A Farewell to the Sound Guy, Brian Lang
The Music Scene is full of characters. We just lost one
“Listen: our Sound Guy is gonna piss you off so bad in the next 30 minutes that you’ll want to knock his lights out. Just get thru that. At the end of the show, you’re gonna be hugging him for how he aced this whole thing for you. Trust me on this one, OK?”
That was my frequent greeting to the arriving rock & roll bands, back when I was helping my friends at Putnam Den (Saratoga Springs) line up their incoming touring acts. All this because the tech in question was one Thomas ‘Brian’ Lang. But yes; that formula described above worked almost (keyword=almost) every time.
Brian was a hard-wired, caffeine-fueled, Type A sort of guy that seemed like he was on the verge of just completely losing his shit in any second. He often made good on that promise. Stress was not his friend. There lies what was an unfortunate circumstance in his life.
But once we all figured out a way to get on to his narrow-band wavelength, he became the go-to for the key concerts that came thru the joint; especially the more complex ones. He even mellowed out a bit as we got rolling, after learning that we were all friends here with a common passion and all in it together. Those bands he eventually made peace with would often ask ahead that he be on-board for their return appearances on the next tour.
Looking now, I am not finding any photos of us together over (maybe) 100+ shows. That was likely because he was moving around way-too-fast to pose for one, even at a sound board. So I will offer this war story instead:
In post-Putnam times, I tee’d him up to do the mix on a big deal, big names, outdoor mess of a gig in Buffalo that I had gotten myself involved with. It should have been easy, but it seldom is in this sphere …
We were supposed to head out late-day Thursday, just to get a lay of the land ahead of setting up the place on Friday and with the acts then rolling in early Saturday morn. But he didn’t make our rendezvous point, so we eventually left without him after a long wait. Right out of the gate, I am in Hassle City, freaking the fuck out like I am supposed to do. Right on cue.
All day Friday, I tried to get a hold of him. Nothing. Nada. More nothing. We finally connected about 7PM, and all I got was “bad alarm, missed the bus, missed my ride, sick kid, dead phone, the ex” and so on. The usual.
The situation was resolved, but as per the script: it wasn’t easy. It took a dawn wakeup call, a Lyft to the airport, a puddle jumper flight and another Lyft on the western end. I think it cost me $1,000. Which, as fate would have it, was what I was set to receive for my own limited role in making all the fun happen in that lush field of dreams.
But he got there; or should I say we got him there. The car pulls up behind the stage at about 8AM. Out he steps. He hands me a giant coffee, saying “Here, Dude, I remember you like 2 creams and 2 sugars. Right? And oh yeah: don’t ever put me on one of those little airplanes again. I thought I was gonna die.“
I wanted to knock his lights out. But, of course, he aced the whole thing and I ended up hugging him. Ah; that standard formula kicked-in once again.
I’ve seen him rarely since that very shindig — and it’s been awhile. But I know that his end-game wasn’t pretty. It was actually quite scary and dreadfully sad, from the few bits I caught. There are a lot of holes in whatever safety net we all think is out there for us in this world. He hammered home that fact, with the volume level cranked high.
Some good people tossed him a lifeline in an attempt to reel him back into our orbit. It didn’t work. This doesn’t mean they each shouldn’t take pride in being a part of that effort of kindness and humanity. I hope he realized that. He had more friends than he probably thought.
We’ll all miss him. Thanks, Dude. You kept it interesting. Ain’t no doubt ’bout that.
“Now relax, will ya?”
(Many others had longer +/or deeper runs with him than I did: so Nipper would love to hear your remembrances in the Comments. Tribute organizers: feel free to post updates and links there as well)
There is going to be a Celebration of Brian’s Life at Putnam Place on Saturday, September 19th from 2pm – 8pm. Then from 8pm – 1am members of local bands Wild Adriatic and Let’s Be Leonard will be playing many of Brian’s favorite tunes out in the patio. Please come and remember Brian, all donations/proceeds will go to his children. https://www.facebook.com/events/s/celebrating-the-life-of-brian-/416860739276343/