Access All Areas: On the road with Bombay Bicycle Club

BBC's Jack Steadman onstage in Toronto
BBC's Jack Steadman onstage in Toronto (Image credit: Brian Patterson/Corbis)

Heading to a music festival this summer? While you're out front enjoying the plentiful supply of live music thrills, spare a thought for the hard-working, gear-laden tech crews who will be oiling the wheels of your favourite band's festival performance.

From in-ear monitor catastrophes, slippery drum risers and over-stretched stage managers, to impossible 20-minute changeovers, tuning-warping humidity, and dressing rooms the size of toilet cubicles, these incredible techs are practised in the fine art of getting the job done.

Professionals who have honed their trade with some of the biggest, hottest, and most influential acts in the world, these drum, guitar, bass and keys techs, plus backline wonders, tour managers, production managers, stage managers, lighting engineers, production directors and sound directors have decades of experience between them.

In an exclusive series on MusicRadar, Access All Areas brings you an invaluable insight into what it takes to tech at festivals, how to survive one of the toughest days of your working life, and when to stand back and say, 'job well done'.

The latest in a series that has so far included U2, The Killers and Slipknot sees us check in with Bombay Bicycle Club's tech and touring keyboardistLouis Bhose, who tells us about his essential tech kit items, melted Milky Way bars, and how a festival stage manager can make or break your day.

Louis Bhose, keyboards, electronics, backline tech

Kick-starting his tech career in 2009, Louis Bhose is not only an accomplished keyboard player (he's played on sessions for Eliza Doolittle, Remi Nicole and more), but a one-man tech band. Currently holding down the job of touring keyboard player for Bombay Bicycle Club, that's just the beginning of his diverse role.

"I get the gear packed up as soon as possible so that we can get start drinking warm, weak lager."

"I look after the electronics and have been the band's guitar tech and backline tech throughout the time I've been with them," explains Louis. "When we tour territories where there isn't the budget for a full complement of crew, I revert back to being a backline tech as well."

Thankfully, Louis has experience of tech-ing a full complement of instruments, having taken care of entire backlines at the start of his career. "As the amount of electronics and keys grew and the [Bombay] shows got bigger, I moved to backline tech when a guitar tech was employed.

"Finally, I moved to being their touring keyboard player while still looking after the playback and other electronics on-stage."

What is the first thing you do as a tech when you arrive at a new festival?

"I normally head straight to the stage we're playing to snoop around, check out the space and the excessive number of risers that the headliners have blocked off. Then it's a case of sitting in the dressing room, eating half-melted Milky Ways until we can load in and set-up."

For the majority of festivals, there's no chance of soundcheck. What problems can this cause?

"We have been lucky to have the resources to festival-proof our gear. We travel with a full complement of spares, microphones, DIs and, where possible, a monitor desk.

"The band and crew have recently moved over to in-ear monitors, so this, paired with the fact that we travel with everything, means that the levels everyone gets at each show are very similar."

What does your day involve when tech-ing at a festival?

"I check that my keyboards and pads are all working, then I check the playback rack and make sure that both HD24s are up and running. I also check that everything is patched correctly into our DI rack.

"After that, I annoy the other techs by having a look at all the other gear. We have very experienced guys working for us who do their job far better than I do mine, but it's just force of habit!

"During the performance, I'm normally tied up playing keys for nearly all of the set. Afterwards, I get the gear packed up as soon as possible so that we can get start drinking warm, weak lager."

When heading out to a festival, what essential items do you pack in your tech kit bag?

"We have a production case that carries all the tools, spares, strings and various odds and ends that we use to maintain the gear. The most essential items we carry are without a doubt spare guitar cables and patch leads (the guys break them like they change their underwear). Of course, you need a good torch too. Nothing can be done without a torch."

What advice would you give a new tech working their first festival this summer?

"Do not piss off the local crew! These are the guys working 15 hour days, and who are expected to lift your shit and help you set up a whole stage in a confined space in a short amount of time... and then do it all over again for seven other bands that day. The same goes for the stage manager. He will be grumpy, but just smile and don't go over your allotted time."