Feedback Is A Good Thing

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

Mission Accomplished: RPM 2017

Third time’s the charm, I guess. I’m very proud to say that this, The Year of My Second Attempt, I completed the RPM Challenge. Jump down to the bottom for the songs without the introduction.

When I tried this last year I made two major mistakes. The first was that I really underestimated how much time it would take (or overestimated how good I am) and didn’t get a jump on it. Like, days started passing and I’d be like, “Hmmm, I should probably get started.” The second—and probably costliest—mistake was trying to get things actually sounding professional with zero skill in engineering. I was literally reading mixing tutorials while attempting to do this, and man there is just not enough time for that nonsense.

This year, I gave myself a good talking to. “Listen, you have to really focus on this being about quantity, not quality. Sure, it’d be awesome if you could churn out professional-grade recordings like some of the other folks doing this, but it’s not happening so deal with it. Also, have a little discipline. Put down the Xbox controller and make music, even if you don’t feel like it. Okay? Okay.”

I started off pretty well I thought. I actually had some song ideas that had been rattling around in my head but hadn’t been put to machine yet. I focused on those first but instead of spending a ton of time trying to get the mix just right (or learning to mix in general) I was spending a ton of time layering and adding and creating parts to get exactly the sound I’d imagined. At the end of 2 weeks I had like 3 songs to show for it. So much for quantity not quality.

Week 3 found me pulling at my hair trying to find inspiration for the remaining songs, and this is truly what the challenge is all about: making music without feeling inspired. Sitting down and forcing inspiration when nothing seems to be there. I looked to all kinds of sources to help get something going. I scrolled through drum loops for an inspirational rhythm; I used chord-generation websites to try and break out of my standard progressions; I started off with a bass line to try and shake things up. That’s how I got the remainder of the songs, and it was at that point that I was starting to work on songs that frankly, I didn’t even like.

The final weekend came. Music was all done, but I only had lyrics and melody for one song and my creativity was loooowwww. My favorite studio to record vocals was booked solid for weeks so I wound up slouched over in a closet with a mic for vox. Saturday and Sunday was essentially me on the floor in the doorway of that closet, pen and pad in hand, listening to a song, trying to come up with lyrics and a melody, jumping up to record those vocals as soon as I had something, and then moving on to the next tune. Monday I “mixed”—it’s really generous to call it that— with a little EQ, a little compression, a lot of level adjustments, and that’s it.

My thoughts on the overall project: I’m glad I did it. I feel accomplished, and I’m proud of myself for seeing it through. I regret that it became a chore though. I was working on songs that I just didn’t like, the kind of tunes that I would have simply discarded if I weren’t on a deadline, and that felt crappy. I found myself exclaiming, many times (to the amusement of my wife): “God, I fucking hate this song!” I’m also not psyched about the production value. The vocals are pitchy in places, guitar is sloppy (and sometimes poorly tuned) in others. In the end I came away with 5-6 songs that I think I can do something with, and the rest are throwaways, hence the title of the collection: “Love Like Hate”.

The Songs

56 Bars: one of the last-minute desperation songs. I started with a drum loop that I liked, then the intro guitar riff came out, and finally the chord progression. The lyrics were pieced together from an old song I’d written in high school. That song had a decidedly different tone to it in that it was poppy and upbeat and fast. It’s an okay tune I guess. High vocals were out of my range.

Alone: the chords for this came courtesy of one of those chord-generation sites. This was another last-minute song, written in its entirety over the last few days of the challenge. Lyrically I was trying to tell a story in a way I typically don’t, so I hacked these together Sunday. I;m not a fan.

Black Girl Magic: this one was done early on, and was one that I’d already had an idea for how I wanted it to go. It was conceived out of a conversation that I’d had with my wife about something our daughter had said. I plan to write a separate post about that because it’s a larger issue that I want to speak on in more depth than I care to go into here. It’s one of the songs I love, especially because of its message.

