That showmanship experience.
Of course, they are Metallica and they can get away with everything when you have 5000 die hard fans in front of you
But seriously, everybody makes mistakes and if we wouldn’t everybody would be able to play an instrument, sing, entertain, trigger emotion and nostalgia.
I love to play live, I need the energy and I leaned to channel the emotions and “tension”. There is no “negative” energy; only “energy”. and yet…I stumble sometimes.
I had a similar moment and I skipped an entire song after trying the intro 2 times.
I was strumming the first chords of the intro and I blacked out. A song I had done so many times and I forgot the lyrics. Mind you, I never take lyrics on stage and I take pride in not reading off a book or tablet. I do take a setlist on stage though. Not out of snobism but to have LESS distraction so I can focus on the song, the music and the story… But there I was, bashing some chords and forgetting the opening line. I was sure that if I would get the first words, the rest of the song would roll off my tongue but nope… I was distracted and the distraction of my own confusion started to add to it to a point I had to change course.
I just tried restarting the song, quickly noting I took a bad start or something…but then the same thing…my engine was going but there was no 2nd gear Don’t panic… improvise
So I Stopped. Looked up to my audience…everybody was in a combo of confusion and 100% focus.
So I made a “waving it away” gesture and proclaimed
“Naaaah I’m not going to do that one. It is on my little paper right there and it seemed like a good idea this morning but I’m just not feeling it you know? Imagine sitting there at your table, first coffee of the day, penning down the songs you will play later that day, not knowing how your audience looks like, how they fill the room with their vibe?.. I’m going to give you something else, something that fits you, here and now”
So I jumped in on another spot in the setlist and with that moment, I was cleansed of my distraction. I literally broke some ice.
Afterwards, the show organizer said to me:
“That was pretty cool, showing that you don’t just come to play your list”.
Ha, did he know I just improved that?
but I still meant what I said on stage.
Mistakes are always part of your act
You are there to perform and we put the bar so high for ourselves.
You can be DAMN SURE you’ll make mistakes and even Metallica can get distracted in a relatively easy intro of a song they played a gazillion times. So you better make it part of your act.
You can plan the show but you can’t play the course of events that make the show.
Handling these situations is a skill but you only train it by making mistakes.
I’M PRETTY GOOD AT MAKING MISTAKES.
Think i’m being cocky about that?
You can be too. I think the best way to approach uncertainty about mistakes is approaching it with a buffer of confidence…because that’s what being cocky or…“over confident” is.
At least it made me comfortable about making mistakes and I make far less mistakes since I do.
It’s like public speaking
Same thing goes with public speaking.
DITCH THE POWERPOINT
If you make one, create one with about 5 slides and make them all photos. Make the photos work as your visual clues to keep your talk structured. If you put too much numbers and text in it, people will look at the slides and lose attention.
You need them to look at YOU.
You only need to know what you are talking about.
Don’t memorize a bunch of figures.
Don’t say “this has grown 107%”.
no, just say “This has DOUBLED”
Focus on the essentials.
What 2 things do you want them to remember when you walk away?
Make sure you tell them. You tell them, not the slides. Look for eye contact but one at a time. add drama by changing the direction your body is pointing when saying the “doubled”
Take time to tell your story
As a musician, this is harder to do, we are often bound by guitar and microphone and that’s ok.
You are still TELLING A STORY". Every song is a story and try to approach it like that. Your set is a big story and approach it like that.
You don’t say “once upon a time” when you start but you need to manage an expectation.
Slow down. breathe, take deliberate 2 second pauses between some sentences. It gives people the time to let something sink in and you to keep your heart rate down.
If you have kids and you read them bedtime stories, you already did a lot of that stuff.
You slowed down.
You looked at the text but sometimes you changed the sentence a bit on the fly. you knew what was coming or you got distracted, whatever. The message is still the same and in your spontaneous style, you added authenticity. Your audience (your kid) didn’t mind, not even when you misread something. As long as you kept the pace of the story going.
You do so in your song as well. if you fumble a lyrics or a chord, just keep the pace/rhythm of the song going and nobody will bother. Most of them won’t even notice
While reading the bedtime story, you switch between looking at the text and your audience and while performing it is ok to naturally switch between looking at your guitar, looking down, closing your eyes but also looking at them.Your first gigs you might need to do that in a more conscious way but you can’t practice 100 things at once when doing your first performances.
Consider it “a public rehearsal”
The second part of the live gig this weekend was together with another musician who was going to bring his brother on bass but he was ill. So I offered to play along with him. Turned out we didn’t have any songs in common in our live set but as he played, I was able to do some extra vocals on about 80% of what he did. “let’s consider it a public rehearsal” he said. So we did.
My guitar became a percussive instrument while I NEVER did the guitar-body-slapping thing in a live gig before I even beatboxed some bass and some boom-chick drum sounds I just assisted the others guy stories and some of my fingerpicking over his chord strums relly enriched it all. I know my place; a small supporting role but it was in function of his stories and we had good fun.
We didn’t put the bar too high at all
and still, we’ve got to hear that our musical performances, both our solo parts as our impromptu co-op, really made the event. At the end of the say, your own insecurities were never observed, discussed or noted. We were there to entertain and part of that was by ridiculing ourselves when we tried (and failed) some things
My impromptu-stage-friend has a small tech issue after the song where I beatboxed so I grabbed the mic and said.
"Hellow, I’m Lieven, I’m forty years old. when I was a kid, I swallowed a drum set. I didn’t eat a thing for 4 days. "
people laughing, me doing a rimshot “badum tissss” only added to the joy and the tech issue was fixed. We made a fun story and that is what people take home.
You can’t practice these events; you can only plan the rough parts.
You’ll need to embrace the uncertainty and have it surprise you and co-operate with you.
So don’t be too hard on yourselves. It’s never a competitions and mistakes are a par of the show, just as you, your instruments, your story., your audience…
I’ve seen some depression and re-occuring moments of ‘not feeling so great’ but keeping a heatlhy attitude about this “bar” remained a safe constant.
Embracing the fck-ups actually made me fck up less.
damn, I could talk on an on trying to inspire people, hoping they can feel like me on stage.
Not being able to wait to get up there. putting your heart out there and feeling FREE. I always feel like I dropped off some emotional weight after a gig.
My highest goals are to inspire and to invoke emotion. If I did some of that and people tell me, I feel real warmth inside of me!
You can only achieve that by being THERE, NOW, as YOU and nothing else!