A nod to the Goat [aka Chris K] for this one…
It just doesn’t matter if you play originals, covers, rock, country, jazz or polka. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soloist, a quartet, or have so many members that you spill off stage. And it doesn’t matter if you play out once a month or quarter, or 300 times a year. What matters, if you’re going to play out live, is that you are entertaining on some very definitive level.
Are you a Performer?
Notice, the question is not “are you a musician?” There are tons of musicians scattered all over town, with various degrees of competency. And even though the ratio of bands to venues is something like 1000 : 1, most bands can get booked somehow, somewhere in our great state – which is why it’s so important to know how to perform.
A performer knows how to do one or more of the following:
Perhaps most important in the entire arsenal – can you make a connection with your audience? Do you convey passion, raw energy, charisma, sex appeal…or at least a good sense of humor? Can you make an audience feel something? Music alone can stir up emotions, but can you as the conduit take it to the next level?
If this sounds daunting, remember that you have your own unique capabilities, quirks, and image. It doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of someone else and it will be far more effective when it is genuine for who you are as a person. But when you enter the stage, you are sharing yourself with the audience, so make the connection as strong as possible.
You probably perform most often as a group. The great thing about this is that you now have multiple characters on stage (if they play their roles) to make things even more interesting for the audience. Yes, the front-person has a lot of responsibilities. But every other person that agreed to play live should also be agreeing to perform. Stir that pot!
Energy is infectious and it starts on stage. A crowd will respond if the energy is real, and that’s when you have a chance to create a genuine upward spiral. But a band needs to bring that all-on effort, regardless of whether the room is packed or lean. That’s why empty rooms can be a good thing – a chance to rehearse energy-building.
Your Life is a Dance
Choreography is actually a pretty broad subject. Every movement you create on stage can contribute to the ultimate performance. Guitar necks in a chorus line or in sync with the kick drum, drummers twirling the sticks and pointing at the audience, clapping, snapping, exaggerated sweeps on the keyboards, or maybe you are the near-motionless bass player, with one leg up on the wall. That could work.
The fact is, you are a choreographer with every human encounter and those efforts just need to be amplified on stage. The farther away your audience, the more important this becomes. Play to the back of the room. A common secret to cover the whole room is to find someone at the very back, looking over all of the other heads, and show them your stuff. Try it…people up front will still think you are looking at them.
We Live in a Multi-Media World
Blame it on the ADD. But humans are wired to incorporate audio and visual senses constantly. Music is a form of art and supports other forms of art exceptionally well. While the first half of your “show” is sound, don’t forget that the second half is moving pictures. And people actually hear with their eyes.
We’ll talk more about this and the rest of the “show” in the next installment.