If everything went smoothly at a gig, it probably wouldn’t be rock ‘n’ roll. Indeed, like it or not, live shows can become a breeding ground of mishaps, mistakes, chaos and calamity without proper planning and preparation.
[NOTE: This is an archived post from Almost Famous, a music blog for unsigned musicians which I ran from 2012-2013]
Whilst you can do your best as an artist or group to ensure as organized as possible, there’s always the occasion when something goes wrong that’s way beyond your control.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a few examples.
1) You break down en route to the venue
You set off on time, the traffic is clear and you’re heading down the road in pursuit of playing an awesome gig when suddenly and quite unexpectedly, your ride breaks down and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Be prepared; give your vehicle the once over, especially for long journeys and keep a set of essential tools.
Ensure your phone is fully-charged before setting out and keep important numbers like those of the venue, promoter and other bands on the bill stored safely.
Invest in breakdown cover. Though it might seem like an unnecessary expense at first, you’ll be grateful you did when you need them to get you to the show on time.
2)Soundcheck takes forever and the schedule goes to hell
There’s a million and one reasons why a gig can run late, though in our experience we’ve found that it usually boils down to something going wrong in soundcheck which puts the whole thing behind schedule.
Be organised when it comes to soundchecking, co-operate with everybody involved and do what you can to ensure that your allotted soundcheck times runs as smoothly and quickly as possible.
If the fault is with another band, be ready to help them out where you can for the good of the show.
Be flexible, you may need to drop a song or leave out that epic jam you were planning at the end of your set.
3) Another band on the bill before you goes far over their allotted time
They got carried away, lost track of time, had a technical hiccup half way through or were simply arrogant aholes with no consideration for any other band on the bill.
What do you do?
You could follow their lead and play for the full amount of time you were supposed to, thus delaying everything even further.
Or you could work like the great team-players you and your bandmates are, making up the time by ensuring a fast and smooth change over. Failing that, you may again need to be flexible and play a shorter set, thus endearing yourself to the promoter by helping get things back on track, and making you more likely than the previous act to get a repeat booking.
4) One of your band members fails to make it
Though we have seen instances where the only notice a band member gave that he was leaving was by no-showing a gig, it’s far more likely that if one of your members doesn’t make the show, it will be down to some emergency. Maybe their ride broke down (see the first point of this post!) or some other disaster befell them en route.
Here’s where you need to make some decisions. You can’t just cancel now. You’ve come all this way, you’re at the venue and so are your fans.
If it’s your bass player who no-showed (and trust us, it’s usually the bass players), can one of your two guitarists sacrifice his Slash impersonation to play the four-string?
If your vocalist doesn’t make it, do any of you know the words to all your songs enough to fill in?
Can a close friend of the band sit behind the drumkit for a few songs? If all else fails, can you throw down an impromptu acoustic set?
This is where it really pays to know your band’s music inside out, not just the part you normally play.
5) A crucial piece of equipment fails mid-show
You’re half way through an awesome performance when your amp blows up, the PA dies or your guitar spontaneously combusts.
Do you stop, pack up and walk away quietly as though nothing happened?
Do you borrow another band’s equipment and soldier on forth like a true rock ‘n’ roll warrior?
Failing that, do you go grab the acoustic guitar you brought along just in case something like this should happen and finish the show with an intimate acoustic set?
6) Another band breaks your gear
Speak to any number of experienced bands and any number of them will have horror stories of loaning their equipment out to another band on the bill, only to have them blow up amps, break guitars or otherwise damage their gear.
If the band are friends of yours, or if they’re at least decent enough people to admit their mistake and pay for the damage, you might be OK if you can still manage to get your set done without said broken equipment (if not, see point five).
If they’re the same kind of ignorant aholes who already caused the whole show to run late, then what do you do?
Kick their ass? Bad mouth them to every other band and promoter you speak to? Talk to their manager (if they have one)? Forgive and forget?
We’d probably suggest something in between the last two on this one, though we’d certainly be open to hearing what you have to say.