After reading Martin Atkin’s book, entitled Tour Smart, a lot of things came to mind, and as such, I’ll be periodically posting tourtips. These are things I picked up the hard way, both as a touring musician, but also a engineer involved with industrial tradeshows. The number of parallels between the two of them are amazingly close, albeit tradeshow wise, we had a ton more funding than I ever did as a musician. Otoh, the headaches are very much the same.
Tourtip #1 Be careful of weight distribution, total weight, and physical size
Its a real temptation to try and make things simple, by using oversize storage and transit containers, ie custom made Anvil cases. Ie, rather than having to deal with tons of crates, if one has just a few… its easier to manage and faster… hopefully.
Well, we had the proverbial coffin box, which held microphone stands and booms, and another case for base plates. Having the base plate box detoured to a undisclosed location one night, we had the brilliant idea to repack them as one… all in the coffin box. Well, that made what was normally a 200lb box, into a 400 pounder, or at least it felt that way. Sure, it had wheels, but it still required lifting over different surfaces, and we didnt have a hydraulic lift gate. As long as we could manuever a ramp, no problem, but it doesnt always work out that well. So… one night, we were short on load out crew, and we had this 400 pound crate… and managed to loose it while loading. Pretty amazing damage what a case like that can do in such a short period.
Another issue is weight distribution… sure, you have the load out check sheet, but when its raining & dark, the telescopic loading bay lights are out, and the loading curtains are leaking, speed is key. The last thing you need is weight distributed up high in the truck, add in high winds… and it can be interesting. I still remember fighting it for hours, and my buddy behind told me later, I thought sure, you were going to roll… If it means getting things in order for load out back on the stage, take the time to do it. The checklist is not just to make sure everything is in the truck, but that weight distribution is also considered (or in some cases, that it all fits). The same applies to a trailer… and I should have learned that back in high school, when our trailer went over a cliff. Sure, the welds were bad, but had it been loaded properly, its unlikely it would have separated like it did.
Physical size can also come back to bite… Its no fun playing a small venue, only to find out you have to unload the cases outside, as they wont fit through the door. Or worse, getting charged huge oversize fees when you get to the airport. Granted, if one stays with Anvil, or most other pro cases, most of the sales guys will call you out on this… but if you DIY to save money, this is something one must definitely consider.