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Backline Etiquette

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by a_magg, May 5, 2010.

  1. a_magg


    Sep 23, 2007
    Hey all, I have a question and I'm not entirely sure how to search it - so here goes!

    I'm going to be touring the east coast with my band over this summer, and I know some of these gigs will have a backline rig. My question is, I'm debating whether to bring my entire rig (Aggie AG500sc + 2 Berg 112's) on the trip, use only my Aggie with their cabs, or just forgo it all and just use their backline?

  2. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    If you're playing on a bill with multiple acts, the house will ask you to use as much of the backline rig as possible to minimize the time & labor required for each changeover. If your band is the headlining act or if you have any issues with the backline rig, you'll want to have your entire rig on-hand. I'd recommend against mixing & matching components. It takes longer and it's a great way to lose gear.

    From a sound perspective, the house engineers will be far more concerned about getting a DI signal straight off the bass. The amp is really for your own gratification. You won't see any cabinet mics unless somebody asks or the engineer happens to play bass (like me).
  3. ^ This.

    If backline is provided, unless you're a major headliner, just smile and plug in.
  4. a_magg


    Sep 23, 2007
    Fair enough - much less schlepping of my gear then... I'll call ahead to see who has what just to be sure all the venues have a backline that I can use. Thanks!
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i can't disagree more emphatically with the advice given so far. it's not like you have a gigantic rig that can't be easily set up and torn down. i think you should bring your rig and try to use it as much as you can. on the gigs where they have backline, just politely ask if they want everyone using the rented gear or would they mind if you use your own rig. usually they won't mind if you can get your gear on and off really quick.

    however, you can save yourself some hassle getting on and off stage, as well as cut down load-out times, so you could use the provided rig. if you're going di anyway, it won't matter to the house. and there have been times where i've been asked to plug into the house rig, and i'll do it to keep the show moving along, and you should, too. but if your rig's important to you, there's nothing wrong with wanting to use it on a backline-provided show, and there's no harm in asking about it. the worst they'll do is say no.
  6. I run sound at a lot of multi band events...some provide backline and some don't. As often as not, the "backline" is NOT rented, but is property of one of the bands, or "donated" by a friend for the night, etc.

    That said, take your rig. Venues might tell you that a rig will be provided and then not follow through...others will tell you "no shared gear" and the opener or headliner will be a stand up guy who invites everyone to use his rig. If you are "on tour" be sure to arrive early. Be polite and ask WELL IN ADVANCE of your time on stage so you know whether to take your amp and cabinets out of the van or trailer.

    If you are "real picky" about your sound, I strongly suggest you get a preamp with DI (POD or SansAmp or traditional rack mounted preamp) and ask if you can use that...and let the soundco feed your bass back in the monitors.

    I work all sizes of venues and some of those stages are pretty small. Trading out bass rigs, even if it is just a 1-12 cabinet and head...can be a "deal"....and some gigs have the headliner's gear on stage (no share policy) and you have to work around them. It can be real "intimate" with two drum kits, two bass rigs, four guitar amps and a keyboard on a 18x16 stage.

    Smile, relax, roll with the punches...

    Hey, it's not like it is the fate of the free world at stake...it's far more important than that...it's rock and roll, dude....
  7. snapple


    Nov 25, 2003
    Victoria-Vancouver Canada
    Endorsing Artist: PCL Vintage Amps
    +1 to the take your rig. Be willing to use backline if it is offered to you or requested that you use it. But bring your rig definitely. It sounds like not all the dates will provide you with gear, and you never know how reliable the backline will be.
  8. strozey


    Jul 16, 2008
    Endorsing Artist: John Jameson & Sons
    lol reminds me of a small local show where I was about to pack up my 810 cab for the short drive over and the gui**** in my band says "you should just use *so & so's * cabinet" who is in the other band we are playing with...well, not having secured usage of it previously I was hesitant...this guy insists "oh I'm sure you can use the head too." ...I kind of pissed him off when I went ahead and packed it up regardless

    anyways at the show the bass player from the other band comes up to me literally five minutes after we finish our set as I'm tearing down, and wants to know if he can use my rig!? his cabinet blew because they were trying to mono bridge an SVT4 into a funky 4-8s/1-15 Ampeg frankenstein cab that was wired at a funny ohm load or someth...anyways the kicker is this dude had to borrow my tuner some picks and even a freakin' cord! he only had a bass (which is borrowed from the drummer of the band no less) and the strap to hold it on
  9. uhdinator


    Apr 20, 2010
    I would cover my A$$ and take my gear if it were me. Just in case.

