Performing live is difficult for most musicians. Successfully conveying emotion to a crowd takes practice. Even professional musicians make mistakes. I was speaking with Nicole Fiorentino, bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins and The Cold and Lovely, about live performance.
Nicole told me that the most important thing she learned about live performance is to "always put in 100 per cent, whether you are playing to 30, 300, 3,000 or 30,000 people... you are there to entertain." She continued, "You never know who is going to be in the audience. I learned that when Billy Corgan was at a show I played in Echo Park, California. I didn't realize he was watching us until after. I'm grateful that I put on my best show because I got an amazing gig out of it!"
As a result of the unannounced attendance of Billy Corgan, Nicole was asked to join The Smashing Pumpkins' line-up as they embarked on recording Oceania, The Smashing Pumpkins' 2012 release.
Inspired by my conversation with Nicole and after watching hundreds of bands over my career, I've put together a short "What NOT to-do List" for your next gig:
Don't apologize to the audience for ANYTHING (unless you accidentally hit someone in the head with a mic stand). Don't put down your own band before you even play a song! What's wrong with you!? I don't care if you've never played live before. I don't care if you don't like the song you're about to play. I don't want you to apologize because you're sick or your guitarist broke strings. I don't even care that you messed up a song because I probably didn't notice anyway! Don't apologize. Just ROCK.
2. Lack of Preparation
Have professional courtesy and respect those around you by being prepared. Show up on time for load-in, sound check, and your set time. Have your gear prepped and ready. Guitarists should always have backup strings. Singers should have backup batteries and even an extra (muted) wired mic.
I know that showing up early to a gig with all of your gear and band members in tow can mean a lot waiting around. However, such is the life of a rock star... and you want be a rock star, right?!
3. Don't be Rude to Anyone!
The sound(wo)man's mother-in-law's sister is probably Lady GaGa's masseuse, ok? (True Story). They don't need another punk givin' 'em rockstar attitude. Whatever the case may be, don't be rude to anyone. Seriously, there is no need. Even if everyone else is ego trippin', you don't need to act the same. When you walk into a new club you have no idea who anyone is, who they've worked with, or who their friends/family are. I'm not suggesting that it's okay to let others push you around, I'm simply asserting that there is absolutely no harm in being a pleasant and courteous professional.
The music community is a small and tight-knit world. You don't want to be kicked out before you even get in.