Lessons about performing, lesson seventeen: Use your own equipment! (Ed. Note: Now edited to claim it has bonus content!)

You know what I’m doing. If you don’t, holy balls. Seriously… (Ed. Note: This is long. You have been warned. This is so long, it’s retarded.)(Ed. Note: Can I still call something “retarded?” ‘Cause it’s fucking retarded.)

Click the magical blue link, to see what I’m doing. Basically, I’m telling you how to be a professional performing musician. Nobody else tells you. I might as well. I wasn’t doing anything better.

Y’know… The hardest thing, to writing these, is coming up with these damned intros. Seriously, they’re a pain in the ass. I never know what to say in them. So, you’ll get this:

The lesson I was going to share, I decided to first consult an expert and then I’m awaiting consultation with my lawyer. No, I’m not kidding. I want to tell you how to not die from electrocution, but I’m not sure I want to assume legal liability – or that any liability could be incurred.

So, if you never see that article, I have one word for you: Lawyer.

Also, if you never see that article, call a professional. Okay? I know you won’t listen, but I’m gonna be legally obligated to tell you that. Before drawing down 30,000 watts, ask a few questions from someone who knows what they’re talking about! (Ed. Note: This is why RSM is never gonna contact me to write for them. Good.)

That means you get this lesson – which isn’t substandard, it’s just not where it was meant to be. Sheesh!

(Also, I’m as shocked as you are that I’ve made it this far.)(Ed. Note: Me too!)

Rule #17: Use Your Own Kit!

No, don’t borrow a buddy’s guitar. No, don’t use the amps that were there for the last performer. No, don’t use the house PA system. Yes, there are exceptions. However, they are exceptional.

There are times, places, events, and situations where you’re forced to use gear that doesn’t belong to you. Let’s be honest, you don’t actually know what you’re doing with it each and every time. Neither do I.

Hell, I haven’t even got a clue how really to run our own sound and lights, or do the effects. Not a clue. It’s going to get even more out of my wheelhouse. There’s a lot you can do, for very little money.

My next stage is buying my own stage. (See what I did there? Pretty awesome, huh?)

I’m not sorry for that. (Ed. Note: Still not sorry.)

Seriously, I want to buy our own stage and then get a massive LCD screen and brackets and hang it to the rear. I want our lights to be in our designed locations. I want to hire people to load it and unload it. I’m also looking to combine this by hiring someone in a tech position – so if anyone’s looking to be a poor tech/roadie give me a shout. If you can do sound and crew roadies, that’d be even more awesome. It’s all regional, so there’s zero chance of it getting you anywhere big. (Ed. Note: Seriously, do consider sending me some details.)

Keep that in mind. You must already know what you’re doing. You must bring more than just the ability to set up a stage. I can get day laborers to do that. If you can supervise day laborers, that’s ideal – and then run effects and maybe be both a guitar and drum tech and willing to work for peanuts compared to what you could actually command with a real band. (Ed. Note: They will at least be shelled peanuts.)

LOL Sorry… I got distracted… I’m so not editing that out. (Ed. Note: He should have.)

Seriously – contact me. Probably by August, I’ll be ready for you – if things keep going the way they are going. Just know what you’re getting into and you need to know the industry well enough.

My point is, I want my own gear. I don’t want people using my gear, either.

This even works with on the mirco-scale. I don’t go fuck with the bassists amp head, and they don’t touch mine. I don’t use your guitar pedals, you don’t use mine. I don’t tune your guitar, you don’t tune mine. (Unless invited, of course. Never do it on stage unless it’s well rehearsed.)

If you’re going to play prior to another band taking the stage, plan on two drum kits on the stage. Plan on swapping guitars. You usually won’t have time to do a full change, sometimes, but use as much of your own gear as you can. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your own smaller stage. Which you’ll probably share with a lot of other acts – and might get time between artists to do a fairly large gear swap.

Sure as fuck don’t borrow a new guitar that you’ve never played before and then go out and play it for a live audience. No, using it at sound check wasn’t enough. Know your instrument.

If you’re renting gear, make them also come in and do the setup – pay the extra. You don’t know what you’re doing with it. (Unless you do, in which case ignore me.) However, odds are REALLY GOOD that you don’t have a clue and you’re just twisting knobs until something pops or until someone else figures out the problem.

You know who does know the equipment? The person in charge of it. That’s not you. If it is, I want to teach you a new word: Delegation.

You can’t be optimal at everything. Someone trained on the kit does a better job at running it and getting the most out of it. Know your guitar and know the rest of your job – whatever equipment that is. Know it intimately. Know how to fix it. That way, you really can give the lovely audience exactly what they are paying you to hear.

This was prompted way back when I was first starting this series. One of the guitar regulars decided he was gonna go pro. That’s what prompted this list.

He’d just plugged into the gear that was there from the night before when they’d had karaoke. The results were mixed, put it that way. My response was, “Don’t do that.” This lead to more and more talk and finally I was like, “I’m gonna write a list.” There was also the “Don’t sleep with bandmates” rule.

