When Good Gear Goes Bad

by Stu Chisholm

You arrived at the venue with time to spare. Set-up was a breeze and the first of the wedding guests begin trickling in early. It’s showtime! You kick on the power and… nothing. The computer won’t boot. Or maybe everything comes on, but there’s no sound. Or the computer doesn’t recognize the hard drive. Or…

Today’s robust software and heavy-duty ruggedness of today’s DJ gear can give a DJ a false sense of security.

Road Trips

When a piece of equipment or a whole system doesn’t work one night when it was just fine the night before, it is likely that something happened during the trip.

The amp that wasn’t properly road-cased took a bad bump, or the console didn’t go forward when your trailer did and banged into the back door.

I once had an amplifier that was mounted in a nice SKB road case, but it was on a Rock-N-Roller® cart standing on end and, when another case was moved, simply fell flat. It was a seemingly minor fall, but it was enough to make me drag out my back-up.

Truck Packing

It’s a fact that more gear is damaged in-transit than in any other way. To prevent such mishaps, I borrow from the expertise of movers.

Have your van or trailer equipped with E-Track or cargo rails that you can attach bungee cords or cargo control straps to. These are like safety belts for your gear! Make sure that all of your equipment is mounted into a decent road case.

Next, practice “truck packing,” which basically means to pack your cases tightly together with little or no spaces in-between. This way, they will move with your vehicle as a solid unit.

Unless you’re actually using a commercial-sized truck with road cases specifically built to truck specs, this might be tough to do. In this case, pick up some moving blankets at your local U-Haul® or Penske® dealer. Don’t allow in-vehicle movement to even be possible!

Place Your Gear in the Pre-Fallen Position

Also, avoid stacking anything until there is no more room on the lowest level. Put everything in the “pre-fallen” position. I’ve also found great uses for the largest Velcro® straps! They are perfect for securing things like truss sections, speaker and lighting stands that aren’t in hard cases.

Use Loctite® Liberally

Loctite is a bit like nail polish.  You put it on the threads of bolts/screws and it lightly glues them into place.  They can still be removed, but it takes a bit of effort.  Better than having them come off by themselves and having to root around in your car/van/truck trying to find the thing.

The forces in a moving vehicle can be mind-boggling! Keep this in mind when transporting pre-assembled items, such as a lighting truss. Use liberal amounts of Loctite® on screws, bolts and even fuse holders.

Since I store my hand trucks and carts in my vehicle, I also use Loctite on those, too. You don’t need a wheel falling off of your cart as you try to bring your gear into a banquet hall!

Foam is Your Friend

One more thing I keep handy is a selection of foam pads and blocks. Yoke-mounted lights can still move, and if they rock back and forth, they might even come loose entirely.

A block of foam underneath them will keep them from moving and you won’t be searching around the trailer for those nice bolts that literally unscrewed themselves.

As entertainers who depend on our gear, it’s not enough to simply have some back-up gear on hand. We must also make sure that it survives the trip each and every time without fail! Get to know the people at your local moving company and your gear – and nerves – will thank you!

Want to SEE what I’m talking about in this article? Then check out this video by Robert Spera.

Stu Chisholm – The Complete Disc Jockey

Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan, has has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.