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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been reading the various threads about the amount of money people are making nowadays, etc. A few things have come to mind, or I should say, these threads have reminded me regarding my own gigging past.

When I guested with a few garage grade bands in the late eighties back in Chicago, one thing I used to mention was that visuals were (and are) very important to the audience. Especially when a good portion of them are friends of people who were invited to come to a show because their own friends thought the music was good enough to take time out to actually experience live. The people coming to see these bands often need more than just music as a stimulus to appreciate the show itself. They didn't know whether the bands were really musically tight live or not. And you have to overcome that because we all experienced shows which have gone badly. I find non musicians watching a show really do relate the visual experience to the aural experience. If you look good, or the show has some kind of visual aspect to it, audiences generally enjoy the show more. (They asked us for tapes to purchase, I think, because they wanted to remember what they saw as much or more than what they actually heard lol)

One band used to have me stand on a platform fairly level with the amps just in front of me. I would be backlit for the show. During the song Turn the Page, for example, a smoke machine would start up below the platform and the lighting would switch so that people could actually see me. I think it was a great effect because the audience would be given a little mystery regarding what the guy on the sax really looked like. A kind of anticipation if you will. When we played the song near or at the end of the night, the audience got a very simple question answered; whose that guy on the horn?

That same band also waited to introduce me until we were done playing. And it got my name out. Whether they realized it or not, the audience anticipated finding out who the sax player was, so to some degree it held their interest during the show. I was backlit, not properly introduced with the band, and then finally they got to see me and be formally introduced to me. Other bands offered me guest spots during their own shows and continued the "act" aspect of introducing me. Oh, and I dressed as professionally as I could. Black dress pants and some kind of pressed dress shirt. So I also stood out visually because I contrasted the group I was playing with merely by my clothing choice. And it was just an effect! It had zero to do with the music which wasn't difficult, but which still had to be played well.

Presentation is either about flash and spark or it's about prefessionalism in appearance and skill at the craft. To what degree according to the venue you or your band is playing is something you, well, all of us, need to figure out.

When you play out, you need to put on a visual show. To whatever degree you can manage you need to be professional about the appearance of that show. Because since the era of disco with its intense stage productions, live music has been a visual experience as its been about music. Possibly moreso.

Harv
 

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I see where no one has responded, so I'll give some thoughts. I agree with your comments.

I play trad-jazz only (some call it Dixieland but what I play goes beyond that - or else I'd like to THINK so). Anyway, in that genre we've all seen the straw-hat/striped-shirt/vests-and-arm garter costumes on pizza-parlour groups. I shy away from that, although I'll admit that maybe 40 or 50 years ago, it was expected - and I did it.

Now, the music has come to a place where uniforms are not worn, but almost everyone dresses decently and often in similar attire. One of the best trad bands I'd ever heard, The New Black Eagle Jazz Band from Boston, dressed, shall we say CASUALLY. Yet their music was overwhelmingly well done and I think their skill at the genre overcame their lack of putting on a show. In other words, they made their statement through their instruments.

I've found it true that not much escapes the audience's eyes and it is important to maintain some sense of decency and organization on stage. DAVE
 

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I've always tried to dress approriately for the venue. Last band, it would kill me when I walked in and they were in shorts, sandals and T-shirts. Latest band tries to do it a bit better, but still there is no showmanship or presence. I was talking with the band leader recently and he told me when they lost one gig he spoke to the manager, and learned it was the girl singer that turned them off. I don't like her singing much myself, but I think it's more a matter that she is 63 and dresses like a 20-something, it just doesn't work. the only actual "show" that's put on is when I am there and play out in the crowd. but with their current set list, I have fewer and fewer opportunities to do that. I had far more chances in the last band because I would do it on songs I sang, and they would have to follow me (or leave me hanging on the dance floor). I only play with these guys on occasion so my singing is a rarity too.

I think some of the stage show has dropped off because venues don't have actual stages these days. Many push some tables out of the way to fit the band in, and trying to find electrical outlets can be a challenge as well.

that said Harv, you are spot on. I remember seeing bands in the 80's that put on a show, smoke machines, lights etc... it stuck with you and they had followings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Dave and Bill, thanks for the points. Without proper stages, any band will lose some of its presence as being the focus of attention. But as you also wrote, high skill does bridge the difference.

Part of what I'm getting at, and I don't want to overemphasize this too much, is that reality tells us the majority of us are average to above average musicians. The majority of us aren't great. We won't get away with some of the things our musical heros might've been allowed. We need certain edges. We need to take advantage of these edges to seperate us from everyone else. Look professional, be perceived as professional. After all, the first impression we make is that of being seen or recognized.

Thanks guys
Harv
 

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Harvey: I certainly agree with your comments about skill levels. I am NOT a whizbang saxophone player (no dazzling multi-note-per-measure runs) but I can hold my own. Most bandmates have been of a similar level. But as a team, we made (still make) some pretty good trad jazz. Playing together and APPEARING to be together is a great help and the audience appreciates it. DAVE
 

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...I find non musicians watching a show really do relate the visual experience to the aural experience. If you look good, or the show has some kind of visual aspect to it, audiences generally enjoy the show more...
For further evidence, check the "popular music" scene... every band these days has dancers on stage with them! Mostly while they mime their performance! It's a nearly purely visual experience. I find all the dancers more an irritation than anything else. Either adds to the cost of the show or detracts from the pay for the musicians, or both.
 

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My dad told me,"Always dress better than the audience". Not hard to do in my part of the country. I hate showing up and seeing the other guys wearing shorts. I always want to say, "What are you? Fuching five years old?"
The visual of the old singer dressed like a 20 year old just saved me having to eat dinner.
 

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I considered lights, smoke and mirrors for our Big Band but eventually decided to pass on that stuff. However, we often invite professional swing dancers for our Mall gigs. We also have director who was a professional performer with a wicked funny sense of humor. That, plus a pretty decent Big Band with hobbyists gives everybody something. I have to admit though, the dancers are so good that sometimes it's hard to concentrate on the music. :cool:
 
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