Front of House: Maybe you should be mixing at the front...?
So many times I've seen mixing desks at the side of stages. And no, they weren't monitor engineers. They were shouting to their friend Dave at the front who was struggling to hear the engineer's voice over the bad mix, and wondering why it was howling with feedback and struggling to get a good balance.
As with all my suggestions, there are exceptions. The small few-man band with their own PA and no engineer, doing the pub gig, simple corporate spoken word; etc. I'm talking in terms of an engineer here, and if they have the option to. I've been told we're not allowed to mix from anywhere but the back of stage and I've ended up running power & multicore to the back of a truck some distance from front of stage! Not only was it fun, it meant I didn't get wet when the great British summer blessed us with more rain AND I heard the FOH mix really well. Boom.
I've also had times where I've had no option but to be at the back - again, another exception. It was during an Olympic torch ceremony passing through a village near where I live, with 1,000+ people lining up on the streets, and I had 4 amps, 2 mixing desks, a choir of 106 kids (and 5 mics on them), 5 musicians (keyboard/conductor, elec guitarist, drums, sax and trumpet) and 8 speakers to manage. I had a friend working with me for this and we had to run back and forward from the desk, constantly fearing it may feedback - after no soundcheck on the choir. Tough times. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Reasons why mixing in the crowd is a plus:
- You're in the crowd (as I just said)
You hear what they hear. That way you're sure that they are getting the mix you want them to hear
- You can cut the FOH (during soundcheck obviously!) and hear the bleed from monitors
This will help you determine if the stage volume is just too loud - I've been in situations where engineers have run stage volume so loud you don't need FOH speakers!
- You can see musicians easier
Sounds odd, but a better line of sight will mean you can see what they're doing (eg getting to close to a monitor or FOH side speaker) or try and get their attention cos they've been on stage too long...
- Better place to hear SPL levels
You're able to hear if it's getting too loud, and with a flat-response frequency mic you can use software like SMAART to ring out your system before you begin
- You don't hear excessive amounts of low-mid / bass
Being placed right next to the subs or even behind speakers means that your ear becomes accustomed to the amount of low-mid / bass in the system, and you mix for your current position. So it's hard to run out to the crowd and listen, expecting a similar amount of bass then being dissapointed!
But sometimes, you have no choice and gotta do what you gotta do. What I'm trying to say is that if you have the option, or could push for it, mix out front. :)
Hope this is of help!