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Barking Spiders

Let the music speak for itself?

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Both in bands I've been in and in chats on other fora to me there's a divide  between those who like to put on  or  see a bit of a show and those aren't fans of  what they see as gimmicks i.e.g. dance routines, costumes, fancy lighting, audience banter you name it. I'm of the view that if bands just stand there and play I might as well  have saved myself the dosh  and stayed at home and listened to their CDs. At this year's Download I was disappointed that two bands I like quite a lot -  Mastodon and System of  Down - barely said 'owt  and walked around the stage rather than leap about etc though the lighting etc was good. No faulting the music but for audience participation and badinage bands like Five Finger Death Punch and Sabaton were better value. I expect views here will differ. So then?

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In all genres that I participate in - pop, rock, blues and classical - I like a good dollop of audience engagement. Even in classical chamber concerts we talk to the audience. A bit of chat and banter makes the whole thing a much more personal experience

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I'm going to give the boring answer and suggest that it's important to strike the right balance. There are some bands who are clearly excellent musicians and put a lot of thought into their songs, but don't have a great deal of  stage presence - Mastodon are probably a good example, and I must admit I've found the same about some modern blues players like Joanne Shaw Taylor. The opposite extreme is Kiss, who write atrocious songs and are about as musically adept as my cat, but are famous for the sheer over-the-topness of their live show.

I think the only bands who really get away with being so quiet and inwardly-focused are those in the vein of early-Waters-era Pink Floyd or Radiohead, where the music is experimental enough that's it's fascinating to watch them recreate it in a live setting.

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I`m not so keen on rehearsed moves/choreography, or pre-worked out banter, but do think it`s important to look like a band. Not all wearing the same clothes, but just have an identity. And if an originals band, make the identity fit with your music. My band is a street-punk band, so we wear Fred Perrys, jeans, DMs, band-logo tees, Harrington jackets etc. Nothing over the top - and it`s what we wear outside of the band anyway - but we look like we belong.

But in terms of stage-craft, well to me two of the most important things are eye contact with audience members, and just looking like you`re enjoying the gig. Neither are particularly difficult, but immediately bring the band that step up imo - shoe-gazers who have faces like slapped behinds, well not exactly bringing the crowd along.

I suppose we`re lucky with our singer who is genuinely good at audience banter, doesn`t need to rehearse it, and people just find him witty. If no-one in the band is good at that then at least announce some songs, not with a War & Peace dialoue, but some prepared words, again, break the band/audience divide.

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I think it depends on the music. Some music needs silly costumes and dance routines to carry it. Other music really doesn't 

I saw Tool a few years ago and Maynard hardly moved for the whole set. It was a truly awesome gig. If he started jumping around and shouting "Manchester are you ready to rock?" it would have seemed a little inappropriate. 

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With my solo bass gigs it’s just me. I toyed with the idea of using film as a back drop. I make my own films to fit my music, but decided a projector was too much else to carry around. There’s no show as such, and very little conversation, just a thank you at the end. People coming along mostly know what to expect. I get people sitting quietly, eyes closed, I’ve had people meditate too, that started at a gig I did in Paris in April. That was great because I realised that people had finally started to understand what I do.

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A good band with a good front person (Probably get shot for saying "Front Man" nowadays) is all you need. Someone who can engage the audience and keep it moving and lively. I used to love watching Yes live in the 70s and they did bugger all on stage, apart from Squire.  The lighting was good though and the musicianship took my breath away anyway, always better than the recordings. Just shot down my own argument, but there you go.

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4 hours ago, cheddatom said:

I think it depends on the music. Some music needs silly costumes and dance routines to carry it. Other music really doesn't 

I saw Tool a few years ago and Maynard hardly moved for the whole set. It was a truly awesome gig. If he started jumping around and shouting "Manchester are you ready to rock?" it would have seemed a little inappropriate. 

I saw Tool at Glastonbury in 1994.

My overriding memory is that Maynard moved like he had one foot nailed to the stage. He'd take a big step forwards or backwards with his right leg, but the left foot seemingly never shifted from the spot.

