What’s in your gig bag?

So, here’s a question. How many of you actually plan what you’re taking to a gig, above and beyond your instruments? Do you have a personal gig bag, or even a band one, with essentials in it? If not, here’s a list of things to think about packing…

With the last band I played in, we carried one of those ubiquitous aluminium briefcases, labelled, for historical reasons that go back beyond the band, ‘Extras’, and thus known as the ‘Extras Case’. Its contents were wide-ranging, often useful, and just occasionally a gig-saver. My good friend Angus has the ‘C-Box’ (don’t ask what THAT stands for) which serves a similar purpose in his bands.

Either way, here are some suggestions for its contents:

– A spare roll of gaffer tape

Over and above any that you or your sound guy might have packed: you never know when you’ll run out, or a roll will walk. There are, as I’m sure you’re aware, any number of uses for this stuff.

– A roll of electricians/insulating tape in your preferred colour(s)

Again, never know when it’ll come in handy. If, like us, you have a colour-coding rule for labelling cables, it’s always good to be able to tag a new cable as soon as it arrives (like, when the guitarist turns up at the venue with 10m of brand new solid gold (judging by the price), oxygen-free super-conducting cable).

– A pair of scissors

Tape’s a pain to cut. So is the packaging on that new cable!

– A Swiss Army knife, Leatherman, or other similar device

After all, you never know when you might want to get a Boy Scout out of a horse’s hoof!

– A few velcro cable ties

Better than gaffer for keeping cables coiled and/or out of the way.

– A set of regular screwdrivers (crosshead, flat).

Again, you never know what might need to come apart. Make sure it includes one that’ll get control/scratchplates off your various instruments, and also a big, chunky flathead that’ll shift the little threaded inserts in mic clips.

Speaking of which….

– Several spare mic clips, and a couple of ‘big to small’ mic stand adaptors

As far as I’m concerned, mic clips are perishables like guitar strings – they will break. Sods Law also says that no matter how hard you try, you’ll wind up with your last spare clip being large diameter, for a small-diameter stand.

– A couple of small jewellers screwdrivers

Especially if anyone in your band wears glasses.

– A pair of pliers

Uses beyond count – shifting a jammed mic stand, crimping speaker terminals, you name it …

– A pair of wire cutters/strippers

For those running repairs, along with:

– A soldering iron and solder

At least one of you needs to learn how to use this. Watch this space if you don’t, as we’ll run an article on it sometime soon.

– A couple of spare 1/4″ jacks, XLR connectors of both genders, and a mains plug or two.

Sooner or later, someone will stand on a plug, or otherwise break it. With these, the soldering iron and the wire cutters, you’ll be good to go. You do know how to wire a plug, right?

– Batteries

Enough for everything – that probably means both AA and AAA, and 9V (remember, your bass player may have an active bass with a 9V battery he hasn’t changed in years….)

– Strings

At least one set of every gauge you need.

– A pegwinder

For the above, obviously. If you’re supremely lazy, the variant that works off a cordless screwdriver.

– A drum key.

Entirely separate from the one your drummer has as part of his rig. Just in case.

-A complete set of spare valves for any amps that need them.

For those of you not using tube amps, you’re lucky. If not, carry spares, and be prepared to change them.

– Spare mains fuses.

Check the fuse rating of all your kit, make sure you have at least one of every rating.

– Spare chassis and HT fuses

If you’re looking at me blankly at this point, go check out the back of just about any piece of gear in your backline or PA, and you’ll find a little chassis-mounted fuse socket near the mains cord, and a label next to it with its value. Make a list of every piece of kit and what value fuse it takes, and go pay a visit to Maplins/Radio Shack and get one of each. Someday it’ll save your gig (yes, they do blow – I’ve had one go on a mixer power supply). Also? If your valve amp blows a power tube, odds are it’ll take the HT fuse with it. Carry spares of those, too.

– A fuse tester

Simple battery powered piece of kit that allows you to check a fuse. Cheap as the proverbial chips, and worth it.

– A cable tester

I recommend the Behringer one – see the review on this site

– A mains tester

Just for your piece of mind – it never hurts to pop it in the venue’s sockets and figure out if any are a death trap.

– A spare RCD circuit breaker

Of course, all your power boards are RCD’ed anyway, right? Even so, carry a spare.

– An adaptor cable for plugging an iPod or other 3.5mm jack sound source into your mixer.

Sounds obvious, I know. But sooner or later you’ll wind up with a support act using backing tracks that wants to use your PA, or something similar. Be prepared.

– Painkillers, antacid tablets

Whichever work for you and your band mates. And I’m sure I shouldn’t have to say this, but keep them in the original, clearly and correctly labelled, container. And make sure you restock.

– Any other meds or other health related products any of you need

Again, clearly labelled, and over and above any personal supplies band members carry. Just. In. Case. As far as I’m concerned, included in this list are a few teabags and a few packets of sugar, but I’m a hopeless tea addict.

– A pack of tissues

Never hurts.

– A small first aid kit.

Again, you never know when it might come in handy.

– Notepad and paper

I carry a small Moleskine and a fountain pen, but that’s just me. Basically. something you can take notes on – names, addresses, etc – useful if you can also tuck business cards you’ve been given in the back.

– Spare business cards.

Nothing says ‘we’re unprepared’ like not having a card to hand to the promotor who’s begging to book you.

– The band book

A new concept on me, until I found out about it in an article on Behringer’s community site. Basically it contains everything you might need by way of paperwork, including such things as packing lists, directions to the venue and the like. Sadly, and rather inexplicably, Behringer seem to have deleted that section of their site.

So, there’s a starting list. The other key thing to do is check the contents of this against your packing list before every gig, and restock where needed. Which of course means, check it before the shops shut!

Next up in this series, the spares that don’t fit in your gig bag.

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