Last Monday I wrote an advice piece for someone who wanted some tips on being in a new band.
Trying to address that issue is like using a toothpick to take apart a glacier.
But I’m doing a series of basic advice concepts for bands who are beginning, and hopefully it can also remind seasoned bands about the basics. Today’s topic continues on the angle of live performance! I hope you enjoy.
A good friend of mine was describing a show that he had seen in the city recently, and his only complaint was on the stage presence of the performer. “He was kind of boring! He didn’t say much to the crowd and didn’t seem very interested to be playing.” This was a shock to me! More so because this particular artist was definitely on the more mellow side, and had a very artistic, atmospheric, and moody bent. When bands like that spring to mind, I don’t think of a bass player doing spins and kicks, or a singer jumping up on a speaker to sing to the crowd.Somehow I sort of give an artist of this nature more slack in the performance department. What was even more shocking, really, was that this friend of mine definitely takes me as the kind of fellow who can really appreciate a low key show with a more calm energy, and his only critique was on the performance aspect.
We now sail into contentious waters! Some people may criticize me for my thoughts on this, or may even misconstrue my logic for simple, cheap, and trashy showmanship. But I hope I can paint a valid picture for you all with some integrity behind my advice.
Look Like You Love Where You Are
I can totally relate to my friend being bummed out on the performance level at the concert. Think back to the times you saw a show that left you with a feeling of lackluster. Lets assume the sound, and musical performance of said artist was great! What made you walk away unsatisfied?
For the sake of argument, I’m going to say it might have been due to the vibes you were picking up stage-side. The exuberance (or lack there of) of an artist is very important when it comes to crowd interaction. I’m personally of the mind that a crowd can really pick up on what is coming off the stage, and I’m not talking about sound waves.
A big part of an exciting, memorable, or fulfilling show for me, is a band that looks like they love where they are. That right there can come packaged in a million different wrappings, but the key element is that you can tell the artist/band enjoys that they are playing for fans, or at the very least that they really enjoy that they are on stage playing music.
Please don’t mistake this for suggesting flashy, trashy, mediocre stage antics or gimmicks. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of shows where there was very little major movement on stage, but I could tell that each band member really loved where they were, and was enjoying their time. Maybe it’s a bobbing of the head to the beat by the bassist. Maybe it’s the singer rocking out a little in between singing verses. The list is endless. The thing to remember though is that everyone is unique in how they enjoy their personal performance and every musician expresses that differently. That shouldn’t change.
For those new bands out there, take a look at your live show and think on how you can make the crowd feel comfortable, because you feel comfortable. Think about how you let the crowd know you are excited to be there with them. Interact with the crowd in your own way. It doesn’t even have to be verbal! In fact it’s said that most communication is visual (some say visual communication like Body Language is anywhere from %55 to %90 of communication. That’s a lot, no matter what percentage you look at.) and less verbal in some ways. Think about what makes a show exciting and fun for you and think about how you can express those same atmospheres at your own performances!
But remember, be yourself. Bill Cosby once said “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody”. I believe there is a classy, tasteful, and artistic way of performing for people, and you need to spend a bit of time to find what that means for yourself or your group.
I hope this has been a help! Enjoy!