Wellington rockers Curlys Jewels have just come off the back of an eventful 2018, which saw them play four sold-out shows alongside The Feelers as well as a support slot for US band Living Colour. In celebration of their new single Absentee, frontwoman Janelle Pollock shared some of the wisdom she has learnt along the way.
Once upon a time, my band and I played a rock show to three people plus the venue staff and soundman. We smashed it out like we were playing The PowerStation and earned ourselves 3 new fans. It was awesome.
I don’t profess to be a rock star, but I have fronted a rock band for the past 8 years, have mad acting experience and have seen enough live bands to hopefully offer some form of valuable input.
We are all amazing performers in our own rights, but here is a small arsenal of tips that may help those starting from scratch to stomp the rock n roll stage with confidence and style.
These people paid their hard-earned coin to come out and look at you, the least you can do is show them some respect. You are working from the second you get up there to defrost the frosty and to pull them into the damn good time that’s happening on that stage.
This doesn’t mean leering at them and making things super awkward, it simply means that looking out to your audience (even if you are actually looking over their heads) gives the people a sense of inclusion which will keep them far more interested in your show.
You may feel that being aloof and looking like you don’t want to be there may be part of your sweet on-stage mystique, but to the majority of the audience, you look like the bored guy that they spent the whole gig not paying any attention to at all. If facing the back is part of you developing your rock n roll persona, cool man, but just remember, you are not Maynard, so this probably just comes across as rude and like you have no confidence at all.
When you get on that stage, whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth, the audience wants to see you OWN IT. Don’t be scared that your moves aren’t good enough or that you look weird when you get right into it. If the band look like they are having a great time, the people watching inadvertently feel like they can loosen up, throw a goat in the air and crack out a squat thrust or two, it’s infectious.
The front person announcing “this is the first time we’ve played this song” or “we only wrote this song in the Uber on the way here” does not excuse the song for the audience. If it’s the first time they’re seeing you, all the songs are new for them. If one of those songs is a complete shambles, that’s usually the song your new potential fans will remember.
We all make mistakes. Missing a drum hit or playing a wrong chord happens, we can all be forgiven for this (even Slash has had his moments) but what is ridiculously obvious is when a band actually doesn’t really know how a song goes. Put the beer down at band practice and treat it like a REHEARSAL. You are preparing the show you are going to perform. The audience can tell if your band practices have been more an excuse to crank the old midweek thirsty Thursdays than about properly nailing your set.
A performer is in their element when they are on the stage, wowing the punters with their immense awesomeness. It makes sense that when one is in the throes of such gloriousness, that time escapes and one wishes this moment could last forever… Meanwhile, the next band is waiting in the wings to set up for their set and you have now thrown the entire schedule for the gig out the window. This is a fantastic way to really piss people off. Not only does it mean that the other bands may need to shorten their sets to accommodate the time lost, but also that the poor last band doesn’t get on until 1 am when those who have come to watch are either half asleep or gone.
It happens and it’s not fair on anyone, don’t be that guy.
The same consideration goes for changeover times. Normally a band would have 10-15 mins to get their gear off the stage and out of the way, whilst the next band gets their stuff organised and ready for their set. This mostly rolls along quite smoothly as there is unwritten mutual respect between performers to make this work. This only becomes a problem when those packing down take 5 million years, fluffing about talking to their adoring fans instead of getting their amps off stage. If these people really want to talk to you, they will wait until you have packed down and come see you after. I generally just try to keep my head down whilst rolling up my leads and packing up as that way people don’t want to interrupt someone who looks so busy.
This is probably the most important thing on the list. If you come across as arrogant, self-centred and too cool for school, no bands will want to gig with you, no promoter will work with you and you will straight up just get yourself an awful name within the community. This is not conducive to putting on a good show and getting your noises into many ear holes.
These are my own observations and suggestions which I have concluded from my own experiences. You can take them or leave them. Whatever way you decide to perform your music, HELL YES! Get out there amongst it and do it, we only have one life and I for one intend to live mine with a guitar in one hand and my horns raised high with the other.
For those about to rock, I salute you.