Another Song About Being Dumped: this might be one of the last ones I did, and you can tell from the title that I had kinda given up by then, lol. This is one of the ones I absolutely hate! I hate the lyrics (some of which were culled from college-era songs I’d written), I hate the way the vocals came out, and I hate the faux 70s soul rock vibe of the chorus, like I’m channeling Ace or something.

I Can’t Be Sober For This: what a departure! My daughter was inspiration for this as well, as the “duh duh” portion was something she’d made up and walked around the house singing. It was catchy and my wife and I found ourselves randomly singing it, so I decided to make it into a full song. I wanted it to be fun, what I jokingly called a “club banger”. I’d love to get someone who actually knows about mixing/producing this kind of music to fix it up.

Eirene: I love this song. It’s my favorite of them all. I love the message, I love the chorus vocals, I love the vibe. It’s a keeper that I plan to clean up and make part of my stable. I sing it all the time.

It Waits: another end-of-the-line tune that I wound up hating. You should’ve heard the first incarnation of my foray into “metal”. Anyway, the verses are fine instrumentally but the vocals are so dramatic I roll my eyes every time I hear it. I also really struggled with the lyrics (for the half an hour I tried to write them). I was inspired to write a song about war based on this quote I heard on the Stuff To Blow Your Mind podcast:

“It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Just For Tonight: I hate this one too. It’s bluesy in a way that’s simply not me, and I vocally don’t carry it off well.

The Longest Night: I was lukewarm on this one until I finished it. It’s an old song. The lyrics were written during winter break my freshman year at Wesleyan University. I was away from my girlfriend (who was also my first girlfriend ever!) for the first time, and I was a Grade A Clinger. I wanted to talk to her on the phone every day, and simply could not imagine how I would survive winter break without her. She wasn’t quite as distraught about the separation, being a mature, experienced individual. It was a sign of things to come I guess. Anyway, the guitar parts I added beyond the basic chord progression, the drums, and the bass line were all created during this challenge and it really changed the feel of the song and made it more layered and sophisticated I think. I love it.

This Land: I was given inspiration for this song by a Facebook comment someone made about how I should write some sort of take on the “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land.” So I did. Although it’s definitely a little heavy on the 90s-grunge Shirley Manson vibe, I dig it and think I can work with it, so it’s a keeper.

Long post over. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Year of Living Sort’vely

I made up a word.

Way back in February of this year I made a post about all the things I wanted to accomplish this year. It is now December, and time to take stock.

penguifall

My list went something like:

  • improve guitar-playing
  • attend more local shows
  • get played on Vanyaland
  • get written up locally
  • lose weight
  • record an EP
  • create YouTube content

I’ll go ahead and get the obvious out of the way: the whole breast cancer thing derailed my plans a bit (in fact, I think I’m a little superstitious now about making goal lists). I pretty much couldn’t/didn’t want to leave my house after the various surgeries, and I was afraid of where my songwriting would take me if I tried to do it while I was recovering. My head was not in a good place. Even now, writing about it here, I’m fighting against pretending it didn’t happen. I’m a very head-in-the-sand kind’ve person.

headinsand

Did I accomplish anything on my list? Well, yes and no. I lost weight (~30lbs). That was a direct result of trying to take some control back after my diagnosis in April. I stopped drinking as much, started eating more healthily, and exercising. I started the guitar improvement initiative. I bought Rocksmith—don’t laugh! It’s actually a very good tool for re-learning some of the basics that tend to get sloppy over time, and helping me to identify areas in which I need improvement. Also, it’s a lot of fun to play along with songs I like. The arcade games section of the game is also very fun and very useful for improving fundamentals.

Lastly, while I didn’t actually finish recording an EP, I got a good start on it and released a single recently. It took a while for me to get back into actually doing music and feeling normal enough (mentally) to put time and energy into it. I’ve even played a couple of shows this fall!

