted the song and the rest of the evening went just fine. To this day I still have to triple check my CD player to make sure everything set right.

Contributed by Brant Harman | Texas

I do my share of public school recording. Your incident reminded me of a concert I was recording where something similar happened to the poor outside sound guy that was hired to run the show. The show had been running just fine for 1/2 and hour when, about 30 seconds into a song, the choir started doing the same routine it had just done. But then it happened again... and a third time. Finally, one of the kids yelled from the stage "IT"S STUCK!". I don't recall what the sound guy did, but he hadn't touched the CD player since the beginning of the show other than to change discs. I'd worked with him before and he'd always done a great job, so I believe him when he says the player took on a mind of its own. Still, he was embarrassed.

Contributed by Scott Probst | Texas

Scott adds:

I said there'd be more. Frank, you just reminded me.

First, during the spring I am extremely busy, often dealing with 3-4 events running simultaneously, changing every week, for several weeks. Sometimes I get pretty tired. Second, the church I used to do sound for was about 45 min's from my home. So...

One morning about 8am I my phone rings waking me from a dead sleep after a very long, busy week. My boss at the church is cordial and says "Hey dude, where are you?." I reply, "I'm home asleep." (probably a little sarcastically) So after a short pause he says, "Do you know what day it is?" In my groggy stupor I'm trying to make sure that I have the right answer. Then it hits me. It's Sunday! and services start at 9:30 am and I am normally there by 7:30 am. I apologize profusely and get moving.

Fortunately, my assistant was there and got everything ready so that when I got there about 9:15 for the 9:30 service everything was ready to go. I am so rarely late for a gig (almost never - not even 5 minutes), that everyone was very forgiving and actually laughing a little when I walked in the door. Services started on time and no one but the staff was the wiser.

Thank you to my wonderful, understanding volunteer assistants the 9+ years I was there. You were amazing. :^)

Contributed by Scott Probst | Texas

Well being fairly new at the whole "live sound" bit I don't have a lot to draw on... But thanks to our wondrous new console I have been provided with one.

We have a Mackie TT24 that has exhibited the dreaded random reboot issue, we've now tracked it down to the power supply (we think) which I hope will be here tomorrow. Three times now it has rebooted mid service, specifically mid worship set. The first time it did this I said in my normal talking over the band voice "Dude, it rebooted!" to a rather silent congregation... Ooops. I now know better and simply motion as though I'm about to kick it off the table :) Never fails though I still get looked at by a large percentage of the people as though it's my fault when it happens as I hide behind the board.

Contributed by Jason Stahls | Ontario

I was doing a gospel concert with some of the better known local talent and we did the sound check the night before so we wouldn't be pressed for time the next day. So when we fired up the next day we get nothing from the monitors. Zip, nada, inky black silence. I could see from the mix position that all the red rocker switches were lit up on the power panel on the amp rack on stage so I plugged my headphones into the aux send for the monitors and cranked it up and got sound so it must be either the snake or the amp.

So I plug the snake back into the aux send and go to the stage to take a look. Well I assumed that since the monitor amp switch on the power panel was on that the amp was on. But upon closer inspection I discover the amp itself was turned off.

A good sound man would have realized that he had left the monitors turned all the way up on the console and would not have just flipped the switch the switch on the amp. Yeah you guessed it. The poor gal on keyboard was minding her own business just fingering the keys playing through in her head when the relay in the amp cut in the monitors came on "you absolutely got to be kidding me" loud and she fell off her chair.

I calmly told the talent "I think we got it. Let me go check that monitor level." As I walk off the stage I heard one of the guitar players say "Are they paying that guy?"

Contributed by Larry Burton | Ohio

Back when I was in high school, I was doing sound for a pageant (middle school girls, if I recall correctly). Most of them were singing or otherwise performing to tapes that I would cue up, but one mother told me not to cue it up--the tape included a low-volume cue before the actual track, and she wanted to make sure her daughter heard that cue. I tried to assure her that I could cue up to that, but she insisted.

When that girl's turn in the pageant came, I reached over and hit play on one well of the dual-well deck. There was a pause...which grew longer. Then it was clear to me that it was too long. I looked back at the deck and realized that I'd started up the wrong well, which still contained the tape from the previous performer! Oops. To this day, I still feel sorry for that poor little girl, sitting on stage with that smile on her face, mic in hand, waiting anxiously for her cue...

Contributed by Kevin L. Mitchell

OK then. First a Bush band (I think the US equivalent would be a square dance) I was working with was doing a fund raiser - about 40 minutes drive from home, So I loaded up the wagon and headed off.

