Dive bars are the new Vaudeville
June 1, 2008 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to be a better showman during our live performances.

I am the front man/songwriter/singer in my band. We play out at least once a month, and have been doing so for about a year. However, as far as stage presence and showmanship are concerned, you could compare and contrast our very first show with the show we played last night and see no difference.

I am unsatisfied with my front-man capabilities, or really lack thereof. I have confidence in our musicianship, and feel really good during our playing, but then the end of the song hits and then comes that awkward silence between the song and the (somewhat) sparse applause and cheers. I always feel compelled to say something, but feel panicked.

Then there's the moment after the applause and before our next song- that feels like an eternity (unless we play songs back to back). Again I want to say or do something to engage the audience, but fall flat and stammer out an awkward "you can find us online at.." or "so today I..." without much panache or response.

I've tried to bring a few tricks up my sleeve to the stage, such as:

-introducing the band members
-introducing the next song (sometimes with a brief synopsis of its meaning)
-asking who has seen us before
-thanking venue/previous bands (though I need to remember to do this more often)
-the ubiquitous "this is the tuning song" joke (lame)

But rarely leave them awed.

I also would love suggestions on ways to spruce up our act in general. I've been toying with the ideas of having a projected video behind us, using various props/instruments for audience members, dressing in some specific fashion, etc.

I really am a humble person, and a quick "thank you" between songs and on to the next one used to be okay for me, but I really want to take the next step to becoming a better entertainer.

C'mon MeFites, what've you got? How can I wow them?
posted by self to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There are very few musicians I have ever seen who are any good at this. There's a reason they're musicians and not standup comedians.

Even at the arena/stadium level, most of them only sound spontaneous until you see the same tour in two different cities and realize they tell the same "spontaneous" story every single night.

I think if this is really important to you, your only choice is to rehearse your banter the same way you'd rehearse your songs. Seems lame, I know, but I don't think anyone is good enough to spontaneously wow an audience with something new every night.

(the only band I have ever heard that was genuinely entertaining between songs was the Who, who had kind of a Monty Python thing going on, as heard on "live at Leeds." But I'm guessing you don't have a Keith Moon in your band)

But now that I write that, I realize that genuine and funny banter between the band members tends to work really well, because the audience likes to see you interact. So maybe encourage your bandmates to join in>
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:06 AM on June 2, 2008

I think that it's kind of hard to give a definitive answer to this question without knowing anything about you or your music. The theatrics of a performance are something that should extend from the personalities of the performers rather than just being arbitrary.

Sometimes I think the best way to learn is to observe. Look at a performance by Tom Waits and notice how everything on stage romances you into the music. Watch how Iggy Pop mirrors his music with every movement he makes. Hell, throw in some Gwar videos while your at it.

As with any art, It's not always what you choose to put in that matters most, it's what you choose to leave out.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 12:08 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Try to keep the time between songs short -- if you can, play several songs in a row, back-to-back. Keep the momentum going.
posted by loiseau at 12:19 AM on June 2, 2008

The absurd is your friend, and your idea about dressing in a specific fashion is a good one. Great performers use costume very deliberately.
Would you go and see AC/DC unless there was a grown man in a schoolboys' uniform on stage? Would KISS fans be satisfied with a t-shirts and jeans show? Would you be able to recognise Bono from the back of the stadium if you couldn't see those stupid sunnies?
If Flava Flav can make a career out of wearing a clock and shouting incoherently, I'm sure you can spruce up even an otherwise-unchanged act with some cheap wearable props.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:28 AM on June 2, 2008

Cheap bribes: Pass out candy, stickers, CDs, toys. (Stuff you can brand with your name & website is especially good.) It's a nice crutch to get you used to interacting with the crowd more.

Try to keep the time between songs short -- if you can, play several songs in a row, back-to-back. Keep the momentum going.

