I guess about 1/3 of my gigs can be classified as percussion - either alone or together with a kit drummer. I don't have a lot of toys, but enough to handle most requests including some recordings and "pseudo symphonic" stuff (no timpany though).
My formal training was in orchestral percussion. I have a Ludwig set in H.S., but sold it for lack of use. I was away from playing for a lot of years, and came back. Now I make my own drums, and play mostly rudimental snare music. that is what I like. I like cable snares for the music that I play. However, I am a confessing Acrolite-aholic, and do let loose on latin, brushes stuff from time to time!
Wait a minute, when you say "percussionist", we're talking about mallet instruments, tympani, piano, yes? Or are you guys talking about the various noisemakers often found in conjunction with the latin percussion stuff?
Not a percussionist but I recently played a gig with my old band on percussion, with the new drummer playing kit. Just bongos, tambourine, shakers and (more) cowbell. Loved it.
Lugging and setup - a breeze. Responsibility for tempo - none. Reliance by other members - not much. Ability to sit out and watch with the audience during non-percussion songs - awesome. Creative opportunities - a bit more.
The hardest part, aside from not having much in the way of true percussionist skills, was not having that time leadership role and staying locked in while barely being able to hear yourself.
Larry, I taped all of my fingers because the previous rehearsal killed my fingers. It helped helps. When not required to be a death machine on kit, playing drums is the kindest of instruments on the body IMO, aside from ears.
I play both. Drum kit in a rock cover band and a set of four congas in an original band. I enjoy both, but they are very different experiences.
I probably enjoy the actual playing experience more on the kit, but in that band I am also responsible for booking most of the gigs, providing the PA and lights, plus loading/unloading my drum set. In the original band I pretty much just show up, set-up my congas, play for a few hours, get paid and head home. Much less stress, much less work, same pay.