Best Outcall Soundman

Elliot Dicks of Elliotsound

Critics' Picks

When Elliot Dicks, 44, moved to Chicago from Columbus in 1989, he was already a touring soundman. He's been doing sound in local venues since installing his gear at Czar Bar in 1991; a couple years later he moved to the Fireside Bowl, and in 2002 he set up shop at the Empty Bottle, where he remains to this day. He's incorporated as Elliotsound, but he doesn't have a Web presence—he's more of a word-of-mouth guy, and relies for his crew on any of a dozen or so local sound people, among them Che Arthur, Steve Moore, and Gary Schepers. Dicks still works the occasional Fireside show, plus the odd block party and street festival (including the Bottle stages at Do-Division and West Fest), and he tours with Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, and sometimes Shellac. Obviously anybody Steve Albini's band would hire twice knows what he's doing, but for me Dicks best proves his mettle at outcall gigs where he has to build a system from scratch. At a Yob show in February he turned the Flat Iron into a white-hot doom-­metal blast furnace, and at this year's Dark Lord Day he made High on Fire's stampeding barbarian metal sound as overwhelming outside as I've ever heard it indoors. Dicks goes for a balanced, natural mix, in stark contrast to the default festival style of "kick drum, vocals, and a vague muddle in between." He gives everybody in a band the same juice, with one exception: "If I see someone jumping around," he says, "I turn them up."