Now I turn my eyes to 2017, and what I hope to be a better year for me personally. My only goal for 2017: Live. And I don’t mean just the obvious. Of course I want to be alive, but I mean also living. Spending more time with my wife and daughter, holding them close, and being more present. Musically I suppose it means just making music that I like and sharing it as I see fit and not worrying so much about what kind of reviews it gets (if it even gets reviews) or if I make money from it. It means being honest with myself about what I want out of making music and why.

So, goodbye 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass. 2017…let’s be good to each other, mm’kay?

Recording the DIY Way

As a DIY musician with all kinds of Grown-Up responsibilities like a mortgage and a child and college debt, I find it hard to justify spending large sums of money on recording music. I literally make $0 off of what I do, so I can’t even write it off as an investment (although I do tell myself that whenever it comes time to spend). It’s a labor of love, pure and simple. I often find myself trying to find new (cheaper) ways to get my music out there while still maintaining some quality. I mean yeah, I could plug into my laptop and just drop raw tracks onto SoundCloud like so much DIY rain, but who wants to listen to that? And I want people to listen, so…

I’ve gone through a few iterations of the “home studio” concept: recording everything at home with really shitty programmed drums and totally uninformed, half-assed attempts at mixing; recording all but drums and paying a remote drummer to send me wav files, and then sending those stems to someone else to mix; and bringing just the recorded drum files to a real studio and recording everything there to the drums. My reasoning there was that it took longer to mic and record drums than anything else so if I already had drums I could save a lot of time and get more bang for my studio buck.

I now find myself back in my home, in my “home studio” if you will, with a new combo. I discovered the Loop Loft which has allowed me to get decent-sounding drums that fit most of the types of rhythms I’ve needed to use. I also found a way to hook up my old Rock Band drum set to Ableton, allowing me to do a more realistic drum pattern if I can’t find a match in my samples. It’s not flawless, but in a pinch it’s handy since I really do suck at finger drumming. giggity

I updated my audio interface from an M-Audio something-or-other (like $30 at Borders years ago) to a PreSonus and yes, it does make a difference. I record all string instruments as usual. However I now record vocals in a professional studio.

My little private recording space for vox.

My little private space for vox.

I know, it seems like none of my solutions are able to leave out paying money and going into a studio at some point. The thing is, living in a condo with thin walls makes it very hard for me to get vocal tracks down. I’m not so much worried about disturbing anyone as I am of embarrassing myself. I’m too self-conscious about it to let it out and belt the way I need to sometimes. I found a studio that would let me record for 4 hours for $50. I signed up for a 4-hour block and got lead and backing vocals down for 3 songs! I was even writing and changing lyrics to like 2 of them in the process! Part of the reason I can save so much is that I bring in all my own stuff: mic, stand, interface, computer. I’m literally just renting a room for 4 hours. I also shelled out for a good condenser mic. Again, the difference between it and SnowBall I was using is impressive.

After everything is recorded comes the mixing. I invested in actual studio monitors so that I could mix with headphones and without. Again, huge difference. The differences I can hear between the two are kind’ve amazing. I’ve moved on from Ableton’s built-in EQ3 plugin and started using the MEqualizer from Melda Productions, which is a treat. I might have to buy the full version once I have a better understanding of what I’m doing. I’m on my way with that; one of my Twitter pals, Olav, was super nice and gave me a little tutorial via FB messaging which I’ve been using as my primary reference.

The new recording setup. Behold the Curious George lunchbox.

The new setup. Behold the Curious George lunchbox.

So what does all of this mean? Well, one of my 2016 goals was to release an EP. I have no illusions that I’m about to release a masterpiece; while I’m sure there are folks out there who could take my setup and make an album indiscernible from a professional release, I don’t have that talent. However, I’ve decided to use what I have to make an EP of demos. I’m going to call it “Hardly Mixed, Never Mastered”. It’ll be free. I have plans in the works to release a professionally tracked/mixed/mastered EP with a local studio that I’ve been in talks with, but until then I’m gonna share my homemade version of these tracks.

Stay tuned!

