Over years of playing live I've had the chance to refine my ways of working as a gigging guitarist. My approach has changed dramatically over the past decade and I believe by refining your gigging "Plan Of Attack" you can strengthen bonds with other musiciaOns, relieve your own stress levels, and ultimately have more fun.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and will hopefully leave the door open for discourse.
• DONT BE A BIG MOUTH
So, you just spent two grand on that mammoth 100 watt head and tank sized 4x12 cab and just cant wait to push some serious air live? I've got news for ya buddy: that rig of doom is most likely to make you the least popular guy in the eyes of bandmates, the poor souls in the front row, and possibly most importantly: The Sound-man. Ah yes, the Sound-man. By increasing your onstage volume to outrageous levels you're also stripping the Sound-man of his/her power to place your guitar where it needs to be in the mix, thus compromising the overall sound quality of the entire band. Yes, I understand that sometimes an amp needs to be pushed to reach tonal nirvana, but in the real world this is much easer to do, and will sound better with a midsize combo. I've played in rock shows with amps rated from 22 to 35 tube watts and been able to easily hear myself over a drummer. While we're on the subject, amp placement can help. Placing the amp so the sound projects across the stage can serve as a side fill and also make sure the punters in the first few rows aren't being blown away. Again, making the Sound-man love you, and preserving the entire bands sound fidelity.
Also, try and put get out in front of your rig to really hear how it sounds from an audience perspective. I can't tell you how many times I've trimmed back that treble pot after doing this.
• HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Lets face it, sometimes shit happens. It could be as simple as a broken string or as complicated as a rig meltdown. While its advisable to have one on hand, sometimes it's just impossible to lug that backup axe to the gig, especially if your taking mass transit or a taxi. Breaking a string is an easy on stage fix (for those of us without floating bridges, that is:) just make sure to always have extra strings along with a string winder and pliers. There should be a vague plan for this in terms of setlist as well. Maybe theres a song the band can do without you or a solo section that could be extended... just make sure the bassist doesn't get any ideas.. Also, I keep a small supply of tinfoil in my bag. Yes, I've actually used tinfoil to repair a broken nut, not the greatest for open strings, but it was a miracle short term solution.
The dreaded, hated, and most feared gig dilemma is the Dead Rig. Separating the men from the boys, The Dead Rig is most often caused by a cable or ac supply popping out somewhere, this bump in the road is beyond frustrating. Solution:cut out the middlemen. If you can go from your guitar into a tuner, and right into the amp you'll be up and running 90% of the time. Always have a battery in that tuner, this will keep you in tune even if its a power supply issue. Make sure you can coax a clean and dirty tone from your amp, this means that even if your running it clean and using some pedals for overdrive why not dial in that second channel during setup just in case, you'll thank yourself eventually.
If the direct to amp path doesn't solve the problem then you're probably dealing with something a bit more serious. Extra fuses and tubes/valves are always good to have on you, but even with these on hand it may save the day to have a more direct approach.... Have an extreme backup plan the routes you directly to the board. Be it a micro pod or sans amp, have something on hand just to get you through. Oh, and those of you with racks... I hope you have a tech.
• THE ELEMENTS.
Stage lights are hot. Humidity can make the back of your neck feel like someone just rubbed it with molasses, inhibiting you from playing those great J.J. French licks you learned while sitting for countless hours on the edge of your bed. Have a rag on hand to wipe down your strings and neck. This will also have the benefit of extending string life if you remember to give them a simple wipe down before putting old Lucille back in her cage. A bit of polish never hurts either, just make sure it contains no petroleum compounds. These can buildup over time on the guitars finish. Oh, and after playing your heart out on a hot stage it never hurts to have some deodorant in that gig bag... If your playing doesn't stink why should you?
Run that cable from the guitars output, through the strap, this will keep you from stepping on it, unplugging yourself, and looking like a Pud. While your at it, run it through the amps handle at the other end before hitting the input.
Try and have fun. Really listening to your bandmates and connecting with them is a win win for everyone on stage and in the audience. Joy can be extremely infectious. I suggest watching a few clips of Wes Montgomery plying live. Aside from playing superb guitar he always seems to have a big, beautiful smile on his face. Lots of times audiences "hear" with their eyes. I guess Wes had all his bases covered.