I couldn’t give a shit about gear.
I’ve never played an instrument worth more than 400benk.
I don’t have a dream bass (just about know the difference between a P and a Jazz).
There’s one bit of kit that will remain in my heart until it beats its last.
The Trace Elliot 715 SMC.
Let me set the scene;
Up until about 2013 I had only played in amateur original bands.
Existing at the time by working odd low paid jobs and mooching off of the goodwill of those around me, I was using a cheap copy of a fender jazz, and a Trace Elliot Boxer practice amp, which I pushed to the limit at every gig until it inevitably burned out. .. Then I was fucked.
…Until my Dad’s window cleaner offered to sell me his combo.
The amp was pretty much the heavy duty version of my practice amp that had packed in so that was all I needed to know to cough up the dosh, and when I bought it it was already around 20 years old, and had served Zat and his partner well for many years (they told me that they used to tour Thailand as a kind of busking duo).
However by the time I was introduced to the story the amp had become a home for their pet cat. Every time I looked at the slightly more worn patch of carpet on the top there was a pang of guilt for having unseated the poor critter.
Although I barely conscious of it at the time, this was the turning point for me as (although imperfect), I now had a reliable enough set up to start playing in bands that paid me and was confident enough to take on dep gigs with whoever asked.
After a few attempts at getting involved in a band with regular paid gigs I got the job in a cover band called Switch.
The lass running the band drove the van to each gig from Gosforth. I didn’t have a car at the time so had to drag this beast of an amp, along with my bass and owt else I needed, all the way down Chester road to the metro station (usually around rush hour), and cram it all onto a packed train for the hour long journey. The only way I managed was by cobbling together a few planks of wood to strengthen an old push bike trailer.
Usually I’d miss the last metro back and have to hang about for the nightbus which was worse than the metro ride for getting any amount of equipment back home. However, I’d learned many times that there’s a big difference between something being impossible, as opposed to just being very very fucking hard (many things are the latter, surprisingly few the former).
So, that was my life for a good few years as Switch evolved from a pub rock band to one of the most popular wedding bands in the area. All the time I was dragging this monster of an amp further than most people I know would be willing to even walk empty handed to play a bunch of pop songs for a couple of quid. My trusty Trace Elliot had my back every step of the way.
Until one night it didn’t.
Without any warning, half way through the first tune one night the lights went out and that was that, I had to quickly DI myself straight into the PA (which no self respecting bassist would ever do out of choice), and blag the gig.
We had another gig the next night so I had to frantically call round my contacts and find a repairs guy, since it wasn’t going to happen in a day I took the entirety of my life savings (the cash from last night’s gig minus my bar tab) to Shaun at Riff Raff and managed to come away with the only thing in the shop that was older, bulkier and heavier than the amp I’d just broke, the Peavey TNT.
Luckily, for the whole time I used this badlad there was no sudden braking of the metro otherwise I’d almost certainly have been charged with manslaughter.
Eventually I managed to get the Trace Elliot fixed by local legend Paul Graham (aka Ernie Cravat), and spent many more delightful years dragging it round to gigs.
The amp gave out once more, at a gig, the same week as Paul died. It was like the old poem, ‘My grandfather’s clock‘.
By then I could just about afford to upgrade to Markbass amps, a new generation of small/lightweight gear that left behind the need for makeshift trolleys and muscly arms.
I kept both the Trace Elliot and the Peavey as backup amps until now, I’m moving house and decided to donate them to someone who might get more use out of them than me.
This is quite a dull story really but it felt like the end of an era and these amps to me symbolised struggle, and the determination sometimes needed just to get to a gig, never mind all the challenges once you’re there.
I know plenty musicians who won’t lift a finger to get their gear to a gig and I’m glad to say I’m not among them as I’ve literally rode my amp down an icy bank in the middle of winter to get to where I had to be.