Yes yes yes. Unless you're a Robyn Hitchcock or a Billy Bragg, no one wants to hear you talk about the meanings of songs. Do you need to pause between songs? Maybe the guitar player doesn't actually have to tune up as often as they think they do.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 12:43 AM on June 2, 2008

Don't feel obligated to play an unnatural role onstage. We in the audience want you to feel natural and comfortable so we can do the same.

I've seen plenty of great and funny stage banter. In fact for a band like Grand Buffet that's the whole schtick, and the songs are the filler.

But I've also seen plenty of bands who never say more than a curt "thank-you" between songs; like Skeleton Key, who put on what is easily one of the finest live shows anywhere ever. In fact I've seen a number of bands (Isis, for example) who never say a word at all.
posted by churl at 12:57 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Grab People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest. It's basically the Paul Stanley master course in stage presence.
posted by bunnytricks at 1:25 AM on June 2, 2008

Peanut butter is a traditional stage prop for many musicians. You could bring along a pack of ravenous dogs to modernize and enliven the process.
posted by stavrogin at 3:05 AM on June 2, 2008

Grand Buffet! You earned that favorite, churl. As far as stage presence, it's hard to nail down really, especially without seeing your set at least twenty times. You may be suffering from not being on tour, as you're not playing the same set every night in a different place, you're probably playing a different set in the same area.

I can offer some general tips:

Ask the crowd questions. "How's everyone feeling tonight?" "Where are you all from?" "Who likes drinking?" etc etc. The crowd doesn't have to respond at all, but the best case is a swell of unintelligible noise, to which you can tailor your own response. This depends on your improv skills of course. If you have enough time to ask a question, get a response, and continue the conversation; you should think about optimizing that downtime.

Don't tell jokes. Unless you can read and play a crowd exceptionally well, you're going to fail horribly and lose the crowd. Play your songs.

Have predetermined filler jams in case something goes wrong or time needs to be filled. Drums + bass = a song, for all the crowd knows.

If you have some information to get across, practice what you're going to say. Less talk more rock is the rule, not the exception. No one wants to wait for you to umm and uh through a silly story about your cats, but if you can get off a solid, tight plug of your myspace four or five times in the set it might stick with some people.

Realize that any rock cliches will be met with groans, just as surely as someone will yell for freebird and some other trailblazer will ask for more cowbell.

Have fun, rock hard, have confidence in everything you say and try not to leave dead space for heckles.

You'll be fine.
posted by knowles at 3:21 AM on June 2, 2008

Don't shag about between songs. This means set lists for everyone, fat black pen on white paper, taped to the floor where they can see it at all times. Then you can go "thanks very much! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!" and blam! into the next song.

If your guitarist is always breaking strings and retuning, have something up your sleeve you can play that shows how good the rest of you are without him or her. then arrange to get a new guitarist

Restrain your perfectionism about sound and learn to cope. The mix does not need to be perfect. You do not need to stop and ask for more foldback. What you need to do is survey the people, fix them with your steely eye and connect with them, not the sound person.

Fake it. Really. I used to be in a band with The Lord's Own Frontman. He wasn't even that good a musician technically, but incredibly good stage presence made people forget that. "How do you get to be so confident?" "I pretend I'm confident." And it was true. There was a lot of angst and stress out of public view, but he pretended.

If you can't pretend, make a virtue of being shy, and ham it up a bit. "sorry folks i find you a bit intimidating but if you allow me to look at my shoes for the rest of the evening we may all be able to make it."

You talk about "that awkward silence". First, depending on the song, it's ok to have silence. Let it sink in. Let people murmur to each other "that was great." Just smile (or scowl) and nod a little while that happens. Then, unless you have a patter and you like having a patter, nod at the others, cue up and play. You can do that, because you all have a set list where you can see it and you know what's next.

Be a student of other peoples' performances and study what they do between numbers that works, just the way you study how they play. In different styles and situations different behaviour is appropriate, so you need to pick a model.

