Life outside the basement
It’s your first show as a band and you are really excited.
Maybe even nervous. You’ll play every song twice as fast. Your fingers will cramp up. But you do have one advantage; no one is expecting you to be good.
Chances are the crowd knows you. Assuming you have friends, they are out there watching. They’ve seen you at work and at the bar, explaining the different kinds of doom metal, or using phrases like ‘austere sonics’ to describe garage rock albums. Now it’s time for your art to shine, to put on your headband and your sleeveless tee and really give them the what-for.
Eminem famously said ‘you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.’ That’s not entirely true, because assuming you choose to keep performing and creating art, a chance to blow can come at any time. As your crowd grows and word spreads, you will have multiple chances to make a first impression.
Still, it’s best to hone your craft early, starting with your first show.
Getting to your gig early has its benefits. Nothing worse than showing up and having to load right onto the stage and play. An early arrival means time to get situated, to meet the soundman, the door guy, the bartender, the promoter, etc., and establish when you’ll be playing and for how long.
Get your sound right
If there’s a soundcheck, really take advantage of it. A long, narrow brick barroom with high ceilings is not going to sound the same as a soundproofed garage. Don’t settle, there is a soundman there for a reason. Louder is not always better in the case of adjustments. There’s not enough time to get into the shapes of different sound waves, but it’s easy to overdo it on bass and create a muddy, farty sound. Send a friend whose ear you trust to the back of the room, play a song, and watch for the thumbs up.
Keep it short
It’s a good rule of thumb to leave the audience wanting more, not less. 45 minutes is too long, 15 minutes is probably too short. 20-27 minutes is a good approximation of how long you should be up there. The people watching you won’t get burned out and slink back to the bar. It’s Wednesday night and everybody’s missing their TV shows to be here, so only play as long as an episode of Parks & Recreation to accommodate their attention spans.
It’s not supposed to be a Grammy speech, but typically bands will acknowledge all the people that went into making a show happen, as well as any other acts sharing the bill. Really try to kiss ass here, so you get invited back to the venue or to be a supporting on future shows.
These days everyone is in band and/or has experienced some kind of public performance, so no need to be nervous; no one is expecting anything. Practice everything until you can play it backwards. If you’re going for the aloof, nonchalant performance, practice pretending that you don’t care about what you’re playing. It might be good to invest in a full-length mirror for the practice space, one where you can practice your hair tornados or your disenchanted swagger. Harass bands in your scene via Facebook until you get that supporting slot; it doesn’t hurt to ask, unless you’re blackballed for being a nuisance. It is hard sometimes to recognize a chance that is meant for blowing, but sometimes that opportunity comes once in a lifetime and you find yourself in the moment, with only one shot.
Have you recently played your first show? Or are you still preparing for you debut? Let us know all about it in the comments section below.
[hana-code-insert name='marketing-your-music' /]
[Photo of young band practicing in basement from Shutterstock.]