One of the most egregious aspects of being a picker is getting hundreds of pounds of equipment from a bus or a van onto a stage. Sometimes it’s just a short haul, but other times it’s almost as much trouble as running slaves up the underground railroad to the North during the Civil War.
One of the first jobs I ever played was in a club with a really high ceiling, like two stories, and the band played on top of the restrooms. There was a rickety, narrow stairway up which we had to carry our stuff, and it took a human chain to get my guitar up there.
I worked a club somewhere in the mountains near Ft. Collins, CO, and we had to load everything, PA included, up an outside stairway to the second floor. If you’ve ever been out there you know there’s not much oxygen at that altitude, and you can get out of breath walking across the hotel room to get ice for your drink. Luckily there was a bunch of loafers hanging around who offered to help us, but we had to give them beer money when the job was done.
At one of Willie’s 4th of July picnics in Austin we loaded our stuff into a van at the hotel and drove the back way to the site. But there was a lake that we had to cross in rowboats to get to the stage, so there we went, paddling to the other side, where the stuff went into another van and then to the backstage area. It was a little more precarious coming back that night in the dark after drinking Lone Star beer and picking all day. The boats didn’t seem so stable, somehow.
I played a hotel in downtown Nashville, and we drove the bus into the underground parking garage and schlepped everything into a service elevator. But it didn’t go all the way to the floor we were on, and we had to put everything into another elevator to get as high as we need to get.
Speaking of Nashville, it ain’t no picnic working the clubs on Lower Broad. Sure, you can drive right up to the club and unload, but Barney Fife might write you a double-parking ticket or Luke Jensen might grab your guitar and skedaddle off to the nearest pawn shop when you go search for a parking spot.
At Maggie Valley, NC, there’s a resort area, and the entertainment takes place at the top of a mountain, and the equipment goes up in a truck and you go up, and up, in a ski lift.
If you’re working Catalina Island or Prince Albert Island you get there in a ferry, or at least I did.
A friend asked a band I was in once to play a free gig somewhere, and we were, like, well, we don’t know… “It’s only one set”, she said. One set? Hell, that’s the easy part.