As far as rehearsing the apparently spontaneous goes, all I can say is that I've seen many fine comedians do exactly that, night after night, and if it's good enough for professional talkers, it's good enough for you. Also, if you have a regular spot, and you recognise people, and they like you, these things can turn into a ritual, and then you have the double goodness of surprising people who don't know it and reinforcing your bond with people who do.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:28 AM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Definitely keep the music going as much as possible. If it suits the song's ending, let the last chord ring while you gear up for the next song. Work out transitions that feel right to you. My band runs into problems because half of us are always switching instruments, which takes up time and can create awkward silences. We design our set lists around the instrumentation, so that we have as few switches as possible on stage, and that they're as smooth as possible. If one person has to re-tune or pick up a different instrument, have everyone else play something. Vamping is your friend - hearing someone babble over the intro to the next song is already more interesting than someone babbling to shut out silence. And seconding the suggestion to have everyone in the band talk; the interaction among the band members is almost always more interesting than someone's nervous patter.
posted by bassjump at 4:38 AM on June 2, 2008

Work something out with your band to minimize the silence between songs.

Either make a solid set list, or have a member of the band who picks the songs and starts them up without waiting for confirmation from the rest of the band (i.e. drummer has a beat going for the next song right away.)

Not sure if they do this, but don't let your guitar players get away with tuning their instruments out loud on stage. The need to have muting tuners so they can take care of this without anybody hearing it.

If the drummer starts while somebody is tuning, this is not a problem - he just plays until the rest of the band is ready.

Don't say much other than "thank you" in between songs. If you feel the need to talk, don't address the audience directly. Make short, "poetic" statements that relate vaguely to your songs or the overall tone of your music.
posted by davey_darling at 5:24 AM on June 2, 2008

Not sure if they do this, but don't let your guitar players get away with tuning their instruments out loud on stage. The need to have muting tuners so they can take care of this without anybody hearing it.

bears repeating.
posted by knowles at 5:26 AM on June 2, 2008

Some musicians adopt a stage persona and live that persona on stage, and some are just themselves. Webb Wilder has an excellent and total stage persona—you hear some of his banter on his records—and the persona even extends to flamboyant mannerisms with his hat and glasses. It really makes going to a show fun. At the other end of the spectrum Dave Edmunds has a very aw-shucks demeanor about him. He does tell stories between some of the numbers, and of course, he's been in the business long enough that he has a few stories to tell. But mostly he gets up there and plays, and I don't think his sets are any the worse for it.

If you feel like you need to be filling in the gaps with something interesting and "being yourself" isn't working, then try out a persona. Tell outrageous and obviously false stories about opening for Herman's Hermits in 1967 or whatever.
posted by adamrice at 6:53 AM on June 2, 2008

"You know how when you were in college you heard that story about the guy who took a lot of acid and freaked out because he thought he was a glass of orange juice and he was afraid people were trying to drink him? We're that guy. 1, 2, 3, 4!"

That was the best band intro I ever saw, and only because (point of my comment approaching) dumb as it was it was delivered well.

There are a million things you can do or say that will endear yourself to the crowd, and they all rely on the delivery. And usually, "delivery" means being both practiced and sincere. No, those are not at odds.

Funny is good, jokes are bad.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:55 AM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: You're on the right track asking this. Musicians who are serious about their craft often forget the purpose of live performance. Summing it up in one word....what is the reason people pay to see you?

Entertainment. They are there to be entertained.

Good frontmanship is about audience participation. You can build participatory momentum lots of ways. Remember, you (the band) are the cool people in the room, because you have the stage and you have the mic. The floor is yours. So make the audience feel like they're a part of the coolness.

Call and response is always good. When I say "Me", you say "Fi", that sort of thing. "Everybody clap". "I need your help on this one". There are lots of ways to do this, they don't have to be generic. I once had an entire audience popping their cheeks (well, for a few seconds before they all broke down in laughter.)

Dedicate songs to regular fans. If they're on the mailing list, every now and again you should give them a shout out on stage, especially before their favorite song. If you know someone in the crowd, give them a nod. Make eye contact. If it's between songs, say their name.

