How many freelance stagehands does it take to plug in a cable? It sounds like the setup line of a joke, but it’s actually the subject of a recent discussion with a colleague.
At a gig a couple of weeks ago, he’d asked a freelance stagehand to plug in a cable at the back of a rack. It was dark, particularly in the recesses of the rack, and the stagehand couldn’t see the channel numbers (let alone the jacks).
Without a flashlight on his person, he asked to borrow one from another freelancer, who was similarly unequipped but at least was able to finally track one down from yet another stagehand.
My colleague was incredulous that it took three people to simply plug in one cable, all due to the lack of carrying the most common, basic tool. I’ve seen the same thing numerous times, and it’s due to either a lack of pride in the craft or having never been informed that they should insure that certain tools are on hand at every gig (although, come on, please).
But, assuming the latter is the case, here we go. Tools fall into two categories. The first is what I call EDC (everyday carry) items, meaning bring them to every gig no matter what. The second is your own custom tool kit, loaded with specialty items like meters, larger hand tools, and other particular things.
Let’s focus on what should be a part of an EDC:
Photo ID – Not technically a tool, but required for access to certain venues.
Pen and paper pad – There are always notes to write and forms to fill out.
Sharpies (indelible markers) – Black and a few colors for ID markings.
ID/board tape – Actual board tape is best, but lighter-colored electrical tape can also do in a pinch, and is also handy for marking cables and securing larger cable coils.
Smartphone – The phone part is only to be used for work-related calls, but the real value comes from the access to the internet for gear manuals, apps like tone generators and SPL meters, and as a backup music playback source.
Work gloves – No matter how high up the food chain you may be, odds are you’re going to help load, build, or push something.
Flashlight – Heard about this one somewhere before? It should be a mini Maglite or better. (I carry a Pelican 2360 on my belt and also have a mini Mag Solitaire on my key ring.)