Monthly Archives: July 2015

What Makes The Perfect Gig?

For years I’ve been searching for the perfect gig and last week, I experienced it.

Don’t get me wrong; there have been many brilliant gigs in my career, but what makes a perfect gig? Is it about getting hundreds of people to turn out? Is it about getting paid a wadge of cash and getting M&Ms in the rider?

Actually it’s quite simple:

  • Everyone involved enjoys the music and each other.
  • The organiser, venue and performer get paid enough.

This means I enjoy performing and the audience enjoys and engages with the show. In other words ‘people get it!’ They get the music and ideally I can get to know them too.

In order for the gig to be viable for the organiser/venue, enough people need to attend to make it financially viable. This means I too get paid enough to represent a fair recompense for my effort.

Last Friday I was lucky enough to play at The Jellyfish Productions Gallery in Buckfastleigh (Devon), as the sole performer in a gig organised by Ami Lee of the captivating acapella trio The Hummingbirds.
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Let me tell you some of the wonderful things about this gig. 15-20 people attended which was the perfect amount for the beautiful gallery setting. I got to meet each of them before I played and chat to them afterwards whilst browsing the artwork. I knew who I was playing for. Two long time fans had made requests, which I practiced especially and performed. The space was just right to play unplugged and the whole audience were just so responsive it was unbelievable, even singing along unprompted. Almost everyone who heard me for the first time that night liked the music so much they walked out with a CD. It was a wonderful night!

In 10 years of performing there have been gigs with no good side. I wasn’t paid, the audience would rather I wasn’t there because they wanted to talk to their friends without having to shout over some music, and the venue held me personally responsible for low turnout. These are bad gigs. Why? Basically because the music may be good but all the relationships are either negative or disconnected. At Jellyfish Galleries all the relationships were brilliant! The gallery owner, gig promoter, performer and audience members all respected and appreciated each other hugely. They connected and shared personal ideas, opinions and feelings.

But even a gig where one thing is out of place can be a horrible experience. Being well paid but musically ignored is demoralising, and having a warm fuzzy gig which sets you back £50 in fuel with no payment, simply leaves a panic about how to pay bills. Even a gig in which they audience is suitably impressed but fails to ‘get’ the music can feel a little sad.

So, my message to frustrated musicians out there is that the ideal IS possible! Jellyfish Productions was actually not my first nor my only perfect gig since I made the decision to create gigs that have the potential to be wonderful evenings for all involved. After years of oscillating, I’ve pretty much given up noisy pub gigs or anything where I’d be considered background music. Instead, I’ve focused on unplugged environments and listening spaces. It’s finally paying off, because when people listen, they hear.

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Filming Guitar Star Ep4 – Acoustic Heat

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When I arrived in London to film Guitar Star’s Acoustic Heat, and met the 3 acoustic guitarists I’d be competing against, it became clear that we were a capable bunch, but also so different to each other that no-one could feel bad if they didn’t win this round. I could not think of more honourable circumstances in which to be knocked out. Gary Lutton won it, and my heartfelt congratulations to the man!

The Heat comprised of playing one piece of our choosing, and a “challenge” piece. We’d each been given 1 week to prepare a Rodrigo y Gabriella cover, and were genuinely surprised to find that the duo themselves would be mentoring us for this episode!

Rodrigo y Gabriella were the most encouraging people imaginable. They were totally positive and willing to celebrate our individual strengths. They even gave us a little private concert. Then we had to play them their composition… I’d never played someone their own music before, never mind on camera!

I have to say, I did underestimate how hard it is to perform for a camera, and how skilled actors, presenters and musicians are who film all the time. Thankfully a studio audience made it feel more like home. Even so, it was incredibly disorientating to wait all day and then suddenly film two pieces in a first take. Interviews we filmed over and over again, but music – one take only. I still felt I would have played those pieces much better on a gig. But that experience has been good for me and taught me to practice filming YouTube videos in only one take, so I’ll be better prepared next time I’m on TV.

Another thing I learned from the 2 days filming is that it’s really easy to practice when everyone around wants you to. The film crew wanted us as comfortable as possible on camera so we could play well. So they kept us well supplied with food and drink, and provided us with everything we needed to practice effectively during waiting periods. Want a private practice room? An amp? A special height chair? All were available.

It made me realise how much of my practice time takes place in much more compromised circumstances. Short of time, or worrying about noise complaints, practicing outdoors whilst travelling and then finding it’s raining… etc. It made me realise that if I’m to practice effectively I need to find a way to give myself better environments. I also need to change how I value practice. Guitar Star was like Uni, where I felt justified in practicing because my teachers and parents wanted me to do well. As a “grown-up”, practicing is something I struggle to justify because it doesn’t earn money or help anyone else. It’s purely a selfish act, which would allow me to create art and/or advance my career. It’s funny that even with all the effort I’ve made to craft a lifestyle for myself in which I have time to be an artist, I still find it hard to justify actually getting on with it! I still find those limiting thoughts lurking in the back of my mind. Out the window with them then, and on with the show!

Guitar Star Ep 4

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