I'm always fascinated by the labor-saving and problem-solving devices each engineer chooses to bring in their personal kit, and I often borrow ideas and tricks from other road dogs. This short article lists some of the usual contents of my gig bag that I take to shows in the hope that, whatever the problem, I will have help close at hand.
My gig bag is the Chicago Case MFCart 22149, which meets airline carry-on size restrictions and has a telescoping handle and wheels. I always bring an Audio Control MP-200 preamp and an Audix TR-40 measurement mic to use with Smaart Live on my laptop. I also carry a Neutrik MiniRator MR-1 audio generator, a great signal source for setup and troubleshooting. And Check Point's “Inclino-matic” laser's built-in digital inclinometer with 10 memories makes calculating coverage angles a snap before the speakers are in the air.
A Shure SM58 with a switch provides a consistent tool for voicing the P.A. and driving nails. Then, a double-female XLR barrel makes it easy to patch it into the last snake line for talkback to the other console. It's also handy as VOG for stage managers and festival announcements. Rather than carrying favorite CDs for P.A. tuning and walk-in music, and risk leaving them behind, I burn copies and a spare of each. You can even put both P.A.-tuning and walk-in music on one disc.
“TAKE TWO AND GET SOME REST”
Ear plugs cut down on cabin noise in the plane and on the bus, making naps much easier. Noise is 24/7, and reducing exposure lowers stress and preserves hearing. Two-hundred pairs of yellow foamies cost $30. Anti-bacterial towelettes, alcohol wipes and hand cleaner help keep germs at bay. Getting sick is no fun, but when the artist gets sick you could be out of a job. Clean your hands, the vocal mics and ear molds thoroughly and often.
Ricola menthol eucalyptus throat lozenges help kill the germs that get shoved into mucus membranes on airplane flights when the cabin re-pressurizes on descent. They also help soothe singers' throats.
EmergenCee, a powdered high-dosage vitamin supplement that mixes with water, comes in several fruit flavors and makes a great load-out liquid with bottled water. The best electric toothbrush is from Sonicare; it keeps its charge for weeks, even in daily use.
If your credit card gets lost or stolen, unauthorized charges can usually be contested, but replacing a lost card mid-tour is a hassle. I keep a second, separate credit card just for travel expenses, which helps at tax time and keeps my personal account safe from abuse on the road. I also carry a spare driver's license. Because a photo ID is not only required to fly, but also often needed to get through security at gigs, I hole-punch it and keep it on my lanyard.
While you're at it, make a two-sided document with cell phone and e-mail contacts on one side and the truck pack list on the back. Laminate it and keep on your lanyard. Another useful document is a list of airline reservation and Frequent Flyer numbers to get all the mileage you deserve.
Get everyone on the same page — and off the cocktail napkin. A one-page hard copy of the stage plot and input list is essential. With all your show's sound info on a single sheet, you have a road map to hand out at the start of each gig.
A handful of FedEx airbills, envelopes and pouches, along with your company's account numbers, is worth carrying. And don't forget an empty microphone pouch to use as a float bag and to file all of your receipts — without them, you're throwing money away.
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
Though their lithium batteries cost almost as much as a MiniMag, the Xenon bulb in the palm-sized Surefire is as bright as a quadruple D-cell Maglite, and makes a better tool for crisis situations or for performer walk-offs. Alternatively, the Streamlight Stinger rechargeable is almost twice as expensive, but can be recharged 1,000 times — you do the math.
One picture equals a thousand words and a digital camera allows you to create complete stage setup photo-documentation, simplifying instructions to local crews in any country. Similarly, photos of each row of the truck pack, taped to the trailer wall in sheet protectors, will help speed load-outs. Using neon gaffer tape for pack labels allows you to count and identify pieces quickly. The same brightly colored tape on every piece of gear helps with cartage services, airport runs and festival sort-outs. Similarly, an assortment of colored PVC tape helps color-code cables so that they can be plugged in without directions. I also carry both ¾- and ½-inch-wide artist's paper tape for marking up a new desk and labeling stage boxes. How often does the rental kit come without a drum key or a stick? Having these can keep line check from grinding to a halt.
Sharpies for everyone. Last year, it was the oversized Super Sharpie. Sanford's new TwinTip Sharpie has the ultra-fine point on the back end. Get a box and pass 'em out so they don't steal yours. And how about some extra band CDs or t-shirts for greasing the way? A little swag in the right hands is worth its weight in gold. Where's mine?
Seriously, I'd like to know. In about 25 words, tell me your favorite cut for checking P.A.-tuning and why. For years, I've used “Constant Craving,” and still do, for obvious reasons. Write to email@example.com and include your venue, company or artist, and your e-mail address, plus the favorite item from your gig bag.
Mark Frink is Mix's sound reinforcement editor.