Guide to getting and playing better gigs


Support Band

Gigging Tips
Band Promotion
Stage Act
Stage Presence
Work the Crowd
Set List
Book it
Survive on Tour
Talent Nights
Band in Trouble
The Frontman
Big Break
Band on a Budget
Band Business
Cancelling a Gig
Touring in Europe
Buzz Factor
Check your Gear
Bad Gigs
Benefit Gigs
Gig Fees
Gig Kit
Gigs that Pay
Gig Attendance
Know your Audience
Lies in Music
Mailing List
Outdoor Gigs
Performance Tips
Tour Preparation
Press Kit
Contracts and Riders
Rules of the Road
Band on the Rocks
Play Safe
Gig Sharing
Solo Gigs
Support Band

Whether you're Bon Jovi playing three sell-out shows at Wembley Stadium or Bob's Blues Experience doing the regular Friday night at the 'Kebab & Mushroom', you're going to be obliged to rope in another band as 'The Support Band'.

The reasons for this depend on the stature of the headline act. Bon Jovi, for example, will be happy to invite several name acts of a lesser status to help them shift even more tickets to ensure the relevant Enormodome is bulging at the seams - Van Halen and Thunder were on the bill for the UK leg of BJ's 1995 jaunt and helped make the day seem more like an event.

At the other end of the scale, venues may put on talent nights where three or four bands play in an order decided by the toss of a coin, and it is in this situation that the most care needs to be given to insure a beneficial night for you and your band. Also, a signed band on their first or second UK tour will be very keen for local bands to support them at each venue to help push tickets sales and, good though this is for the band in question, you really do need to think about what you're doing.

Checkout The Venue:
If the gig is local, checking out a new venue will allow you to see for yourself what the situation is before you turn up to play. Have a word with bands playing there and find out what the load-in is like, what the general attitude of the staff is like, where you can park the van and so on. Also, you'll be able to ascertain how much of your own gear you'll need to bring. If your drummer insists on bringing a huge rack of tubs or the guitarist wants to bring all three of his amp stacks, but you've found out that the stage is the size of a postage stamp, there's some negotiation to be done. Imagine if you'd spent hours wedging a huge amount of stuff into the back of the van, only to discover that 90% of it is surplus to requirements.

Be Polite:
This seems like a patronising one, but even basic manners can endear you to the people responsible for making the gig worthwhile. A smile and the odd 'please and thank you' to the sound guy, the venue manager and even the girl on the door will prove to be worth their weight in gold. If you've turned up with an attitude, these guys are far less likely to be willing help. If you've forgotten the mains lead for your amp, the guy behind the bar you took the piss out of earlier is hardly going to take one out of the kettle for you to borrow.

More importantly, your impact will depend on the sound, and the engineer behind the board is your best friend. Believe it, he knows the venue and house system infinitely better than you do, and is probably far more experienced too. These guys will rarely, if ever, deliberately sabotage your sound whatever you may have heard, but they're not going to go that extra yard to help you out if you get into tonal trouble simply because you thought it was 'cool' to treat him like a sub-human because you could see his arse-crack!

General respect, not to mention clubbing together to buy him a beer or two before you play, can turn into a huge investment.

Learning how to
soundcheck efficiently is as important a part of playing live as getting your songs right. This does depend on experience, but any musician who has got to this stage must have at least some inkling of how to get their sound and, when your allotted soundcheck minutes come around, you don't want to be wasting them fiddling with your effects processor. Listen to the engineer and do what he says. If he wants just the snare drum for a level-check, practising that guitar riff to 'Doom Bitch' at the same time is not going to help anyone, don't forget that the engineer is there to help you.

If you have the time, play just parts of a couple of songs that have different tempos or sounds, but don't use the time to practice, it's too late, basically. Make sure you can hear everything you want to through your monitors and, if you can't, stop playing immediately and ask the engineer to rectify the situation, don't wait until you've finished the song as that just wastes time. As soon as each member of the band is happy, get off and go and have a beer, remembering to thank the engineer on the way to the bar.

Gear Share:
If you can organise the sharing of certain pieces of gear with the other bands on the bill, you'll be quids in. Drummers of established headline acts on small local circuits are usually prepared to allow the support band the use of his basic kit, but don't expect to be allowed to use his cymbals, stool, snare or bass drum/hi-hat pedals, bring your own. Track the main band down before you get to the gig, the venue itself will almost certainly possess contact details, and ask if this situation would be OK. Never assume.

It's the same for guitarists and bassists too. If you can arrange to use the same amps and speaker cabs as the headline act, you'll be sorted. After all, they've got to bring them anyway and anything that saves time on the night is going to be an attractive proposition all round. Of course, it's not all peace and love, and some bands won't want a bunch of upstarts bashing away on their new Sonor kit or through their sparkling Boogie cabs but, if you don't ask, you don't get. Again, the purchasing of the odd pint or two for the co-operative band members can help to miraculously smooth the way.

Guest List:
Most venues offer a limited policy of free entry to persons who are 'with the band', but the abuse of this service often leads to real confrontation and a general feeling of ill will. A good rule of thumb that I've found to be generally acceptable is that the band members have one place on the list and that's it, this allows for free entry of partners, best mates and/or the bloke who drives the van, and everyone else who comes along pays.

More often than not, any door money the venue makes is the pot from which the bands are paid (if at all), and demanding that your whole Sunday morning footy team, plus their girlfriends, get in for free will remove a significant amount from this pot, much to the distress of both you and the other bands playing. Again, it's all down to co-operation.

Basically, all of the above is common sense and, unless you are actually a band of some note, tantrums are inexcusable, simple as that. As a support band, you shouldn't expect to be treated as if you're only there to make up the numbers but, at the end of the day, if you're in this position, then it isn't, after all, your gig. Be professional, be polite and be prepared, and any brown stuff will avoid the fan it was heading for.

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