bands make the mistake of simply stringing their
songs together and don't think of the set as
something that can be worked on in the same way they
work on their playing and songwriting skills. To get
to the stage where a reasonable crowd of a couple of
hundred punters will turn out in all weathers, and
pay good money, to see you takes some doing - and
you'll have to put together something pretty hot if
you want to achieve that. Your audience has given up
their time and probably money to sit through your
show. Don't make them work to enjoy the gig. Every
aspect of your show is worthy of attention paying
attention to detail is a sign of respect for the
crowd and they will respond very positively to a band
who take the trouble to do this.
the band tight musically which means playing together
well, in control of your timing. Nearly all
inexperienced players rush ahead of the beat. This
makes a band sound amateurish and kills the groove.
Fix this by practising to a click track and nailing
the parts. Watch out for those nightmare drummers who
keep jamming around with their bass drum parts. If
there's no solid foundation the bass player has
nothing to lock into and you're doomed. Define and
refine all rhythm section parts and work on them
until they groove. Spontaneity can come a few gigs in
when you're communicating well musically. Also work
on all beginnings and endings. Never throw away a
good tune with a scrappy ending. If the audience
don't know when to clap the danger is they won't
bother at all. The Chili Peppers, Rage Against The
Machine, System Of A Down and Bryan Adams are just a
few bands, off the top of my head, who all have a
different approach to playing as a tight unit.
on what happens between songs. The gaps between
tracks are still part of the gig. It looks bad if the
tunes are broken up with: tuning up, drawn out guitar
changes, a drummer fiddling with his high hat etc.
Equally irritating is a singer who's not taken the
trouble to work out what he or she is going to say.
Unless you're an absolutely natural, then plan each
word and the timing of each line. Again on a good
night you can afford to be spontaneous, knowing that
you have the safety net of some good lines if you
need them. Also work out how to deal with an
unplanned gap in the set due to a technical problem.
Don't say, "Does anyone know any jokes?" as
this just highlights the unprofessionalism of the
the tempos carefully. Many gigs come over as boring
and dirgy because the band has too many down-tempo
songs too close together. Many great live shows start
off with three up-tempo tracks together. Think of the
set as a line on a graph and decide where you want to
take the crowd. Choose the points that you want to
build the excitement and when you want to bring the
mood down. Check out a Bruce Springsteen performance
to see how he uses this idea to keep the audience's
interest over a marathon gig.
many gigs are needlessly boring because once you've
seen the first song nothing else happens or develops
during the show. A simple costume change, such as the
singer removing an item of clothing, signals a change
of mood in the performance and keeps audience
interest up. Acoustic sections mid-set and a song
that features another band member singing, or a solo
slot can do the same job. Be careful of drum solos
and guitar solo spots for obvious reasons! A classic
rock gig finishes on a huge high that is then pushed
to the limit during the encores that follow.
attention to the visuals and think about your
appearance. Don't waste an opportunity to make an
impression. Have you chosen clothes that suit the
vibe and size of the venue? Big and bold works in a
large setting. T-shirts with a slogan on can often
make a strong statement. Try not to go onstage
looking like a roadie - your music is too important
for the audience not to take you seriously because
you haven't tried hard enough on your collective
image. Why not get a professionally-made backdrop?
Prices start from £400 and I guarantee it will
separate your band from nearly all your local
competition in one fell swoop.
bass drum skins, amps and guitars can look cool - and
think about what theatrical make-up and costume did
for Slipknot! Projectors and video can work well too.
Old sixties oil lamps and strobes are portable, cheap
and easily available. Try a bit of lateral thinking -
often the best ideas are not expensive. Anything that
gets people talking after the show will help swell
the number of punters at the next gig.
forget gimmicks. Remember the Chili Peppers' sock
trick, The Who's gear trashing, Def Leppard's show in
the round, Ronnie James Dio's robot spider? What's to
stop you coming up with such an outrageous idea that
the whole town is talking about it next day? If it's
strong enough it could get you in the local paper -
and what could be better than free publicity for your