Tips for dealing with humidity in summer outdoor shows.
Summer is here and the touring season is well upon us. I'm a guy that loves the sun and warm weather, but am not the biggest fan of humidity. I've lived my whole life in Tennessee, so you might think I've grown accustomed to it by now. Sadly, I have to report... no.
For the next couple of months, almost all of our shows will be in amphitheaters with a few festivals thrown in, and anything outdoors can put a twist or two in your daily routine. I'm not even talking about rain—we don't like to mention the "R" word when playing outside, although we see plenty of it every year. I'm referring to everyday preparation for a gig where you're losing 5 pounds just through sweating!
I'm a self proclaimed Gear Nazi, and the well-being of my equipment is of highest priority.
My distaste for humidity runs pretty deep, so I'm here to share a few tricks I use to help you deal with it while gigging in the summer months.
The first thing I guard against humidity is tube amps. All of the heat produced when powered on for hours at a time greatly increases an amp's tendency to sweat inside the case if the amp doesn't have a chance to cool down before getting closed up. Bands and crews case hot amps every night, usually without a single problem the following day, but I don't like the thought of the foam lining inside the case holding that moisture against my amps while they ride in a truck overnight. Over the years I've seen some parts, like corners and screws, rusting-—even a faceplate on one particular amp. Unfortunately there's only about 20 to 30 minutes for me and the other backline guys to wipe the stage of all band gear and have it loaded and strapped on the truck, so as I'm packing I try to leave the amps as the last pieces to get lids and maximize the amount of cool down time.
I keep a couple of small fans with me on the road to help keep all of my amps comfortable. I aim them directly at the back of the amps to keep air moving around the tubes. Just enough to keep air circulating around the power tubes works wonderfully and is honestly not a bad thing to do on any given night anyway. When the thermometer starts getting close to triple digits, it can be a necessity. The fans will help keep them cooler, which means less heat inside the case after it's closed up...which means less chance for condensation...which means less worries about amps at night.
When it comes to guitars, I'm very careful about letting instruments acclimate to the climate I'm in. I won't immediately open any guitar case that's been in air conditioning overnight. That's not to say you won't still have to do a neck tweak after the guitars settles in with the temperature and humidity, but this can at least minimize it. Baby powder is another good thing to have on hand when playing in high heat. I use a little on the back of the guitar neck, and will usually coat my hands with it a couple of times during a show as well. The last thing anyone wants is a sweated up guitar handed to them before they get a chance to do it themselves!
Brad throws tons of guitars picks during our shows. Instead of using pick clips, I put them on long strips of tape, allowing me to reload a mic stand quickly. Unfortunately, cloth gaffe tape can have a tendency to absorb so much humidity it will literally fall off the stand. Thankfully, I found that 3M makes a vinyl duct tape with roughly the same adhesiveness of masking tape. It holds a row of picks perfectly, and I don't have to worry about the whole strip coming off by merely pulling a single pick. And as crazy as it sounds, I'll still have to wipe the mic stand down with rubbing alcohol first. After they're outside all day in 90% humidity not too many things will stick to their surface, so if you've been to one of our shows and it looks like a guy is cleaning mic stands--that's why.
Other than that, I hope you are able to find some shade--or preferably an air conditioner! Be safe and see ya out there!