If you hang around in this business long enough, you play just about everywhere in just about every condition. One of my latest gigs was a road gig of a different variety, playing with my band on the back of a stake bed truck in a parade.
The event was the Los Angeles Pride Parade, which is a fairly colorful event to say the least. We looked at the event as both a way to promote our band and show support for the LGBT community. While we were not the only float (for lack of a better term of our truck) that had music, we were the only one with live music.
The responsibility of the production primarily fell on my shoulders, but the band pulled together to help out greatly. The organizational skills of singer Cindy Jollotta looms large as she secured a truck large enough to give us enough room to set up and play comfortably and also provide some room for a few guests including Mama. She also got our power needs worked out. Grady Hutts’ staging skills, theater experience and rigging genius probably not only saved the day but our lives as well.
The truck was a pretty KA Ford F-550 with a hydraulic lift gate on the back. The bed of the truck measured closely to 12’ by 7.5’, which is larger than some club stages I have played. The lift gate could have been used to extend the length of the bed another 4’, but we decided to use that portion for Mama and a couple of dancers.
The dimentions we had to work with as our stage.
With what we believed to be an ample stage taken care of, our next concern was power.
This was fairly easily tackled by adding up the number of watts required on each piece of gear we were planning on using, plus an additional 20% for good measure. The Gear we were planning on was:
Mackie 1202-VLZ (which ended up AWOL, a look-alike knockoff was subsititued)
2 Line 6 L3t powered speakers
1 BGW 750a power amp (for 2 Audio-Centron monitors)
1 Ampeg BA210sp bass amp combo
1 ZT Lunchbox guitar amp
All of this could be handled readily by the small and surprising quite Honda EU2000i inverter generator.
The actual truck with a not-to-scale insert of the small Honda generator.
To keep this visibility of the band high, we removed most of the gates from the bed of the truck. We kept the pair on either side closest to the cab, which created a little cubby for our mixer, external power amp, guitar and bass amp and our drummer.
We were lucky that our truck included racks that could be used to extend the over cab capabilities. We placed one of these on the end of the bed to secure our Line 6 speaker columns vertically. We had considered laying the columns on their side, but that was soon abandoned. Not only were we worried about sound dispersion for the parade audience, but also how we’d keep them from falling off the truck.
At this point, I’ll mention that this is where we were under-prepared: tie-downs, rope and bungee cords…mostly, the ratchet-style tie-downs. Most people short of boy scouts, sailors and S&M enthusiasts (of which I’m sure there was a few at the parade) lack the rope-tying skill needed to create a secure enough hold for my gear!
We had basically six channels on our mixer for our 5 piece band. Channels 1 & 2 were used for our two singers’ vocal mics. Channel 3 was used for a mic for the kick drum, while channel 4 was used for a small diaphragm overhead. Line outs from both the guitar and bass amps were run into channels 5 and 6, respectively. This set up worked surprising well, and allowed both control and dispersion of each element of the band.
Since my band is a traditional country band, a few hay bails where thrown onto the truck bed to help create some ambience. This was a double edged sword. A hay bail only looks small from a car window. The two foot width takes up 25% of the width of the truck bed.
On the upside, this bail provided a much need place to sit in emergencies. In fact, the gates, the overhead support on the read of the bed and the hay bail were all heavily leaned on for stability more often then one might think necessary even at 2 to 4 mph.
Even the simple act of starting and stopping movement on the parade route (while standing) required X-game athleticism and cat-like reflexes. Trying to play while standing (surfing really) was even more of a challenge, especially since my playing style requires a volume pedal being manipulated on entire passages.
Since we wanted to get our band name out there, we did rig our banner on some poles that extended over the cab and draped down over the cab’s back window directly behind our drummer. Unfortunately, we failed to secure the bottom and sides on the banner. So as we trundled down the road, the banner billowed in the manner of a sailboat reeking havoc with Patrick’s drumming for moments.
A shot taken during soundcheck on the non-moving truck. Little did we know that once in motion the banner would try to overwhelm Patrick on drums.
We had a six song list of all up tempo songs we planned on using, and while we played them all, one or two songs would have done the deal as our audience was swapped out every 100 yards we rolled.
No one died at this gig. No one even got hurt, which is actually amazing. OSHA would have shut this down, even though we took every consideration we could think of for both safety and sound. It’s usually not the stuff you think of that gets, but rather the stuff you didn’t.
Mama poses with Podunk Poets’ Kelly and Cindy along with a pair of guest dancers.
I’m not too sure what I would do differently other than the corrections mentioned above (i.e. tying down our banner, bringing more tie-downs), if approached about doing another rolling truck bed show. I believe sitting is safer than standing, but I’m fairly hard pressed to design a stage that would look appropriate for a band that is trying to convey excitement and energy. I would, however, try to take some cues for the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, but even then; I believe that are almost always using canned music on the floats. And that sucks.
– Jake Kelly