Ah, the stimulating chaos of constant activity: live vocal performances with my band, writing orchestral music for film and TV, a weekly jazz piano residency, and recording a new album. There’s so much going on, I can’t afford to lose time when I’m at a gig! So, here’s what I really have to have in my gig bag…
1. My own CDs
It’s important to remember that you’re playing gigs to promote yourself and your songs and without having a CD to sell (or even to give away if you wish) people will start to forget your songs in only a day’s time. I know many artists who only sell via digital downloads but in my experience, most people who turn up to gigs tend to forget to go online and order your latest release when they get home; they’re more than happy to buy a CD at the end of the gig. CDs also make you more money than downloads and let’s face it, for most musicians starting out cash is something that’s often in short supply.
2. TC-Helicon’s Harmony-G
I’m often playing at venues where there is little or no setup time; the Harmony-G ensures that I have great sounding vocals every time (providing the sound guy isn’t still at the bar and has forgotten to un-mute my mic channel). It’s ridiculously easy to use and the effects sound great for live use. In fact I’ve played gigs where the sound guy has heard it in the sound check and asked if he could use it for the support bands as it sounded better than his outboard gear.
3. Pedal Power Supply
I still can’t believe how many guitarists I see who still rely on batteries for their effects pedals. There’s really nothing interesting about watching a man change a battery on stage in the middle of a set. Or worse still, I’ve known pedals that, when the battery runs out, won’t even send a signal through them when you turn them off; you’re left half way through a song with no guitar coming through and a guitarist frantically trying to re-wire his entire setup into some tangled mess of leads in a vain attempt to get the sound back. Buying a good quality power supply really is an essential investment.
4. Spare Tubes (“Valves” in UK lingo)
I tried a few years back to embrace modern technology and go for a solid-state amp, but you just can’t beat the sound of an old vacuum tube (valve) amp cranked up to within an inch of its life. I mostly play through an old Laney boutique amp stack with a 1×12 cab. It’s only 20w but when it comes to tube (valve) amps, you need nowhere as many watts as you would with a solid-state amp. The same goes for when I’m recording vocals in my studio; I have a couple of valve microphones that I like to use so that the natural coloration of the valves enriches the natural tone of my voice.
(Oh, and don’t forget a screwdriver to get the back panel off – I tried my guitar pick once after forgetting one and all I ended up with was a broken amp and a broken pick!)
5. BBE Freq Boost
When “10” just isn’t enough volume, this pedal lets you go to “11”, maybe even “12”. This pedal is essential for boosting my guitar during solos and riffs. Unless you have a sound guy who’s not at the bar chatting up some drunken girl every two minutes and knows your song arrangements well enough to turn you up for your solos, this is definitely a must-have item.
Chris Kennedy is a singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist from Canterbury, UK. His music fuses intimate lyrics with a rich sound-palate telling tales of lovers, wanderers and misfits, set against the backdrop of 21st century Britain. Chris mostly performs his songs with his group The New Inventions. His 6th solo album, Until the Stars Start Falling is due for release in December.