We took a couple weeks off while things are hectic for all of us. I’m moving out of state and releasing projects, Sed’s been grinding for his research paper among many other things, Tairy’s been bogged by 50 hour work weeks, and Blaise is running a business. Put those concerns to rest friends. We’re back. This one’s a friendly reminder to help people with upcoming shows avoid some situations we’ve seen. And been apart of.
1) Songs That You’ve Practiced
Practice your shit, so it becomes stuff. Once it becomes stuff, practice until it becomes things. Once it becomes things, make things happen. - Ghandi
Literally couldn’t have put it better, my guy. It’s also a good idea to practice in the same setting you would live - people who are wonderful at improvising on stage practice doing that in jams. Do it over and over until it’s second nature. Anthony(now a one man wrecking crew as Alone in the Universe)’s old band used to practice in their garage and invite a bunch of friends over to watch, and that same group would always be there supporting at the shows and singing along. Practice in front of your friends, the people who will be there, and listen to their feedback. I think that’s part of what made people here love Poor AJ so much. You don’t have to have everything written out, the point here is to be prepared for whatever might happen. Don’t be the deer-in-headlights person who has nothing to offer when something cuts out. Being able to adapt comes from being comfortable enough to continue a performance while finding a solution to any problems that arise. When you’re at that level, you’re a marvelous sight. And sound.
2) All the Equipment You Need
That’s right motherfuckers. I’m advising you to bring everything you need to perform, including cords and cables and double or triple checking to make sure you have them all. Make a checklist if you have to. It never hurts to check in with whoever’s throwing the show and the other performers if you need to borrow something, but do that before the day of the show. Putting a DJ on the spot and asking them to do an entire unplanned set is a lot worse than asking them beforehand if they’re willing to be a part of the set. Shit happens, and sometimes people forget, but being the person who always forgets your equipment could lead to really big problems if you’re not lovable as fuck. So if you’re forgetful as fuck, I guess what I’m saying is also be nice as fuck. Maybe that’ll help balance things out, I donno - I just go with the checklists.
3) Additional Material
It’s always a good idea to prepare for more time than you have. You might be asked to play more songs at the venue, or you might end up at someone’s house and either way it’s nice to have songs you haven’t already played. I’ve also run into situations where I’ve been offered to take 2 slots because the promoter couldn’t find anyone to fill a last minute cancellation.
The other side of this is being prepared to swap songs out during your set based on crowd response to match their mood. If they’re not feeling the energy you’re bringing to the stage, call an audible and meet them halfway by trying something new. A lot of times I’ll describe a few types of styles and let people in the audience choose what to play. See, NOW if they don’t like it, they’re at least partly responsible and that thought is funny enough to keep me from feeling bad about a song not being received so well. But most of the time giving people what they want to hear has ended in great conversations and staying connected long after the show’s over.
You may be surprised, but it’s pretty fun to perform for people rather than the mice and spiders living in your walls. Not to say they can’t appreciate the finer things in life, but the language barrier makes it difficult to understand their feedback. Promoters, on the other hand, are slightly easier to read. Not that draw is the only factor (though for many it absolutely is), but if you bring people to the shows they throw you’re 100% more likely to be invited back to perform. Post about it, tell people about it, put up flyers, try things out to see what gets the best results in your city. Get in touch with the nearest college that has a radio station and see if you can make something like an on-air performance or interview happen. I still haven’t found a better method than contacting people I think would be interested directly, and asking them to tell any friends who might be interested. Since the social media algorithms are tightening and physical flyers don’t seem as effective anymore (though both are still worth doing), it’s more important than ever to reach out to people directly.
It’s almost not worth playing shows if you don’t have something tangible to give people who want to hear more from you. People forget - especially if you’re not that popular - and especially if you have some crazy name like Lucid Optics. Good fuckin luck Fantzy The Animal Who Once Lived In A Magical Tower On Fuckhead Island: nobody will remember your name if you don’t have a shirt, a little poster or card or some shit, a mailing list, for christ sake make a mailing list and let people know when things are coming ahead of time, and again when they’re happening. Tell people you have merch to sell on stage, or better yet, ask the host or promoter to. I really wish I remembered Fantzy’s actual name because her music was amazing and her songs pop in my head every once and awhile to remind me I should’ve looked her up years back when I witnessed the performance. Oh fuckin well!
The bottom line is that many of us are more forgetful than we like to believe and giving someone a token will help remind them you have music worth listening to.
6) Your Own Microphone
This is kind of a bonus tip I saw Eyedea recommend in an interview - if you know you’ll be doing this awhile it’s good to invest in and practice with your own mic. They all have different ranges and some are going to sound better or worse depending on who’s using it. The other side of this, especially on tour, is not sharing spit with people from however many cities and states and then mysteriously coming over with a cold or flu in the next few days.
7) Appreciation for the people who came to see you, and everyone involved in making the show a show for that freakin matter
Many of us are willing to sacrifice everything for one amazing tour, show, what have you. But being willing doesn’t always prepare us for the consequences. I booked my first tour while my life felt like it was falling apart, and also right before the first girl I fell in love with decided she wasn’t into being with a guy who was ready to travel all the time for the foreseeable future to get paid in drink tickets and weed each night - which, hey, can’t blame her. At the time it was fresh and difficult to mask on stage, but after the show at one of the first stops, I was approached by someone who gave me advice I’ll never forget.
That guy hired a babysitter to watch his kid and had to work extremely hard to get to the show. He gave me praise on the music, and on the set, told me he’d quiz me next time I was in town to make sure I’m not writing thesaurus.com verses (still waiting for that quiz my friend), but also that I was visibly elsewhere - and not a good elsewhere. He reminded me that there were people who would give anything to be able to tour, that I needed to move passed whatever it was that was bringing me down and remember the opportunity in my face. I haven’t seen him since. But that shit was so powerful I actually broke down crying. I needed that, Aerosol, so thank you again for fucking real. The rest of the trip was no easier, but I think I did a better job of keeping my sulking off the stage. It’s one thing if it’s in your material, but my songs weren’t sad and my energy was. We were playing dive bars and house parties. Not great places to be sad. This ain’t uhhh, your freakin’ uhhh, grandma’s house dude. No milk and cookies here you sad clown!!
But seriously, if you can’t put on a game face on stage through whatever’s bringing you down, it’s kind of disrespectful to the people paying to see you. Sounds rough but that’s the game and those are some of the expectations.
Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to thank everyone involved for (hopefully) making the night successful. There aren’t really any benefits to that other than lifting someone else up a little bit. And that can go a long way.
Hope you got something from this. If you liked it, let us know why - if you hate it do the same. Share it if you gained something and let us know anything we missed and maybe we’ll add it in (and give you credit if we do). We don’t want to keep putting these articles out if they’re helping nobody. And thanks for being here still.
Written by Justjoey and edited by Justjoey (uh oh)