You could always have some goofy singalong in between songs. When your guitarists are tuning up, start singing "Safety Dance" or "Eye of the Tiger" or "La Isla Bonita" a capella. This works even better if you're doing an original set. Chicks dig the 80s singalong. If you want to get musical instead, theme music from TV shows works well here too, as does the Cantina Song or the Imperial March from Star Wars...you get the idea. Also good if the band joins the song as you're singing it.

My old band came up with a ridiculous way to deal with cover requests. We had a series of punk chords we worked out in advance, and some drunk would call for "Stairway to Heaven" and we'd punk out power chords for ten seconds: "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN! STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN! STAIRWAY..... TO HEAVEN!" and then move on to the next song. Substitute the title as required. "FREEBIRD! FREEBIRD! FREE....BIRD!" Do this whenever someone asks.

We once played as a cover band of ourselves. We named ourselves after one of our own songs and gave the audience "the authentic experience". We could riff on that joke all night...talking about ourselves in the third person and what have you.

Read fanmail on stage. Even if it's fictional.

If someone in the group speaks a foreign language, have them address the audience all night in that language. Even if someone doesn't, it's very funny if you have a convincing frontman speaking elementary Spanish with authority. "YOU TENGO UN LAPIZ! MY LAPIZ ES AMARILLO! WOO!"

Invite people up on stage to sing into the mic. This is always fun. Especially if it's an original song, and the people know all the words. For that matter, many of the people in the crowd are musicians themselves, waiting for their set or just finishing up. Bring them up once in awhile for a guest spot. The fans of that band in the crowd will dig it.

If you're a dancing sort of entertainer, dance with people during your set. On the subject of movement in general, many bands just stand there. But the crowd responds to movement on stage. Think Mick Jagger running around, or Bono coming out on the catwalk, or Bruce Springsteen bringing up some fan (who turned out to be Courtney Cox) from the crowd to dance with him. As for musicians, think about Pete Townsend's windmill, or the Who smashing their gear. Obviously I'm not saying to smash your gear, but you get the idea. Try to not just stand there.

It is ALWAYS someone's birthday. Whether it is or isn't. At every gig, pick someone who's "birthday" it is, and encourage people to buy the birthday boy/girl a drink. This is funnier if you pick the same person (usually the brokest one, inevitably the drummer) every gig.

All clowning aside, you must always, always, always:

* thank the other bands by name, and encourage people to applaud for them
* plug the bartenders by name, and encourage people to tip them well (and do this more than once throughout your set -- it helps if you say it halfway through, and again as you're getting off stage.)
* thank the owner of the joint
* treat the soundman very well, and thank him/her. NEVER EVER insult them, least of all on stage.
* thank the audience for coming out

You must never:

* Apologize for ANYTHING other than technical difficulties. (Weak performance? Suck it up. Train wreck? Suck it up. Forgot the words? Fake them.) The crowd smells fear, so you must never show it. You may apologize if the PA explodes, otherwise you may not.
* Leave "dead air". There should be some sound at all times. Silence is not your friend, it saps your momentum.
* Say anything negative up there...not about the club, the bands (including your own), the sound, etc.

Those are rules. The main thing is that you're there to entertain the crowd and to keep the party rocking. Have fun!
posted by edverb at 8:08 AM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

There is no how-to on rocking the house ... except for the following:

1. All your old songs suck. Throw them out. Your new favorite influences are the Butthole Surfers and The Cows.

2. Kitten costumes are now.

3. Karo syrup and red food dye make a great fake blood.

4. When in doubt, roll around on the floor.
posted by metajc at 8:25 AM on June 2, 2008

I am the frontman of a band. I think the two more important things to keep in mind are: 1) don't say anything if you have nothing worth saying. Just play the next song as soon as possible. As a rule you should only say anything every couple of songs at most. Silence is better than saying stupid shit. 2) Drink more before your set and stop worrying about it.

