Best gig setup practices and advice please

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by evlwevl, Jun 30, 2021.

  1. evlwevl


    Jun 16, 2017
    My band and I are a bunch of older guys and We are mostly new to gigging. We successfully completed our first 4 hour gig and the venue owner has invited us back for 2 more dates. I myself would like to improve our gear unload and load up since we obviously are doing it ourselves. I’m the youngest in the group at 53 but I would still like some advice to set up quicker for outdoor events with no sound guy and avoid some common mistakes as well as help out the older guys who are a little slower at setting up. My current rig is a fender rumble 4x10 cab and I will be adding a 1x15 soon. I also will be bring 2 basses, a boss multi effects processor, mic stand and I also take care of the PA setup.
    jdh3000 and Peter Torning like this.
  2. Set up in a tight semi-circle at first and spread out from there as your set up grows and you all become more comfortable playing live together.
    Also any sort of backdrop helps with an outdoor gig. The last thing you want is an opposing wall sending your sound back at you to slap you in the face.:thumbsup:
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
    bisticlz and evlwevl like this.
  3. Liko


    Mar 30, 2007
    DFW Metro
    1. Find a sound guy. Even if you have to pay him a slice of the take, it's worth it to have a good soundman. He's an extra pair of hands and legs to move and set up the gear, he's an extra pair of ears out in FOH listening to the mix, and he can have his hands on the board when you can't because you're too busy playing. When you're running your own sound, have someone dedicated to running it. Our band is lucky; the lead singer and the drummer's son are an item, so he tags along to all the gigs anyway. Instant roadie. Not only do we put his volunteer-fireman ass to work in the load-in/load-out, we're teaching him the rudiments of running the board, so when it's our board he can bump faders out in FOH.
    2. Look for gigs with professional "house" sound. In terms of your load-in/load-out responsibilities, house sound is a boon, as is a house sound guy that knows the system to run it. It won't always be available, especially for the kinds of gigs new bands often land. However, venue owners and event coordinators have their own reputation to uphold as a place bands want to come and play, and a place people want to come to hear the bands. As such, at least halfway decent house systems for live music are becoming a staple of venues that host live music, and annual events seeking to attract talent will invest in a third-party media crew. Either way, you should be able to know in advance what your load-in is going to be, and if you're hauling your own PA to and from BFE for the gig, you can negotiate that into the price.
    3. Scale the PA, not your stage rigs. Sounds counterintuitive, but when you think about it it really isn't. You need the PA anyway, at least a couple tops and monitors for vocals. If your rehearsal rig won't carry the house, neither will the drums, and if you're miking the kit you'll need a PA beefy enough that you might as well mic up everything. It's tempting to make sure that you yourself have enough rig for the gig no matter what the PA situation is (and there are definitely advantages to that approach), but this is how volume wars start between band members, and nobody wins a volume war, least of all your audience. You'd be surprised how far a decent pair of 1000w 2x12" or 2x15" mains and one or two subs underneath will take you, even outdoors. Considering you need the tops anyway, that's less load-in than an extra cab for your bass amp and each guitar amp. There are some gigs where you have to look like a stereotypical rock band, complete with backline, but they're rarer than you think especially in the bar/festival circuit; most venues in fact encourage the opposite, because they don't have the space for it all and because they need to minimize turnaround between each act. Sometimes it won't even be your rig you plug into; the venue will insist on their backline (or DIs), making your load-in your axe and maybe a pedalboard.
    4. Furniture dollies/hand carts. It's so obvious, yet so rare. Don't haul the gear when you can roll it around. This is an investment that pays dividends in spades, and it doesn't even have to be that expensive (for the price of a single Shure SM58, you can have one of these). Obviously not as useful for the roof patio gig up three flights of stairs, but you'd be surprised how many people make a dozen trips to and from the truck carrying cabs and amp racks by hand when a simple hand cart cuts the trips in half at least and the effort by more than that.
    5. Have a plan to divide and conquer. Nobody should be standing around watching someone else hauling gear and doing hookups. By the same token, you don't need all five people clustered around the stage box trying to plug things in. You're a band; your entire gig is fundamentally dependent on your ability to work together. That should extend from the time you pull up to the venue to the time you head out home. The exact plan depends on the band, the gear and even the specific venue, but the goal should be that everyone is tasked with things they have the knowledge and strength/dexterity to handle, that keeps them out of everyone else's way. You might assign a band member to their "home section" of the stage, as in the lead singer is also responsible for the monitor wedges along the frontline, the bass player and lead guitarist handle the mains on their side of the stage, and the rhythm guitarist handles the connections at the stage box. Whatever. Just make sure everybody knows what needs to be done, the approximate order of operations, and what of that they are expected to do.
    6. Help the freakin' drummer already. If you're like most bands, and you've followed my advice so far, you'll have already cut your load-in significantly. Your drummer, however, has been back of the eight-ball from the moment he discovered that hitting things with sticks is fun. The drummer typically has the worst loading and setup/teardown requirements of the whole band, even if he doesn't touch the main PA components. You want to streamline the prep and teardown, you help the drummer with theirs. Obviously you should ask him if he wants help - people can be picky about who handles their stuff - and you need to know what you're doing, but it won't be long before you'll have seen that kit get set up and torn down enough times that you could probably do the whole thing yourself, maybe minus the fine-tuning. It ain't rocket surgery; it's an instrument designed for a guy who thinks hitting it with sticks is fun after all.
    7. Mise en place. That's Frenchy talk for "a place for everything, and everything in its place". For bands and audio gear, that boils down to, have an intuitive and organized way to store and transport all your stuff. That means cases. They don't have to be designed specifically for music; before getting scammed on light cases at Guitar Center or Sam Ash, take a look at what Home Depot or Lowe's has in their tool storage section. You can get a durable, lightweight, accessible rolling tool caddy for a lot less than a purpose-built flight case. Make sure to economize on number and size of cases, you don't want a bunch of small bags or boxes getting lost in the shuffle any more than you want a big half-empty monstrosity to find a place for backstage. The cases don't have to be ATA rated, at least not until you're on a 50-city tour of the US, but not only will these cases give your valuable gear some protection, they give your gear a place it should be when not in use, where it can be easily gotten to. Given such a place, put the gear where it goes when you're done.
    8. COIL AND WRAP YOUR CABLES. An important corollary of the previous point. After you've closed the bar down on a 4-hour gig playing every song you know and a few you don't, it's very tempting to just rip everything out of the jacks, ball it up and throw it in the duffel bag. Don't be tempted; you're just going to deal with an even bigger mess in that bag at your next gig or rehearsal. Take the time to coil each cable, and have a Velcro wrap-tie on each one. Still too much bother? Pro tip; head to Home Depot and pick up an extension cord reel. Hook your first 20' XLR into the clip on the reel and start reeling it in. When you get to the end, hook the next 20-footer to it and repeat until they're all on the reel. A reel like the one I linked to will easily hold 10 cables, tangle-free, knot-free. Then at the next gig, just set the reel down on stage and start pulling of cable as needed. If you have different lengths (10, 20 and 50 are common on-stage), have multiple reels. They aren't expensive.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
  4. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    I'd suggest getting the PA speakers/desk(or iPad, or whatever you're using to mix/control your sound)/cabling set up first, then the drummer (if you have one. If you have 2, fire one. Nobody needs 2 drummers:)).
    Next keyboards, then bass and guitar.
    Finally, microphones.

