Tour Lessons: Gear Repair, Take It Seriously

As I'm currently on tour in Europe with Juliette Lewis - I wanted to revisit an incident that happened during a Big Sir tour. Any and all musicians that are fortunate enough to tour outside of their respective countries should be aware of these problems, as it can happen to you!

In 2012, Big Sir was on tour in Europe and we had a string of shows in France. As we all know, the voltage in Europe is not the same as in the US, and the AC plugs are very different.

As you can imagine, this can lead to problems even if you have the proper adapters. It's very easy to fry your pedals if you are plugging your 110-volt pedalboard into a socket that was made for 220 volts. In my experience, a lot of these adapters may convert your toothbrush or iPhone, but they are not actual power transformers. Power transformers all you to take your 110 volt gear and use them in 220-240 volt countries. 


I had a power transformer go down and, although none of my pedals went up in flames, they just wouldn't power up. It was an easy fix where all that was needed was for a wire to be reconnected/resoldered. My European tour mate insisted he could fix my transformer, so I let him handle the repair. 

We were at soundcheck and I asked my friend if he had a chance to test the transformer to make sure his repair was successful.  He assured me it was an easy repair, he had discovered where the wires were separated, and was 100% confident he had fixed the issue…yet he hadn’t checked the gear because we were packing the night before and driving all day.  It would have been so easy for my friend to have tested his work at the point when he first repaired it.  He had all the time he needed to make any adjustments to the repair right then and there, instead of at a rushed soundcheck the following day.

When I went to plug in my pedalboard, none of the pedals lit up but I had my French soundman was waving his arms, frantically urging me to unplug the pedalboard ASAP.  He said later that I was lucky I hadn’t fried my entire pedalboard.  Apparently, my friend had mistakenly soldered the wires backwards so there we were, breaking out the soldering gun and repairing this transformer, hoping to have the job done before soundcheck.

The lesson here was that it would have been ideal for my friend to check his repair in the comfort of his own work environment, the day before the show.  He had the proper tools and all the time he needed to review his work without putting an entire pedalboard in jeopardy and possibly delaying or missing a soundcheck.  

Always check your work ASAP, no matter how confident or how many times you have pulled off the task.  It will put your mind at ease to know your gear is working and you can put your focus back on playing.   I am so lucky we pulled off the show and my pedalboard with all the pedals is still with me, alive and well!

Be aware of voltage conversion, get an isolated power supply (Voodoo Labs, MXR), a power transformer if you have to. Most importantly, don't procrastinate on repairs!