A while ago, I did a house concert for a presenter who didn’t have a sound system. I told her it wasn’t a problem as I’ve done many house concerts without a sound system. I have a strong voice and a Collings D2H that I take on the road and it has sound for days.
But she wanted me to use my pedals and looping box so she cut a deal with a local singer/songwriter who had a Bose Column system (which is very easy to use and sounds great). His deal was that she could use it for free for the evening, if he was the opening act. She agreed.
The night of the show, he set up the system late, after people had begun showing up, sound check was minimal to say the least, and then the show began.
He went up on stage and it was clear in moments that he was not a professional, but we all have to start somewhere. I went back to my green room and resumed my warm up ( I like to do at least an hour of playing before I go on stage.)
After I was back there for an hour myself, I wandered out front to find out what was happening. No one was on stage and the crowd had turned into a mob.
I asked the hostess what happened, only to find out that the opening act broke a string, and had no extra strings with him, so he jumped in his car and raced off to buy a set of strings. As I was standing there stunned by this strange turn of events, the opening act comes racing in and jumps back on stage to resume his set…which lasted another twenty five minutes.
I had been adamant that the opening act only have thirty minutes and he figured that he’d only been on stage five minutes when his string broke, so he was due another twenty five minutes.
I didn’t even know where to begin with this bozo, I was so enraged and the audience was so very disengaged.
When you are the opening act and someone tells you that you have thirty minutes, that means thirty minutes after you walk on stage your show is over. This is not a bad thing, as this really is how you get good. You pack your very best stuff into that thirty minutes. That requires forethought, practice and a mature unbiased look at your material to determine was is really good and what is just a favorite of yours because it’s about your late grandmother.
When you are the opening act or the headliner, it is your responsibility to try and imagine everything that could go wrong and create a response to it, or a contingency plan. You need extra cables, batteries, straps, strings, your own mic, your own boom stand, extension cords, wall warts,throat lozenges, pliers, string crank, maybe even another instrument if you can swing it.
Try to think of everything that could go wrong and then provide for it going wrong. And if worst comes to worst, you can always ask the other act if THEY have any of that stuff and then PAY them for what you use.
Be prepared, be courteous, be aware of your audience, be aware of your responsibility to the other act, the venue and the presenter. And most of all, be aware of the time. It isn’t your show…it’s the headliner’s show. Do your best stuff and get off stage. And if you really want to get better, watch every headlining act you can. They didn’t get good by accident.