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Randy Stein

How Do Know If The Gig Was Good Or Not (Other Than Getting Paid)

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Last evening I played my regular monthly gig at the cafe. It was very busy and somewhat noiser than usual. I couldn't quite get a read on what people liked or if they were even listening. So I played a lot of upbeat and more popular tunes. Yet at the end of the night I received a lot of thank yous and the such.

Other than knowing you played well what constitutes a good gig or is that enough?

Nu?

 

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Last evening I played my regular monthly gig at the cafe. It was very busy and somewhat noiser than usual. I couldn't quite get a read on what people liked or if they were even listening. So I played a lot of upbeat and more popular tunes. Yet at the end of the night I received a lot of thank yous and the such.

Other than knowing you played well what constitutes a good gig or is that enough?

Nu?

 

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If you felt good about it - enough.

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No end of people are drawn to music but then don't listen to it. The ' background music ' fraternity !

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I couldn't quite get a read on what people liked or if they were even listening. . . . Yet at the end of the night I received a lot of thank yous and the such.

Other than knowing you played well what constitutes a good gig or is that enough?

 

Knowing that you played well is important, but I imagine that for you this is what always happens. I think the thing that puts it over the top is the audience acknowledgment, which you received, at the end of the evening. Even if some of them were just pro-forma or people being courteous, getting "a lot" would indicate that you were getting through to them. To me, at any rate, that acknowledgement is a real thrill.

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I recommend relying on your own opinion/feelings. Sometimes you will play well for a crappy audience, though it is lots more fun to play well for a good audience. I was once in a really terrible audience listening to Taj Mahal. It was obvious that he recognized that the audience didn't appreciate him. He was not at all happy about it, but he rose above that and put on a good show.

 

I also once saw the Bass section on the New York Philharmonic fall apart playing a not difficult Mozart symphony. Everyone has bad days.

 

Finally, remember Kipling's If:

 

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same

 

Kurt

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Yeah, how do you know? Well, if you please yourself that's a good start. For me, my best audiences are ones where they listen and interact with me and we get a sort of conversation going. I often tell them stories, anecdotes and information about the music they will hear. This is not so much to be entertaining (though I hope it is certainly that) but more to give the audience the tools to be active listeners.

 

Now your cafe was filled with people who came to eat and drink and have conversation. It was not a concert, right? So perhaps they didn't want to be that engaged with your music, still, I bet they had a better time because of your playing.

 

When I play for contra dances I really don't expect the dancers to be critical listeners. They have a role to play as do I. We both do it together but how much they actually hear is something I sometimes wonder at. You might want to accept your job in the cafe the way I've come to accept my job at the dance... not so much as a musician but rather a "music worker."

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As long as the audience doesn't throw things at you, you're doing OK !

 

In old English music halls there used to be a man with a long pole, with a hook on the end of it . He'd stand in the wings and if you were crap he'd just yank you off-stage .

I agree with Jody . I do jazz gigs with my trio "Speakeasy" in quite noisy cocktail lounges/ bars etc and you know you are there to provide background music. Although it's nice when you see people's feet tapping, someone mouthing the words of a song or a couple get up and dance. But when I do an actual folk concert, as Jody says, you want people to listen, engage and interact. Yet, you also don't need to beat yourself up after every gig. You will know whether you've played well or not . The really curious gigs are where the audience is quiet, don't over-react but do applaud and you wonder whether they are enjoying it. Usually - the explanation is that they ARE enjoying it and just listening ( which is what they are there to do !)

"Let the music keep your spirits high"

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I started out over fifty years ago playing almost exclusively in concert settings and still much prefer them. In that type of setting people are attending specifically to appreciate the performance and generally aren't eating, talking and drinking. That environment allows performers to develop a dialog and rapport with the audience. I spend almost as much time talking as playing and singing and that allows me to joke around as well as provide information and context about the material being resented. In that environment I always have a great connect with the audience. It's that connect that makes it worth while (especially if I'm not getting paid).

 

Since I don't care that much about making money I steer clear of bars, background music venues, etc and play mostly folk nightclubs, coffee houses and music membership clubs. Now if there were just more of those kind of venues!

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That's interesting, Syncopepper - my CV reads almost exactly the same as yours! Including the bit about talking as much as I sing and play in concert settings. In this mode, of course, you get direct feedback from the audience, which you don't as a background musician. Or if you don't get feedback, you know you're doing something awfully badly :( .

 

The OP didn't define a "good gig". This could mean several things: that the audience enjoyed it; that you played error-free and the band fused into one unit; that you enjoyed it; that the interplay of audience and musician(s) produced a sort of magic that was more than anyone expected; or any or all of the above.

 

As a musician, you have no direct knowledge of how you and your music came across. It has been stated here repeatedly that you can't hear your own concertina very well, and you're not fully aware of what other band members are doing, and how the mix reaches the auditorium. So you have to rely on witnesses - people in the audience, or perhaps the sound man, or the proprietor of the venue. But are the "witnesses" that praise the gig reliable? Are they just being polite, or are they musically ignorant?

Law-court judges have a whole catalogue of criteria for assessing the reliability of a witness. These cover not only deceitful lying in the witness box, but also unwitting substitution of supposition for perception, imperfection of memory, or the urge to make oneself important, and much more.

 

With our audiences, the question is mostly, "Are they just being polite, or did they really like it?" I find that, if someone really liked my music, they'll name one particular aspect of it that particularly caught their attention. Perhaps the quality of my voice, or the interesting instruments I play, or that they've never heard a particular song sung so well. Even if they say something like, "I haven't a clue about music, but I liked it," it's more reliable a testimony than just a "Very nice!"

 

Cheers,

John

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