The natural enemy of the gigging musician apart from pissed punters who fall over foldback wedges and onto the stage (oh that’s another whole story)… is STAIRS!
For those of us who are in smaller to medium sized bands and have to lug our own gear, nothing can make our hearts sink faster than being confronted with a heap of stairs when we arrive at the gig. Apart from doing a wedding and finding that the seating arrangement places all the elderlies on the table in front of the PA, including crabby old aunt Bessie and her equally cantankerous husband who thinks anything over 50 decibels is an abomination and usually starts complaining at the second song of the acoustic dinner music set. Anyway I digress…
Stairs… now some of us played the Cockpit at Essendon Airport and had to lug double 4 ways, amps, instruments, lights etc. up those stairs on the outside, and many other gigs that required the same effort. One of the funniest… thank goodness we can look back on this and laugh… is a gig we did at a restaurant up in the Dandenongs. Inside is set up like a mediaeval dining hall with balconies that run around the top and look down into the main room. They wanted the band to set up on the balcony which was a long way above the audience. The access was via a narrow winding set of wooden stairs that split at the top allowing access to either side of the balconies. With our gear, we had to set up the bass player on one side with his amp and one front of house speaker and the singer and myself with the amp racks and the other FOH speaker etc. on the other. Apart from the lug up the stairs, it was a very hard gig because of the difficulty interacting with the audience. One of the more bizarre gigs we have done.
Lifts… well they’re better but still require some managing, especially if you’re sharing it with punters or other members of the public. Stacking all the gear with a little walkway at the bottom before loading the lift to within an inch of its life and hoping the thing is still able to move. Fighting with the automatic doors is a challenge while the big metal box beeps continuously telling you “time’s up, I wanna move”. So you plonk the heaviest amp rack in the doorway and the bugger is still often able to move it.
Only a couple of months ago we did a gig in Mornington where we were confronted with a really long escalator. Well it turned out to be great fun as one of us was at the top to get the gear off and a couple at the bottom. We had to place the gear carefully on a step so it wouldn’t topple back down so the item would be placed then you had to run back the wrong way to get off before you were taken too far.
So if you don’t have roadies and you’re confronted with stairs, I really feel for you. Sadly many venues have not been designed with the muso’s in mind. In fact I reckon that many have been designed to make our life very much harder… Anyone who has played the Hotel Sofitel will know what I mean. Why you have to lug gear up lifts then half a mile and through service corridors and kitchens amazes me.
Anyway, that’s my vent. I guess I’ll still have to suck it up if I want to play. If you’re booking a band, let ‘em know that there are stairs so they can get there a little earlier, and don’t be surprised if they add a few bucks to the price. They have spent extra time and worked extra hard just to perform for you.
Rock on and keep music LIVE.