There have been some iconic incidents on stage that have gone down in the history books. In fact, coming across an article demystifying a fabled situation which involved Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and excrement inspired this blog post.
Alas, to make sure that you don’t find yourself in such a precarious situation, let me take you through a list of eight different dos and don’ts when performing on stage. This list isn’t exhaustive, so please use your own discretion! There are a few perspectives that you need to take into consideration whilst performing live on-stage: the audience, the sound engineer, and your band, all of which shall be addressed in this list.
1. Don’t annoy the sound engineer
Now this may sometimes be tricky depending on who is doing the sound at any given venue; you can get some pretty abrasive people. However, the last thing you want to do is annoy the sound engineer. They will be responsible for about 85% of what the audience will be hearing, so you’ll want to keep them onside. It’s quite an easy thing to do – just be respectful and polite. It usually goes a long way and you will be fine. If the engineer happens to be a trickier character, bite your tongue and role with the punches. You are sometimes at the mercy of the person controlling the sound.
If you do have anything that you want altered, let the sound engineer know during sound check. You don’t want to wait until during the show to voice the majority of changes you want, this puts unnecessary pressure on the engineer.
2. Don’t argue on-stage with your band mates.
This is perhaps an obvious one, but it doesn’t stop tensions running high and underlying bickering boiling to the surface. There have been many infamous bust-ups on stage from Megadeth, The Kinks and Guns ‘N’ Roses, so don’t join the list and leave any disagreements until after you have finished performing. If anything, it’s going to be really awkward for the people who have come to watch you play going through an Oasis-esque squabble on stage. Don’t do it!
3. Don’t do too many jumping splits
For those who are flexible and crazy enough to do so, watch how many times you leap off your Marshall stack into a show-stopping splits on stage. I say this with tongue in cheek, but it didn’t end up very well for Prince who after a career of on stage antics and dance moves ended up overdosing on a prescribed opioid given him to alleviate hip pain exacerbated by punishing live performances. You have been warned. Plus, it’s probably a little bit over the top if you’re performing at your local venue…
4. Keep an eye on your microphone position
This one is a little more serious and it stems from my own experience. The last song that my band performs live, involves some loud backing vocals – which is done by yours truly – not realising how close to the mic I was, I belted out my part which deafened everyone in the audience. There was a mad scramble by the sound engineer to turn the microphone down, but the damage had already been done. Although hilarious, it probably wasn’t the best look. So please: learn from my experience and don’t terrify everyone in the audience by belting it oot too close to the microphone.
5. Keep rocking through the mistakes
The worse thing to do if you make a biff is to draw attention to it, whether that be by pulling a disgruntled face or rolling your eyes. Chances are – unless you are an established band – most of the audience won’t know your music well enough to spot a small mistake during a live performance. So just play it out, don’t let it trip you up, and keep going. It’s always going to happen, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
6. Don’t put a pint on top of your amp
Especially a bass amp or the PA, where low frequencies are pumping out of the speaker resulting in a precariously dangerous surface for any pint glass in sight. If you end up putting a glass on top of an amp/speaker and it spills, you’ll really annoy the sound engineer, thus breaking rule number #1! Don’t be the person to break two rules at once!
7. Don’t eat any live animals on stage.
Couldn’t resist. Cheers for that one Ozzy!
8. Don’t be rude to the venue staff
These people are the life and blood of local music scenes and, like everyone, they don’t show up to their work to deal with attitude or any inflated ego. So be co-operative and polite, not only to be a nice human being, but it will steer your band in good stead if you have the support of local venues.