Every musician knows that when playing live, mistakes are bound to happen. Even world-famous superstars make them every now on them. Being a great -or even just proficient- live musician isn’t about perfection, but rather, learning how to minimize them.
A big part of that is learning how to plan ahead, watching closely what other bands (amateurs and pros alike) do, and a lot of talking. The whole band needs to be on board when it comes to avoiding the most common mistakes new bands make when playing live. Luckily, they’re not that hard to avoid, it just takes a good attitude and some know-how.
Refusing to Rehearse
This is common among young bands that think shows should feel “organic” and “spontaneous”. They often think that in order to achieve that “effortlessly wonderful” feel, there’s no need to rehearse… and they could not be more wrong.
First of all, rehearsing the setlist is a must. You need to run through it at least once, to correctly assess the flow of the songs and the vibe of your setlist. Second of all, you need to rehearse the kind of band you’re going to be on stage beforehand. This means deciding if you’re going to be the “fun band”, or the “enigmatic band” or whatever it is that you want to be. Failing to rehearse your attitude as a band will result in a performance that at best looks insecure and, at worst, schizophrenic. Know what kind of stage persona you want to develop and please, please, please, rehearse it!
Not Arranging the Songs
Know how there are radio edits for singles?
The same should be true for live songs. The medium really determines the kind of experience the audience will have while receiving the material. Radio singles are edited to be shorter and more easily digestible through equipment that’s often not specialized and doesn’t let the audience digest more nuanced melodies.
A “live edit” should take into account the kind of venue you’re playing and the overall set. They should be done so that the public has a moment to absorb the song, the performance breathes, and the audience actually feels connected to the band. So, unlike a radio edit, this could mean the song actually runs a bit longer and includes an extra bridge or a jamming at the end. There are no rules really, just think of the audience and the overall experience they’ll have during the show.
Playing Like No One’s Watching… In a Bad Way
In other words, don’t play like you’re alone in your garage and think that just going through your songs will get you by. A live gig is a performance. This means you’ll have to engage your audience one way or another, and that’s true no matter your role in the band. Getting the audience to connect isn’t just the singer’s job.
The worse performances are those done by bands that look like they’re bored with what they’re doing, or those that might as well be in the rehearsing studio. Prepare a show. Even the most famous shoe-gazers out there put on a performance, so there’s really no excuse.