Why We Hate Smoke Machines

Recently we attended a show that reminded us of why we detest smoke machines.

A band touring out of LA showed up at a small local club in Denver to play a show on a Sunday night.  We don’t expect big things out of bands playing on Sundays, no matter where they are touring from, but this band made a small number of really big mistakes.

Before they started playing they took a cardboard box and placed it over a portable stage light located just behind a couple of the guitar players on stage  The box had five teardrop shaped cutouts in the same style as the EP they were promoting.  The inside of the box was painted white.  They turned on the light and the teardrops lit up.  Pretty cool.  Then, they hooked up a smoke/fog machine to the box, so that the smoke came pouring out of the teardrops.  It looked like smoking tears of death.  Also, pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was that they didn’t regulate the smoke machine at all and it kept pouring smoke out into the room.  This was a small club, the room could maybe hold 50 people comfortably.  So it didn’t take long for the smoke to completely cover the stage and then fill up the rest of the room. By the end of their second song, we could barely see the any of the five band members, much less take pictures, video or even tell if they were actually playing their instruments.  To add insult to injury or maybe just as an extra show of stupidity, they also had the sound guy turn off all the stage lights.  We were in a room filled with smoke and the only light was coming out of the box with the smoking tears of death.  Seriously, they could have been pretending to play along to a recorded track we would never have known.  They could also have added a cool laser light show or something, but didn’t.

too smokey

Where’s the Band?

Thankfully, the set was short, about 30 min., so we didn’t have to breathe the fog/smoke all night long, but it was still a bad move.  

Now, we get it, they wanted it to be a cool effect and highlight it as much as possible.  They wanted to make their EP artwork unforgettable.  They succeeded there, but one song would have been plenty, and now we won’t forget it,  but for the wrong reasons.

no band?

Are they even playing?

A couple nights later at a theater, approximately ten times as big, another touring act used a smoke machine to great effect.  The smoke stayed mostly behind and above the band and the stage lights stayed on, making for great “rock star” photos and allowing the band to interact with members of the audience.  If the audience can’t see you, they can’t interact with you  and they won’t brag to their friends about how cool the show was.

proper use of Smoke Machine

Proper use of Smoke Machine

The lesson here is to be cognizant of the room and adjust your special effects accordingly.  Smoke machines have adjustments on them, because too much can be a problem and too little (no such thing) can be a waste of time and effort.  Just the right amount can make you look like rock stars!

We’ve said it a hundred times before and we’ll say it again:

If you’re using a smoke machine in a small club, what are you trying to hide?

we hate smoke machines

We Hate Smoke Machines!