In the Mix with Trevor Donaghu
Dec 07, 2014 12:05PM ● Published by Jennifer Neys
Soundman Trevor Donaghu
By Paul Cotruvo
There is no one more important to any live event than the soundman. The sound engineer is responsible for making the band sound as good as possible to the audience. They are truly the unsung heroes of the music business. Luckily for us, we have Trevor Donaghu. He has been running sound in this area for as long as I can remember. It is an extremely hard job; he has to put up with the elements (105 degree temperatures), prima donna musicians, and sound ordinances. It’s a lonely job, and if the sound is great, he gets no attention, but if there are some problems, he gets all the flack. Trevor always rises above the fray and goes above and beyond. Normally, he will put in a 10-hour day for little money or even donate his time to worthy events. So let’s talk to this unsung hero.
PC: How did you get interested in being a soundman?
TD: I've been fascinated by music and the technology surrounding it since I was a kid. My dad and his brothers were into music and had great stereo systems, which I was forbidden to touch (of course, that made them even more intriguing). Mom was a metal sculptor, and we'd always be travelling around to arts and crafts festivals. They didn't have kid leashes back then, so I'd spend all my time hanging around the stage, watching the bands and sound crew while mom and dad were manning our booth.
In college I started DJ'ing and formed my own company (Dynamic Audio) in 1993. I received many requests to provide additional microphones and/or support for live performances at events, which caused me to expand the system to truly handle live sound for a full band. These days, live sound makes up the bulk of my gigs, but I still do several DJ gigs each year.
PC: What is your favorite style of music to run sound for?
TD: I've done blues, country, jazz, classical, hip-hop, and even a bit of opera, and I love it all. I love the energy, talent, and dedication that the performers bring to the table, regardless of genre. However, I'd have to say that my favorite is rock 'n' roll.
PC: Tell me about some of your favorite and most memorable gigs?
TD: They’re all memorable in their own way, which is the main reason I keep doing this. However, there are a few that stand out, for both positive and negative reasons. In 2002, I was running sound for a production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. An actor in a seat next to me suffered a massive stroke and passed before he made it to the hospital. The cast and crew met and decided to move ahead with the show despite the tragedy, and it ended up being a positive experience and remains one of my fondest show memories. In 2007, I was doing sound for Finding Stella at the Hard Rock Cafe in Harvey's Lake Tahoe. Worst load-in you could imagine. It was snowing outside and I had to move gear up an elevator, to a service hallway, through the kitchen and up and down flights of stairs. It took four hours just to load in! On the other hand, I was still really jazzed about the gig. I was dating a girl who actually stuck around after working all day and helped wrap cables and load out. I knew I had a keeper. We celebrated our second wedding anniversary in August.
These days, two of my favorite gigs each year are the Delta Blues Festival in Antioch and the Pleasant Hill Blues & Brews Festival. We get a whole day of great music performed by some incredible musicians who, by the way, are also extremely professional and polite. Everyone involved in these shows, from the musicians to the crew and other volunteers, is entirely about the music. How can you go wrong?
PC: What is your opinion of the music scene here in Contra Costa?
TD: I love it! We've got so much incredible and diverse musical talent out here. Unfortunately, it's getting more and more difficult to experience it all. During the warmer months, we've got great community events and but during the winter, there aren't many places featuring live music. I've got to give kudos to places like Dallimonti's, Armando's, the Roundup, and Roxx on Main for continuing to support live music, and I wish more places would follow their example. I'd love to see a place out here, like Yoshi's or the Fenix, offering a large variety of live music four or five nights a week.
PC: If you were a song, what song would be and why?
TD: Songs by Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett talk about who and where I'd like to be. However, if I had to pick a song that best describes me as I am now, I'd have to say “Freewill” by Rush. It's not even my favorite song by the band (I'm a big fan). But, I'm a big believer in personal responsibility and self-determination. Freewill espouses the idea that everyone is responsible for their own life, as determined by their own choices, or lack thereof ("If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice").
Happy Holidays everyone and get out there and support live music!
Paul’s picks for December:
December 6: Caroompas Room, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm
December 12: The Big Jangle, “Toys for Tot’s Benefit,” Jack’s Restaurant, 60 Crescent Dr., Pleasant Hill, 10pm
December 13: Mic Gillette Band, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm
December 30: The Buzztones, Rocco’s, 2909 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, 8pm
December 31: Cover2Cover, Pleasant Hill Senior Center, 233 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, 7:30pm
December 31: Garageland Rodeo, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 9:30pm