Do not do these things:

-introducing the band members
-asking who has seen us before
-the ubiquitous "this is the tuning song" joke
-Ask the crowd questions. "How's everyone feeling tonight?" "Where are you all from?" "Who likes drinking?" etc etc.
-any of the corny BS that edverb told you to do (no offense, edverb)

Remember that you're up there to play music. If you launch into some dumbass routine every time you finish a song you're just going to embarrass yourself. Just play your tunes and be yourself.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:31 AM on June 2, 2008

Ludwig_Van, no offense taken, but self asked for ideas on how to interact with the crowd between songs, and you're telling him/her not to (and to drink more).

posted by edverb at 8:37 AM on June 2, 2008

Yeah, and if he doesn't want his band to be annoying and terrible, that's what he'll do. His problem is that the pauses between his songs are too long and that he always feels compelled to say something. The answer is not to speak elementary Spanish or sing Safety Dance, it's to make the pauses shorter and not feel compelled to say something.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2008

Ludwig Van: Yes, it's very serious business. Don't thank the bartenders, or dance with the audience. Definitely don't do call and response, that's something the Roots might do. Just get up there and STFU. Serious business.

"Annoying and terrible" is determined by your performance. If you rock, you can get away with anything, even remedial Spanish. If you suck, trickery will get you nowhere.

self, do what you feel. I'm just throwing ideas out there. In any case, do not rely on alcohol for courage. That's horrible advice.
posted by edverb at 9:10 AM on June 2, 2008

There's much to be said for simply having a good attitude on stage. At a show, fun is infectious- if you and your bandmates are obviously having fun, the crowd will have a much easier time having fun with you. Smile, mess around on stage a little bit (I think it's hilarious when somebody good-naturedly tries to make one of their bandmates screw up on purpose, maybe that's just me), joke with your bandmates during those silences without necessarily speaking into the mic. Drinking between songs is entertaining, especially if you have any drinking songs. One great way to get the crowd to feel really into the act is to announce your next song as a drinking song, grab yourself a conveniently placed beverage, and encourage the crowd to do the same (works well with the plugging the bartender bit above- "Hey all, this next song is a drinking song so you'd better get yourself a drink, Patrick back there behind the bar has been mixing mine strong all night so go pay him a visit"). Drinking is frequently a ritualistic activity, and getting your band and the crowd in on it together builds good bonds.

Having a stiff, wooden performance with little interaction is just a killer. I've seen plenty of bands that were really technically sound and played a great set, but they just got up on stage and played their songs like all they wanted to do was finish up and leave. If that's what the band wants to do, it rubs off on the crowd- they're just going to want you to finish up and leave, too. By contrast, seeing sloppy bands that weren't necessarily that great, but obviously have tons of fun playing on stage with one another for a crowd, are way more fun, way easier to get into, and much more memorable. If your band is technically proficient, sounds good, and obviously has fun on stage, then you're on top of your game.
posted by baphomet at 9:17 AM on June 2, 2008

No everb, drinking at shows is a time-honored tradition. Reading fictional fanmail onstage is terrible advice. I didn't say that shows are serious business or that he shouldn't have fun or thank the bartenders. I said he shouldn't ruin the fun, which comes from the music, by feeling the need to open his mouth between songs and do a bunch of horrible standup routines. If you rock, you can get away with anything, but you won't need to, because you'll be rocking. Ok, that was my last reply, I promise.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2008

Nearly all of the things everyone is suggesting makes me cringe except for "Drink more" and "Try to keep the time between songs short -- if you can, play several songs in a row, back-to-back. Keep the momentum going."

Crowd participation works well if you are The Roots and have a diehard fanbase of millions, but ends up being embarrassing if you're playing in front of 7 people at The Elbow Room.

"I say Hip, You Say Hop!"




