Blog #29: Stage Etiquette
I was playing a show last month in Brooklyn with my band and had a very interesting conversation afterward with my friend that was in the audience. He told me that he knew exactly when I was unhappy with what the band was playing just from watching my face and body language. This really got me thinking about how musicians handle themselves on stage.
I'll have to admit, I have never put a lot of thought into this subject. When I am on stage I am fully focused on the music and not really thinking about how the audience is viewing me. When I think my band members are fucking up the music, it bothers me. I don't get mad at the musicians or anything like that, its more that I wish we could have gone over things better in rehearsal. I guess, its the perfectionist in me, and when we're playing my original music, I am VERY picky, because I know what it is supposed to sound like.
If I think someone in my band isn't giving their all, this pisses me off too. I want everyone on stage to be emotionally invested in what we're doing. If they make mistakes that's cool(and should be encouraged) as long as they are really going for something, but I don't tolerate people just 'phoning it in' or just 'going through the motions'.
All this is fine and good, but I have to start masking some of these feelings better on stage. These things should be discussed after the show. If the audience sees that I'm not happy with the performance, this might affect their opinion of the music.
Years ago a friend told me I have the tendency of 'slinking' off after I solo, which apparently gives the appearance of 'lack of confidence'. I always viewed it as, 'getting out of the way' so the next soloist/the band could take center stage. Hopefully I've put that bad habit to rest.
I remember back to the days of playing in Funk bands in college, the horn section used to talk and mess around while the members of the rhythm section were soloing. This is something I would never do now because it is pretty disrespectful. Back then, I was playing music I did not care about, and it showed in my stage behavior. Now, I like to think I'm a lot more professional.
PUTTING ON A 'SHOW'
I've had people tell me over the years that I need to talk more to the audience between songs. I'm kind of conflicted on this one. I know a lot of very successful musicians that are great at telling stories about the songs, talking to the audience and making small talk. I could explain the deep meaning behind the tunes, but a lot of this stuff is pretty personal, and I'm a very introverted person. Big speeches have never been my strong suit. I guess I wish it could just be about the music and not about smooth talking, looking good, and winning a beauty contest.
I'm an artist, not a politician; to me the music speaks for itself.
After the conversation with my friend, I think its important to think about how we as musicians carry ourselves on stage. We should remain respectful to the audience and fellow musicians, while remaining true to ourselves. Sometimes its good to take a step back and self-analyse how we're conducting ourselves and not just the music we make. In the end though, how we handle ourselves on stage and represent ourselves is for each of us to decide.