When the Black Veil Brides from West Hollywood decided to film their San Diego performance on November 15, they chose SOMA near the Sports Arena, a decision that came down from the Black Veil Brides’ sound guy, local sound engineer Andy Stokes.
“I recommended SOMA,” says Stokes by phone from Texas. “It’s an all-ages venue.” There aren’t many of them, he says, counting off a list of two: the Epicentre on Mira Mesa Boulevard and SOMA. “I don’t necessarily agree with the politics at either place, but imagewise, I think SOMA looks a little better.”
When asked to explain what he means by politics, Stokes won’t say, but he agrees that the working climate at both venues is better now than it has been in the past.
When not touring with a band, Stokes, 25, lives in Little Italy. He is never home for very long. He leaves to join the Warped Tour right after the Black Veil Brides finish their tour.
“I make sure that each venue is up to par, little things like soundboards, monitors, and the [speakers] at the front of the house. It becomes an issue when you tour with bigger bands. You have to make sure that the promoter hasn’t shortchanged you.”
The promoter is generally responsible for providing sound reinforcement equipment, he says. But sometimes in order to save money they cut corners and rent on the cheap or get the wrong kind of equipment. Stokes recalls times when he has had to mix a rock band with sound gear more suited to a country-western outfit. “Or a church. On smaller band tours,” he says, “it happens at every show.”
Stokes learned the sound game six years ago at a trade school and by working postgrad residencies at San Diego clubs, including Anthology and the House of Blues. For rock-and-roll shows, he says he likes the sound at the Casbah best. The secret to being a good sound guy? It’s all in being able to read body language.
“You have to know how to read a performer’s body language onstage and know what it takes [in terms of things like volume and tone] to make them happy.” Otherwise, Stokes’s job is not just to mix the band’s sound but to act as a sort of quality-control policeman at each show. It turns out that the sound guy has the authority to decide whether or not a show actually goes on, he says.
“But in the punk-rock spirit, I’ve never canceled a show over sound issues.”