That’s how you get a giant fucking list, folks. If anything, blame him. He got this series started. It’s not really my fault! If you have to blame someone, blame him.

I’m not kidding. Do you fuck your best friend’s girlfriend? No? Then don’t bring his guitar on the stage – unless you’re intimately familiar with it and have played with it before. That’s not a euphemism! (Ed. Note: I like to think we’re pretty highbrow, on this here fancy site.)

I swear, if you show up on stage with a new instrument that you borrowed from a friend this afternoon? You’re leaving it in the truck. I don’t want to see you on stage with a brand new guitar, either. No, I don’t care who made it. Own it for, you know, at least a few hours before you lug it onto the damned stage.

There are exceptions, there are. There’s many types of gigs and many types of expectations. So, use your judgment but know your kit. Here’s an example:

I’ve played a borrowed guitar while doing blues in NOLA. I was there for a bit of other work. I was in a hotel but I was drinking at a different hotel’s bar. I had seen the band the night before and I decided to tell him I could play the blues. It’s probable that I was also mildly drunk.

He said I couldn’t. I said I’ll show you – but I don’t have my guitar. I showed him my fingertips and nails. He handed me his and said to play that. I played that. I presume I played him a bitchin’ solo, but that’s probably not true. I don’t actually remember what I played – it was probably a connection of standard blues riffs off a standard pentatonic minor. I don’t actually recall.

Anyhow… He told me to go back to my hotel, get my guitar, and that we go on at 8:00 sharp. I told him there’s no way I can be there at 8:00 if I go back to my hotel. We agreed this was a problem and probably had a drink. It’s just a guess, but that seems pretty likely.

He says, “Well, you can play Betsy’s* guitar. She won’t mind.” I played improve blues for the night and then got a bit buzzed. None of the kit was mine and I had very little time to play with it ahead of time.

Note: If you play guitar enough, your fingers will show it. I can tell if you’re a classical guitarist just by your fingernails. I can probably tell if you’re a bass player or a regular player.

It was fine and a great experience. He gave me $50 bucks and told me to come back the next time I wanted some drinking money – but to bring my own gear.

So, there are exceptions. Musicianship is knowing when and, the good rule of thumb is, “Use as much of your own equipment that you can.”

I might be conflating two situations. But this quote comes from that period of my life – and maybe the above episode. “Son, don’t ever tell a man you can play guitar unless you got your own guitar with you.” There’s a good chance that that’s just a figment of my imagination – as those were some blurry years.

Yikes! 1,200 words (disregard). Time to wrap this up (horrible lie). Stupid weed (truth)! I’m very verbose when I’m stoned. (Ed. Note: So I’ve noticed. I’m going to cheat and say this one has “Bonus Content!”)

I’m so happy y’all read these. I really am. I’m happy to give them for you. There’s some good things in the future for this site, I hope. We’ll see. (Ed. Note: I am the editor. Damn it!)

By now, you noticed we’ve even had guest contributions. That’s right, we’re fancy like that. Wanna help? They had the courage to do it first. Wanna write something? They opened the door for you. I ain’t scared, let me know what you want to write about and I’ll make room – so long as it’s guitar and music related, of course. It’s a bit of an approval process, but that’s ironed out well enough.

Thanks again for giving me the honor of your time and attention. You’re too kind, really. I just smash the keyboard and words come out. Until next time!

Shut up and play us a song!

[*] Betsy was the name of the prior owner of said guitar. That’s her real name (as far as I know) and the guitar has an interesting story, but not one that’s famous. The short version is that it belonged to a dead former spouse who used to play with him.

It was some hollow-body, and I’m thinking it was an early Washburn. Sadly, I don’t recall. It wasn’t a special guitar – except it was a special guitar to him. It was awesome to play it that night. I’d tell you the guy’s name, but I don’t recollect that either.

(I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that inebriation might be a cause for the memory holes.)

It was “King” something. I think it was a color and I think there was an adjective in front of it, or maybe a verb. Like “Crawling King Red?” If anyone knows him and would like to put them in touch with me (or can match this story to a name) I’d be much obliged. I have a few things I’d like to share with him. I’m skeptical that he’s even still alive, but I can hope.

Anyhow, I figured I’d skip telling this part of the story up above and place it down here. It’s like bonus content, except it’s also kind of a ping in the dark, just to see if I can find out his name.

I also have the same offer extended to him that he once gave me. “Son, you can sit on my stage, anytime. That boy got the blues. Let’s get him to give it to us one more time.” (Which I think is close to verbatim.) He’s pretty old, by now. I’ll wheel that old man out myself, if I’ve gotta. He can get on my stage, anytime.

I tell you what, if someone can find him – I’ll tell you the nickname he gave me and used for me when I was on stage, and I’ll tell you the story behind it. Deal? (Ed. Note: We need to cut this off. It’s long enough, but I hope you enjoyed it.)

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