"..." (crickets)

I was in a band for a good long while and while we never choreographed anything, we just played hard and with actual enjoyment for being on stage together making noise. Really get focused on your playing and singing. Try to do a good job. If you're good at it, people will come back.
posted by Overzealous at 9:56 AM on June 2, 2008

Ludwig Van, we just have different philosophies, I guess. (And by the way, I checked out your MeMusic and I dig it.) But it's not accurate to dismiss my advice the way you did. Some of the more gimmicky stuff may be corny (and that's by design) but it is not BS if it works and the crowd and the band has fun. It's all in good fun.

Few things are as ponderous as a bar band that takes itself too seriously. No one could accuse us of that.

Of course not everyone could clown around like that, it helps when they're your own ideas and they suit your show. The band where we did Safety Dance and the other cheesy 80s songs and nonsense was exceptionally heavy testosteron-y music, the kind where mosh pits broke out. We'd tailor the stuff to the crowd. (like the time Chuck D showed up to a gig and we covered ""She Watch Channel Zero?!?") or doing Eye of the Tiger in Philly or that Crash Test Dummies song in Toronto.

It was a way to show the crowd that we weren't scowling monsters, and that we had diverse musical knowledge and the chops to pull it off. It was a curveball, to make us more accessible. We had a good following, good reviews, packed gigs, sold CDs and sold merchandise. It was fun and it worked. Therefore....not BS.
posted by edverb at 10:03 AM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: Someone sent me to this.... :-D a red bull to my green flag!

First and foremost, I agree strongly with having as little downtime between songs as you possibly can, even if you are the most entertaining person in the world. Perhaps nothing else is as important.

There are many different schools to rock performance - for example, the "grunge" people don't believe in dressing up or obviously "performing" and the hip-hop people don't really want "performance" in the same sense as a rock band. I don't really understand those other schools so you'll have to take that into account.

That said, the most important thing to remember is that every gesture and word when you're on stage should be like a mountain; and that by being on stage you have a good chance of achieving "mountainness" even if you don't do anything special, if you keep strong.

The reason front people for bands talk a lot is because they feel nervous and don't want to leave empty space. But in fact, the random chat reduces the specialness of the show, makes it less significant. In some of the best shows I ever saw, the front man said little or nothing to the audience.

If you don't believe this, try saying nothing and just staring at the crowd; or just smiling at the crowd; and see the magnitude of the response you get. If you simply look at people with no expression, within 60 seconds they'll start yelling at you. If you just smile at them, within 45 seconds they'll start to clap. If you sit on the edge of the stage with the mic and say nothing, they'll quiet down.

My tendency is to free-associate wildly (but slow enough you can hear each word): "I see the moon in your eyes, your white teeth gleaming, the little drop of blood on your collar speaks volumes to me, do you think you're going to frighten me with those horrid shining claws?" (That was just random, clearly influenced by the Lovecraft thread in another window...)

I sing folksongs in random languages, I do magic tricks, I point at members of the audience, I get off the stage and sit on the floor, I pull out 60s SF novels and slowly and quietly read a key section.

A great trick is to engage the audience and look like you're always about to talk to them, even clear your throat and step up to the mic, but never actually speak. It takes less than a minute for them to get the joke and then you'll get a big laugh; then start the song.

The key thing, if you're into the performer head and not the hang-out-aimlessly-on-stage head, is that each gesture has to seem focused and deliberate. If you give it your fullest attention, slowly eating an apple on stage could be the most exciting thing your audience has seen that day.

Moving slowly is very helpful - it makes you high status and keeps the audience's eyes on you - but you can move quickly if you can pull it off, the key is clarity of gesture, focus, attention on what you are doing. It's simply much easier to remember all those things when you're doing something slowly. :-D

But again - if you possibly can, keep the gaps non-existent; at the very least, make sure you have segments of three or four songs, at least 15 minutes, where you can go from one to the next with no pause at all.

Practice, practice, practice the music part - you can't truly emit confidence, or even fake nervousness well, until you know the music in your sleep.

