Last week I returned to the stage for two different performances with two different bands. Thursday night I returned to The Midway Cafe in JP as a pre-Queeraoke act. Saturday night my other band Six Times Seven returned to PA’s Lounge in Somerville for our first show in almost two years! It was almost like I was experiencing what it was like to be a real, working musician—except for the not getting paid much part, and still working a 40+ hour job. Still, it was nice to feel kind’ve busy musically. I also got some really good feedback from the Midway Show, which I’ll get to shortly.

The setlist for the Midway show was the longest yet at 13 songs. I added a number of new ones into the mix including a couple —The Longest Night and This Land — from the RPM Project back in February. It feels like a real accomplishment to be able to pull off ~1hour set.

The Midway Cafe show also had one of our largest audiences to date. One of my co-workers from my new job also surprised me by coming. Turns out he lives a couple of blocks from the Midway so he wandered on over. He’s also a musician; he plays guitar with the band Sidewalk Driver. If you’ve never seen them live, you should. At the very least go to YouTube and look them up. They’re legit, as in they know their stuff and have played some pretty impressive gigs. Of course that means that once I got back to work I put him on the spot and asked his professional opinion of my Midway Cafe show. You know, beyond the niceties of “You guys were good…”. He laid it out and I found his feedback very useful so I thought I’d share it.

  1. Try to get backing vocals on choruses.
  2. Get a bigger amp
  3. You play with both pickups?
  4. Dress for the occasion

 

Try to get backing vocals on choruses.

The first one is interesting because it just so happens that this was the first gig where the drummer, Seth, actually did sing some backing vocals for me. He came up with the idea to double me on the chorus of “This Land” during rehearsal. I liked it and asked that he also double me on the chorus for another tune called “Going Dark” (an unreleased song). That worked out well. I did really like having someone else on vocals, so I’m psyched to do more of that where it fits.

Get a Bigger Amp

The amp I play on is a Mustang III. It’s not a bad amp, louder than my old Princeton reverb. I think I may be the only guitarist in the world who gets told to turn up. I’m pretty certain that my amp was somewhere around 4-5 on the volume setting, so before I go shopping for a new one, I’m going to try actually turning up on my current one.

You Play With Both Pickups

I loved this feedback because it’s absolutely the kind of thing that a guitarist would pick up on. I do in fact most often play using both pickups. It’s kind’ve a safe zone for me. I’m not a shredder, so I shy away from the bridge pickup. However, I feel like the neck pickup alone is more muffled than I like unless I’m going for a clean, bluesy sound. The underlying point that I’m taking from this advice is really about paying attention to my sound. I’m lazy and I don’t really spend much time crafting my guitar tone. I certainly have not invested time in figuring out what sounds best for different songs during live performances. I’ll cycle through settings all day trying to get the right thing when recording, but for performing I don’t give the details as much attention as I should.

Dress For The Occasion

This was probably the most important and interesting feedback. It’s not the first time I’ve heard something like this as a general rule of thumb. It is however the first time I’ve heard it specifically directed at me. I can no longer pretend that my khaki shorts and t-shirt are part of my “image” and not just me wearing my everyday clothes. He pointed out that it was important to let the audience know that they’re about to see a show, and how you look is part of that. It’s about branding, and uniformity onstage. Me and the dudes look like we could be having a bbq at any given show. I mean, I don’t exactly have a color scheme or anything, but this compels me to put more thought into what we look like for our next show.

Maybe I’ll rock out with some leather chaps and a fringed denim vest, crank my amp to 11, and use that hot bridge pickup! I’m jesting of course. I found the advise very useful, and even better actionable, and I plan to re-evaluate those points as a result.

Til next time,

Stevie