    Did sound for a band (young kids) they had no spare mic cables, two acoustic guitars but no DI's, no Drum mics, Batteries died on their wireless mic and no spares. Had one mic that was not working and I went to disconnect mic cable to trouble shoot and the guts of the mic pulled out with the cable.

    I was hired by the club, not the band. I had drum mic's and DI's and extra cables but no batteries for them. They probably hated me as I gave them hell explaining that they needed to be better prepared if they were gonna be doing gig's.
  10. uhdinator makes a good point...carry lots of spares. Batteries, picks, strings, straps, cables, pliers, screwdriver, drum sticks, drum heads, drum key, spare drummer if you can...I'm just sayin'....it's not like he is a real musician, he's a drummer.

    OK, seriously, keep in mind that "on tour" you may arrive in town after the local music stores close and your gig is in an hour...whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?
  11. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Take the rig, but don't assume you will always be allowed to use it.

    If you're gonna be doing this a lot, I would suggest you invest in either a high-quality DI box or a SansAmp BDDI or something similar. Even if you are not permitted to bring your own rig onstage, they should at least allow you to swap-in the direct box of your choosing. Or at minimum, run a SansAmp or something in-line between your bass and the house DI box. It seems like a lot of sound companies like to scrimp on the DI box so if you can upgrade at least that piece of the signal chain, you're that much ahead.

    Also, if you're requried to use the backline rig, take note whether the rig is mic'd or not. If it's not mic'd, then you can assume it's your stage monitor (i.e., 100% of your signal is via the DI), and you can tweak the EQ and volume to your heart's content. If it's mic'd and the sound is not to your liking, then it's good form to ask the FOH guy if you can tweak some things since whatever you do to the amp is also hitting the board.
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    you guys are too nice to soundmen! if i want to tweak my amp, i tweak it whether it's got a mic or a pre-eq di. of course, that might involve work on the soundman's part moving a fader with his finger, but what's he there for?
  13. Add my voice to the chorus of "take your amp!" It's not like you have an enormous setup, so I can't imagine that you would be taking up too much space in the trailer, and seriously, you never know what kind of stuff you're going to end up with when you are depending on backlines.
  14. jimmy rocket

    jimmy rocket

    Jan 24, 2008
    Ayden, NC
    If you do play into a backline made up of other people's gear make sure you ask first.

    I just recently played a show at a venue where we often set up multiple rigs, and so I threw mine on the back of the stage to facilitate setup later on. I went out for dinner, and when I came back the opener was already playing and the bass player had taken the liberty of wailing through my Aguilar rig for the whole set w/o asking.:scowl:

    guess who has two thumbs and was not pleased?
  15. Mo'Phat

    Mo'Phat Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2003
    San Diego, CA, USA
    I'm always hyper-paranoid when I play on a provided backline, regardless of if it's rented, loaned by the headliner, or owned by the venue.

    What happens if, after 35 years of playing in the place, the speaker blows or the amp fries when I'm playing it? I'm the a-hole that broke the amp. Now nobody can play.

    No thanks. I'll be bringing my rig, and let someone tell me NOT to use it...and I'll try whatever I can to get some sort of insurance that I'm not responsible for any damage to the house rig during my set. Even a "It's cool man, don't sweat it. Go ahead and use the house rig." is enough for me to be able to defend myself in the event of catastrophe.

    /from experience...on both sides of the situation.
  16. I HATE playing through house rigs. I like my sound, even if it is just for me - I play better when I sound better. I dont see the hassle of using your amp w/ a house cab?

    otoh how long are your shows? if you're doing 30-45minuter's in a place that has 15 bands per night then it might be prudent to use a house rig, and maybe take a SABDDI or tone hammer to get you sig tone etc
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    if you're not the a-hole who broke it, you have nothing to worry about. honestly, it's never occurred to me to worry about that because i never abuse amps. but i have had it happen before. but i've always been able to prove i didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
  18. Mo'Phat

    Mo'Phat Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2003
    San Diego, CA, USA
    Perception...He who smelt it dealt it...even though it was the friggen dog.
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    you have no idea how glad i am to be out of that scene, my friend! i sometimes have to let people use my rig, but nobody ever abuses it. i actually like to let visiting bass players use my svt. then i get to maniacally laugh as they sadly leave without it. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    of course, they never have to help me load it, so i guess they're not laughing THAT hard.
  20. Billnc


    Aug 6, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    I backline tech about twenty shows a year with a company that provides real gear that is maintained. Stuff breaks (except GK it seems), we always have a spare, and unless abuse is invloved (drummer trashing the kit) It is just a part of doing business.

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