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Bands at bars - hints, tips on getting booked & having a great gig ?

jlynnb1

Axe-Master
have a set that gets people moving, have great energy, don't let your personal inclinations get in the way of what get's people's butts moving. don't drink every shot that's handed to you. don't stand around and stare at your fretboards....engage. have a good tip/request policy.
 

chrisjnyc

Power User
Seems like the guys who do the tribute thing have pretty good paying gigs. I know a couple of guys making decent $$$ just playing U2 covers. Also, look for the niche market. I saw a great live karaoke cover band that packed the place.
 

Geezerjohn

Fractal Fanatic
I have a few suggestions.

Don't play a song then stop, play a song then stop, rinse and repeat.
People do not want to just hear a band, they want to see a performance. Give them one.
Carefully construct your set list to build momentum.
Building an effective set list is something that all pro bands know. Very few amateurs do.
Pay close attention to the applause cycle and work it to keep the excitement going.
Have a "big fun"moment and let the audience participate. If you have any merch, big fun is the time to toss it to the audience.
Remind the drummer to set up the kit facing the audience.
Use effects to create atmosphere. Fog, lights etc. can take a ho-hum show up a notch.
Have fun. Enjoy performing. Not everyone is going to dig what you are doing so just play for the ones who do.

Just my $0.02.
 

barhrecords

Axe-Master
Don't bombard the venue personnel with complaints and angst. Be the band that is the least hassle. Designate one person to be the voice of the band to the venue for each show. This way they don't get conflicting or repeated questions from different band members.

Critically discuss your shows in regards to culling out songs that don't get good audience reaction. This is hard for most bands because you will end up tossing out tunes the band loves to play and keeping or adding tunes that are not band favorites but are crowd favorites.

Interact verbally with the audience. Engaging with the audience to generate some buzz and energy is pro. Think about something topical for the area and time of year. Stay away from polarizing topics like politics or religion etc.

Include one slow song 3/4 of the way into the last set. This is for people that are too shy to dance to get up there after having enough drinks. Slow songs early in the night are usually a bust.
 

faulknier

Inspired
Critically discuss your shows in regards to culling out songs that don't get good audience reaction. This is hard for most bands because you will end up tossing out tunes the band loves to play and keeping or adding tunes that are not band favorites but are crowd favorites.

This is a big one a lot of my ex-bandmates didn't get. Yeah, that one-off live rearrangement of your favorite Dave Matthews B-side is cool, but it'll probably clear the floor.
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
Be prepared, have all the cords (electrical and musical) you need to adapt to the venue. Get there on time, set up and soundcheck as quickly (and at as reasonable a volume) as you can. Venues rarely enjoy endless and unproductive doodling from the stage.

Once the show starts, engage the audience, make eye contact, smile and talk with them as though you're having a great time whether you are or not. Note to drummers: don't do a mini drum solo at the end of every song; it kills applause, and you want the venue people to hear the cheers. Match your volume to the gig, and (as many have noted) do the same with your set list. The ratio of slow to fast, different types of dances, etc change from place to place. Have enough variety to swap a few tunes that work better. No formula or ratio works everywhere. And, as though it should even need to be said, don't suck. Competence is good, incompetence is bad no matter how good you look while soiling your speakers.

Again, bring spares for anything that stops the show if it breaks.

In short, run your band like a business and business owners will appreciate you. Once you're selling your artistic creations it is no longer all about you. Find that effective middle ground that makes the gig good for all and you'll get the call to come back.
 

philipacamaniac

Fractal Fanatic
Yeah, I was just going to say that if you want good gigs in bars make sure you book them in the eighties.

Life was Beautiful before AIDS, DUI's and the drinking age was 18.

Maybe you need to move to a city with a better music scene, that sounds kinda depressing.
 

GibsonLesPaul

Experienced
Don't talk betweens songs, nobody is really interested what you mumble about why a song is played or how you did get the lyrics.
But more important. It kills the vibe (both for the audience and the band) When you have grabbed the audience with your music don't let them go.
So after a song, the people are applauding and after the applaud is over his top, start the new song again.
This way they stick with your music and keep the talk for the breaks.
I learned this from a bandcoach and after we put that trick in our set it made the energy much better.
Even more, after I knew that I see how unprofessional and irritating it is when I see another band doing this.
 
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warlockII

Power User
I too agree that it is annoying to hear bands talk about their songs, etc. However, it seems like every major band does that to some degree and the audiences seem to eat it up.
 

philipacamaniac

Fractal Fanatic
I too agree that it is annoying to hear bands talk about their songs, etc. However, it seems like every major band does that to some degree and the audiences seem to eat it up.

I think it depends on genre. If you're doing Americana/Folk and you aren't recounting the story behind each song, you're doing it wrong.
 

ghost219

Inspired
I can't reiterate more how much dumb banter kills energy. The set list idea is always good but you need to constantly gauge the crowd for your next song.

Lights, fog, and (depending on your budget) a video curtain all take your game up.

Put on a show. Put on a show. Put on a show.
Dress up to play. A show is a job interview. You're there to impress the audience and make them want to keep you in mind for whenever they want to go out and have a good time. Cargo shorts and backwards hats are for band practice. Look like someone that belongs on the stage.

Encourage liquor sales by providing stuff to dance to. Sure, those SRV covers sound cool and some chicks dig it but they ones that dance more drink more. That's what makes the bar staff want you back. If you make them money, you're in.
 
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