almost every night. Usually, the cities and towns they performed in were many miles apart.
This meant hours of traveling to get from show to show. Therefore, it was important to follow
a specific schedule, or itenerary, which told them when to check in to their hotel, when to be
at the venue to load in the equipment, when to do sound check, when to have dinner and
finally, when to begin the show.
Now, I know as little about the business side of music (i.e. contracts, etc..)
as I do about running a hair salon. But I do know how to pack a van;
meticulously arranging each amplifier, strategically fitting each guitar and drum case
so that the weight is distributed properly and all available space is
The van is set up to seat six people comfortably: Four band members, a tour manager
and a roady. That leaves precious little space in the back for the equipment.
As a roady, my job was to see that it was all packed in, neatly and tightly,
after every show, and to see that it was done quickly so we could leave as soon as possible
in order to be well rested for the following day of travelling and performing.
With this objective in mind I'm sure that you can understand the necessity
for a well-organized, efficient routine for unloading the equipment, setting it up,
breaking it down and finally loading it back into the van after the performance.
For my first few shows I had no established guidelines on how the van was to be packed.
All I knew was that I had lots of equipment, a little bit of space, and five other people
hanging out and waiting for me to finish so we could leave.
At the time, I was addicted to a popular video game called Tetris.
As a result, I was suffering from something I call the "Tetris syndrome"; an obsessive,
"Tetris-Is-Everywhere" mind-set. I realized that there were some basic conceptual similarities
between the game and the task that I was facing. By facing this familiar challenge
I was able to turn a potentially frustrating and stressful situation into an entertaining
endeavor. The large things were the easiest to arrange. The smaller items, some being
somewhat less-than-symmetrical, posed the most difficulty. But with practice, I had soon
developed a comprehensive routine for quickly loading the equipment into the van.
Let us set the stage, so to speak:
The show has ended and everything has been taken down, disassembled and put away.
All the equipment is packed up and ready to go. The van is running and its back doors
are open, ready to receive the load. Fortunately for you, the Lone Roady, the club has
a few cooperative fellows on hand who have volunteered their muscles to help bring
the equipment to the van. Of course, as "the roady" you possess a few ranks
of authority over these guy, so just tell them the order in which to carry the equipment out,
and then point them to the van. Relax -- They'll do the rest.
Now that all the equipment is ready, it's time for you to commandeer the loading of the van.
Using my methods, the process should commence pretty smoothly.
(keep in mind that this refers to Dead Milkmen equipment,
so it won't apply to just any band)
First, the bass drum should go into the left hand corner, behind the back seat.
The tom tom case goes on top of this and should be pushed as far left as it will go.
The bass speaker cabinet goes behind these with enough room for the spare van tire behind
the wheel well. Now, the trap case is rolled alongside the drum cases and speaker cabinet.
One of the guitar amps will now fit beside the tom case, resting atop the bass drum
and trap case. There should now be a space perfectly sized for a small sampler disk case,
fitting snugly between the bass cabinet, guitar amp and tom case.
Next, the second guitar amp is rolled in beside the trap case, behind the right side
wheel well. The two snares will go in now; one between the wheel well and trap case,
the other on top of the wheel well. The sampler rests on its side on top of the trap case,
behind the first guitar amp. The keyboards should fit comfortably beside the sampler.
The keyboard amp is placed on its end behind the bass cabinet and pushed as far left as
it will go, with its wheels facing left. From here you can wing it, though you should
always put the bass guitar in last, across the back, adjacent to the rear doors.
This is done because the bass player always takes his guitar into
his motel room.
Of course, these specific guidelines probably do not apply to any other band.
But I'm certain that the basic concept for the process that I have described is
common and is repeated time and again. Countless numbers of bands are touring every day,
most with at least one roady to help the performances run more smoothly.
I'm willing to bet that every one of them has a routine much like my own.