I leave tomorrow morning at 4am for the Worship Arts Leadership Institute Summit in Houston where I’ll be leading two workshops on “Tones, Tools, & Tips in Worship”. Normally I don’t stress about travel gigs, but two things have me anxious about this one.
The first is that I’m teaching a workshop on tone- and normally I’d be just fine with that except for the fact that I have to backline (or borrow) much of the amps and guitars that I’ll need to create the tones. It takes some of the control out of my hands since I won’t be as intimately familiar with the gear as I would my own. The second thing that has me anxious is the fact that I’m bringing along some of my own valued gear and I am losing faith in the airlines with every trip I take. I’d love to carry on gear but there are strict regulations about the size and quantity of carry-ons so much of my equipment will sit in the belly of the plane while I’m making the 3-hour trek from SoCal to Houston. I have had the most random stuff stolen from my luggage while it’s in the hands of airline personnel and I’m experiencing some anxiety about everything making it to the workshop (and back home next week).
So, in an attempt to calm myself down, I’ve made a list of tips that will act as pacifiers and to make me less of a vain and fragile guitar player.
1. Pack a Woobie. A Woobie is a token, item, or keepsake that acts as your safe-place. Lots of kids hang on to a teddy bear or a blanket. Guitar players are just grown up children, so it stands to reason that you’ll need a Woobie as well. Mine is my good luck Jimi that sits on the board.
2. Have something to talk about. Normally on a gig, part of my anxiety comes from a fear that it’ll become a head-cutting contest. I don’t want people to stand there (or sit there) with their arms folded while they evaluate my playing for better or worse. A lot of times, you can break the ice by having a conversation piece. I’m bringing some of my buddy’s instructional videos because it’ll take the focus off of me for a minute, gets him some exposure, and generally gives me something to discuss other than the gig that I’m on. Remember that the biggest part of being a sideman or working musician is NOT your technique and/or mad guitar skillz. It’s your ability to be a cool person to hang with.
3. Have more than one purpose. My main purpose for being in Houston is for the workshops, but a secondary purpose is for me to beta test a new guitar on the road and in multiple gigging environments. If I am in town for one purpose and one only, it puts a lot of pressure on that one event to be perfect. Even if the workshops hit some snags, then I can still feel like the road-test of the Tyler Variax was successful.
4. Bring more than you need. I try to make it a point to show up early and to be more than prepared. I’ll bring more guitars than I need, back up tubes, sometimes a back up amp, an extra shirt or jacket, gaffer’s tape, extra cables, a toolkit, and some dry snacks like peanuts or granola bars to most of my gigs. The last thing I want is to forget some little-yet-integral part of my rig and have it psychologically spin me out for the whole show. If part of being a good musician and a good hang is being calm, then I need to know that I have the tools to cover any unexpected situations. Luck favors the prepared, and the desire to succeed is useless without the willingness to prepare.
5. Lastly, if you are backlining gear, then bring some items that you know inside and out. I may not have my full ego-rig pedalboard with me, and I may not have my beloved Egnater MOD50 with me, but I will be bringing along two guitars that I know intimately well. Sometimes the variables can be overwhelming but if you have a few personal pieces of gear over which you have complete control, it puts you back in the driver’s seat and boosts your confidence.
From the kitchen,
-The Tone Chef