There are some things you shouldn’t leave home without.
The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.
There are a million checklists of what to take with you on overnight gigs, so we don’t have to completely go back over that ground.
At the same time, after we got the basic details worked out, it was time for me to get an idea of what should go with me to the show. I figured that it might be useful for me to offer some overview on the items I found most important.
Take As Much Of Your Gear As You Can
Whatever your weight and space restrictions are for show-production equipment, fill that metaphorical and literal box as completely as you can. Especially for gigs that are hours and hours away from your home base, it’s imperative that you have a way for things to “degrade gracefully.” The more of your gear you have, the more chances you get to survive the unexpected. In this case, I had the luxury of taking the fully-stocked van that contained almost everything I have on hand for sound. The upshot? I could have had catastrophic failure of two consoles, two stageboxes, eight monitor wedges (and both drumfill subs), three FOH full-range loudspeakers, and both FOH subwoofers…and still have been able to make some kind of noise.
It wouldn’t have been a good show, but there would have been a show.
Since a failure of that magnitude is extremely unlikely, I was very confident that, even if some problems cropped up, we would have plenty of “coverage.” As a result, I rode down to the site with very little to worry about.
Take A Vehicle You Feel Good About
If your car, truck, or van hasn’t been inspected in a while, get that done. If something’s about to fall off the poor creature, get that taken care of. If the fluids (including the fuel) aren’t fully topped up, make sure you’ve got that secured the day before you leave.
And get the tires checked! There are plenty of places that won’t charge you a dime for giving them a going over and getting the right air pressure in them. Tires are very important for, you know, little things…like maintaining control of your vehicle and actually being able to stop.
A show is hard work, and the work gets even harder if you’re outdoors in the summer. You are going to sweat copiously, and dehydration is very hard to fix once it fully takes hold.
Do NOT rely on there being liquid provided for you. Haul your own. You might want to mix in some sports-drink powder to provide some taste and replace the electrolytes that get flushed out by perspiration, but a full-strength preparation is probably more sugar than is helpful. At minimum, have a full gallon available for each on-site day, and consume your supply steadily. The time to get “wet” is when you’re already “wet.” If you notice sweat dripping from you for more than a couple of minutes, stop and drink at least a pint/ half-liter. Get your hydration right, and you’ll have the stamina to keep rolling all day with minimal interruption. Screw up to any significant degree, and you may be out of action for a good while.
Much like your water supply, avoid expecting that you’ll be able to get food on a whim. Also, getting real time to sit and eat can be a major problem when building a live-sound show. Pack along some calorie-dense foods that you can quickly and safely eat with dirty hands – you really do NOT want to be ingesting whatever is all over your cable jackets, am I right? Your high-calorie treats should not be completely loaded with sugar, but instead balance sweets with fats. There should also be some saltiness to your food, to help with sodium loss from perspiration.
If you can tolerate nuts, “Sweet n Salty” granola bars are a really solid option. The individual wrapping means that your fubs don’t have to be completely clean, the salt/ sweet/ fat ratio seems to be about right, and you can get 300 – 500 calories inside you within a couple of minutes.
If you don’t have steel-toe boots, get some. Make sure they have aggressive tread on the soles, because slipping and falling can end a trip completely in the worst case. You may have heard that steel-toes are far too uncomfortable to work in; I disagree. If you try on a few pairs, I’m betting that you will find a brand that agrees with you. Also, spend a few more dollars and purchase a set of supportive (yet cushioning) insoles. All the walking, standing, and lifting you’re going to do is very, very tough on your feet. Insoles that work for you can prevent you from ending a show day in near agony.
Why my insistence on steel-toe footwear? Well, someday you’re going to drop a sub, or something else that’s heavy. You may also have an experience like I once had, where a full-on Leslie cabinet, cased up and on casters, was making its way down some stairs and briefly ended up on my foot. I was wearing the right boots at the time, and I barely felt it. If I hadn’t been…yeesh.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide Was Right
Take your own towel. Especially if you end up couch-surfing, you will want to have your own. Do NOT get your towel dirty or sopping-wet unless you actually have spares close at hand.
Pack at least one more change of work-clothes than you think you need. The extra weight and space isn’t really significant, and you’ll be very happy if you end up getting dunked or very dirty. Also, have a water-repelling jacket available at short notice. A hot day can become annoyingly, or even dangerously cold in a big hurry.
Take a proper change of night-clothes along as well. Sleeping in your work duds flat-out stinks (and not just in a metaphorical sense). In that same vein, take a good, Boy Scout-quality sleeping bag with you, along with a basic sleeping pad. If you end up on a hard floor, or in a place that’s too cold, or on some surface that’s just “sketchy,” you will be ecstatic to have the option.
Also, have a complete toilet kit with you. Just like your show gear, having more than you think you need means that you’ve got some margin for error. Brush your teeth, and use deodorant. You’ll feel better, people will like you more; These are good things.
A Secret “Weapon”
Five words: Zinc Oxide Diaper Rash Cream
The big brand for this somewhat messy, but very helpful concoction is Desitin. It’s not just for babies, because it can help you avoid that scourge of show-production humans the world over.
Gig butt. Chafing. Also known as, “The work was pretty intense, and I ended up sweating a lot between my legs, and now I’m in a world of pain with a whole other day left to do.”
A decent, zinc oxide cream applied liberally to any problem areas will do wonders for your attitude. It helps keep you dry “down there,” even under intense conditions. It smells a touch funky, but that’s a tiny price to pay for being comfy, cheerful, and ready to lift those subwoofers again.
The Wisdom Of My Dad
This is separate from my other discussions of clothing, because of how critical it is.
As my Dad has noted to me on many occasions, the success of any endeavor is highly dependent upon the correct underwear.
I can tell you that the correct underwear for show production is “active” underwear. You want synthetic material (polyester and spandex, for instance), a bit of leg length, and a nice, snug fit. Honest-to-goodness sport underwear keeps you nicely dry, working with that diaper rash cream to prevent the horror of chafing. You also tend to stay at a more comfortable temperature overall (or is that underall)? Cotton undies get hot, and positively soaked, and then stay that way for hours. You don’t want that.
The right underwear will cost you a few bucks, but it’s incredibly worth it. I say this from personal experience.