If you’re a touring band and you’re serious about getting yourself out there, you’re going to book all sorts of shows in all sorts of locations. Chris and I have played large rock clubs, dark and dingy basements, smoky dive bars, a tattoo shop (twice!), coffee houses, living rooms, the middle of a field in Aroostook County Maine, and in a couple of weeks we’ll be in the shop window of a popular downtown Bangor business. Some places will have a full sound system with excellent monitors and other places won’t have any means for you to amplify your sound. So here are some essentials to bring to a gig, or at least have in your vehicle during a tour.
1. Ear Plugs – Save your ears. By all means take them out for your set, but I’ve had way too many paper napkins stuffed in my ears over the years which is not only an uncomfortable situation, but also not very effective.
2. Extra nine-volt batteries – If you play a stringed instrument that has to be tuned, then you most likely have a tuner that takes 9V batteries. And even if you have a power adaptor, trust me, they can break. (Free Range ‘12!!) And the more you play, the more wear and tear you put on your equipment, and the more likely it is to break and or run out of juice!
3. A water bottle – Most places you play will give you a glass of water. But glasses of water are easily knocked over, so having a bottle of water is a good choice.
4. At least two extension cords and one power strip – There’s not always electricity where you need it, so be prepared to rearrange the electronic layout to suite your needs!
5. Extra quarter-inch cables – See #1: Cables go bad, and the more you play, the more likely they are to crap out.
6. Extra strings, picks, drum sticks, snares, moon gel, (reeds if you play woodwind etc) – You can never have too many of those little things that can break or get lost in between gigs.
7. Back up instruments (if possible). – We bring an extra guitar and extra snare drum to all our gigs, and it’s invaluable. Chris has broken his snare drum THREE times in the past two years during gigs! Also, if you’re playing a show where someone really wants to get on stage to play a song and just “borrow” your guitar…it definitely helps to have a back-up that you’re willing to subject to the sweat of another.
8. Mailing List/Pens – Believe it or not, some people will like you enough to want to see your band again. Have a mailing list available for people to sign. Our mailing list includes a place for “comments” which has been, well, interesting!
9. Business Cards – This is one of the best purchases we’ve made in the past year. Our pal Jacob Augustine has postcards he gives away at shows which serve the same basic purpose. It’s invaluable to be able to hand someone a well designed piece of paper with your basic info on it!
10. Mic, cable, stand – Again, who knows what you’ll encounter or when you’ll have the opportunity to play somewhere unexpected along your tour. Be ready to sing at the drop of a hat!
11. xlr to quarter-inch converter – So you’re playing a house show! Congrats! You will most likely play for an enthusiastic group of people who will feed you and put whatever bills they have in their pockets into your tip jar! Of course, not every living room has a PA system tucked in next to the flat screen. So if you have an xlr to quarter-inch converter you can plug your mic into a guitar amp and you’re ready to go!
12. Tip Jar – I finally got hip to the tip jar after a young man threw a ten-dollar bill at our feet while we were mid-song. Also our pals Aloud from Boston always leave the tip jar out. Sometimes people really do want to help out even if they don’t want to buy your schwag.
13. Drum rug – No drummer wants to experience the wandering bass drum. Keep that kit in place through the power of friction!
14. Change of clothes – There’s nothing worse than picking out your favorite vintage Pearl
Jam tee to wear to a show just to drip catsup or spill a pint of lager on it before your set. Also, when it’s 101 degrees at 11pm in Lexington Kentucky on a June night and there’s no AC, you’re going to want to slip into something dry after you’re done playing!!
And as always, my best advice for any musician is this: Answer all phone calls, texts and emails as soon as you possibly can.
Now get out there and have the time of your life!