    As @Johnny Fingers says, keep it as compact as possible at first, and depending on what floor area you've got.
    Ideally, each player should have a rug that's their 'space'...helps a lot in marking out your territories...and hiding/securing cabling.

    I'd also suggest reading a few of the gig reports on here, especially those from @BassCliff . He does a great job in documenting how to set up a show.

    One great tip is to actually rehearse set-up, and time it.
    Then give yourselves double that time for a real show.
    Assign jobs for everyone. Singer could help drummer get ready, for example.
    Also, bring spares of pretty much everything, duct tape, bottles of water and extension cables.
  5. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Spend a fortune on cases. Casters are your friends.
    Figure out what goes where when and pack accordingly.

    Think as a band. A common sight on stages is the drummer setting up, two guys wrestling with PA speaker cables and one of the guitarists is standing in front of his amp, all set up and ready to go - give that guy a kick somewhere painful.

    The band carries in all the heavy gear. If speed matters, then the drummer sets up his kit while the rest sets up the PA: Power cables, Mixer, Poweramp, Speakers, speaker cables. Then the mics and XLR cables. Once that's all set, the personal amps.

    Tear down is the same thing backwards.
    smokinjoe, Oddly and evlwevl like this.
  6. evlwevl


    Jun 16, 2017
    Excellent advice! Yes on the rolling cart and I have asked our 72 year old drummer if he would like for us to get him loaded in first before we touch our gear.
  7. evlwevl