 

You’ll Understand When You’re Older

heartA couple of weekends ago the Mrs. and I went to The Xfinity Center to see Heart, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick—listed not in order of performance but in order of importance to me. In fact, the order of performance was exactly opposite. Anyway, this was an old school rock adventure for us. We had both seen Heart during their Red Velvet Car a couple of years ago, and had also seen Joan Jett do a short set at Atlanta Pride many years back, so we were looking forward to seeing them again, but we’ve never seen Cheap Trick. Admittedly, I wasn’t very familiar with Cheap Trick’s catalog—at least I thought I wasn’t. Turns out they have a gang of songs that I “know”.

Needless to say it was an excellent show! These folks are all professionals, they’ve pretty much perfected their stage show over the decades that they’ve been performing, so there was no disappointment there. All 3 bands had new material out, but they mostly stuck with playing their oldies. It’s gotta be challenging, you know, being a band with a strong catalog and trying to bring new material to the table during a show like this. Every time anyone played a new song you could see the wave as people started to sit down, waiting for the next song that they know. I mean, in all fairness to the crowd some of their musical styles don’t translate well to today’s music. We tried to listen to the new Cheap Trick on the way to the show and it was hard. Joan Jett played a tune called “TMI” that kinda had me like “Huh?”.

One of the things that kind of struck me as I was listening to them play some of their earlier tunes—I’m talking 70s era—was how there was a time when I didn’t like these older songs. I was introduced to Heart via 1985’s self-titled Heart album. Check out this cover:


heartalbum

Yeesh. I LOVED this album. After I was done devouring it I decided to go out and get some of their older stuff with zero idea of what I was getting into. I had no idea that the Heart I had found was a fairly new beast. I wound up getting Dog and Butterfly, and I was like, “WTF is this? What’s with all of this acoustic shit?” I tossed that sucker aside quickly and went back to listening to “What About Love”.

Somewhere down the line though I picked that album back up and gave it another listen and found myself starting to appreciate the songs. One by one they kind’ve grew on me. I think I simply wasn’t ready for them, you know? I don’t know how old I was when I gave that album another listen, but it started out with me listening to “Lighter Touch” on repeat, and then I grew to appreciate the title track, and before I knew it I was listening to almost the entire album. I wonder what changed for me? Like, what made my musical tastes evolve to the point where something that I was fairly dismissive of before turned into a favorite? It wasn’t like I’d stopped liking that mainstream brand of rock music. I adored 1990’s Brigade (maybe more than Heart), but I was also digging this classic rock vibe.

I find that this has happened to me a lot over the years—that I’ll really not dig on some piece of music, but find myself years later appreciating it. So, my question to you is: What song did you start off hating and wound up loving? Leave your answers in the comments!

-Stevie

 

 

Update

Well, I find it a little ironic that I’m posting this after my most recent post, “Is There Such A Thing As Too Personal?”, but it is what it is.

I’ve been pretty absent online and musically over the last few months save for a few pre-scheduled posts. I wish I could say it was because I’ve been super-busy making awesome music and doing cool gigs and such, but it’s not. In April I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I’ve been reeling from the implications and trying to deal with it ever since.

I’m mid-discovery. I had a mastectomy this month, and am now awaiting test results to determine whether or not I need chemo and such. I don’t know what the immediate landscape is. I plan (hope) to be back at it by August, rehearsing the awesome songs I wrote B.C. and gigging in the fall, but who knows. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening around me in the music community as well that I want to get involved with again. Angelle Wood of Boston Emissions has hosted two awesome forums, The State of Live Music and The State of Live Music: Venue and Artist Relationships. I was able to attend the first; the second was too close after my surgery. There’s also an anti-gun violence event being put on by JJ Gonson of ONCE and a bunch of other folks that I wanted to volunteer for in some capacity (there’s a bigger story there that I won’t get into). I was also in the works with a local recording studio to run a crowdfunding campaign to record an EP.

