Here we are in April and, for most large and small sound and staging companies and our teams, it’s time to get ready for the outdoor season. You’ve likely spent the late fall and winter resting up from last summer’s fests and shows, while cleaning gear, painting cabinets and doing the all-important, down-time maintenance.
If you’re the company’s new guy, you’ve likely been told to start scraping some type of dried human funk off the cables, cases and racks.
Those of you who are lucky enough to have purchased new equipment during this time are probably busy learning the cumbersome menus of a new digital mixer, experimenting with new settings on that speaker management processor and even doing some tests on those new speaker rigs that will be deployed at the many festivals during the coming months.
In a matter of just days, it’ll be time to start the real work. But this is the fun part. Seeing all your hard work during the past several months being successfully used on stage by local and national acts is a great feeling. The sound, the looks and the positive comments are why we do this. Yeah, I know, the money is kind of important too. As much as our family and friends might think we do this for the love of it, we also realize we do this for a living.
Having worked as a crew member, stage manager, sound engineer and company owner, I’m continuously amazed at what I see the crews and employees do to themselves during the busy season. Let’s not forget that we have heavy lifting, harsh weather, ear-damaging volume, ungrateful audiences, porta-potties and more to deal with on a daily basis . I think you’d agree that what we put ourselves through is rough, taxing and seems to make us old quicker than many other career choices. And don’t get me started on the food… festival food… under-cooked burgers, barbecued everything and God knows what’s in that deep-fryer…? Why does my deep-fried ice cream kinda taste like fish?
So in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d toss out a few tips and reminders to help us get through, be safe and have more fun in this sometimes harsh outdoor festival environment.
Bring a survival kit and cooler. Too often I see rookies show up for work with just the clothes on their back. By the end of a hot and humid day, these young and strong individuals are sometimes useless, smell bad, have sunburn and they seem to frequently disappear, often having found the love of a certain outdoor toilet. So, he’s what I pack and bring..
- A couple changes of clothing
- Back brace
- Extra socks & shoes (changing your socks can revive sore feet and a tired back)
- Bug repellent
- Antacid & anti-diarrhea meds
- Work gloves (ones with sticky-grip palms can help for lifting those slick cabinets)
- Sun glasses
- Ear protection
- Jacket (cuz it can get cold at night)
- Disposable rain poncho
- Energy bars, crackers, granola (snacks with salt and sugar)
- Lots of cold water (bring a small cooler)
- Juice or clear soda (try to avoid caffeine as it can dehydrate you)
- Flashlight, pocket knife or Leatherman
- Breath mints (for the benefit of your coworkers)
- Anti-fungal (yes guys… for your feet and that other area)
- Eye drops or wash
- Wet wipes or baby wipes
- Extra cash, your ID (do I really need to tell you this?)
I know you’re thinking “this guy wants me to bring my luggage to work”. Yup! Bring anything that will make you feel comfortable and allow you to work better and safer. Don’t wear a tank top. All that exposed skin can assist in getting sunburn on more areas. Plus they look unprofessional. Who the hell wants to see your arm pit hair, etc. My employees get sent home if they show up for work wearing one of these. Frankly, you just need to act and look like you give a shit.
Lastly, let me discuss dehydration, overheating & heat stroke Web MD: Heat Exhaustion . I can’t stress the importance of staying hydrated. Having been a victim of heatstroke, I can tell you it’s scary and can kill you. It will get the best of you and make you drop before you realize it’s too late. And it can get you even when you think you’re sufficiently hydrated. Some years ago I was working at a local fest doing sound and thought I was properly hydrated. However, the 100+ temps combined with 90% humidity kicked my ass. I woke up in an ambulance not understanding what had happened.
A week-long stay in the hospital taught me a valuable lesson….. water, water, water. My doctor told me to look at my urine. If there is any color to it, I’m not drinking enough water or fluids. Absolutely stay away from coffee, energy drinks and caffeinated drink. They will all contribute to your being dehydrated. Please notice I didn’t mention sports drinks in my list above, like Gatorade. While they have their purpose, continuously slamming these will only give you diarrhea, which also contributes to dehydration. I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing worse than having this issue and having to live in a hot, smelly porta-potty. It’s not a good time. Don’t think that by power-driving Gatorade, you’re doing yourself any favors.
Lastly…. Alcohol consumption is also a factor in contributing to dehydration. I guess the more important question would be why you’re drinking on the job?
But I’ll leave that answer to the shrinks. As a business owner, my rule for the crew was, that on nights when there is no tear down involved, you can have a beer after the last set of the last band has started. Though through the years, I’m always pleased to see that very few of my employees had any desire to “drink” after a day of festival sound, lights and stage turns dealing with musicians. For most of us, the end of the work day meant going home, taking a long shower and collapsing in bed in hopes of a good night’s sleep. Remember, you likely have to do the whole thing again tomorrow….
Thanks for reading and listening to me and my motherly ways. Be safe out there this festival season. It’s a great job, of which many are envious.