So, you’ve been rehearsing with your bandmates for several weeks now, you have a set together and are finally feeling ready to start gigging.
But what can you do to make sure everything runs smoothly? Here are some dos and don’ts for you, to ensure that your first gig is memorable for all the right reasons.
1. DO turn up well prepared and in good time
If the promoter who has taken the risk of booking you for your first gig says, “Please arrive at 6 pm for a sound check,” please do so. It is easy to assume that, because you are on first and the headliners will need to soundcheck, you can rock up 10 minutes before the gig and just play.
That might be the case, but it won’t make for a relaxing experience for anybody and it doesn’t leave time to solve any problems that may occur with equipment/timing changes/stage logistics. Early arrival will help you and your band members to feel in control of the situation, as will turning up with all of your own gear available for use.
Even if you don’t end up using it, having it there is a problem-eliminator and will help you to relax and focus on what is important: your performance. Take responsibility; your show is your show.
2. DON’T tell everyone it is your first gig
It might seem tempting, either due to nerves or excitement, to declare before or during your show, “This is our first gig!” Great – if you want nobody to have an ounce of confidence in your performance.
Don’t do it.
If you want to tell them afterward, that’s up to you, but I still wouldn’t go advertising it to strangers.
Get on stage as though you are a seasoned performer, and the audience is more likely to view you that way. It is the whole “Fake it ’til you make it” thing … it works.
3. DO ask the sound engineer for his/her name, and address him/her by it
Sound engineers get a lot of grief from insecure musicians but they generally – just like everybody else – want to feel appreciated.
Addressing people by their names is a simple way of being respectful and it is guaranteed to make them like you a little more (and maybe work harder on your sound as a result).
This is a very easy thing to do and will be appreciated … also, it is far easier to address a sound engineer by their name, when you want to speak to them than it is to yell, “Sound engineer!” like some kind of king commanding their slave.
4. DON’T get annoyed with the sound engineer
Even if you are reaching the end of your tether and CANNOT understand why your vocals are so quiet through the monitors.
It is almost definite that the sound engineer is trying his/her best. Would you like it if, during a gig, someone started shouting at you because they didn’t think your guitar playing was what they wanted to hear?
Be patient, be empathetic, be polite. Your sound engineer wants you to sound good. Respect that.
5. DO ensure that every band member has a written setlist
There are few things more cringeworthy than watching lead singers turn to their bandmates and goofily ask, “Shall we play this?” … it might be OK as an encore but throughout a set? No way.
That is not a performance; that is a jam.
If you want to entertain your audience, do so in a professional manner and demonstrate at least an emblem of control. Having a written setlist will give you confidence, make your set run smoothly and ensure a level of confidence in each member of the band.
6. DO have fun
Also important is to remember why you are doing this. Sure, be professional and organized, to enable a smooth-running show, but that doesn’t have to mean taking yourselves too seriously.
You are there to enjoy yourselves, the audience and the other bands are there to enjoy themselves. Imagine being that band who never smiles, goes home for a sensible bedtime as soon as they have played and dusts their instruments before they come off stage at a dive rock bar?!
“What would rock and roll be without ambition, craziness, danger, and fun?”
– Pete Wentz
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.