Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Traveling Guitar Player

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time trying to answer one of the age old questions that every traveling musician struggles with; what do I bring out on the road to reproduce my sound in a live setting without breaking the travel expenses bank? It is a quandary.
Frankly, it has been awhile since I enjoyed traveling as an electric guitarist, but not because I have lost my spark for playing guitar. Anyone who understands me knows that I love to play guitar live. It is a magical experience to be standing alongside your friends making memories. However, I was growing to HATE the hassles involved in moving gear farther than a realistic car or bus ride would afford in the performance budget.
Thinking through this blog entry has reminded me of an almost disastrous festival performance I played last year. On paper this should have been a really enjoyable gig. Travel, play a one-off show, go to some meet and greets, and see the local sights for a fun-filled long weekend in a resort town in a distant, far off land. What could be better?
Well, let me tell you. Normally, my back line rider would have accounted for all my gear needs in an adequate way. At the time I was requiring a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, or equivalent, as my amp of choice; pretty standard stuff. Any respectable music shop in the country has something that fits the bill.
However, this time around the budget did not allow enough money to include a rental for my specific amp needs. You see, this venue was a couple hours off the beaten path of the big city. For this reason, I was being told that the rental cost was going to come out of my portion of the performance monies. That is, someone was going to have to drive the two hours each way to rent an amp for me. The cost of gas, and someone's time was going to be added on to the actual rental cost of my gear. Put another way, I was going to be paying money to play this gig. "You're kidding, right???!!!" It really should not have been my problem, but guess what, I was being told it was...
So, enter my re-occurring nightmare; what am I going to play through? Well, a kindhearted friend of the venue offered me a loaner. Great, right? Unfortunately, what sounded good over the phone soon showed itself to be a real problem. The amp turned out to be "a little spotty." SPOTTY!!!??? It was not working right up to show time. In fact, literally five minutes before show time I was out on stage, behind the curtains, cursing the capacitors to get their wires in order!!!
I can smile now. Everything turned out fine. The show went on. The amp magically kicked in just as the sound guy was telling me to "deal with it... the curtains are coming up!"
So, back to header topic: The Traveling Guitar Player. I just don't have it in me to deal with this kind of stuff any more. (Insert a LOL!!!) Of course I do... but what kind of alternatives are out there for me to try and bypass the headaches?
Lately, I've decided to go in a totally different direction. The amp I have been traveling with is the exact item I am typing this blog on, an iPad. WHAT? That's right, an iPad.
Technology being what it is I can now sling my messenger bag, iPad safely tucked inside, over my shoulder and hop on a plane with all my amps digitally simulated in not one, but three amp simulator programs that run on it. Within those programs I can choose over 30 different types of amps to use depending on what my specific needs are for an individual gig.
I know, I know... "it's just not the same" you might say. That's true. It is not. There is no substitute for playing through a real tube amp. However, to the people sitting in the audience listening there is no difference. That's right, I said it. In fact, in many cases the sound quality is actually better because the sound man just takes a direct signal feed off of the iPad and turns up my preset sounds through the sound system. Simple. No hassles. Done.
And people call me an old dog... Well anyway, I'm going to have to put down this amp, I mean iPad, for a bit. My shoulder is getting tired!
Maybe this traveling guitar player thing isn't so bad after all. Hey, who's got the keys to the rental car? :)
All the best,

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