I took a road trip to south Florida to check out some bands this week. I travel quite often to see bands, sometimes it’s worth it sometimes it’s not. This time was worth it. I got to see a band that I’m loosely affiliated with through the Manchester Orchestra
camp. They’re called All Get Out
, and like most bands affiliated with Manchester, they are on the road touring more often than not. They told me they will have played three hundred shows by year’s end. For those wondering, that’s a lot, actually that’s more then a lot, that’s kind of ridiculous really. Their time on the road is starting to show, in a good way, which I’ll get to in a minute. I’ve seen All Get Out a bunch of times, but this time was a little different in that I got see them as All Get Out playing their set of super-infectious original material, but I also got to see them act as the backing band for the other artist I flew to the Sunshine State
to see, The Working Title
. The Working Title are also no strangers to the road. They’ve been touring in one form or another for a number of years, and like All Get Out it shows. Not only because All Get Out was the backing band for singer Joel Ham, but because there was a sense of confidence shown by both band that only time on the road teaches.
There were 5 bands on the bill that night. The crowd was sparse but attentive and the bands I was there to see were third and fourth in the line-up; The Working Title (Joel plus the All Get Out guys) followed by All Get Out themselves. I got there in time to see the two openers (whose names I can’t recall) and I’m glad I did, not because they were particularly good, but because they confirmed my belief yet again in the need for bands to learn their chops on the road. These bands were not touring bands, and it was obvious.
The bands I went to see got on stage, grabbed their guitars and proceeded to shred their way through an incredible set each; very little talking, very little time between songs, a lot of rocking. The other two less experienced bands spent more time talking between songs and hawking their merch than they did actually playing. This isn’t meant to slam them, it’s just something that bands with not a lot of experience under their belt tend to do in order to unnecessarily fill time and awkward gaps. They felt like a bar band, while the other two bands felt like a professional band ready to break big.
Bands often ask me what they can do to improve their show, and the answer, outside of just tightening up musically, is often the same. I look to All get Out and The Working Title as examples of what to do, and the other two bands of what not to do. Here’s what I usually tell them: 1. Keep the time between songs to a minimum, tuning your instrument is often necessary, but no need to tell a story before and after each song unless you’re in a setting that calls for such, but those type of gigs are far and few between. 2. Everyone knows you have merch and a mailing list at the back of the room, no need to sell it from the stage, you’re an artist not an auctioneer. 3. No need to tell the audience to tip the bar staff; we’ve been out before, we know the rules. 4. Unless you’re Tony Bennett
introducing the orchestra, there’s no need to introduce every member of the band.
In short, go on stage and play your set like it’s your last. Focus on the music, the show itself, and the camaraderie between all of the players on stage, and you’ll be stunned at what a difference it makes.
In 2002 I went to The Earl
to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
play their first ever show in Atlanta. There may have been 15 people in the room, but BRMC played like they were in an arena. They hit the stage, plugged in, and blew minds with their show. They literally didn’t say a word until the end of the show, and even then all they said was “thank you good night.” There was barely a pause between each song. That show went down in my books as one of the best I’ve ever seen from any band. I’m not saying that every band should be that extreme, but see for yourself the next time you go see your favorite touring band, I bet you’ll find that a little less chatter and a lot more music separates the pros from the, well, not-so-pro.