Monday, July 15, 2013

Lessons Learned from Rochesterfest

I like to think that most bands discuss their performances after the fact to identify things that went well and things that can be improved next time.

Our Rochesterfest show on June 21, 2013 was our first outdoor gig, so we had a lot to learn, but before we dwell on the negative, I want to list a few things that went well.

  • Sound technicians - we arrived on time and were able to work with the sound techs to get the sound (mains and stage volume) set up nicely.  When one of the monitors died, we were able to work around that.
  • Great sound - I'm not trying to brag here, but we sounded pretty good on stage.  I received a lot of positive feedback on the overall sound of our music - part of that is picking fun, high-energy songs, but part of that is the result of practice and musicianship.
  • Ability to improvise - when I skipped a verse in one of my songs, and went straight to pre-chorus, the rest of the band picked up on the goof and just adapted.  Some folks in the audience noticed, but most were  oblivious (or too polite to mention it) to the last-second change of song structure.  While we definitely need to play the songs right (and dangit, but I did sing it right in sound check...), it is quite nice to know that we can adapt to unexpected changes.

Here are some things that we need to improve on:
  • Stage presence!   I saw a few videos from people in the audience and except for our lead guitarist, we looked fairly boring.  I don't think we want to choreograph movements like a Justin Beiber concert, but we should move around a little more - especially on a large stage like this one.  
  • Smile!  We had a lot of fun playing at Rochesterfest, but from some of the pictures I saw, you wouldn't know it.  Some songs are slow and have a darker energy (I'm not suggesting that we all crack smiles on Heart Shaped Box), but I think it is important for the audience to see that we are having fun on stage.  I can say that some of my parts are challenging for me, and I often focus a lot of my attention on the fret board to ensure I hit every note correctly.  More practice will allow me to engage with the audience better.  
  • Banter! We had some downtime in between songs.  The humidity of the day (~95%!!) made it hard to keep the guitars in tune.  As a result, we were tuning after every one or two songs.  We also had to tune after adding a capo for some songs or for alternate tunings (Heart Shaped Box is in Drop D tuning, while most of our songs are in standard tuning).  During this time, there was a lot of dead air, where the audience loses interest.
  • Band Promotion!  I'm not a huge fan of self-promotion, but multiple people asked me who we were.  After watching other bands perform in these settings, I have noticed the subtle (and modest) ways that we can promote our band - (1) hanging a banner or some kind of sign on the band shell behind us, (2) mention our band name a few times during the set and how to get a hold of us (i.e. "check us out on facebook at ...").  

Overall, this was a great show for us.  We had a lot of fun playing, and it was great to see so many people stopping to listen to us over their lunch break.  We also got to meet some great people who helped organize the event.

We would definitely be interested in hearing your feedback (positive and negative).   If you saw us play and have any thoughts that you would like to share, please let us know by adding a comment. 

Before Chaos