Wanted to talk today about some things that you can encounter when performing on the road, as John Batdorf and I just encountered some things during our shows this past weekend. We did two concerts that both had their extreme ups and some challenges. The people that put on the shows were wonderful, accomodating and as thorough as their experience would allow. We would joyfully go back to both places. That being said, here's what would have made it better. and these are things that John and I could have done to prepare for such challenges.
At the club we played, there was a decent sound system, a stage, lights, and a sold out show. We were very happy. At the sound check, the sound man announced that he had one good Sennheiser vocal mic and asked which one of us would like to use it. As we are a duo, having one of us sound clear and resonant while the other sounded muffled simply wouldn't do. So we chose two mics that were matched. That way, we'd both be working with the same sound reinforcement and the vocals would sound balanced and perhaps blend a little better. What we could have done is for me to carry my two matched SM58's, which are the standard live vocal mic at almost every venue in the world. As a tip, I suggest you always carry your own vocal mic if you can. The SM58's aren't expensive and they are very durable. INXS actually always recorded their albums using these as that's what they learned how to use when the started out as a bar band. "This is what we sound like," said Michael Hutchence, "and so these are the ones we chose for recording." They are not nearly as sensitive as a 414, or the Neumann's, but they always sound pretty good and they don't mind the road, whereas those expensive mics will get chewed up on the road. Go with an SM58. Pick one up for yourself if you can. If John and I had simply chosen to carry them with us (we have them, after all) we could have upped the quality and clarity of our vocal sound. The point here is to try and anticipate what could go wrong, or be substandard and prepare for it. What is that line? If you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail. I don't mean to harp on it, but it's so true. And we still did a fine show and the audience loved it, but John and I knew that we could have sounded even better if we had gone to a little more forethought.
The other gig was a house concert that turned into a block party that got seriously rained on. What could we have done, you wonder? Three things come to mind. One would be recognizing what we do and determining if it would be served in that situation. Two, communicating that to the presenters so that we all would benefit the most. And by all, I mean the presenter, the audience and the band. Three, making a contingency plan for the show if it gets rained out. The presenters, knowing the vagaries of their local weather thoughtfully provided us with a tent so that we could do our show regardless, but that did leave the audience stuck under umbrellas, in little groups far from the stage. They couldn't possibly connect as one audience when in fact they were many individual groups under their umbrellas. And we certainly couldn't entertain them as well as we normally do. In retrospect, we should have moved it into one of the larger garages and done several short sets as the humidity would have overwhelmed a crowd in a small place if our set went over an hour. We went on hope that the weather would break as we played. As performers, we must be flexible and resourceful. Ask yourself, "what do I want to have happen here?" Once you know what that is, it's not too hard to figure out some alternatives.
I'll post again when I get near a computer. Please feel free to comment right here on this page. I look forward to what you have to say and your experiences and solutions. The more info we have here, the better it is for everyone.