Get a video of yourself! Watch it! You'll hate it -- force yourself! Think of how you could improve each word.

You no doubt have nervous habits - you should see them on the video, learn them and make them much bigger. Things like Roger Daltry's microphone swinging no doubted came from some nervous tics he had and made bigger.

Cultivate specific mannerisms that are strong. For example, I often spread my arms out wide when I sing or talk on stage - because I have a tendency to put my hands together and fiddle with them and that's a weak gesture that doesn't read very well, and because at high noise levels I fairly often press an ear with my hand so I can hear the pitch of my singing properly (try it!) so I again need to get my hands away from my body. People really like this; I reach out as if I'm going to hug the whole audience, you can feel the response.

And watch the great classic performers in their prime. A random list: Iggy Pop, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Butthole Surfers, Devo, Nina Hagen. Many favorite bands aren't there as they were better musicians than performers.

Don't copy performers who are currently very active as they're using their gestures; classic performances become part of the fabric of popular music, but still make sure that you don't steal someone's whole set of rock gestures, everyone will know.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to experiment. Try things out, you'll never know unless you get them in front of an audience or at least in rehearsals and see how the band responds. It's much better to fail than not to try - audiences are very tolerant as long as you're having fun.

But finally, you want to have fun and to feel free to do what you want. Everything above is a suggestion - if they audience sees you freely acting on stage according to your personal inner directives, they'll be happy. Freedom to act is the part that really makes you a monster.


- as little time between songs as possible!
- clarity of gesture and word
- strength of purpose
- cultivate a toolkit of mannerisms and little performance tricks
- watch the great performers
- experiment
- have fun and feel free to do as you please once you're actually on stage
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Momentum. Keep the momentum of the set going. Unless you're very funny, this probably means rolling directly from one song to the next as much as possible. However, remember that you also should have a personality. Attitude and humor are generally a plus. One caveat to remember is that most bands have their own in-jokes that are much funnier to the band than the audience.

One trick that helps to keep up the momentum is to only do the band introductions, thanks to the bartenders/soundman/owner and other rote but necessary info during vamps within songs. And practice the songs with the vamp so that everyone knows a cue to get back into the song at the same time.
posted by andrewraff at 11:24 AM on June 2, 2008

Less talk. More rock.

This method can show a level of professionalism that many bands don't have. Besides solving your problem presented here, it also adds an important element to the show set which could be lacking due to long or awkward pauses between songs. That is, a "good song ending" into a "good song beginning" can be presented as a performance dynamic, contributing to all songs involved and the set as a whole.

Now, I can't tell you what goes into constructing a "good" song ending/beginning transition, because it is for the band itself to decide. I can say, however, that tightening up those areas between songs would solve your banter issues and add a level of musicianship to your performance.
posted by colonel_kerning at 11:58 AM on June 2, 2008

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Arts Presenters' continuing education offerings train presenters, artists, agents and managers on the skills needed to bring artists and audiences together, providing the essential tools to better enable them to do their jobs.

posted by Lanark at 1:04 PM on June 2, 2008

Lose your cool.
I stole this line from Saul Williams.
posted by kpmcguire at 1:43 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wear a suit and tie.
Make your band wear suits and ties.
Talk jive.
Tack mini-covers of well-known tunes onto the end of songs. Just the chorus will do.
Give the crowd a disposable camera before each show, develop the pictures, and put them on your website.
posted by The White Hat at 9:56 PM on June 2, 2008

Oh and I almost forgot, the single most effective between-songs good-will-winning tactic I've ever seen was when the frontman of a band bought everyone in the audience a shot of whiskey and then drank it with them. Everyone liked the band a lot more after that because people love whiskey and bands with rich people in them.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:24 PM on June 2, 2008

Buying shots for the crowd? Sounds like something Mark Hoppus would promote.
posted by colonel_kerning at 5:54 AM on June 3, 2008

You leave Mr. Hoppus out of this.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2008

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