This week's topic in the 5 pillars of the DIY band is the live aspect of a band. Rehearsing regularly is the most obvious suggestion, but rehearsing productively is something that isn't really practiced much. Make sure that each member knows his/her parts upon arriving at band rehearsals each time. Nothing is worse than the whole band having to sit and wait for one other member to play catch up on everyone's time.
Secondly, practicing breaking down and setting up your equipment is just as important as the set list. You wouldn't believe how many times our set was on the verge of getting cut due to local acts taking over 20 mins to set up. This is something that won't be accepted if you end up going on tour with a national act. Do whatever it takes to minimize setup and breakdown time. We typically get all of our electronics plugged in and set up before taking the stage. Guitars are tuned, drums are on their rack/stands and everything is laid out so that it's easy to bring up on stage.
Being quick will earn you respect quickly with any bands you play with and will give your band a good reputation with the venues. When you set up on stage, make sure you do your sound check according to the sound guy's schedule. Don't try to do every instrument at once, wait for his cues. Another thing to remember is that you want to back up about a half inch off of the vocal mic when you sing and always sound check at this distance. This gives you a buffer zone to increase volume for quieter parts and you won't be eating the mic. Always be sure to let the sound guy know your adjustments between songs since they are usually staring at you, waiting for you to clue them in to what you need.
Remember that when you have fun on stage, people tend to overlook mistakes because they are being entertained. Don't make your mistakes obvious, just ignore them and have fun. Performance is still very important, but there is a balance of playing professionally and acting professionally. Feed off of the crowd because they will remember you a lot more and follow you more closely if you are able to captivate them personally.
This leads me to my last piece of advice, which is to interact with the crowd between songs. If you're using backing tracks, create some segue type stuff that keeps the venue from getting quiet if you aren't good at talking to people. If you don't use backing tracks, then have the other members of your band create ambient noise as support for when you talk to the crowd. If they don't react, just go with the vibe and play every show like it's in front of a thousand people. Even if no one moves, you never know that they weren't just blown away.
Usually people want to take your band in on the first listen and the songs are unfamiliar to them so they are reluctant to give instant feedback. We've played shows like this, where we think that people just didn't like us, but then people came up to tell us how much they loved it. You never really know what people are thinking just based off of their reactions, unless they start throwing things at you or booing haha.
I want to thank all of the readers of Guitar World on behalf of the entire band. We've enjoyed writing these articles for you guys and hopefully our "tips" and experiences have helped to prepare you for what to expect as you head out on your first tour or start playing your first shows.
Please head over to our Facebook to follow our progress as we set out to tour Europe this fall and pick up a copy of our debut album Moments coming out August 28th in North America and August 27th in Europe. Lastly, thank you to Guitar World for letting us contribute to one of our favorite magazines!
Stealing Axion's debut album, Moments, is out now via InsideOut Music/Century Media Records.