On a Saturday night at Brillobox, sound technician Justin Andrew eyes the band he's just miked up. When you know as much about live music as he does, you develop a certain sense for bands you haven't seen yet. "I have a feeling these guys are gonna be good," he says.
"Well, their tone is really great. And these guys aren't that young, which tells me they're serious. Plus, those are great-looking drums, and I have a feeling this guy is really gonna play them."
Andrew has run sound at Brillobox for about two years and previously worked behind the scenes at Mr. Small's Theatre. A native of western Massachusetts, Andrew has lived all over: Boston, L.A., New York -- doing various gigs related to his chosen profession. He's worked sound for movies before, but prefers live music.
"In a studio, whatever situation is happening, it happens for an endless amount of time. With live sound, good or bad, it's transient," he says. "And on any given night, you've got three or four bands, for only 30 or 40 minutes each."
Slight, soft-spoken and congenial, Andrew doesn't fit the stereotype of the rude, cantankerous sound guy. "If you run sound at a rock club, it's because you like rock music," Andrew explains. A musician himself, he fronts a rotating cast in the Justin Andrew Band, but running sound for bands can still be challenging.
"For one thing, don't hit your snare drum when I'm miking it," he says. "My ear is right there! That goes for any instrument. Don't play if I'm right there."
He's not quick to blame the musicians, though: "It's just not something they've thought about before, I'm sure. If I say something -- 'Hey, that hurts my ears' -- most people will apologize and stop."
The adversarial band-sound guy interaction that we've all seen ("You want us to turn down? How about we turn all the way up?") is one Andrew doesn't have much time for.
"If I ask you to turn down, it's because it'll help your tone, not because I don't want to hear you," he says. "Once, I asked someone to turn down and he said, 'I know you're saying you're not turning me down so people won't hear me, but I don't trust you.' Sure, you don't know me, but this is my job, I know what I'm doing -- trust me."
Justin Andrew tweets about his music and occasionally about his sound-tech pet peeves at twitter.com/Justin__andrew.