What is in Blake’s big black BAG?

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

When I record on location people see me walk up with a rather large case. Sometimes people have asked me “we have 4 mics…what is all that stuff?” My answer is “PEACE OF MIND.” I won’t bore you with all of the strange scenarios that I have found myself in over the years. Sure sometimes schlepping a 40-60 pound bag with my clothes bag and laptop bag around the nation can be a drag (pun intended). But I have found that being overprepared is much more comforting than the comfort of a slightly lighter case.

So what is in that case I bring? Let’s start with the basics, microphones. I ALWAYS have at least one extra of whatever my main mic will be. So if we are using headset mics and the most mics we need at one time would be 4, I will have 5 or 6 mics. A mic failing mid-show is bad enough, a client may be understanding about that. A mic failing mid-show and no replacement is catastrophic and you probably won’t get hired again. I also bring a handheld field recording mic. Sometimes you may not be able to get a guest to the rig you may have set up. But at least you can get some recording then come back and fix it in post. Or you can go out on the expo floor and grab some recordings quickly on the fly.

Next is computers and audio interfaces. Though some people think it’s bold, we do most of our shows straight to a computer. If there is an absolute mission critical recording then I will use a hard disk recorder. For example, when we recorded an interview of William Shatner at the NACS show in Chicago I was not recording straight to a computer. Mr. Shatner had limited time and if something failed on the computer I was certainly NOT going to ask him to wait 2 minutes while I restart than ask him to pick it up again. I went straight to the ZOOM H6. The odds of that failing are REALLY slim, (BTW make sure you have enough space on your SD cards BEFORE YOU LEAVE!)

So any time something is a LIVE event in front of an audience I go hard disc recorder. But if we have any leeway then straight to computer it is. For computers here is what I bring:

  • MacBook Pro
  • MacBook Air
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • 2 Zoom H6’s (with a bunch of batteries)

Obviously, the 2 macs are just for backup purposes but why the iPad and iPhone? Answer: triple redundancy. If for some reason I lose my laptop bag or if it is stolen (yes that happened), I have the iPad in my gear bag. I have all of the show opens and music on it as well as my iPhone. So I can run the whole show laptop computer free if need be. PEACE OF MIND.

I have not had lost luggage…. yet (knocking on wood). Though if on some rare occasion my main case doesn’t make it, I am going to have to find a Guitar Center like a madman and start coming up with a replacement rig. I look up the closest one before I leave.

FUN TRAVEL TIP!! Sometimes if you know your bag is going to be over 50 pounds it is actually cheaper to fly first class than pay the $100.00 bag fee. As of the time I’m writing this, 1st class gets a 70-pound limit. You also get a much better lunch, free drinks, and a seat designed for a human being.

More surprises in the bag: a little tiny PA speaker (Kustom KPC4P Powered Monitor Speaker)! “Why a PA speaker Blake?” I have had many occasions where the client tells me they don’t want a PA speaker or there will be a sound system. Then we get to the location and one of two things happens:

  1. I was on location in a bar and the “sound system” was a few little stereo speakers in the ceiling. The speakers were directly over the stage so when we turned on the mics the feedback was awful. So were set up the little PA speaker out in front of the “stage” and, though not perfect, it saved the day. And I seemed like a hero to the client!
  2. The next example was when we set up in a lobby area right outside the breakout room in a Hilton Hotel. The scenario was that the podcast would happen all through the day whether the breakout rooms were in session or not.  But when the session broke the lobby would fill with people. Not only could you not hear the podcast but the optics of having a major thought leader in a major trade event not being able to be heard was very odd. So: into my trusty case and in 2 minutes – problem solved. Hero again, was that worth the extra 12.2 pounds? You tell me.

I top off my bag (and this may seem simple) with tons of audio adaptors, extension cables, and power strips. This is a must. Two quick scenarios on this:

  1. First I was doing some live podcasts at a convention center and I was told the sound company would assist me in anything necessary. When the sound person showed up, he was very polite. But there was a look of horror when he saw my audio interface output 1/4” cables. Luckily in my trusty case, I had 1/4” to XLR adaptors.  
  2. The next scenario happened at the Las Vegas Convention center. I know this will sound unbelievable but the organizers of the podcast area we would use forgot to request electricity to be run. Long story short, into my trusty case I dove to grab my 50-foot extension cord. That may seem like way too much cable for a podcast. But that day was sure saved as I snaked that cable through booth after booth finally finding a booth that had electricity and begged them to let me plug in.

So now you know what is in that giant bag I schlep around. Just a case full of peace of mind.