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Brett McCarronPitch In!
Lend a hand to help your band

By Brett McCarron

It's the little things that count. Some extra effort on your part can reap huge rewards down the road.

The idea for this article comes from Matt G. in Baltimore, who's frustrated about the time he spends packing up after the show. Like most bands, after the encore, it's "every man for himself," in the mad frenzy to tear down, load out, and get home as quickly as possible. Matt writes that he could use some help, but it never seems to happen. He's always the one last band member to leave the venue, since he has to pack up his guitar rig and the PA system. What advice can I offer Matt and his band?

Matt, I hear you. I've been there and done that. Let's look at some advice I've given other bands during my management career, and what we're doing in my present band.

  1. Ask. Since your band mates don't help, they may assume that you're content with the status quo. Before the next gig, ask if you can get a volunteer or two to help with the tear down and load-out.

  2. Teach... your children well. The first time or two, you may actually be less productive, since you'll be instructing your helper(s) how to properly and safely tear down your gear. Not to worry, it'll be worth the effort both for you and your crew. Do you want your cables doubled over to a particular size, or round-wrapped? Cable ties, twist-ties, or tied in a loose knot? Or do you want to wrap cables, and need your helper(s) to toss them into a pile? Clamps on lighting trusses finger-tight when they're taken apart, or left loose for easy assembly at the next show? Do you remove gels from the PAR lamps or leave them on?

  3. No man (or woman) left behind. Try the "caravan" approach. The parade of band vehicles doesn't leave the venue until the last vehicle is loaded. This is most practical when the gig is out of town. Not only does this ensure that you get the help you need, it also promotes safety and camaraderie. If one of the vehicles should happen to break down on the way home, there won't be a shortage of help to wait for assistance or to off-load equipment into the other vehicles in case the broken vehicle needs to be towed to a repair facility. I know that I wouldn't want to leave a van full of expensive gear parked along the road after a gig. I doubt that any of your bandmates do, either.

  4. Who has the biggest camel? One band I was in had a drummer with a cargo van. When I mentioned that we couldn't bring all of our PA cabinets to perform at a 600-seat club, the drummer volunteered to carry them for me. Before long, this arrangement continued and got to the point where the other band members would put the largest PA cabs in a staging pile next to the drummer's gear.

  5. Off-load at the practice studio. If, after each load-out, try off-loading the gear to the practice studio. This ensures that everyone will be meeting at this location after the show. It also helps with the logistics, since now you have extra vehicles to carry some of the gear (since everyone's meeting at the studio anyway). When you arrive at the studio, you'll now have extra hands to carry in the gear. Save the studio set-up for later, since everyone's tired.

  6. When your take-down and load-out is finished, offer to help someone else. All it takes is one person to do this, then the other band members will ask, too. Not everyone will take advantage of your offer to help, but if you have extra time (after setup or tear down) or extra room in your vehicle (after you've loaded your gear), then offering to help is one of the nicest gestures you can make.

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