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One Step Forward

Baker Lee • FOH at LargeSeptember 2021 • September 10, 2021

Illustration by John Sauer –

For the last few months, I have been going on about vaccines and masks — not to politicize the situation, but to ensure that our businesses can reopen and stay open. Because of the ongoing reluctance by many people to get vaccinated, the ICUs are once again being flooded with patients suffering severe symptoms from the new Delta variant spreading throughout the population. In New York City, a vaccination mandate (scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 16 with enforcement beginning on Sept. 13) transfers the enforcement of the rule to fall on the city’s health department rather than the city’s police.


The new rule states that unvaccinated people will be banned from indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. One can only assume that if the new Delta outbreak continues, other establishments will soon be added to the list of places requiring proof of vaccination to gain entry. As of this writing, every state in the union — except Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming — have at least one university that requires returning students to be vaccinated. Most states have multiple colleges that have mandated a vaccine policy.

Major retailers such as Home Depot, Citigroup and McDonalds are mandating that their employees wear masks while working, with Walmart and the Walt Disney Corporation mandating vaccination for some of their workers. More to the point, Live Nation has implemented a vaccine mandate. In a letter sent to its employees, CEO Michael Rapino states that the company will require all of its U.S. employees to be vaccinated in order to enter one of their events, venues or offices starting Oct. 4. During the recent Lollapalooza in Chicago, more than 385,000 people attended the outdoor music festival and organizers reported that on the first day of the event, 90% of attendees proved they were vaccinated, 8% had negative Covid-19 tests and 600 people without paperwork were turned away. All political and conspiratorial arguments aside, this seems to be how the “new normal” is being expressed and implemented.

I Am Me and We Are All Together

At my job, it is now policy that everyone in our workspace has proof of vaccination or a negative PCR Covid test result by the beginning of the work week. Also, a newly added procedure is to ask our clients to state their own Covid-19 policy if we are required to enter their building. The response from our clients has been that all on-site personnel need to have proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. This adds one more step to my list of production questions and another added inconvenience for those techs who refuse the vaccination.

Again, I’m not advocating for vaccines to interfere with anyone’s religious or legal rights, but it’s my opinion, discerned from what I have read, that getting vaccinated is worth the risk, considering that it is mostly unvaccinated people who are filling up the ICUs and leaving in body bags. It is also of my estimation that the courts will soon be clogged with lawyers arguing the rights of those who wish to remain unvaccinated. Of course, this would not be the first-time lawyers would argue against a mandated vaccine for the public. A short hop in the Wayback machine shows that in a 1905 Supreme Court decision (Jacobson v. Massachusetts), the court specified that states, under their police power, could require the smallpox vaccine. Once again, “Everything old is new again,” but while I’m sure that these mandates will give lawyers plenty of job opportunities and many hours of courtroom battles, I too, want to work.

Coming Out of the Fog

It’s been a year and a half of being in limbo and — just like that — I’m working again, putting together events and shows while bidding on contracts and negotiating various audio systems with knowledgeable (and other, not-so-knowing) clients. After years of doing this type of work it has become fairly routine, and for the most part, it’s easy to determine what type of system and labor is required in order to give the client a reasonable quote for a successful event. Covid aside, not much has changed in the time elapsed since the shutdown until now. My success rate is still respectable in regard to giving acceptable bids, but, as it is, there’s a possibility that I’m a little rusty after a year and a half of sitting on my hands in an idle daze.

What makes me say this is that recently I received an email from a client that read, “Hello Baker, you can cancel the order. We found another vendor who had the right scale in mind, for a fraction of the cost. Maybe next time. Thank you.” Well, being the competitive type of guy that I am, I took umbrage at his response, especially since he was a good client from a well-respected venue in town. Let me be clear, the proper etiquette for a rejection of a bid is usually “The client decided to go in a different direction,” or something equally innocuous. Another response might be, “The price is a bit out of our range, is there anything else we can do?” This response leaves the quote up for negotiation and refinement, and I can usually figure out a reasonable counter with discount included. After all, I am not an unreasonable man.

I am not overly sensitive and I take rejection well, but it might be that my time in limbo has corroded my skills and my tough skin. Be that as it may, the way I read his response was, “You completely missed what we were trying to do and gave me an insanely high quote.” In my defense, he was calling from a major venue regarding an outdoor concert with an eight-piece salsa band playing to 500 attendees in a 200-by-100-foot space. The staging area was a good 60 feet from the truck parking, and there were only two 20-amp circuits with an added bonus being that we only had two hours for setup and a half hour for strike. My interpretation of his stated need and the rider he sent was, “We need two SD10 consoles, a split snake, a generator, a distro, a small line array system, some front fills, a mic package, two techs and four loaders.”

He told me he thought they could get by with three mixes and a couple of speakers on stands. I asked him if I could speak to the band to see if they felt the same. I also asked him if this was intended to be background music or a concert. The next thing I heard from him was his snarky reply. I’ll admit, I’m not sharp, I’m off my game. I feel like a boxer thrown into the ring after missing all my workouts. Back in the pre-virus days, I would have captured this one; lack of work due to the virus has made me flabby and I need to get my chops back. Therefore, in the name of competitive audio and production, I implore everyone to take this Covid virus seriously, as we cannot afford to be shut down once again. I’m out of shape and I have heard the same thing from other techs coming back to work. We all need the work, not just for the income it might bring us, but also to get back to our former fighting selves.

Contact Baker Lee at


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