Bill’s Tips – #2: Playing Live – When Something Goes Crash, Bang, Wallop…

Any amount of things can go pear-shaped during a gig; breaking strings, playing badly, technical issues that aren’t your fault and you can’t do anything about and techinical issues that are your fault and it’s up to you to sort, if possible.

I had one of the last on that list the other night.  The footswitch I use for telling the laptop what to do downed its tools and refused to co-operate, I thought.  It had crapped out totally the previous gig and reverted to childhood, lost it’s programming.

I thought the same thing had happened again.  Pressed buttons, tweaked them around the place, flexed the cable a bit.

Nothing.  Dead as a dodo.

Not an insurmountable problem that night, as my set was short enough and I was able to get through it by not playing certain songs.  Not an ideal solution, but I was happy enough.

Turns out that the reason it wasn’t working was because it wasn’t plugged in.

D’oh!

Happens all the time though.  I remember a friend of mine was doing sound for a gig and couldn’t get a peep out of the pa.  Checked leads, speakers, desk, everything.  Nothing.  Couldn’t figure it out.  Until he realised he’d turned the amp on, but hadn’t turned the volume up.

Sickening.

SO.  When you’re faced with a piece of gear that’s not behaving itself:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Check the really simple, stupid stuff – is it turned on?  Is it turned up?  Is it plugged in?
  3. Have a plan B.  A workaround.
  4. If all else fails, be able to stand on a table in the middle of the venue and do a totally unplugged gig.

I’ve had to do number 4. at least once, that I can remember, when doing a small side stage at a festival and all their power blew.  Turned into great fun, even if it was all in the dark  ;-)

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