The gig kit

This is what happens when you get older as a musician: Every year, the gear gets heavier. Sure, it seems to shrink in actual physical size and measurable weight, but every time you pick up a guitar amp at 2 a.m., it feels a little more like an anvil.

So, over the years you learn how to pack your gear to keep it as compact and as portable as possible. For example, here’s my rig for a typical gig:

Here you see one (1) guitar amplifier, one (1) backpack and one (1) microphone stand. Most importantly, this rig allows me to make one (1) trip from my car to the stage, with the backpack going over my, um, back and the amp and mic stand going in my right and left hand, accordingly.

But don’t think this is a light load. Together, the parts in this basic rig weigh about 60 pounds. That’s four pro bowling balls, for you playing along at home.

The amp shown here is a tweed Fender Deluxe clone and it’s relatively light by tube amp standards, weighing in at about 30 pounds. But the backpack…well, that backpack is sneaky-heavy. Look at how deep it is:

There are four major compartments in this backpack. Let’s look at what’s in there.

There’s almost nothing in the outside compartment — just a flat, pocketable LED flashlight that’s great for stage work and a tube that holds earplugs. I do everything I can to avoid using earplugs on stage, because it’s very very hard to play harp when you’ve got plugs in your ears. When you’re wearing earplugs, the harp, which is basically hotwired to your jaw, goes “WAAAH!” in your head and it’s almost impossible to hear anything else:

There’s almost nothing in the second compartment as well. Here I have an extension cord, a multi-tool and two door stops. Here’s an old-musician trick: Door stops are the perfect way to put an amp on the floor and point it up just enough to make it easier to hear on stage. The multi-tool, meanwhile, can solve a lot of problems without taking up a lot of space. The built-in and very usable pliers make it a better option than a Swiss Army Knife:

These two outside compartments don’t contain much because the inner compartments are jammed to the gills, compressing the space that would be available to open the outside flaps. The inner compartments are where the heavy and/or bulky stuff goes.

In the third compartment is a tambourine, which is the biggest pain in the ass to carry around. This is a classic RhythmTech half-moon tambourine with a double row of cymbals. It can play really loudly if necessary, but it’s also a bulky space hog. I’ve had this for so long — close to 20 years now — that all of the cymbals have tarnished and/or rusted and/or have God knows what kind of gunk on them from too many nights of sitting at my feet on the stage:

The fourth compartment weighs more than the rest of the compartments combined and it contains a fantastic mountain of stuff, carefully compartmentalized. The contents look innocent enough…

But then you open everything up…

Here we have: 25 harmonicas, four shaker eggs, a harmonica case, and a roll-up tool case that contains half a dozen cables, three microphones, a delay pedal and a power supply. It’s the musical equivalent of a clown car.

Over the years, you learn how to pack for a gig. There was a time when my gear took a hand truck to wheel in. Now I have 80% of what I once brought, and it takes up less than half of the space. That’s what experience — and heck, age — does for/to you.

Previously: A few Paw Paw leftovers | Hokum home page


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