Heading off for a gig? Check and double check the gear!

Only two more sleeps until I head off for the Montrose Festival – it’s Scotland’s biggest, free live music festival I understand. This will be the festival’s 10th anniversary – my 4th year playing there – and if this year is even half as much fun as the last three (and why wouldn’t it be at least, the same, or even more than that?) it will be a great weekend.

What gear do I need to play a festival?With just a couple of evenings left to get everything ready, things are – so far – on track. I shaved yesterday morning, so I’ll have the appropriate length of stubble to hide behind on Saturday without overgrowth leading to excessive scruffiness, and my fingernail-trimming schedule means those important left-hand nails will be of prime cutting length after doing the dishes on Friday night.

My continuing reduction in hair means I don’t need to worry about that – I’ll just wear a hat – but, as the Lord taketh away, the Lord giveth back – that is more than compensated by the increasing eyebrow growth that will need to be addressed with some tweezers.

Back to the hat though? Which hat? Well, that depends on what I wear; something that requires extensive thought. If I may borrow from Zuckmayer: “Kleider machen Leute”. At least, if I’m wearing a nice tie and waistcoat combo, it might distract from my ham-fisted guitar playing.

Back to the choice of clothes though, this is dependent on which guitars I decide to take. A Pink Paisley Telecaster requires a different set of togs to a Daphne Blue Nashville for example. And if I head down the route of the browns with, say, a sunburst Strat, it all changes again. It’s a very interactive relationship and makes getting ready a complicated and iterative process.

While it can be easy to get carried away thinking of everything that can go wrong, planning for every contingency and ending up with a 18-wheeler load of gear for your solo acoustic lunchtime pub gig, I do always like to plan for as many contingencies as it’s realistically possible to guard against, and take the appropriate get-out-of-jail bits and pieces that at least mean the gig goes ahead.

As I’ve now reached an age where my back hurts all the time, I’m changing the rig a bit this year to make carrying amps into crowded pubs that bit easier. This year will see the live debut of my Fender Bassbreaker 15 head, sitting on top of an Orange PPC112 cabinet. Just one of a few changes that means I have to pay even closer to the packing list.

How to prepare gear for the gigI try and start by making sketching out a block diagram of how my setup is going to go, and making a list based on all the gear and what cables I need. Then I add some extra cables, just in case.

After the basic rig is covered on the list, it’s time to think about what could go wrong and what you it’s practical to take with you to make sure the gig can still go on. We’ve already covered extra cables, but what about fuses, batteries, strings, a backup guitar – even if it’s just a bargain electric to get you through a set until you have a chance to change a string – spare microphones, a pedal with amp modelling in case everything stops working and you just need to go straight into the desk… the list goes on.

Again, while it would be great to have a 65 Deluxe Reverb as a backup to your 65 Super Reverb, and a white American Professional Strat to backup your black American Professional Strat, for most of us that’s not really workable. Either for reasons of cost, transport, or simply the amount of time you have to setup at the venue and the amount of space you have when you’re there.

Once I’ve got the list, it’s time to get everything in one place. I like to try and set everything up in a different room to where it’s usually kept. That way I know that everything is in one place and I’ve got all the bits I need to make a noise.

Once you’ve got the gig covered, it’s time to think of everything else you’re going to need, particularly if it’s an overnighter or a festival.

Tent, sleeping bag and camping mat are usually next on my list, followed by a couple of boxes of breakfast bars (a few of which go in the gig bag, just in case the get-in leads to a lunch/dinner-missing incident), plenty of biscuits, a bag of tortilla chips and a few beers ready for band chat around the post-gig campfire.

It doesn’t have to turn into a ridiculously complex operation, but a bit of time spent thinking about what you need, making sure you’ve got it, and planning for the worst can make all the difference when it comes to gig time. There’s not much point in having all the gear to make your perfect tone, if you’ve forgotten one cable that you need to make the whole thing work.

An easy setup at the venue, without any panic about forgotten or faulty equipment, is the perfect way to get you in a relaxed confident, frame of mind ready to put on a great show. Enjoy!

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

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