Great gig though.

Edited by Cato
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I can deal with no show and a great performance, but I cant deal with a massive show and a crap performance.

As always, the grey area is the answer for me but taken to extremes, the songs always win.

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It’s the whole package that’s important.

sometimes it is possible to watch a show and think “I love everything about them except the music” and still have a great time.

 

 

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17 hours ago, EliasMooseblaster said:

I'm going to give the boring answer and suggest that it's important to strike the right balance. There are some bands who are clearly excellent musicians and put a lot of thought into their songs, but don't have a great deal of  stage presence - Mastodon are probably a good example, and I must admit I've found the same about some modern blues players like Joanne Shaw Taylor. The opposite extreme is Kiss, who write atrocious songs and are about as musically adept as my cat, but are famous for the sheer over-the-topness of their live show.

I think the only bands who really get away with being so quiet and inwardly-focused are those in the vein of early-Waters-era Pink Floyd or Radiohead, where the music is experimental enough that's it's fascinating to watch them recreate it in a live setting.

 

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead will never write a song as awesome as Detroit Rock City.

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It also depends on how the mband create their music. Fot instance it is much easier for a lead singer to stamp around the stage, wave and engage with the audience, compared to a singer guitarist, who is stuck infront of his mic stand and pedal board for the the majority of the time.

I watched Queens of the Stone Age recently at the O2, They sounded great but they were so tiny from my seat at the back. I think the problem is worse at those large venues.

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Unless you are one of those seriously-up-yourselves pomp rock bands, you are first and foremost entertainers if you are playing to an audience.

Either that or you are background music. Up to you to decide which camp you want to be in.

I have always been of the "nobody sleeps when I`m on" school because that is where I feel comfortable and have the most fun.

And as for guitarists being glued to a pedalboard and mic stand, no need. 

I never have been, although sometimes getting back to the mic stand for the vocal has been a bit of a scramble.... adds to the visual entertainment!

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It depends to some extent on the audience's love, need or want of 'visual entertainment'. For my part (and quite used to being in a majority of one...), I have little time (read: none at all...) for poncing about , running hither and thither, rehearsed histrionics and/or posed attitude. Seeing Shakti, for instance, was not a 'visual' thing; one could easily close one's eyes and enjoy the moment. Seeing the exchange of looks, and evident complicity between the players, was quite enough 'visuals'. Might as well listen to the CD..? Not really (although I do that, too...), more of a communion with the soaring output of those great talents. Just one example of soooooo many (Royal Philharmonic, Grateful Dead, Soft Machine, Joni Mitchell... The list is long...). Memorable for their performance as musicians much, much more tha for any visual 'show'. Yes, I've seen many splendid animated acts, too, but the real 'crackers' don't need such to entertain me. Keith Emerson (The Nice...), with his daggers in the keyboard..? For all its merits, I preferred folks playing in more sober fashion, such as King Crimson, or Fairport Convention. No need for pantomime 'gimmicks' if one is really that good.

Just my tuppence-worth.

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At the bar band level, I would never join a band that doesn't have a talented front person that can connect with and engage a crowd. It's a skill and talent that very few have at the bar band level.

I don't know if you see it in your pubs, where you'll have 4 old guys up there on stage and not an ounce of personalty between them. Very boring, not fun to watch.

Blue

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6 minutes ago, Bluewine said:

4 old guys up there on stage and not an ounce of personalty between them. Very boring, not fun to watch.

You've seen my band Blue? :$ There are five of us though. But one is so boring that he is sometimes invisible.

Edited by Conan

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42 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

For all its merits, I preferred folks playing in more sober fashion, such as King Crimson, or Fairport Convention. No need for pantomime 'gimmicks' if one is really that good.

Just my tuppence-worth.

I think that sober fashion might work well at that level. However, I also think what some audiences want has changed since the days of King Crimson or Fairport Convention.

Blue

Edited by Bluewine

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3 minutes ago, Bluewine said:

...However, I also think what some audiences want have changed from the days of King Crimson or Fairport Convention....

