The Art of Sound at Alex's Bar

Phil Acosta runs sound at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, one of the best places in Southern California to see a punk rock show. He told us all about it.

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

I’ve been running sound at Alex’s Bar since live sound came back, so maybe four years. Before that (pre-pandemic), for 15 years I ran my own company doing entertainment for weddings, corporate events, bars and private parties. Trivia, Karaoke, Djing, sound and Audio. I started off playing in bands, and whenever we recorded I was very interested in the process of sound engineering. I was just a fly on the wall at that point. 

I was lucky enough in life to have met my three biggest mentors along the way. Mike Martt who owned a Greenhouse studios and was just a legendary figure. Antoine Arvizu who runs the Compound Studio who is a recording genius, and Bill Black who has been doing great live and studio sound for some of the biggest bands constantly for over 30 years. They all were so kind in helping me in my journey and imparting priceless knowledge. 

How did you get hooked up with Alex's?

I’ve known Alex [Hernandez, owner] for over 20 years. The first time I met him was when he worked at the Foothill, a now defunct but great music venue. I was trying to sneak in to see At the Drive In when I was 19. He was super cool and gracious and let me sit outside and listen. 

Just a few years later he opened his own establishment, the awesome place that is Alex’s Bar. By then we had become friends and I frequented the bar. I played there a few times with different bands, but the real thing that took off was a project called Mr. Mister Miyagi. It was a live '80s themed karaoke band for which I was the host/singer. We had a residency at the bar for years and that led to me being able to quit my 9 to 5 and start working on my own business. 

Alex has always been a great friend and at the tail end of the pandemic he asked me to help set up some speakers in the outdoor tent. When we were finished and I was almost out of the door he said “Hey Phil, do you want a job?” 

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

Oh my.  The whole thing is a highlight. If you told teenage me I would meet my heroes and be able to work with them I would have not believed it. In the last few years I have had the honor of assisting Fishbone, The Melvins, X, The Reverend Horton Heat, Fear, Bad Cop Bad Cop, so many I can’t name. Also it’s great to work with so many local and touring bands. Most days are a great adventure and I couldn’t be more thankful. 

As an aside I know there's a stigma of the grumpy sound person. I know how hard it is to get on stage and I like to treat every band and musician that comes into our place with respect and assist them to the best of my ability.   

How would you describe the acoustics/layout in Alex's?

This one is a bit tricky. It is a great room for sound but it definitely has some soffits and places where the sound takes on a different shape. No matter where you are in the room,  you’re going to have a good time though. 

What gear do you use?

We use a Midas M32 console. Five onstage powered dbTechnologies monitor mixes. Two large subwoofers and two RCF line array mains. We use many different mics, mainly a combination of Shure, Sennheiser and Audix. The things I don’t leave home without when not packing for something in particular are just Pioneer headphones,  a flashlight and a small tool kit.

For more information, visit alexsbar.com.