The Art of Sound at 924 Gilman Street

924 Gilman Street is known to be Ground Zero for the '90s California punk explosion -- that decade's CBGB, if you will. Head of sound is Otto Freeman.

Music Connection: How long have you been running sound? How did you get into it?

Otto Freeman: I have only been doing sound for a little less than two years and started learning at Gilman. I had always been around and interested in live production growing up through my parents' work and was taught that classic crew work ethic early. Once shows came back to the venue it only seemed natural to learn how to run sound. Since then I’ve been able to build out my network of venues and work pretty frequently around the Bay Area.

How did you get hooked up with Gilman?

I was 16 and looking for a community during the pandemic. I reached out randomly through their instagram and started helping the venue establish an online presence during the lockdown through livestreams and discord. While on the outside Gilman seems like just another music venue but it’s just as much a community of friends and creatives! Once shows came back I started shadowing sound every chance I could and got brought to speed on how to run a show pretty fast. The best way to learn sound is just by working with people who know more than you and to be as curious as possible and Gilman was the best place for exactly that. I’m so thankful for the space. At the end of last year I was voted Head of Sound (basically the production manager) and now schedule, run our shadowing program, and keep our gear up to date.

Any particular highlights? Which bands have been the best to work with?

The Chris Oropeza memorial show (guitarist for Outta Pocket) last December was the most high energy and impactful music event I have ever been to, let alone run sound for. Working for and making friends with all of the members of the San Jose hardcore bands such as Gulch, Hands of God, and Big Boy was a dream come true. 

How would you describe the acoustics/layout at Gilman?

It sure isn’t great. It’s a high ceiling, untreated warehouse that I’ve been told only me and few other of my mentors have ever made sound good. The high mid reflections are pretty piercing, and to add to the pile the drum kit is always in a corner. The pure character and personality of the room always makes up for it though.

What gear do you use?

Gilman is equipped with a JBL VRX900 line array, some subs built into the stage that probably existed before I was born, and 4 QSC K12 active monitors. We use a Behringer x32 Compact (hopefully upgrading to a full sized [Midas] M32 -- fingers crossed) and a Chauvet DJ Obey 40 DMX Lighting Controller rack unit for all of our lighting. We also have the classic Sony MDR-7506’s in the booth for all your soloing needs.

For more info, visit 924gilman.org.