Bobby Jarzombek here!
I’m writing this blog from the Sebastian Bach tour bus as we’re making our way to the next show in Greensville, WI. We’re three weeks into the Poison/Dokken/Sebastian Bach US tour, and we have four more weeks to go before we wrap it up in California.
Before this tour we’d just completed a month in Australia (headlining) and Europe (playing headlining shows and festivals). So for this blog I thought I’d write (from a drummer’s perspective) about US gigs vs. overseas gigs and everything involved with the two different scenarios.
It might not seem like there would be a lot to talk about, but just the simple fact that during my last twenty years of traveling overseas with many bands, only once have I had one of my kits shipped overseas. That was for the South America dates of Halford’s Resurrection tour. The reality is that shipping a full drumset, speaker cabinets, stage sets, etc. overseas is a luxury that’s limited to bands with huge production and huge budgets.
Every drummer is different, but here are a few of the items on my checklist for overseas gigs: pedals, cymbals, stick bag, metronomes, tons of parts including felt washers, wing nuts, lug locks, and snare wires, and sometimes a couple short boom arms. To tell you the truth, carrying cymbals on my back through international airports is the easy part. The time-consuming and often frustrating part is the weeks (or months) before the shows, sorting out tons of emails and making sure that I’ll be provided with the correct drums and hardware that I need to play the show(s) properly.
It all starts with the tour manager emailing my detailed “equipment list” to the promoters of the show(s). Without going into every detail, my equipment list includes two bass drums, four toms, two snare drums, ten cymbal stands, and my drumhead preferences. We also make sure to state that I am a Drum Workshop/PDP and Evans drumheads endorser. The promoter then works with the backline companies and musical distributors in his area to get the equipment together.
At this point it’s typical that I start to get CC’d on the emails when things start to get confirmed or questions arise about possible substitution items. These can go something like this: “The whole kit is gloss black, but the second bass drum has a black stain finish. Is this okay?” Or, “Can we substitute the 14″ mounted tom for a 13″ mounted tom?” When I receive these responses I always say, “Sure, that’ll be fine!” That’s because I know these people are reviewing my list, looking at every item in detail–and they’re dedicated.
The responses that I hate are, “Got it!” or “Don’t worry–we have everything you need”–because they usually don’t! Consequently I have to wait until I get to the venue (a few hours before the show) to try to sort out the drum equipment. This can lead to one of two scenarios: I can either bite the bullet and make it happen with whatever they provided, or we can present my equipment list and demand that they provide everything to my specifications. This sometimes results in last-minute phone calls and runners going back to the warehouse or a music store to get the specified items.
To put this in perspective, the European dates that I just completed with Sebastian included five shows, in five days, in four different countries, flying to every show, using four different drumsets. It can get pretty crazy!
So now this US thing should be easy–bring your own drums and play, right? Well, there are fewer email headaches, but now I’m using my own drums, so there are other things to think about. For this tour I decided to bring out one of my Pacific kits (gold to black fade), and I’m mounting it on my DW rack. The kit looks and sounds awesome, but now that I’m using my own drums, I need to make sure that they’re maintained properly and that they’re safe. Part of this means having durable road cases. I own various types of cases, including fiber, Enduro, and ATA-types. For the current run I packed my two kick drums in SKB cases, and I managed to fit all my rack hardware and booms, two snares, cymbals, and toms into a mega road case that I built (using 3/4” plywood) a few years ago. When loaded up, the beast weighs 475+ lbs. Talk about HEAVY METAL!
The fact that all my equipment (plus my drum carpet) is in three cases is a good thing, because it’s easier to keep track of everything so that nothing’s left behind or stolen. When we finish playing shows overseas, I just gather up my personal items and leave the rental kit there. But on this tour (with a twenty-minute change over between bands), safety also means making sure my kit goes on and comes off the stage without getting damaged. My tech, Derek, does a great job getting the drums on and off the stage. Maintenance on the kit includes polishing the hardware (before rust sets in), cleaning the cymbals, changing drumheads, and so on.
Before the tour began, I had Steve at my very awesome drumhead company, Evans, ship me out tons of heads. We change the snare and tom batter heads every four shows. The toms definitely need it; I beat them up pretty good, ha ha! I also had Marco at Vic Firth ship me three dozen pairs of sticks. I’m going through about a pair each show. As for cymbals, I make sure to bring a couple extra crashes just in case I crack any. Those, of course, go back to the factory for new ones eventually.
So there ya go: the Bobby Jarzombek road experience in most of its gory details. I hope a few of you reading this, particularly younger guys who are new to the whole road situation, have gained a little insight into what to keep in mind as a touring drummer.