Punk The Opening Act
By Chris Standring
An interesting thing happened to me on
a recent show I was part of. My band was booked to play a pretty
big festival in Orange County, California. It was a co-headline
booking with another artist from out of town. For the sake of
this article I won't mention any names. Now I have done and still
do any number of festival dates, usually throughout the summer
months, very often co-headlining, sometimes opening and more often
as an artist on a festival bill of say 5 to 10 major acts throughout
the course of a weekend. Very often on a bill such as these, bands
are having to soundcheck "on the fly" which means that
the promoter will rent backline for all acts (they usually rent
exactly what the artist needs - so there is often tons of gear
on and offstage throughout the day) and as one band finishes their
set, there is a mad scrambling to tear down gear and within half
an hour (sometimes less) the next band will be setting up and
a soundcheck will happen as they perform their first song. If
they are lucky they will get a 10 minute soundcheck ahead of time.
Needless to say, social skills are of utmost importance, egos
must be in check and one must be efficient and focused when it
comes time for the next band to get on etc.
So I am booked to do this concert, it's a pretty big deal, about
1000 seater, the event is sold out thanks to a terrific promoter
who knows exactly what she is doing. My band is booked to play
first. I never have a problem with this if the band booked for
the later spot have sold more records, bigger profile etc. etc.
it's just business. In this case that band deserved their spot.
When this is the case the closing act always get to sound check
first, simply so the opening act can leave all their gear set
up the way they need to for when they jump on-stage.
My band is all based in Los Angeles, the other band is based out
of state. So that band didn't necessarily know who was playing
in my band. I arrive early, meet with the promoter and immediately
hear the closing band start to soundcheck. I went up to the bass
player who was setting up as I wanted to introduce myself. The
first thing he said to me was "Make sure your bass player
resets my amp to the settings I'm using after he plays - the last
thing I want to do is deal with that before I play!"
- with attitude up the yin yang! Well, I just smiled and said,
"You might want to talk to my bass player about that".
Then he proceeds to thump and slap like he's a kid trying out
a new bass in Guitar Center!
I couldn't believe it. The thing is, and this is where he went
wrong, he didn't know who my bass player was that night. It just
so happens that the bass player in my band is a very well known,
highly respected player in LA, does tons of touring with the biggest
names. That guy just assumed we were some little local band not
getting paid or something. He didn't think. He had his own agenda.
So, my bass player shows up and the manager of the closing band
goes up to him and says; "The bass player wants you to reset
his amp before you leave the stage". He replies, "F***
that! That ain't the way it works and you know it! - tell him
to come and talk to me!"
So the bass player in the closing band finds my guy and says "Man
I didn't know it was you man, wassup man aww man - I love you
man" - etc. etc, you can imagine. Pathetic. My bass player
says" Cmon' man - don't punk the opening act, that ain't
the way it goes dude!"
So, we do our show, it's killer, I have to say my live band is
ON, I couldn't find stronger, funkier players if I tried. Standing
ovation - the whole works. I go back to our shared dressing room
after the show to drop off my guitar and see the next band warming
up, the bass player looks at me and says - "Wow - you guys
were jammin' up there -totally happening!" I smiled
and said "Thanks - have a good show".
So where does that leave us? Not good for that bass player if
he ever expects to get a call from me! He didn't start off on
a good note did he? It was all about his ego and his wants and
needs. Simply not the way to behave if you want to get
on in the business. Trust me he learned from his mistakes that
night I guarantee it. He knew he messed up.
Now I am very happy to say that in the professional world, certainly
my format, this sort of behavior happens rarely, but it does happen.
The problem is that the business is tiny, word spreads and people
lose gigs as a result if they are not careful.
I have to admit I hate soundchecks, I'm not that fond of rehearsals
actually, so I am the last person who is going to argue about
getting offstage after a soundcheck to make way for another band,
provided my amp works! Personally, I can't play on stage well
if I know there is bad energy or a vibe in the air of discomfort.
Music has to be fun for me so I make it a priority to make sure
other bands get what they need so they are happy too. It's a win
win situation if people are thinking straight.
You as an artist will no doubt be on a bill with several other
bands. Be cool. Be professional. Remember, who knows who will
be on that stage with you that night. They could make or break
| Chris Standring
is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to
Ultimate Vibe Recordings. For more info on Chris' recording
career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com
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