I have heard from a few people that there is some confusion about a couple of things:
1. Who is Luna Negra and 2. What are those “hearing Aids” everybody in the band is wearing?
Allow me to explain. No, Luna Negra is NOT the opening act and you are NOT getting ripped off because it says on the ticket Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra and where is Luna Negra, I didn’t see an opening act……. We have been touring since the release of the album Nouveau Flamenco in 1990, and my band has always been called LUNA NEGRA. Most album covers actually say OTTMAR LIEBERT + LUNA NEGRA. The exceptions are: Euphoria because those are all remixes, and Leaning into the Night because we used an orchestra instead of the band. Luna Negra has been a trio and has been as large as a nine-piece in 1997. The name LUNA NEGRA was inspired by a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca I read in 1989. The poem talks about the spurs of the highwaymen gleaming in the light of the black moon.
Hearing Aids: what you see everyone in the band wearing are not hearing aids. They are in-ear monitors. I am not exactly sure about the history of the in-ear monitors, but believe the Grateful Dead were the first to use them in the early nineties. I believe a company called FutureSonics might have been the first to offer them. We started using them in 1994 when we decided to record a live album. You see, until the in-ear monitors became available everyone had to use wedges, big monitor speakers that cluttered up the stage and created sonic havoc with the mix of the music. In order to hear my guitar over the loud drums I used to have two such wedges in front of me. Of course they “bled” back into my guitar microphone and that made the sound of my guitar a lot worse. This of course would also make it much harder to record a band live, because instead of recording the pure sound of the guitar one would record the sound of the monitor wedge amplifying the guitar as well as the guitar itself. Does that make sense?
I hope I am explaining this well enough. Another advantage of the in-ear monitors is that they are in stereo. We intruduced in-ear monitors to my friend Eric Schermerhorn when he performed with us at the Beacon Theater in New York as a special guest guitarist and he instantly fell in love with them. Carlos Santana made fun of our in-ear monitors in 1996, saying that they were like having phone sex instead of the real thing, but was impressed when my monitor engineer showed him what we heard on stage.
Last, but not least the in-ear monitors take up very little space and we can take them anywhere. Instead of carrying between 1 and 2 monitor wedges plus amplifiers per musician on our truck or hoping that the local promoter would supply good monitors, we can fit all of the little monitor amps in one little case. We use ones made by SHURE. They look like little Walkman devices and we wear them on our belts or in my case it is attached to my chair. Mark wears a wireless version so that can move freely between his percussion set-up and the cajon. These little SHURE monitor amps are wonderful because in the mid-nineties we needed a rackmounted amp plus a rackmounted limiter per musician – the limiter does just that – it limits the sound that reaches our ears. If something should break or feed back it makes sure that our ears don’t get damaged. That meant we had to carry one or two heavy racks which were over the airline limit of 70 pounds.
Here is a funny story regarding in-ear monitors:
I heard about a travelling broadway production that used a lot of wireless in-ear monitors for their performers. In order that the sweat of the singers wouldn’t get into the little amplifiers they had to wear concealed under loose clothing or in a belt – they pulled condoms over the packs to shield them from the moisture. I bet some eyebrows were raised when a person had to buy new supplies while on the road and bought 40 packs of condoms……..