JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE: EYAL ON STAGE ETIQUETTE FOR OPENING BANDS
Seeming as though there will never cease to be a supply of beginner and amateur bands in the world, I’ve written some of my Jumping Darkness Parade entries in their honor. A little bit of practical advice applied to whatever it is you’re doing can help move you a long way. Well, in this case I’m talking to any band, at any level, which is performing a gig and are NOT the final act of the night. If you’re in Metallica and the whole world plays by your rules, then congratulations and don’t bother reading this. But for the rest of us, stage etiquette is essential if you aspire to have an easy working relationship with your band mates, other bands on the bill, local crews, and beyond.
I want to focus on the dreaded changeover. This is the part of the night where either the pieces are laid into place to ensure an easy start to the show, or where things will begin to fall apart. How long you take to be set up and ready to play AS WELL AS how quickly you can get offstage will have a big impact on how your band is treated that night, and in the long run. If your set ends and your drummer decides to take apart his kit on stage while your guitarist sits in a corner on stage wrapping his cables, taking their sweet-ass time while another band is dealing with a fifteen minute window to get set up and started, then your band is fucking up. And also, your band is fucking up if it’s your turn to go and your drummer starts setting up his kit onstage, guitarist is fumbling with all his cables, somebody (bassist, vocalist, whoever) is nowhere to be found, and another guitarist who got his rig up quickly is noodling away annoying everyone.
Let me go on a rant for a second. Is there anything more annoying during a changeover than watching some dude stand up there and play fifteen minutes of guitar solos while the house music is still going amidst the general chaos on stage caused by everyone else trying to get the band set up? Is there a more eloquent way to say “YOU ARE FUCKING UP, SIR?” First of all, you look like a disorganized bunch of idiots acting that way. People take note. Second of all – and this relates to what I just said – you will lose the audience looking like a bunch of bumbling idiots. Third, you are most likely holding up the show and pissing off a) the headliner, b) the other bands after you, c) their crews, d) the club and their crews.
There are other behaviors that relate to this topic that I haven’t gotten into yet, but I’m sure you all get the picture. Not setting up in an organized, professional, and, most importantly, in a timely manner, is going to mark your band as amateur and hard to work with. No matter how good you think you are. The only people who can get away with an anything goes approach are dudes like Axl Rose. When you can sell out stadiums, people operate on your clock whether they like it or not. On small metal tours, well, not so much. Here are some ideas to kick around.
Drummers – Set up your drums offstage when the band before you is playing. Develop a system to where you can have your kit exactly how you like it and then just have one helper on hand to quickly move it up to the stage. You will be ready in five minutes. When the show is over get your drums the hell off the stage as quickly as possible. Then take your sweet as time tearing down when you’re out of everyone’s way.
Guitarists/Bassists/Anyone plugging things in – Prior to the show, make sure that everything that can be plugged in and moved that way is. What you want is for the only thing left to plug in is power and your instrument. If you’re dealing with too many other things you should rethink the setup of your rig. Literally it should be as easy as get on stage, plug into power, plug into cabinet, plug into guitar. Go. Ready in less than two minutes. Oh yeah… Are your cables good? If you’re using batteries did you change them? Do you have backup guitars? New strings? Have you considered a thirty-second plan in case something goes wrong?
Vocalists – If you’re going wireless, make sure the soundguy knows exactly where the receiver is going to go well in advance and put it there. Make goddamn sure your batteries are good to go. Have a backup wired mic on the floor of the stage. Make sure it works. This will save your ass.
I could go on forever about this, and I will definitely write more on the topic of doing the right prep work for a proper show. I do think that if you guys take at least some of the ideas and try them out you may find your show experiences become more easy going and fun.
How many of you here know what I’m talking about?
Levi/Werstler’s debut album, Avalanche of Worms, is out on Magna Carta, and you can order a copy here. You can also follow the project on MySpaceand Facebook. Daath hit the studio this month; their new album will tentatively be out in October.