Gigging and Gear: Beating the load in Blues

I’m basically a less is more kind of guy when it comes to gigging and gear.  It used to take me either multiple trips to my car to haul in my equipment, or I needed to use a Rock-n-Roller cart to get it all from point A to B.  Granted, when I’m responsible for providing a PA I still have to deal with hauling a lot, but otherwise I’ve turned into a bare bones type of guy.  At this point, when I have a gig playing bass I really want to limit what I bring to what I can carry in one trip from the car.  This means that I bring one bass, one cabinet, bass head, cables, tuner, guitar stand and often a band book and music stand.  I also try to ensure that everything is on the light end of the weight spectrum.  When I need the extra oomph from the amp I bring a second cabinet and put the two cabs on a collapsible two-wheeled cart.  Guitar gigs I go as simply as I can as well.

            Years ago as a guitarist I used to have to load and unload with multiple trips.  Sometimes I’d bring upwards of three instruments, a pedal board and a host of other things, although as a guitarist I’ve always been more of a combo amp type of guy than half or full stack.  My stage footprint would often be large enough for two folks, which isn’t unusual for guitarists I’ve found, but I was concerned with the diversity of the tonal palette that I brought to the gig and then there was the old what if I break a string issue.  At that time I worked in a music store and could afford to restring guitars every week or so, so I was playing on fresh strings for most gigs.  It was actually a rare occasion when I broke a string, and in reality since none of my guitars were set up with a Floyd Rose style tremolo, breaking a string would have been a quick fix.  When I started gigging as a bass player the equipment I brought tended to run toward a more is better pattern as well.

            Finally I realized that carting all of that equipment wasn’t really necessary and, particularly after knee surgery resulting from an accident carrying my equipment up and down to our apartment, I decided that it was time to pare down what I was dragging around to gigs.  Currently, as a bassist I can set up and be ready to perform in about five minutes from walking into the venue if I’m rushed.  Usually set up takes about ten because I’ll talk a bit to the drummer.  Load out takes the same five to get out the door and then I’m back in waiting for the band-leader to finish talking business with the venue owner.  If we’re being paid by check that night then I’m usually heading home within ten minutes of the last set being finished because I don’t generally like to hang around shooting the breeze.  By this time the drummer might have his cymbals in their case and the guitarist is putting his guitars in cases.

            When we’re playing larger venues or outdoors I usually bring the second bass cabinet, which means that by choice I’m running two 15inch cabs with horns and pushing around 500 watts at 4 ohms.  This provides more than enough volume for most situations, particularly when there is decent sound reinforcement being provided.  I still can get on stage, set up and ready to go in 10 minutes (off in about the same) without breaking a sweat.  This is great because many outdoor playing situations are at events that have multiple band lineups, which requires a fast turnover if a backline isn’t being provided.  It’s also awesome if you have multiple bookings on any given day or evening.  It also means that when you get home you don’t have yet another lengthy load in to deal with – one trip in and you’re done.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’d be lying if I said I don’t love musical gear because I do.  One of the reasons I don’t currently work in music stores is because I love gear so much that I will find reasons for needing things to the point where every pay check would go for another instrument or piece of gear.  But I really do appreciate the quick set up times, load outs and the added benefit of less wear and tear on my back.  The next time you load up to head out for a gig, try thinking about what you’re bringing in relationship to what you really need to bring.  You might be surprised at what you find you don’t miss.


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