All the small things

A pub stage filled with 5th Element's PA and gear.

If you’ve ever played Tetris, you’ll already have a basic understanding of what packing up after a gig means to your average band.

If you’ve ever played it at 3am, dog-tired after a 20 hour day, in the rain, then you’re pretty much all the way there.

Maybe you do your gig run in a tour bus or a van. If so, we are proper jealous. All our gear and a full PA is divided between 4 cars. It’s a bit of a squeeze.

But no matter how tight things get, certain items are never left behind. And we’re not talking about skins, sticks, strings, batteries or anything like that. Oh no. We’re talking about those less obvious and occasionally downright odd things that, over the years, we’ve found we just can’t do without.

Some of these items are actually just practical. For example, the following have found their way into our Ann’s regular gig gear rotation:

  • nail file and clippers (which Neil and Alan actually use more than Ann does – a snagged nail is not a tolerable situation for a guitarist)
  • a mini pharmacy (because boys need looking after)
  • needle and thread (because, you know, wardrobe malfunctions!)
  • a stationery bag containing scissors, tac of the blu, white and clear variety, cellotape, and pens that write on CDs (hey, sometimes we do get asked, we’re rock stars, ya know!).

Our Neil is a practical packer too. His kit includes a soldering iron, pliers, screwdrivers, hooks (for the backdrop) and a pair of spare pants (we’re guessing because being in 5th Element is so exciting he sometimes just can’t contain himself).

Some accoutrements, however, take a little more explaining. In the days when the superb Richard Mawdsley was our resident Lord of the Sonic Rumble Hammer, our gig gear also included:

  • a broom
  • a baseball cap with a flashing light on top
  • a naked polystyrene female torso.

We thought that was quite random. Well, we’ve got news for you – compared to some of our peers, we’re pretty vanilla. A while ago, we asked our muso brethren what items they’d add to their ‘unusual but essential’ list. The final tally included:

  • compression leggings
  • a brew kit – including a decent mug (although this one actually seems pretty sensible to us)
  • 3 hobby horses – one a pink unicorn
  • a tin of beans
  • gimp masks
  • willy noses (no, we didn’t know this was a thing either)
  • a mahoosive (sic) ornamental sex aid (30″ long and 3″ thick)
  • a spare leg
  • a small, illuminated, colour-changing hedgehog.

Other essential items included wigs, door stops, pins (drawing and safety), paper towels, sunglasses, deodorant, hip flasks, staplers, inflatable instruments, Kiss-style make up, hair spray, baby wipes, megaphones and even an empty fire extinguisher.

Really, it’s amazing we find any space for our instruments at all.

All joking aside, though, this list clearly demonstrates just how prepared the modern musician has to be.

The world of live music is a minefield. A gig can go south, fast, for any number of reasons. And, sometimes, all that stands between you and a bad night is a tin of beans, a pair of compression leggings and a pink unicorn.

What must-have items have you got in your gig arsenal? Or, if you’re not in a band, what random items can you just not travel without? Let us know in the comments below.


  • Pete Kubiak


    A giant codpiece in case we were requested to play “word up” by Cameo.

    • 5th Element


      *Adds ‘Word up’ to this weekend’s set list* 🙂 Ann x

  • Moya


    But who is the cod piece for??

  • Slarti


    You need a roadie ?

Leave a Reply