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The DIY Musician: Getting Your Ass Kicked Onstage … and Fighting Back

The DIY Musician: Getting Your Ass Kicked Onstage … and Fighting Back

Last Monday, 2 a.m.: I was driving home from a gig when l felt the adrenaline finally leave my chest. It was at that moment that I realized how difficult this show was. The room was almost impossible to command: People were constantly talking over the music, the PA mix was the worst, and I had to be downright combative just to keep their attention. Yet, when we left the stage, we owned the audience. We fought tooth-and-nail to keep their attention … to get the women dancing … to have them sing along during choruses. It wasn’t “art” tonight. It was work! I hadn't played that pub in a while and forgot what the atmosphere was like. This was, after all, the same little smoky pub my band cut its teeth on when we first formed. We had played there every Wednesday night for almost two years. I guess after being away for a while I forgot what a challenge it was to play that room. Driving home, I got a glimpse at a key element of my band's success. Shane Speal's Snake Oil Band is known for our take-no-prisoners live show. We're combative, insane and we fight for every minute of your attention. If the music doesn't get you, the washboard player’s antics will. If that fails, we always have our arsenal of confetti cannons and toilet paper guns*. Yes, we shoot confetti cannons and spray lines of toilet paper at the crowds. What we didn't know at the time was that our entire live concert style was created by fighting for the attention of the impossible crowd in that one damn bar. When we perform our bombastic show at other clubs with “normal” crowds, we destroy the place and make legions of new fans. Bar owners tell us they've never seen such an energetic show. Truth be told, it developed when we were just trying to make that original crowd shut up. Are you working toward something big but feel like you’re getting your ass kicked? Don’t give up. Keep honing your craft. Don't let the bastards get you down. At the same time, let me tell you it might take a lot longer than you expected. It might take years ... even a decade or more. (Trust me.) Most people give up after getting knocked down a couple of times. You're not gonna give up, right? Right now in that time of waiting, you are developing in ways that could enable you to command any stage, anywhere. You won't see it until much later. Probably in a moment of clarity after the adrenaline has rushed out at 2 a.m. Have a great week. *Toilet paper gun: Get a cheap leaf blower and a paint roller. Duct tape the paint roller to the end of the blower nozzle so that the roller is about 8 inches away from the nozzle. Load a roll of 1,000-feet single-ply toilet paper. Turn on the blower. It’ll unleash an insane toilet paper blanket over the crowd, blowing the entire 1,000 feet in about 25 seconds. Photos by Kevin Stiffler Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.

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