My life as a roadie
I just got back from working a gig with The East Coast Party Band and thought I'd provide a glimpse into what I do on the weekends. The ECPB is an 8 piece band that plays beach music, cover tunes from the 60's-80's and other music appropriate for weddings, outdoor festivals, corporate parties, etc. They have a tight, well polished sound with a killer brass and rhythm section. Various members of the band have been together for over 30 years. I even went to high school with their bass player.
The band carries all the equipment to do an entire show in a 26' International truck. It's slightly smaller than the largest Ryder truck you could rent. It's painted with full color murals on both sides featuring the band members and acts like a giant billboard when out in public. It has a hydraulic lift gate on the back which is an absolute necessary.
We travel with a four man road crew. Our sound engineer arrives an hour or two after load-in starts. The band arrives shortly before show time. Only the four man crew is left after the gig to break down and load out.
The ideal setup is where we can back the truck up to the venue close to the stage location. Corporate gigs are usually held at a hotel, resort, country club, auditorium, etc. utilizing a loading dock and many times involve a freight elevator.
Larger events require more of the equipment but the basic setup remains the same for each show. Here's a list of what we set up.
Staging - We do not provide actual staging as the venues often have a built-in stage or rent it. We do however bring and utilize risers for the PA gear and musicians.
A large central carpet is first placed center stage and then the risers form an inverted U shape. The two (or more) PA risers are positioned as wings to stage left and stage right.
The right side of the U is the drum riser (stage left). Jerry, the drummer, is also a lead vocalist so he plays to the right side of the stage from the audience's perspective.
Musical Equipment - The drums consist of a six piece kit, five cymbals, hi-hat and double bass pedals. All drums are individually mic'd and mounted on a drum rack. We also add overhead and hi-hat mics.
On the left side of the U we set up a double keyboard stand and two electric piano keyboards. David wears a wireless head mic.
The back part of the U gets another double keyboard stand for a piano keyboard and organ. Jason also plays saxophone so he gets instrument stands and a wired mic.
Just to his left is the bass players position where we place Jack's bass speaker cabinet angled upward and sideways directly at his head. He also gets a wired mic and stand.
To the right of Jason we set Mike's guitar amp, angled in a similar manner. Positioning the amps in such a way reduces the volume each member needs to hear themselves and helps the sound engineer control the mix.
The open part of the U gets wireless hand-held microphones for Joel (lead vocal and trumpet) and Mark (lead vocal and sax). Beverly (backup vocal) gets a wireless head-worn mic. Next to Beverly we set up congas, chimes and other rhythm instruments with wired mics.
All brass instruments have their own wireless clamp-on mics. This give the musicians freedom to move around stage and even go into the audience to play.
Stage Monitoring - All the musicians utilize in-ear monitors. This allows the sound engineer to reduce the amount of actual sound coming from the stage and makes it easier to mix the band. Each band member has their own 8 channel monitor unit that their "ears" are plugged into that allows them to custom mix what they want to hear for themselves. This eliminates the traditional need for a separate "monitor tech" on stage. All this is controlled via a large monitor rack on stage that handles the feed for the "ears" and the hand-held or head-worn mics. Jack's bass guitar amp and the wireless mic receiver rack goes on top of the monitor rack.
Lighting - A standard show consists of elevated light stands supporting an eight light "tree" of standard PAR56 can lights with dimmer pack at each front corner of the stage (two trees of eight lights). We set up two pairs of "intelligent" lights, which are motorized reflector units that can be remotely controlled for lighting position, color, gobo effects, etc. For a full show we run a 20' aluminum truss with lights along the back of the stage and attach four more of these intelligent light units to the back lighting truss as well.
For additional visual effect a hazer (fog machine) is run during the show. When required, we also utilize a high intensity "follow spot" light that can be used to highlight individual musicians.
Power - Our setup requires a dedicated 70-100 amp 230 volt power source. Many times we do a direct tap into the main circuit panel which is fed to our own dedicated power distribution panel on-stage. This panel in turn feeds the amplifier racks, stage power for instruments, power for the front-of-house equipment and two separate sub-panel power drops for the lighting. This setup ensures that we have a stable power source, free of hums and other audio related issues. On occasion, venue power is provided by a diesel powered 70KW generator from a local rental company.
P.A. - All sound is controlled through an Allen-Heath GL4 48-channel analog mixing console. Three additional equipment racks containing effects processing gear and console power supplies are placed 75 to 100 feet from the stage and connected via audio and power cable snakes. An additional 100 feet of snake is available to enable routing of the cable to keep it out of the way as needed. The remote lighting controller console is run from here also.
Speakers - We set up one to three "stacks" of speakers on each side of the stage depending on the venue size and acoustics. A stack consists of a JBL 4732 mid/high range speaker cabinet on top of a JBL 4719 sub-woofer cabinet. Each stack is powered by a dedicated amplifier rack (4 amplifiers/rack) with a maximum power rating of 8400 watts. For large outdoor events we have the capability of providing over 22,000 watts of sound.
So the bottom line is, excluding travel time, it takes 3-5 hours for load in/setup and around 2 hours for breakdown / load out. I also provide backup sound/lighting support during the show so a typical day for me is around 12-14 hours.