Anyway, you get the drift. I was kind’ve on a roll, and I hope to catch that fire again at a later time. Until then I’m kind’ve laying low until I get a better idea of how my life is going to be in the immediate future (and maybe kind’ve how long my life is gonna be in general). I’ll update this when something musical happens (or dire I guess), but until that time know that this is why there’s so much quiet from me.

Ramblings aside, thanks to everyone who’s supported me, bought my music, or hell, even just listened to it. I hope I can give you more.

Good health and lots of love to you all,

Stevie

 

Is There Such A Thing As “Too Personal”?

Unless you are amazingly disconnected from all pop culture (and no judgment here because I almost missed this!) you know that Beyoncé released a visual album called “Lemonade” over the weekend. Hell, even if you don’t follow pop culture it’d be hard to miss. CNN has an article about it for Pete’s sakes! Like, really?!

Ahem. But I digress.

If you read the headlines from a quick Google search it seems this album is solely about Jay-Z and his alleged infidelity. People are losing their minds specifically over the lyrics “He only want me when I’m not there / He better call Becky with the good hair.” So far it seems like people fall into one of three camps:

"Who is Becky...?"

“Who is Becky…?”

The Detectives

Loads of folks seem to have gotten their Detective badges recently. They’re decoding lyrics, looking for clues, pulling up records from the dusty file cabinet of the internet, and going on woman-hunts when they think they’ve found the culprit.  The Beyhive seems to be flocking from one Twitter/Instagram account to the next trying to lay some digital retribution on whomever had the audacity to cause trouble in Queen Bey’s marriage.

The Over This Tribe

Why are we talking about Beyoncé? Don’t you know Flint’s water is poisonous, Trump’s on the loose, and Brady has to serve a 4-game suspension after all? Who cares about Beyoncé?

The Marriage Counselors

These are the ones that prompted this post. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people narrowing their eyes at Beyoncé, wondering why she would air her “dirty laundry” in this way. Marriage is private, they say. Whatever problems you have are between you and your husband and putting it out there like this is shameful.

I find this to be an interesting line of thinking. If a musician writes a song about, say, their past physical abuse, or addiction, or mental illness, people applaud them for being brave and speaking out, but she writes what may be an entire album about the difficulty of marriage and she should have kept it private? For me, and I would wager for many other musicians, making music and writing lyrics can be a form of catharsis. We write about the things that hurt us, anger us, make us happy, sadden us. It’s therapy, and sometimes that stuff is pretty personal. Should we not write it? Is there a line to be drawn? What is it about (allegedly) discussing real life marital problems in her music, expressing her emotional ups and downs in relating to her husband, is taboo? I doubt these people have the same problems with her celebrating her marriage in her music.

I draw my own line about what I am and am not comfortable sharing in my songs, but I don’t believe there are topics that just shouldn’t be out there. If her album is indeed an emotional trip through the ins and outs of marriage, I don’t fault or judge her for it. Let her cope the way she wants/needs to cope.

Are there subjects you consider to be too private to be shared through music? Does it make you uncomfortable as a fan (or not as as fan) to be presented with certain aspects of a celebrity’s life? If you’re a musician, where do you draw the line in how much you share in your music, if at all?

 

-Stevie

Energy, Passion, and Audience Connection

I recently volunteered to work a show at Club Zuzu. This was a result of one of my 2016 goals, which is to get involved in the local music community, so I signed up as a volunteer with Boston Hassle. They put on this show in conjunction with another group called Rad Castle. I didn’t know any of the bands on the bill but I figured this was the fun of just getting out there to explore. I showed up with an open mind and my old digital SLR (I was on photo duty) and waited for the night to unfold.

Cove Sauce

Cove Sauce

I can honestly say that this was unlike any show I’ve ever attended before, even in my boldest of college days. Three bands played: Cove Sauce, Joe Passed, and The Taxidermists. Cove Sauce and The Taxidermists consisted of two people each: a guitarist and a drummer. The second band had five people in it I think, so they were odd guy out, but the genre/style of music was similar to the other two, which I guess I would classify as noise rock if I had to (in general I suck at classifying music though). It reminded me of old-school garage punk, especially the first and last bands, Cove Sauce and Taxidermists. I mean, Club Zuzu is small, you guys. The room was filled with noise rock. I think that’s the genre you’d classify this as; I’m honestly not sure.