    Jun 16, 2017
    I’ve taken on PA setup duties as well as helping out rhythm guitarist loading and set up because he has physical limitations. After everyone is good, then I quickly setup my bass rig. We probably aren’t ready for gear cases yet but I will be getting a cart for my rig.
    Oddly likes this.
  8. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Adopt a SWAT team mentality. Have your gear prepared in such a way as to minimalize fumbling around with set-up(ie, if you or the guitarists use pedals, assemble powered pedalboards, all hooked up and ready to be plugged into, have your cables organized by usage, and use those little velcro ties). Assign(and agree on)a set-up task role, and stick to it. Obviously, sometimes a drummer has a lot of moving parts to deal with, so they may be focused on that, but get your guitarist or whoever to help you set up the PA(especially if it’s box-on-a-stick thing), and get that up first, in terms of your perimiter. Then set up the instrumental amps, followed by mics/stands/cables. What is your monitor system? Set that up a little later so that it’s not underfoot, especially if they’re wedges. Stay out of each other’s way, draw up plausable stage plots, so that everybody has their agreed-upon spot. Have as much gear as possible on wheels; old Anvil-style cases(they don’t have to be trunks), dollies, carts, or something like this…
    RockNRoller Multi-Cart utility carts - Move All Your Gear in One Trip
    If you’re doing the PA, I assume you’ll have the mixer/amp in proximity to your amp; allow for that, and always have plenty of plug strips and long, heavy gage extention cords at the ready. Do your guitarist(s) use smaller amps? Get those things up off the ground, on chairs, milk crates, whatever, but close to their ears(which are not in their ankles, by the way). Now, I’ve got a decade on you, but I’m not a no-amp wuss, I hate in-ear monitors and so on, however…you really don’t need to add a 1x15 to your 4x10. Save yourself the grief. How many mics? When it comes time to ring out the PA, everyone should stop noodling around, and let you get the vocals right; everything else comes after that. Batteries, strings, cables(instrument and speaker), fuses, polarity tester, straps, basic tool kit, mic clips, duct tape, WD40, etc…always have that kind of backup stuff accessible. Above all, teamwork.
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  9. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Bakersfield? Outdoor gigs? Don’t forget the box fans.
    BassCliff likes this.
  10. evlwevl


    Jun 16, 2017
    Yup a must have!
    Johnny Fingers likes this.
  11. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Don’t forget to fire the drummer.
    SoCal80s likes this.
  12. Tom Magri

    Tom Magri Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2003
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    You can start by lightening your own load. If you are in the board why lug a 4x10 cabinet around?…and you are thinking of adding another 15 cabinet? I get by on a wide variety of gigs indoor and out with a 300 watt 112 combo. Your stage amp isn’t pushing the FOH sound. Your amp is just for your stage sound and you can support that if you need to by adding some bass to the stage monitors if needed. If the venue is small you can DI into the board and just use the monitors. There are many options to lighten your load if you have a decent PA.
  13. Ggaa

    Ggaa Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2018
    If you bring more than one guitar have a cable and some kind of tuner for each one. If you use a clip on tuner get one that's bright enough to be seen outside in daylight-TC is a good one. Bring a flashlight or headlamp, spare batteries for devices that use them, a Sharpie, a dolly(full size or compact), duct tape, Velcro, Allen wrenches, peg winder, guitar tools.. The front pocket on my amp bag has the stuff I need to hook it up(2 spkr cables, power cord and short extention), so I grab everything in that pocket. I at least run my own Mic cables, but we're all involved somewhat setting up the PA. And if possible get to the gig early enough that you don't have to rush the setup.....
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
  14. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    • Everyone arrives at the same time (or close to it)
    • Everyone helps bring everything in
    • No on sets up their own personal stuff until PA/lights are set up
    Reverse order at the end of the night
    • Break down personal gear
    • Everyone breaks down PA/lights
    • Everyone brings everything out to the cars
    Definitely recommend getting a cart
    Sore Thumb likes this.
  15. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    We have cases for:
    -Mixer and IEM rack
    -PA Poweramp rack
    -Softcase for mic stands
    -Several cases for cables. From a simple metal briefcase for small gigs up to a case on casters you won't lift by yourself. We pick the right size for the gig and load the case in the order we'll be needing the cables on stage.
    XLR cables go in first, because the come out last. Power cables on top, along with the speaker cables. Multicores (if needed) in the middle.

    Cabinets and amps mostly are box shaped already, so they'd only need a case for protection.
    All the stuff that's not box shaped goes in a box, so you can play Tetris in the van.
    Peter Torning likes this.
  16. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Jazz & Cocktails Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    Excellent suggestion.
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Drums get set up first, then move in and set up around him/her.

    Another vote for a Rock n Roller or similar cart.
  18. dbase

    dbase Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2008
    South Jersey, USA..
    At 75, I sold all my cabs and heavy amps that I had and got just one Mesa 115 and a 7 lb class D amp head. I can manage it myself, but I can always throw down the age card if need be and the band will help be with my gear. Nothing like getting a little respect in your senior years. Also, I don't do stomp boxes, that means bending over to plug things in and make adjustments. Not gonna happen.
    My wife helps me at times carrying bags but in her absence, this is my 2nd wife.
    magna cart.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
    Beej, BlueTalon, Nomad5 and 3 others like this.
  19. jackietreehorn

    jackietreehorn Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2020
    Minneapolis, MN
    As a professional chef by trade I love the use of the term “mise en place”.

    I also like how everyone’s comments boil down to “musical mise en place”.

  20. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    I think about everything has been covered extremely well.... so I'll add in my one gripe.

    Everyone should keep cases, and miscellaneous "stuff" out of other peoples space. There's nothing more frustrating than having to move someone's cases out of your area when you need to set up your personal gear.
    During load in, when possible, put things where they go.

    Having to move things twice just makes set up and tear down twice as long.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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