Indeed. There's a market, apparently, for DJ evenings and karaoke, too. I maintain, though, that 'stage presence' can be an asset, but can just as equally be execrable. Some folks still like to listen to live music. Not all, maybe, but some.

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12 minutes ago, Conan said:

You've seen my band Blue? :$ There are five of us though. But one is so boring that he is sometimes invisible.

I'm very boring and old, but we have an outstanding young lady fronting the band that our audience loves.

I've also seen these over 60 guys living in the past trying to pull off questionable banter that might have come off as witty and cool when they were young and pretty back in 1972, but now seems weird and dated. Keep in mind I'm talking bar band level.

Very sad actually.

Blue

Edited by Bluewine

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It has to suit the music. Is the performer all about the songs? Forget the theatrics.

It can go too far the other way. IMO Rush, for example. The last few times I found myself thinking... wouldn't it be great if it was just them and a few lights..?

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4 hours ago, fretmeister said:

 

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead will never write a song as awesome as Detroit Rock City.

I think we can probably agree that fans of Kiss are unlikely to like the  bands you mention and vice versa.  Is not beauty in the eye of the beholder?

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4 hours ago, fretmeister said:

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead will never write a song as awesome as Detroit Rock City.

 

23 minutes ago, ead said:

I think we can probably agree that fans of Kiss are unlikely to like the  bands you mention and vice versa.  Is not beauty in the eye of the beholder?

 

I probably pick on Kiss disproportionately; I could have quite easily made the same point with my opinions on Poison or Motley Crue. I guess Simmons et al are just one of the better-known exponents of a genre I've never got on with - thus proving ead's point!

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4 hours ago, Pinball said:

I watched Queens of the Stone Age recently at the O2, They sounded great but they were so tiny from my seat at the back. I think the problem is worse at those large venues.

 

Couldn't agree more with this point. Some music - at least to my mind - just isn't suited to huge venues. I realise, of course, that it's partly determined by an artist's popularity, but I just can't imagine something like Ed Sheeran at Wembley would work. Admittedly I don't care for his music, but if I did, I imagine I'd want to see him in a smaller venue for fear of losing the intimacy of the performance. A club or a small theatre would just feel more appropriate for an acoustic artist. 

I'm a little surprised that a band like QOTSA didn't translate better at the O2, but then that place is chuffing huge. I suppose you're getting into big backing band / daft stage prop territory by that scale. Santana worked well there a few years ago, but then his band and all their gear are like a small artillery unit.

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1 hour ago, Bluewine said:

I'm very boring and old, but we have an outstanding young lady fronting the band that our audience loves.

I've also seen these over 60 guys living in the past trying to pull off questionable banter that might have come off as witty and cool when they were young and pretty back in 1972, but now seems weird and dated. Keep in mind I'm talking bar band level.

Very sad actually.

Blue

And you can make it worse - I've seen a number of pub bands in London where the 'spontaneous banter' is clearly scripted and rehearsed. My God does that suck.

My favourite was a 4-piece band where both guitarists and the bass player had mics & stands. About 30 minutes in to the first set, I finally twigged that one guitarist did all the singing and ... erm ... that was it. There were no BVs or anything going on.

The second guitarist and the bass player each had a mic & stand purely to let them do the pre-prepared banter.

 

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It depends if your a 'looking' person or a 'listening' person. I don't feel disappointed at the lack of a 'show' when I'm listening to music. If a band can produce an interesting set live I don't need them to be leaping about while I'm blinded by lasers, or a polystyrene Stonehenge or dancing dwarves.

On the other hand if I'm in a band that tend to stand there and not do much I feel as if we're short-changing the audience somewhat. But if the guitarist and singer (who are always rampant narcissists, right?) do their jobs, then that's enough. I feel that my role is at the back, wearing a big shirt and playing the right bloody notes...

As Lozz says, little things like eye contact and a confident presence help it all along. I know people who are so anxious on stage that they practically stand with their backs to the audience. Which makes me think, 'you really shouldn't be doing this'...

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