So, imagine: small room, but easily about twenty to thirty people there. For comparison, my last show had about seven people in attendance. Loud, distorted, angry guitar strumming, banging the drums like there were ants crawling on it and drumsticks were the only thing that could kill them, and vocals that were essentially yelling, the words completely indiscernible. It was raw and energetic and loud and crowd loved it!

Taxidermists

Taxidermists

The energy in the room was like whoa. Have you ever been to a show (or performed at one) where some people were hanging out at the bar talking, and the floor in front of the stage was empty? Here there was a nice solid wall of bodies close to the stage, and the audience was bobbing and banging their heads and dancing and just feeling it. And what’s really interesting is that it wasn’t like the bands were doing anything crazy energetic. They weren’t jumping around or dancing or coaxing the crowd. Hell, they barely addressed the audience at all. In fact I can’t for the life of me put my finger on what it was about them that compelled that kind of attention and energy other than the music itself, which was definitely high-intensity music.

I was watching a YouTube video recently for some tips on stage presence, on how not to just stand there like a dummy with a guitar. The video included suggestions like: move your guitar around so you’re not holding it stationary all the time; make eye contact with the audience, and different places in the audience; move away from the mic sometimes, like when you’re soloing; and move the guitar from in front of your body when you’re singing and not playing. Good stuff, I found it very useful, but do you see the body positioning of the two guitarists in the pictures above? That’s pretty much how they stayed the entire set. Other than stepping back from the mic when they weren’t actually “singing”, they didn’t move, and they never made eye contact with the audience. I don’t think they ever even looked at the audience, and it didn’t seem to affect the connection between performer and audience at all.

I have found myself thinking back on that show over a week later, wondering what lessons I can take from that night to make my own live shows better, to give them that kind of energy. I think some part of it may be the genre of music, right? It’s hard to sit idly by while hard, thrashy music is playing. To be honest I wasn’t into the music but I still found myself moving with it. It’s like trying not to bop when a bass and drum kick in with the most basic of R&B grooves—something in your body just responds. There has to be more though—Tori Amos doesn’t exactly make you wanna get up and dance (most of the time) but she’s captivating live— and I think it’s passion and feeling. Those guys didn’t look at the audience, but there was feeling in their playing and performance.

Someone said of my last gig that it was one of the best shows so far, because all three of us seemed really into it. I actually thought it was a kind’ve crappy performance because we messed up a few times (like, playing the wrong parts in places kind’ve messed up). What a difference in perception. For me because it wasn’t technically good it was not a good show. For the audience, they weren’t concerned or bothered about the mishaps—they were interested in the feeling and the vibe. I remember feeling a little emotional during that show because it was unexpectedly the last show with Aram, so we said fuck it and threw everything we had into it. I know Aram was playing like the devil (he broke a drum stick). We were playing with feeling and despite our execution problems people were drawn in by the emotion.

When I heard that I was kind’ve like, “Huh, well, that’s interesting.” and filed it away for later thought. Seeing it in action with this Boston Hassle show, seeing how into it the band was (and how that affected the audience) has brought it back to forefront. I’m wondering how I can channel that same energy all the time. It’s not like I don’t feel my songs, but maybe I’m concentrating too hard on not messing up. It’s the same thing I experience when recording vocals, where I’m concentrating so hard on trying to be on-key that I’m not emoting well. I’m concentrating on execution and not allowing myself to relax and enjoy it—and to be honest, there’s a fair bit of nervousness/stage fright in there as well.

I’m going to record my next live performance and make myself watch it (which, ugh, I hate watching myself) and see if I can take my live show to the next level. Here’s to growth!

If you’re a musician who performs out, how do you connect with your audience?