Wednesday 17 March 2010

Awesome rack, dude

To Camden, to see 50-Foot Woman at Tommy Flynn's. Supporting them were a rather prog-tinged band whose name I confess I can't recall. I think I was aware of the guitarist changing instrument at some point but it was not until after their set was over that I realised how much, frankly redundant, axe capacity they had had on stage—two band members came nudging their way through the crowd carrying a steel rack with a least three guitars on it (OK, not quite as many as the one pictured here, but you get the point). Shortly after that they came through again carrying another rack with at least three basses on it. I'm sure I don't remember the bass player switching planks during the set, but perhaps I was just not paying enough attention. Surely I would have heard the difference, though? Afraid not.

I used to play a set with a band called The Peaches where I would switch from fretted to fretless bass halfway through, play a few numbers, then switch back. I would have thought the difference between the two would justify the change (as opposed to, say, switching from one model of fretted bass to another). But I remember one gig when, as I unplugged one instrument and plugged in the other, one of the singers (the band was fronted by twin sisters) said, "There will be now be a brief pause while Clayton changes bass."

Some wag called out, "Why?"

And I realised that if he had to ask then I couldn't really answer.

I think it's fine to do all manner of finessing the sound if you want to, but if it holds up the show then it probably isn't worth it. After all, the vagaries of the PA and the room—and the competence and attitude of the sound guy—are going to make far more difference.

As for the rack, it did make me think that maybe I should have a couple of roadies to carry my tie rack on and off stage. Perhaps a hatstand too.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Putting the "hard" into hardware

What is it about drum hardware that makes it so unpleasant to carry?

Being the only member of the band with wheels, I spend a lot of my time humping chromed lumps from my car to the venue to the car and back into my attic, which is the only place in my crowded house where I can keep them.

Calculating exactly how many flanged, threaded and knurled items of ironmongery you can carry in one hand while climbing up and down a ladder makes you highly aware of this primordial fact: however sensible your grip seems to be when you pick one of these things up, before you are halfway to wherever you are carrying it it will be pinching a finger or pressing painfully on some knobbly protrusion you didn't even know you had till then. It sounds trivial, I know, but it's really weird how universal this is. It's not the weight—it's the almost sentient ability to seek out your most vulnerable pressure points.

Serious drummers know this, of course, and keep all their hardware in coffin-like cases. But without a van to put it in (I have to thread individual stands among the seats at the back of my car), or indeed anyone to help me carry stuff most of the time, this is but a distant dream.

In the meantime, why don't manufacturers built these things with handles?