Gigging… the term is often very fluid in its definition. When someone says they are going to a gig, it could mean a lot of things: It could be a massive outdoor show with thousands of audience members in attendance, or a small obscure bar on a weekday night with a hand few of people listening and all sorts of other things in between. Either way, no matter where you’re playing, it’s in front of a group of people outside of a controlled environment (practice space, home, etc.). Getting out there and playing music in front of an audience is an unrivaled feeling. Equal parts excitement, nervousness, focus and a plethora of other emotions washing over you in waves before, during, and after the gig. A great gig can truly connect with the audience and it just feels like the crowd and the band become one cohesive unit, moving and singing together that everyone can feel the collective sonic aura that is in the air. It’s a truly awe-inspiring moment. Conversely, a poorly executed gig can really wreak havoc that could prolong past the gig in question. Bad gigs turn away customers, which in turn hurts the venue and the band’s subsequent change of returning (and even procuring other gigs). I’m not necessarily saying that a bad gig will ruin everything, but with a few minor tweaks and preparations, it can eliminate variables that are possible to mess up.
I’d like to share a story about a gig I recently attended that sparked this blog piece. My wife and a few friends of ours went out to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We ended up at a local restaurant and bar that has been known for having quite good bands play in the past. Everyone ordered drinks around 8 pm with the band starting at 9 pm. We had no clue who the band was, the sign only said, “Live music”. At around 8:15 a few guys started showing up, one carrying pieces of his drum kit, the other carrying a combo amp with a Mesa/Boogie cover and a small pedalboard (We’re guitar players, I can’t imagine I’m the only person who scopes out other rigs at places). The drummer sets up and begins testing his snare and it was easy to tell outright that he was a heavy-handed guy. The guitarist pulls out his sticker-covered black 70’s-era headstock Strat with the string ends flopping around the headstock. He proceeds to tune (unmuted) and starts riffing. I’m not talking about just quiet noodling; the guy was full-on digging in with his Dunlop Crybaby Mini and Boss DD7 raring to go. Finally, about 8:45 they stop and go to the bar.
Prior to taking positions at 9 pm, each of the band members takes between 3-5 shots each of some sort, then they head up and start their set. Prior to playing a single note, the bassist proceeds to inform the crowd that they were playing all original music and no covers, or as they like to call them “Future covers.” They proceeded to play a ska/reggae song that was… okay. The guitarist took an extended solo that lasted about 7 minutes with his wah and delay on with the mix set REALLY high no tap tempo, off beat). After finishing the song, they followed up with reinforcing they were playing future covers, and noted, “One day other bands will be covering our songs. Just remember Led Zeppelin had to start out playing original songs too.” … more on that later. After the first song, the bassist and the guitarist switched and started playing the other’s instrument for the remainder of the time we were there. Into their second song, the bass player started getting a little wound up. The rest of the band was low-key and had a swing feel, where the bassist was jumping around like he was at a punk gig. Amid his carrying on, he proceeded to jump on his cable and rip it out of the input jack. We’ve all been there… you know exactly what that sounded like. He fumbled for a moment then mid song you could hear him crackling the amp trying to plug the cable back in. We endured a few more songs that were accompanied by cliff notes such as, “We wrote this one while we were doing acid on the beach in Australia” and similar things. At 9:45 we decided to move on a check out what else was going on in the city, so we departed.
Ever since that night, I’ve been thinking about what went on and how they could have prevented or improved the experience with a few adjustments in the process. In my next blog, I’ll run through a few good practices and tips and tricks of what works and what doesn’t after discussing the topic with colleagues who gig regularly in all sorts of venues.
Part 2, coming on Thursday. I know, exciting isn’t it! 😀