We’ve all been to a bad show, right? It could’ve been a play, concert, or recital, but we’ve all been to at least one performance that was downright terrible. Some shows are just technically bad (as in mics being off, amp feedback, missing light cues), some are bad because of the crowd, and I’ve been to shows where I couldn’t stand to even listen to the band because they were so terrible. In my 19 years of life, I have been to plenty of awful shows, because when you’re a fan of scene music, it pretty much comes with the territory. However, if you’d like to avoid landing on someone’s “Worst Live Bands I’ve Ever Seen” list, I’ve got some tips for you.
Stay healthy. No one wants to watch someone struggle on stage, and when you’re sick, drunk, high, or impaired in any other way, your performance will suffer. Stay hydrated, stay clean (in every sense of the word), eat as well as you can, and take the proper precautions to make sure your engine is running smoothly. The show begins and ends with you, the artist, so you owe it to yourself to take care of the talents you’ve worked so hard for.
Sound quality is key. Now this one can be a bit dicey, because not all venues have good equipment, mix engineers, or acoustics, but I’ve been to far too many shows where I couldn’t enjoy the music simply because I couldn’t hear the vocals or the master volume was decibels too high. So try your best to bring your own trustworthy equipment, and be diligent at soundcheck. Every band member should stand at different points in the venue during soundcheck to ensure that they sound the way they should. Check and double check tunings, cable connections, and levels to make sure everything sounds perfect. Don’t let your performance be cheapened by simple technical mistakes!
Respect the space. There’s a give and take relationship with artists and venues: they let you use their space, and you bring them attendance and therefore revenue. Every artist a venue brings in is a risk and brings the potential for loss, so it’s the duty of the artists and their crew to be respectful to event staff and the space around them. While the audience won’t see how you behave backstage or how you leave the green room, the venue staff will, and they’ll want to invite artists back who are polite and tidy. Treating your venue well will make for a better working environment and a better show overall.
Be aware of your presence. While it may be comfortable to stand and do nothing but play onstage, it is, in fact, pretty boring to watch. An on-stage persona is a tricky thing to nail, because its definition has shifted over the years and between genres. There was a time when biting the heads off of small animals onstage was raw and unfettered stage presence, but in some genres it’s standard to only look at your hands while you play and never take a step. The juxtaposition of these two different views proves that sometimes, instead of conforming to expectations, operating off of instinct is the best way to go. Just feel the music, read the room, and move how you want to.
Interact with your audience. Some of the most fun and exciting shows I’ve ever been to have been that way because of how the artist interacted with the audience. Talking with your fans, distributing high fives, moshing (if appropriate), and other forms of crowd interaction make for an exciting show that’s actually fun to watch. The best live band I’ve ever seen is without a doubt Emarosa. Their frontman Bradley Walden is absolutely incredible, and the way he interacts with the audience makes them feel like they’re a part of the show in a way I’ve never experienced before. That’s the goal, but it’s getting harder and harder for fans to feel connected with their favorite artist from the back row of an arena. So give them that connection and that personality! They want to get to know you and have a good time with you—that’s why they bought their ticket.
I hope you find these tips helpful, and I hope they keep you killing gigs for many years to come.