As a musician who has been performing nearly every weekend for the past seven years, the best advice I could ever give to any nascent gigster is to bring everything. When it comes to playing out, the one thing you can absolutely count on is that things break. Cables die, tubes fail, drum heads tear, and singers bleed. Of course, thereâ€™s the obvious stuff youâ€™re all prepared to deal with -stashing guitar strings and drum sticks in your gig-bag is a no-brainer. However, one of the keys to being a successful performer is being equipped to handle all of that weird stuff you never, ever thought could go awry.
A lot of bands forget what is on the line every single time they perform â€“their reputation. In this age of short attention spans, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Therefore it is vital to give our best performance at every performance. In order to generate return business, you have to bring your A-game; especially when performing for an audience who has never seen you before. To the venue at which you play â€“youâ€™re only as good as your eveningâ€™s bar sales, so thereâ€™s no quitting early due to â€œtechnical difficulties.â€ Musicians simply cannot afford to be anything less than really good at what they do. That means you need to be professional on and off the stage. And when things go wrong, the world is able to see our true colors.
In truth, you canâ€™t actually be ready for all of the crazy things than can happen at a gig. Nonetheless, you need to do everything you can to cover our butts and ensure a successful performance. Itâ€™s a good idea for the band to have a collective bag of goodies that includes duct tape and first-aid stuff (i.e.; bandages, throat lozenges, ibuprofen, etc.). And, everyone should bring their own instrument-specific tools. Nothing looks less pro than begging the staff for some pliers. Guitarists and bassists should always have the little stuff (strings, extra strap, strap locks, etc.), but must also be prepared for cable, tube, or total amp failure. That means always carrying an extra cable and an extra set of tubes (if you play a tube amp). Bringing a back-up amp is ideal, but not very practical. So why not throw a pedal-sized pre-amp in your bag? Itâ€™s might not be tonally perfect, but itâ€™ll get you through the gig. Drummers need replacement sticks, heads, and an extra bass drum pedal at minimum. Singers need an extra mike and cables, and the band should have at least one extra mike stand. Keyboard players should bring extra cables, a spare volume/ sustain pedal, and a skinny tie that looks like a keyboard. The general rule: If you think you might possibly need itâ€¦bring it. Bring everything.
So how is all this gear-talk a PR tip? Itâ€™s simple really â€“itâ€™s all about protecting your image. If your drummer breaks his one and only foot-pedal and throws a tantrum between songs, or your guitar player fries his amp and proceeds to cry likeâ€¦well, like a guitar player; it looks really bad to the people watching. Remember to protect your image. Itâ€™s not what goes wrong, but how you handle it that matters. Think of it like hitting a wrong note in a song. You have to recover quickly. With just a little foresight, you can be ready to handle all that a bad gig can throw at you. By handling a bad situation well, you can present our music in a better, more professional manner. And thatâ€™s the ultimate goal.
Jeff Nagel is a talented guitarist, singer and songwriter based in Cleveland, Ohio. Watch for his upcoming solo release entitled Bellwether or visit Jeff’s website at www.myspace.com/jeffnagelmusic