I’d like to thank Jeff Black and my friends at Vandala Magazine for allowing I.M.P to share this valuable editorial on the critical aspects of performance. Read on for some very helpful advice.
If your idea of playing a show involves tying back your hair, slipping into your favorite Cannibal Corpse tee and staring at your toes and fretboard for forty-five minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Said it, I meant it, now I’m here to represent it.
Every time I go to a local show, I find myself confronted by these types of bands. Lazy, uninspired non-performers who look like they’d rather be at home munching on Doritos and watching reruns of Friends than onstage, and it shows in their crowd attendance and overall response. If your show has me reaching into my pocket for my iPhone (or for a gun to put in my mouth) then we got a problem. No wonder turnouts for local gigs are at an all-time low and bands can’t make any money; Your customer base is bored outta their skulls!
Let’s set things straight: There is more to being in a band than “making music.” Creativity doesn’t end once your songs are written, and rehearsal shouldn’t be about people simply playing their parts correctly. That’s only half the battle, folks. The Semi-Monty. The Kit, but lacking most of the Kabootle. Whatever. Point is: playing in a boring band isn’t a crime, but it should be.
I’m not saying that the music is less important, because that’s not true. The music is what brought you into this financial black hole, right? Why would you spend time working on your (hopefully) great songs and then shoot yourself in the kneecap with a crossbow bolt by half-assing it onstage? That’s like spending twelve hours a week perfecting your succulent rosemary Parmesan garlic bread recipe and then coiling a nice, ropey turd over it before putting it on the table at your dinner party. I’m not saying that every band needs to wear spiked platform boots and chuck severed humans heads into the crowd while an animatronic dragon barfs fiery acid over your heads. But have something there. Those nerds in Dream Theater are putting on more entertaining shows than 90% of local bands. Why would you let that happen?
Speaking of “Why’s”, Why is putting on a good show important?
Because let’s face it: most of your favorite bars and clubs are running paleolithic PA systems plugged in to a digital mixer (“Digital” meaning that you have to hold it between two fingers to get it to work) using XLR cables covered in spit, beer, sweat and tape residue, and the sound guy is probably popping pills and smoking dubious substances out back just to get through his hellish night of pretending to care about crappy bands.
Some places are okay, but the reality is that the sound is gonna suck. Just accept it. Embrace it. Become one with it. Breathe this information in and taste it, and try not to puke when you realize where it’s been. You can overcome this hurdle. If your audio is going to impaired, then fix yourself by beefing up other elements of your gig. You could start with, oh, I dunno, THE VISUALS?
You’d be amazed at what a visual accent can do to when it comes to making a song stick out, or a certain part more memorable. What could this visual accent be? Well, pretty much anything. A hair-whip. A stick-twirl. Foot on the monitor. Power jumps. Eating a platypus and using it’s poisonous barbs to carve a bloody lampshade out of someone’s face. Hell, you could even make EYE CONTACT with the people watching you! But let’s not get too crazy here.
Start looking at things you can do on an individual level to make certain parts of your songs stand out. I would start by finding parts with interesting rhythm accents and doing something to make those POP. If there’s something cool going on in your lyrics, you might find a way to let that influence how you carry yourself in certain sections. Let the dynamics of your song dictate what you do onstage. Some bands go as far as doing synchronized movements with their guitars a la Judas Priest or Scorpions. Try stuff out. You’re a musician, aren’t you? Be creative! If all else fails, pick up a few DVDs of your favorite groups and really watch them. Go see a band with a great live show and take notes. Learn something!
If you have strong performance skills, you will be more entertaining, and more people will come to your shows. More people means more tickets sold which leads to happier bars and promoters, better shows, more opportunities, more merch sales and more money.
Did everyone catch that last bit? Let me say it again: More money. Again; MORE MONEY.
One more time, with feeling! MORE MONEY!
If your next response is “but dude, it’s not about money, it’s just about loving The Rawk, man,” then you’ve officially revoked your right to complain about anything band-related ever again. Not that you should ever waste your time complaining anyways, but please do me a favor and stop sharing your stupid Facebook memes about “supporting local bands” if that’s the attitude you have. Nothing kills the local scene more than boring, crummy bands.
When your band takes that extra step to amp up its live show, everyone wins.
Next lesson: Practice for Performance …..
Jeff Black is a professional musician and piano teacher based out of Edmonton, Canada. He has toured across the nation with groups such as Scythia, Samandriel, The Ozzy Osbourne Experience and has performed on nine studio releases to date. When he’s not busy in the lesson studio or onstage, he’s probably reading or writing, often enjoying a cold European ale in the process.