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First big show? OMG what do I do?

Your band, Crunk and the Dunkmasters, was just offered a slot as local support for a national touring artist. You’ve written, rehearsed, rewritten and polished your tunes, and purchased the best equipment you could afford. Now all you have to worry about is not making a fool of yourself, in the eyes of the crowd, the promoter, the audio engineer, the headliners, and your band mates.

First off, put together an input list. If you don’t know what that is, check out our last post. Don’t hand write it, because it looks unprofessional. Use a computer, phone, typewriter, or Gutenberg printing press and be prepared to hand it over to whoever is overseeing the production of the show.

Be warned, as the local support, if there are not enough open channels on whatever console is being used, you will be the act to suffer. (Wait, a 64 channel console can actually run out of channels? Yes, I know). But don’t freak out about it, keep calm. Just be happy you’re allowed a slot on this prestigious show.  Because in most cases, the headlining band will refuse to allow any local support to use the same console, sometimes refusing to let locals play at all.  This ties in to #10 on this list pretty well.

So, here are 11 general things to think about as the local support:

  1. If any of the other bands offer to let you use their equipment, and you’re competent enough to not break it, accept their offer. This is especially handy for drummers, because your set time will NOT be extended if it took twenty five minutes to arrange your fifteen piece kit. This goes for any provided backline at a festival too. Use what is provided and everything flows smoothly. Even if it’s not as good as yours, give it some thought. Drummers will usually need their own snare drum and cymbals. Be prepared.
  2. Drummers, figure out what the industry standard is for kit design and get used to playing it.  Five minute changeovers are much easiest on a four piece (that’s a kick, snare, rack tom and floor tom). Try only using a ride and two crash cymbals as well. You’ll find it translates easily to every style of playing (unless you’re a hardcore kid, then bring your Chinaboy).

    Don't do it this way.
    Don’t do it this way.
  3. Lead vocalists, as much as you love your T.C. Helicon Voicelive Touch, leave it home.  If you ABSOLUTELY MUST USE IT, please tell the engineer before you set up. There are fewer things more frustrating for an audio engineer than setting the gain and EQ on a vocal channel, mixing it well, and then having everything change without warning. But seriously, just leave the darn thing home.
  4. Guitarists and bassists, if the engineer asks you to lower your stage volume, trust them. If you’re worried about hearing yourself, when it comes to setting monitor levels, make him aware you’d like more of your own guitar in your wedge.
  5. When setting monitor levels, or asking for adjustments be patient.  When the monitor engineer asks for the singer to sing, stand by your wedge, put your hand up with your index finger raised if you’d like more of it. Same goes for guitar, bass, keys, etc. If mid-song you realize you need more guitar and it cannot wait, make eye contact with the engineer, point to the audio source and point up. They’re paid to pay attention to you. In between songs, you can always say, “Can I get more guitar in my wedge, please?” That’s pretty common among bands across the professional spectrum. But if they say they can’t give more, they aren’t lying to you.
  6. Cheap wireless equipment will eventually be the victim of interference, and won’t function properly. Even higher-end pieces can still suffer problems, so be prepared to go straight into your pedal board, if something breaks. Galaxy, Samson, and Nady, are among the brands to avoid (though I’m forced to use them on occasion). Sennheiser, Shure, and AKG are your best bet for quality and reliability.
  7. Show up early. Even if you can’t load in for another half hour, arriving early not only gives you more time to prepare for the event, but the promoters, ticket collectors, and sometimes the headlining bands will take notice.
  8. Don’t expect hospitality. If you’re the local support, the things you probably won’t receive include a greenroom, dressing room, private bathrooms, free food, free drinks, free parking, and free tickets for friends. You are there to support the headliners and promoters, not to be a drain on their budget.
  9. If you meet the headliners and you happen to love them, don’t fan girl out.  Say hi, introduce yourself, say you love their music, your favorite song, etc. But once the conversation is over, go back to whatever you were doing before, because he’s probably exhausted, misses his wife, and in three more hours he will be swamped with fans. Pre-show is one of the only chances they’ll have to breathe. (This takes some serious self control, I know).
  10. Humility is your best friend. Regardless how popular your band is in your hometown, this show belongs to the headliners. But even when you reach the point where you’re headlining shows, maintain that humility, because people love it when they realize their favorite bands are made up of real people.
  11. Don’t suck. Perfect your craft. As good as you think you are, you can always be better. Take advice from those who are more experienced, learn from your mistakes, learn to write better music, develop your stage presence, and at the end of your set don’t forget to say, “Thank you! We’re Crunk and the Dunkmasters from Derpcity, Pennsylvania! Find us on Facebook and Twitter!” Then go mingle with your fans.

If you develop these concepts into habits, good promoters will be more likely to work with you and you’ll be treated with more respect within the industry. When you share a stage with that headlining band again, they might actually remember you.

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