It’s officially spring! The days are getting longer, and road dogs everywhere are starting to gear up for summer touring season. Now’s the time to re-up the supplies in your gig go-bag.
There are a handful of items that every self-respecting engineer should carry at all times: a flashlight, gaffer tape, work gloves, meter, Sharpies, spare batteries, and a phone charger. (Speaking of your phone, consider loading tone generator or SPL meter apps.)
Other staples, depending on the scale of the gig, include USB stick with show templates, cables and testers, console tape, ground lifts, zip ties, hearing protection, soldering iron, and WD40. Beyond these basics, every engineer has their own must haves, so we polled some pros to find out what’s in their pelican cases. Feel free to cop these ideas.
Engineers Tell All
Waves plug-ins for me are a must have. I've been using the Avid Profile for 10 years now, and I've created a custom workflow that has remained a constant for the past five years. At the moment, I'm incorporating the same workflow on the Avid Venue S6L.
—Brad Divens (Enrique Iglesias, Garbage, HIM, Mötley Crüe)
Most consistently-used "save-the-day" item: Rapco Horizon IsoBlox inline transformers. Not very sexy, but I can't count the number of times they've saved the show.
—Randy Neiman (freelance engineer; project manager, Morgan Sound, Inc.)
Rational Acoustics SMAART live is indispensable. I also carry a Firefly D/A converter to improve the sound of my digital library for critical listening during the tuning process.
—Pablo Wheeler (David Bowie, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Joe Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Van Morrison, David Sanborn)
Depending on the size and shape of the tour, I won't leave home without the right vocal mic for the job, and my Alan Smart C2 bus compressor. On a club P.A. level, I will also bring a switchable talk back mic, a Whirlwind Qbox, and my Rat Souns Systems Sniffer-Sender cable tester.
—Deanne Franklin (The Fillmore, Tom Waits, Angelique Kidjo, David Byrne)
RF Explorer: really handy for finding rogue frequencies in a venue. Fluke 77 multimeter—indispensable. AC checker—also indispensable. Then I have an old Sennheiser MD 421-II vinyl box that I keep a mini toolkit in: soldering iron, solder, solder wick, some wire, and some wire strippers.
—Karl Winkler (VP of sales, Lectrosonics)
A Qbox and headphones. The rest is attached to your neck.
—Chuck LaMar (head sound, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
Rupert Neve Designs DI box. Neutrik minilyzer and minirator. Leatherman. Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème. TC Electronic 2290. Taco and quesadilla ingredients. (By the way, the quesadilla story is from a Sting tour: In addition to FOH, I was also the tour bus cook, and they loved my quesadillas; I had to make them with local ingredients from wherever we were for the show. I still make them.)
—Wes Maebe (Sting, UB40, Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant, Celine Dion, Chaka Khan, Ellie Goulding)
Radial Pro DI 2, Qbox, XLR turnarounds, Jewelers kit, Hosa cable tester, spare 57 and 58, Sony headphones, Leatherman, Kershaw knife, Nitecore Flashlight, and my IEMs. Why? Because the minute you don't have one of them on the job, that's when you're going to need one. Even if I'm not carrying my pelican with me, I take this list with me in a backpack.
—Ryan Tolzman (Central Live Church; Melanie Martinez; Audiotopsy; Rodney Atkins)
A reliable DI is an absolute must for me. Radial has a bunch of terrific options starting at $99. Honestly, though, I've been using a $15 Pyle DI for the past year and haven't seen any issues.
—Justin Murrill (freelance engineer)
A flashlight is the single most used item in my toolkit for 30-plus years. It's required in my live sound class at the college and the midterm contains a list of gig bag items with a couple of things purposefully missing.
—Dana Jae (DCJ Produtions; instructor, City College of San Francisco)
A good recording of music you know and like and that won't offend anyone in the venue, a Shure SM58 mic, a pair of reliable headphones, and an open mind for when you walk into any situation that doesn't have all the tools you would like to have.
—Mike Aug (StageWorks; Technical Lead, Outdoor Events, The 58th Presidential Inauguration)
SMAART Live, an acceptable DI, and headphones and some music that isn’t your phone are all great. But an extra pair of socks, breath mints, a thumb drive with as many starting points as there are digital consoles (unless you just love starting from scratch!), a spare prepaid cell phone (that your wife has the number to), and a hidden stash of $100, just in case.
—Michael Faber (Mike's Flathead Producfions; The Ethnos Group; Desert Entertainmnet)
Wisdom, humor, and a good attitude.
—Drew Consalvo (production manager, monitor engineer, Amos Lee)
What’s in your touring toolkit? Let us know at LiveSoundAudio@gmail.com.
Sarah Jones is a writer, editor, and content producer with more than 20 years' experience in pro audio, including as editor-in-chief of three leading audio magazines: Mix, EQ, and Electronic Musician. She is a lifelong musician and committed to arts advocacy and learning, including acting as education chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, where she helps develop event programming that cultivates the careers of Bay Area music makers. As a new contributing editor to Live Design, Jones will be focused on covering the live pro audio market segment.