Setting up the system Desk, Effects and Eq rack, Microphones, Front of house Amplifiers and speakers, Foldback amps and ..... Hang on where are the Foldback wedges???

A quick 1 1/2 hour trip home and back before I got to finish setting up as I had left the Foldback wedges on the floor of the garage when I packed the wagon.

More recently I was running a small system a show case performance for a local singing teacher. I had been given the backing tracks on a laptop with everything sorted in order in a play list - all I had to do was hit play and then stop when one performer finished then play again for the next performer etc - nice and simple you would have thought.

Being a laptop it had a touch pad in front of the keyboard. Being clumsy I bumped the touchpad when the pointer was near the shut window button at the top right hand corner of the media player window, halfway through a song.

Being windows the media player shut down and there was silence from the PC.......

Very embarrassing for me and the young lady who was singing at the time – at least it proved it was her singing not the backing track ;-)

Contributed by Richard Freeman | Australia

We had just gotten our projection system for our church. New projector, New computer, EZW way kewl We did not have Internet at church but we did have phone line. The Computer had a modem in it. I had our in house electrician run me a phone line into the sound booth. I had a AOL dial up account to use with church computer.

We had the system about 2 weeks. It was a Wednesday Night Prayer service. During the prayer time I was playing instrumental music via the computer CD player. This prayer time was going to be about 20-30 min.

So while everyone was praying. The music was playing over the sound system. I decided I was finished praying and loaded up AOL. Well the modem made the typical analog dialup sounds and it connected. It then was at the AOL login screen. I logged in. I was going to surf for some new backgrounds for EZW etc.

What I forgot was the sound settings in AOL.

Right after the computer passed my password onto AOL. It happened. "YOU HAVE MAIL" came sounding thru the FOH speakers loud and clear. Oh Lord my face was red. LOL The pastor and a few others opened one eye and looked at me with the Why Ain't You Praying Evil Eye.

I learned a big lesson. Mute the AOL Sounds etc. while dialed up during church. Also the modem sounds.. and if music was not being played to mute sound board...

Contributed by Billy Broach | North Carolina

Well... Even though I have been doing this 12 years or something (so about half of my life... :), I can't remember any embarrassing moments that have happened for me. Maybe my memory saves me this time... *grin* But, I have stories from my friends. At least they said these are true...

First one. A poor sound guy got bored during a sermon and started to play with their board. He carefully checked that the internal signal generator, 1 kHz sine wave this time, was send _only_ to headphones and started to "censor" the preacher. "Good evening *BEEP* and gentlemen. It's *BEEP* to be here" etc. Everything went find and he had some good time. Until people started to return the recordings.... Yep, always triple check everything when you play with the system. :)

And the second. Another friend of mine was doing sound in a big youth event. His friend came to FOH booth and asked if he could listen his new CD (some _really_ hard core metal or something) with headphones. My friend said 'OK', pressed solo in the CD channels (and naturally checked that it was muted to other places) and handed headphones to his pal. Some very important guy was talking at the stage at the same time. Everything went fine and everyone was happy. But, after the sermon the preacher came to FOH booth and said "Thanks, it was easy to preach, but the background music from the monitor didn't help much." The board was Behringer and even though the aux was off, it spilled the CD there...

I have also had some problems with CD players. I mean, it's not nice that they behave differently. I once had cued the CD to the right place (something like 2:43 from the beginning of the fifth track) and had hit the pause. Then the speaker nodded me and I hit play. But with this machine that was wrong button, should have pressed pause again, not play. Play started the whole disc from the beginning...

Maybe I should do more work next... :)

Contributed by Olli Rajala | Finland

This is absolutely a TRUE story that can be verified by the approximately 500 women who witnessed this event...

About 15 years ago, my assistant Eric and I were working a worship service for a women's conference at Ridgecrest Conference Center where we were employed at the time. I was running sound and Eric was running lights and graphics. At the time we were using very simple PowerPoint graphics on a large center screen behind the podium.

When it came time for the message, Eric said he was going to step into the back part of the booth to work on a training video he had been editing for the Ridgecrest staff. I began to work on the computer inputting a last minute change to the invitation song. Eric had his headphones on starting his video editing, and I was concentrating on the computer, so obviously, neither of us were paying much attention to the message.

