October 24th, 2011 – I think I’ve forgotten something…

The offending article.

It’s a musician’s nightmare. In fact, I refer you, dear reader to a post written by my esteemed colleague, Mark Goggins, where he describes something which in some ways was much worse than what happened to me yesterday evening.

It’s made worse by the fact that I sat in silence (to the consternation of Mrs. F) thinking hard about exactly what I needed and whether I had it in the car. I was utterly confident that I had everything. This feeling makes my nauseous almost every time I pack the car, and the further away I’m going the worse I feel. I have everything in separate boxes to what I use in the studio for this very reason – cables, pedals, adaptors, even keyboards! I double up on everything, so that all the ‘gig’ stuff goes in one box, in a cupboard and I know I don’t have to strip anything down to get things I need for the gig. It doesn’t stop me second, third and fourth guessing though, and I never lose that feeling of horror that something may have been left behind. Even if I’ve just re-packed stuff from the night before I have the same feeling – just that something was left behind the previous night!

Each different type of gig has a slightly different set up but it’s all compartmentalised so it’s OK. There’s one box which I know has to be checked for music every time – it’s dual purpose but all the gear is the same, just different dots for different gigs, so I always check that one.

Problems only arise with my electric piano. It’s brilliant so gets used for all sorts of things. I have a flight case and a gig bag. The gig bag fits the music stand, the power cable and the pedal, the flight case only fits the power cable and the music stand. If I do some gigs, I take a box which has two pedals in it. On most gigs I take a bag of clothes, which then normally houses the pedal.

I know you know where this is going. I didn’t need a bag of clothes yesterday and I didn’t use the box with the two pedals in it. I did get to the gig and realise I didn’t have the pedal. Only the piano playing readers of this will fully appreciate what this means. In some situations it might be OK. Not in this one. The gig consisted of just me making the music, playing some complex modern musical theatre and some jazz. Oh, and doing it for two and a quarter hours.

The musical theatre stuff – lots of ballads mostly, is tough even with the pedal. Some of it is almost impossible without. Weirdly, the jazz stuff is easier, but I do have to keep the rhythm, play solos, fill in the harmony and play a walking bass line, all with no help from a bit of sustain. It was bloody hard work.

Given what I’d said about the gig yesterday, I thought I better just knuckle down and get on with it. I was asked if there was anything to avoid and I said no, I’ll just play everything, not whinge and everything will be OK.

It’s worth knowing that it’s not the first time this has happened, ironically on the same gig. It was miserable last time, but this time I thought I better just see it as a challenge and crack on. So I did. It was horrible, but I dug deep and it was OK. Just. I clearly need a new sustain pedal based strategy.

It reminds me of the time many years ago when I still connected master keyboards to sound modules via MIDI. Essentially, master keyboards don’t make noise by themselves and have to be connected by a very specific cable to another box, which can make noise when plugged into an amp. In a nutshell, I arrived at the gig, quite literally in the middle of nowhere, at an RAF base, set up and realised that I had no MIDI cable. In that situation, there’s literally no work around whatsoever. I was doing piano and bass on a split on the keyboard, so it would be vocals and drums (I think, it was a long time ago) which, whilst an interesting combo, wasn’t what they were after. Staggeringly, for such a small event, there was another band on. They had a keyboard player, and he had a MIDI cable, but only one, and he needed exactly one to make his gig work. More staggeringly still, despite them being several rooms away from us, they were on much later than us, so I borrowed the cable and everything was fine.

That was the start of my obsession with remembering gear, which I have now and will haunt my playing days until the day I throw my keyboards to the floor and walk out of the theatre, never to play again. It’ll happen one day, and I’ll be glad to lose the gear-based nausea.


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