Entertainers travelling with equipment
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Hotel Manners
Travelling with Equipment
You and Your Agent
The Sitting Musician
Open Mic - friend or foe
The Mustache Cup
Stage Lighting
Vintage Instruments
Creating a Press Kit

    There is a lot of gear to be packed away and it needs to fit into a truck. That is a problem if every case is a different dimension. You will waste a lot of space in your transport vehicle loading it with round cases, square cases, long, small, large and soft cases. Each needs to find that perfect spot and some are more fragile than others. The inexpensive answer for me has always been military footlockers from the 1960s (pictured above)

     These are all the same size and so packing them into a truck is simple. They are basically indestructible as I have found touring coast-to-coast with the same ones for many years. They are lockable, fibreglass and very light; one person can manage lifting them even when full of drum hardware. They measure 30 inches wide; 12 inches high; and 18 inches deep: it is the best bang for your buck. They are getting harder to find but can be purchased in military surplus stores, so keep an eye out for them and collect them as you find them. Average price is $30.00 each. If they are in good shape, pay whatever you need to, you won’t find anything that serves this purpose better than these do. Remember you can paint them and put on new latches or handles if needed so don’t expect them to look new when you find them.

     I have two trunks for cables, one for props, two for breakdown foley tables, stools, FX pedals, sub-mixers and guitar stands, and some smaller mic stands. There are two trunks for fog machines and bubble machines and smoke bombs. These trunks will accommodate stage lights too. As I said, they stack very well being all the same size so designate one to each person in the band to take the place of their suitcase. Leave these at the back of the truck so you can get to them easily. If you are staying in a small hotel or questionable motel simply leave your stuff in the trunk and, using the hasp on the front, lock your trunk when leaving the room and if need be, run a chain to the pad lock on the trunk hasp and attach the chain around a radiator or whatever is in the room where you are staying. No more missing items and happy maids. (Don’t think this doesn’t happen.)

     One trunk is dedicated for on-stage silent fans. You need to control the temperature on stage. Have you ever experienced a time when you are sweating and the sweat comes running down your face into your eyes and not only can you not see, but it really hurts? Fans give you the power to make that not happen. You don’t have to turn them on, but having them in place gives you that option. You are saying, “I have so much gear to set up, the last thing I need is a bunch of fans”. After a while it will become all part of the set up and you won’t be concerned with the effort. But the effect when you need it is priceless.

stage fans

     It is a very easily made mistake to load up after a gig, especially if there were other bands on the show, and leave a truck behind. It might have gotten stuffed into a corner or someone may have put a trunk on top of it that belonged to the other band or it had gotten slid under the drum riser, but if you drive off without it, it is devastating to a tour schedule. I have purchased brass (well they are painted black) house numbers and riveted them to the front of each military case. The cases have been painted semi-gloss and/or flat black with the band name on them in white letters and when it is time to load the truck it is one band member’s job to simply check off the numbers on a clipboard as they come in. My trunks go from 1 to 13.

equipment case

     I also colour code my cables; each cable has a yellow zap-strap wrapped tightly at each end right at the connector with the end snipped off so it’s unobtrusive. That is for quick visual identification. Next, each cable has a half inch tall number at each end (1, 2, 3, ...) this way we can do a numerical count to insure that all cables have returned to the trunk. I cut a ¾ by ¾ inch piece of yellow electricians tape and put it on the plug-connector, on that I put a number off of a sticky sheet of number/letters purchased from a stationary store. Then I cover that with a piece of crystal clear vinyl tape (like Scotch tape but heavy duty) to protect it from wear. One performer is in charge of this “cable invoice”. All cables have a strip of yellow electricians tape at the male end with the length of the cable written on it in felt pen. That truck is not closed until all cables have “come home”.


     I still use a conventional anvil case for microphones. With the foam cut out to hold them in place, they work so perfectly. We always have packing blankets for the instrument cases and they go to the back of the truck for easy access. When travelling over several days, all stringed instruments come into the hotel with us overnight. This is not a safety thing as our truck locks down like a Loomis Security Truck. This is a humidity and temperature thing: take care of those strings, my friend.

     Park your truck sensibly. If you have a canopy, back up against a pole to make it harder to open the door so a thief doesn’t try to break your locks which can make a mess even in a bungled attempt. Always apply a steering lock. Buy a really tough looking one and always put it in the steering wheel where you have two posts. Thieves don’t try to cut the lock; they simply cut the steering wheel. So make them have to cut twice to get it off. Install the lock in a vertical position so it is very easy to detect; its mere presence is a deterrent to thieves. If the job looks daunting and time consuming, they will just go on to another vehicle that will be easier.

steering wheel lock

     Have fun touring and take care of your equipment, keep it clean and dusted. Use towels to wrap and divide things in the trucks that could get chipped or scratched. Remember, you have to live with it.

Professor Douglas Fraser

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