After a few minutes I began to notice some giggles from the crowd, but still not really paying much attention. A few moments later, a large roar of laughter started, so I looked up in time to see the speaker with a dumbfounded look on her face, uncertain as to why the crowd was laughing, totally oblivious to what was on the screen behind her. To my horror I had looked up just in time to see one of our Ridgecrest employees prancing goofily across the screen in a silly outfit and the words "How To LOSE A Ridgecrest Guest" in big bold letters!

In shear PANIC I went tearing into the back part of the booth scaring the pants off Eric who had no idea what was going on, but thinking I had lost my mind. Only after he ripped off his headphones could he hear me screaming "IT'S ON THE SCREEN! IT'S ON THE SCREEN!"

We had forgotten that we had switched the video projector from the VGA input to the Video input so that I could work on updating the PowerPoint file for the invitation. When Eric had begun his editing, it was visible on the screen for everyone present to see ... except for the unfortunate speaker who had her back to the screen, and the two preoccupied tech guys in the booth!

After quickly fixing the problem, we both spent the rest of the message with our eyes glued to the platform and our hearts beating about 150 beats per minute. Of course at the end of the service, we made a beeline for the platform to apologize profusely to the ladies in charge of the conference and ESPECIALLY to the speaker. Thank the Lord they all had a good sense of humor and were quick to forgive us.

Draw your own conclusions as to the NUMEROUS lessons we learned from THAT ONE! :)

Contributed by Dave Duncan | North Carolina

About five years ago, we had our Christmas service for which we hired a whole bunch of lights + hazer, and coincidentally, was the first service we had a new monitor desk for. (We'd planned to get it a few weeks earlier so we had gotten up to speed with it, but it was delayed, and we needed the extra outputs for the Christmas service). Everything went fine for the first two services, though one of the other techs did comment that the hazer had gotten through a surprising amount of fluid. I thought nothing of it at the time.

During the evening service, halfway through the big number just before the preach, all of a sudden, everything went dark - all power to the lights and stage, including the amps, was off. We sent one person to the distro board to switch the circuit breakers back on (fortunately it was open), while I went backstage to figure out what was wrong. The power came on, then went off again. I unplugged everything, power came back on, I plugged things in one at a time. Amps and some of the lights were fine, but when I plugged in the last but one plug, it all went off again. Looking at the wiring very quickly, I noticed the new board was connected to it, and guessed that the new board's PSU must be tripping the power. So I left the monitor board unplugged, the power came back on, and I went on stage to tell the WL that he had to finish the song with no foldbacks. After a very concerned look, he and the band continued. Got back to the board, to find all the condenser mics weren't working as they had no phantom (which had been supplied by the monitor board). Flicked the phantom on, with pops and squeals, and we got to the preach. The song after the preach sounded pretty ropey as they had no foldback.

Investigation afterwards revealed it wasn't the monitor board at all, but the hazer we had hired was getting through fluid so quickly because it was leaking - all over the power strip next to it.

Lesson learnt? Check if something seems amiss, before it turns into something bigger. To the band's credit, they did their best and kept playing what they could while the lights flickered on and off around them.

Contributed by Chris Reed

Karl has learned from your posts the following:

1. Don't be late
2. Don't trust stage hands with flies (I'm going to have to try this someday)
3. Don't multitask during the service
4. Always cue the tracks
5. Know your equipment

What I'm surprised not to hear about is battery management issues.

My most embarrassing moment was when I forgot to change the battery in our pastors mic. This was one of the older Shure models that used 9 Volt batteries and would suck them dry in one Sunday morning. So at the time we started the first of 3 services at 9am. At 8:45 the pastor gets mic'ed then the only time I see him or the wireless pack is when he was preaching. The batt worked fine through the first service and gave up the goat in the middle of the second sermon.

Being new to the church and only mixing there for a short time, walking up past 1000 people and changing a battery had to be the most embarrassed I've ever been in. Not only did the sermon stop abruptly but I had to stand there in front of everyone and admit I didn't take care of things like I should.

So add to the list. ... 6. Always check the batteries

Now this one wasn't embarrassing but it was loud. For a while we had some problems with neighborhood kids accessing our stage area. We had one kid who decided all the pretty knobs on the monitor desk needed to be set to 11. I'll never forget the sound of 10 wedges on 8 mixes feeding back all at once.

Contributed by Karl Freudenreich | Ohio

Did you enjoy living vicariously through these stories from other church techs?
    Click here to enjoy reading My Most Embarrassing Moments, Part 1.
    Click here to enjoy reading My Most Embarrassing Moments, Part 2.
    Click here to enjoy reading My Most Embarrassing Moments, Part 4.