When you’re actively engaged in gigging out, it’s important to set aside some time to make sure you’re prepared before you head out to the venue or hit the road for a weekend tour. Part of this self check should include a run through of a few worst case scenarios so that you will be prepared to press on in the face of potential disaster.
Recovery Rocks + Rules
Oddly enough, some of the most memorable moments in a live performance are often times of recovery. It might be how you handle a poorly timed effect, a techie’s missed cue, tuning issues, a botched lyric, and so on. If a situation is handled with grace, humor, and then with a kick-butt attitude as you soar above the disaster scene, you’ve created something memorable for your audience and for your ego. It also boosts your confidence, and it might even trigger ideas for new songs. It also makes for a killer bio blurb or press kit byte. Never underestimate the power of recovery, or your cover in a touchy situation, to help define your greatness as an artist.
It’s important to note that this advice is given because not every venue will be state of the art. These are tips that help you to be as self-reliant as possible. Even the geekiest road-running musical prodigy will face situations where the down-home roots of heart and soul must be tapped in order to make a hype-worthy, hip impression. You want to be strong enough to stand out should the sound fade and the lighting flicker.
One of the key areas of prepping once again ties into communication. Be accessible while on the road or en route to a gig via your cell phone and laptop. If something comes up at a venue or for a band member or accompanist that is traveling separately, they’ll be able to reach you. Make sure you have contact numbers and email addresses handy for venues where you’ll be performing and every member of your band or support team should you need to reach them.
Repair + Rescue
From a technical perspective, make sure any props or effects you might use are in top working order, and have backup for each. Obviously if you play guitar or mandolin or other stringed instruments, make sure you have extra strings on hand. If at all possible have an extra instrument on stage for back up. Keyboard players should have an extra keyboard for emergency backup as well. Drummers should have a cymbal and drumhead care kit on hand.
For vocal health, singers should keep a supply of baking soda, raw honey, and herbal teas with them on the road. Sweetened with a touch of raw honey, herbal tea can be soothing to the throat. As for the baking soda, it can help ease minor throat irritation. Add a small amount of baking soda – between ¼ and ½ teaspoon – to a full cup of warm – not hot – water. Then, gargle, in small doses as you finish the cup. It’s recommended that you gargle with your voice at a higher pitch. This is suggested because your epiglottis will keep the solution from entering into your vocal folds. This baking soda mixture can also be used to help relieve a touch of indigestion due to acid in the stomach. Simply stir and drink up.
Be 411 + 911 Savvy
Obviously if you’re traveling any distance from home, or are on an extended road trip, make sure your vehicle is sufficiently serviced before heading out. In your pre-planning make note of any auto service locations along the way should your vehicle need attention. Also look for the location of any urgent care clinics, hospitals, or pharmacies should medical attention be required. Check out the local news for the area where you’ll be performing so that you’re aware of weather issues and any events that might influence your choice of material.
Finally, every singer or singer-songwriter should have additional songs rehearsed that can be plugged into a set should the situation arise where additional material is required, encores are requested, or a prepared piece for some reason doesn’t feel right once you’ve checked out the venue and gotten a read on the audience profile. Or, maybe you have a song that you think will speak to a situation that has impacted the venue or its locale in some way. It doesn’t hurt to have a song or two that works for birthdays, anniversaries, or newlyweds should you be playing somewhere and notice that you’re vying for attention with a gathering of very vocal, spirited people that are celebrating.
These are a few key issues to address that will help you be better prepared for contingencies and will allow you to be more flexible and adaptable in your gig-to-gig journey on the road to your singing success.