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Stage presense

Discussion in 'Bands on the Run' started by GuitarPix, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    It was interesting last night going to one of the local clubs and seeing a young band doing a very credible 1970's impression/covers. Their own tunes were certainly good and they were really tight, very talented. After the first few songs, I turned to my friend and say "Allman Brothers without the southern twang." And the band went into some Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes, we laughed. They did lots of 70's rock/blues rock tunes, and quite well at that. I really enjoyed many of the tunes they pulled up, they ended the second set with Edgar Winter's Frankenstein.

    But I was quickly bored. Maybe I'm jaded, or maybe I'm a grumpy old guy. Maybe I'm the one that guitarist joke is about (how many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? Two; one to do it, and one to talk about how he'd have done it.)

    They had a good crowd and the crowd was enjoying the tunes - although I noticed no one danced at all. Except for Frankenstein - and the band blew that moment, more in a second.

    My girlfriend and her sister and I go to see quite a bit of live music, mostly to see people doing their own music and rarely to see cover bands - unless its a really fun tribute band or doing something special. Obviously blues, jazz and rockabilly are mostly covers - but they almost always change the songs enough to make them their own, which is cool.

    The band made almost no attempt at interacting with the audience - although the lead singer/guitarist/bandleader did occasionally step forward and make some guitar faces and show off a bit - not a lot though. The rest of the band spent the whole night looking at each other obviously concentrating on 'not screwing up' - and not having any fun by the looks of it.

    Oh, and dancers finally got up to Frankenstein - but of course, the band 'had' to put in the drum solo in that song rather than keep the few dancers on the floor. The dancers didn't get back up.

    But the audience enjoyed it - most of them reliving the joy of the original music. My thought was - I've heard bands doing these songs just as well and I didn't have to pay a cover charge to get in. It'll be interesting see how far they go if they don't improve their stage presence. As I've said, seen lots of original acts and the ones who sell a ton of merch (the real way of making money on the road) had great interaction with the audience and looked like they were having a blast.

    Which is something I know I need to work on myself - but I'm trying.

    Then I watched this - the CD Baby DIY Podcast mentioned how good a show Hillbilly Casino puts on. Wow, I'd go see this anytime and happily pay a cover for it.

     
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  2. rolandson

    rolandson Most Honored Senior Member

    try going to a symphony...or a jazz performance.

    its all about what you're looking for. no right or wrong.
     
  3. guitarface

    guitarface Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 11, 2012
    New York
    When you say local club, what kind of place are you talking about? Kind of a sit down theater type thing with drinks served as you watch a stage? More of a bar where instead of music from a CD player or streaming service there's a band in the corner, a club with a dance floor?

    My feeling is that unless the band is the main attraction at the venue, nobody wants to see a random dude strutting around like he's mick jagger or Freddy mercury while you're trying to relax with a drink. But at least look happy to be there.
     
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  4. circles

    circles Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Presence is important, especially in a setting as shown above. There's nothing else to look at but the band. If they are acting insecure, looking at each other most the time, etc, they will pick up the vibe. Although we like to think the music is the only thing, it is a show after all.

    That does not mean smoke pots and sharks with lasers, but it helps to engage the crowd, generally speaking. I know I can't stand still when I'm playing onstage.
     
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  5. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    You can substitute "looking like they are having fun" for stage presence in most cases. The bands that have that "oh my the laxative did not work" air about them make it hard to enjoy.
     
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  6. rolandson

    rolandson Most Honored Senior Member

    In my experience, being an accompanist, I supported-backed-augmented the "front", i wouldn't do anything to distract from their schtick. Being heard, not seen.

    I've played with many who had an 'act'...it was their 'show' to do whatever they do. In most cases, the audience, or crowd, was there for the music.

    Some of these fronts were simply stunning in their abilities, and people came to witness a great musician. That was their show.

    Others, well one in particular, had a persona that was...outrageous. Carmen Miranda kind of outrageous...and very entertaining. The last thing she needed from me was anything that might upstage her.

    I get what you mean, if i can paraphrase... 'being entertained' ...

    fortunately that wasn't my job!

    I did it once. Took over the front when the real front was ill. I told the audience that I didn't know any jokes and I can't play with my teeth or behind my back. But I can dance!!! Just not while playing guitar or trumpet. I was scared ***tless (told 'em that too). it didn't help that a quartet was now a trio. I'd never done that before either.

