Gigging Without a Car: A Discussion on Gear

Bassist on a Bike

Q: Since I don’t own a car anymore, I was thinking about changing my gear to better fit my new way of moving around (public transportation). Do you have any suggestion about ways to reduce the amount of stock I need to move around while keeping a good sound on stage?

A: I think that even those of us with cars are into having a rig that is easy to transport and back-health positive, so I thought I’d share a list of what works for me as well as other options available. I’m also very much hoping that you readers will contribute your knowledge. Let’s get a conversation started about anything that makes the schlep more manageable!

Let’s break things up into categories. We will all need a power amp and speaker cabinet, of course. I think that most of us will also want some kind of cart to help (I am all about trying to get everything from the car to the venue in one trip). Many of us will also have a bag or case for cables, charts, pedals, merch, etc.. but there are too many bags and cases to count so I won’t bother trying to list them all.

Let’s stick to the fundamentals…

Power Amp:

I use Aguilar’s Tone Hammer 500. It’s super small (10.75”W X 8.5”D X 2.75”H), weights 4 pounds and sounds awesome!

Option options:

MarkBass: All of the MarkBass stuff seems well-built and sounds good to my ears and they have a number of lightweight options.

TC Electronic: Much like the MarkBass stuff, it all sounds good and is well built. TC also packs a lot of features into their heads. They have a number of lightweight options.

Eden: Eden has been around for years and they have started to enter the lightweight market. I haven’t tried them but I imagine that they get the job done!

EA Audio: EA has been known for their lightweight heads by Upright players for years.


I use Aguilar’s Tone SL 112. While I love all of the Aguilar heads and cabinets, I started using the lightweight stuff out of convenience. What surprised me was how much I loved the sound. I actually prefer the lightweight SL cabs to my GS 112 cabs! Crazy. Oh yeah, crazy light! Need more juice? Get the SL 410 or stack a few 112’s on top of each other.

Other options to consider:

Well, ok so you can pretty much just look at the companies in the power amps section above. There are a huge number of cabinet makers who also offered powered cabs. But, these tend to be fairly heavy and might no be a “pop it on the subway 4 nights a week” type rig…

You can also check out Bergantino, Hartke, Glockenklang, Accugroove, Schroeder, Bag End, Gallien Krueger and Tech 21.

Hand Truck (collapsable):

I use: Gruv Gear’s V-Cart Solo (now known as “Krane” carts). I’ve had my V-cart for somewhere around 7 years, and I use it constantly! It folds up nice and small but is really rugged and can handle heavy loads up stairs. It also has some wheel that can kick down to hold itself at a 45 degree angle which makes it a breeze to wheel down the street and navigate tables in the venue, etc… My favorite, hands down.

Other options:

Magna Carta: There are many companies which make this same type of cart and while they may not last forever, they fold up very small, weigh next to nothing and are cheap to replace when they do go south.

Costco Shifter: When I tour with Gino Vannelli, our monitor guy travels with this to carry his monster racks from airport to venue, hotel, etc. He checks it with the luggage and the thing takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Pretty good little cart.

So a good cart will help get the job done for the public transportation commuter but you might not even need it if you pick the right lightweight cab and head. I would definitely recommend only using one cab, no matter what the gig. If you really need more, take a taxi. Save your back if you’re running around the metro stations. In a larger venue, you can just use your cab as a reference monitor and send a signal to front of house.

How about the rest of you? Anybody living in NYC and playing clubs without backline? Any commuting, gigging musicians out there? What do you use and how do you prioritize comfort and back-health vs tone and presence on stage? Please share in the comments.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. kimbass

    I use in-ears and no amp whenever possible. If ears aren’t an option, like with a festival gig where there is no time to incorporate the system, I’ll just use wedge monitors (and earplugs). Bass amps and cabinets seem to be an outdated concept for most situations – they increase stage volume, making the sound person’t job harder, and contribute to possible hearing damage for those without protection.

  2. Good points. I don’t own a car, either, and often go to local gigs with my bike trailer. If there is a PA with Subwoofers, I often take my tecamp 112 cabinet and use it as a monitor wedge – in front of me. Love it! I bought a Phil Jones Bass Cub recently, and took it to several jazz and world music gigs (with PA), this thing is just incredible. I also think that big rigs just get in the way. But I don’t play very loud music anyhow ;-)

  3. I toured 13.000 kms with my bicycle, a dingwall ebz and a roland cube.
    last tour was the arctic In canada .
    wherever you dream is possible, planning to do the whole world.
    thanks for writing this article

  4. R. Sarmiento

    Gallien Krueger MB150E in front on my bycicle, my 5 string in a SKB sof case over my shoulders as back pack, rest of the stuff (music and amp stand etc.) in a bag on the back of my bycicle. Works very well.