    They started dancing right off.
    So did I.
     
  7. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    I understand not wanting to distract from the front person, but as part of a 'band' it's important to still try and connect with the audience and not just be in your own little world - not that that's what I think you were implying, you may well have been doing well connecting with but not distracting the audience members.

    But the point, from the best bands I've watched - that even if you're the bass player and have no feature parts to show off, you can still make eye contact with the audience and smile for them (assuming a smile is appropriate to the song.) Another thing to do is when a soloist steps forward (and they should) you look at them to get anyone in the audience looking at you to also look at them.

    As a photographer; In a group photo, if one person is looking out of the picture to the side while everyone else is looking at the camera, the viewer starts wondering what the heck is off to the side where I can't see, and it distracts from the photo as a whole, same thing on stage.

    Someone staring blankly, watching only their instrument, or constantly watching the drummer instead of interacting with the audience detracts from the show as a whole.

    And if there's a cool part that you play, even for just a few seconds, you should take a step forward and the others in the band should look at you so people in the audience 'get' that you're playing a cool part.

    Only relying on one person to 'entertain' the audience the whole show can also be quite boring, even if they are super animated. You should change things up, change the dynamics visually as well as audibly. The songs don't all sound the same (or shouldn't) - the visual shouldn't all be the same.

    Unless that's a band's schtick - to have four mannequins and a hyperactive front person. I'd find that fun for about a song.

    As a solo artist, I spend a lot of time behind the mic; I stand so I can shift around my focal point and change the outline of me and my guitar - and have a stool on stage so I can sit for quiet introspective songs/instrumentals just to change the visual aspect of my performance. It's not a big theatrical thing, but I find it helps - when you sit down after standing people do notice.

    That's cool.
     
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  8. ocean

    ocean Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 14, 2015
    In a house
    those crooked vultures.
     
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  9. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    This club, in particular, is set up for performances - low tables in front of tall tables and a sizable stage - with a dance floor that is often filled when I've been there.

    But I've seen great performances in wine bars with impromptu stages, and in a brewpub I've been booked into several times already, the audience loved when I went wireless and played a solo a over a loop while I walked around greeting people.
     
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  10. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    @guitarface - I saw Tommy Castro play the same club, he rocked the place and people danced the whole time - the whole band was great at looking into the audience and looking like they had fun. He wasn't as hyper as the singer in Hillbilly Casino - but he was having a blast (at least it looked that way.)

    I wouldn't say Tommy's band was any tighter than the band last night, they were really quite technically good, but Tommy's band were way more entertaining to watch - even without theatrics.
     
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  11. circles

    circles Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Yes! Wireless and wandering! I saw a great show where someone wandered into another bar and back playing an extended solo. I don't plan on doing that, but I do want to mingle a bit while playing, that would be cool.
     
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  12. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 21, 2010
    Sheffield, UK
    A friend of mine played a whole set whilst locked in the pub's gents. He had been chased there by a rather over enthusiastic amorous young lady. He loved his wireless set up. :)
     
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  13. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 28, 2011
    Pawnee, Indiana
    I think this all depends on the performer. Some people can give a riveting performance, basically standing in one spot. Some people “overdo” their schtick, and look silly. Guess it’s just a balancing act. But certainly acting like you care about the music helps.
     
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  14. ocean

    ocean Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 14, 2015
    In a house
    joe Walsh

    Alice Cooper.
     
  15. rolandson

    rolandson Most Honored Senior Member

    I disagree. completely.

    It's not dinner theater that we do. It's music.
     
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  16. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    I would contend it’s not just music; it’s about entertainment. If it’s just music the venue would hire a DJ or play canned music.

    If all someone wants to do is ‘play music’ and not make it an experience for the audience, then they should just do recordings. Nothing wrong with that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
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  17. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    Certainly, I’m not one to jump around on stage (or elsewhere) and it would feel very fake to try to be just like an act like in the video. Some people ARE like that - and for them it works great. But it has to be authentic, whatever the approach.

    But I am putting in work to be able to connect better with the audience.
     
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  18. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    I’ve seen it - folk singer Valdy killing it from a stool. But it worked for him. But he was great at making that connection with people in the audience and making them feel they were alone with him. That’s skilled. He didn’t look bored, scared, distracted or only interested in his guitar. He was warm, friendly and looked directly at audiences.