Well, I played my first live performance in about 4 years last night. A big thanks to Buenos Airwaves and the people of the Sycamore House in Harrisburg. It was a blast! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures up.
I’m learning a lot about the music I make and the genre I play in. When people ask me what kind of music I make I have a bunch of different answers ranging from electronic to laptop rock. Playing music using computer software and various electronic peripherals is fun and affords infinite creative control, but performance-wise I find it difficult to engage the crowd. When playing on stage behind a guitar there is a raw energy of always connecting with the instrument that feeds the excitement of the crowd. Playing behind a computer makes me feel more like a drummer – trapped behind a bevy of equipment, separating my energy and crowds energy. I really have to learn to adjust my thinking from being a guitar player who isn’t used to having that wall to being more like a drummer and going nuts like Animal to project a massive amount of crowd enraging energy.
The other part of that equation is the music. The electronic sub-genres that are most accessible to enthusiastic live crowds typically have very very simple beats. The magic of these genres is more in the production, quality and attention to detail of the sounds than in the creative explosion of rhythms you’ve never thought of before (exceptions apply, of course). For two completed (and one upcoming) albums my rhythms and beats reflect a mash of playful exploration, hip-hop and dance. I typically find this inhibits the typical dj-driven dance floor movements. Driving, continuous, uninterrupted beats are the order of the evening in almost all situations where you want people to dance all night long – that and recognizable tunes (mostly stateside).
But I’m learning. In addition to these reflections that I wanted “on paper” for future reference here is a checklist of things for future performances:
- Always have takeaways. Have freebies and sell-ables that people can take away from the show. I went in with nobody knowing who I was and I left with maybe 3 people knowing who I was. Moreover, there’s no telling if they will remember my name, my music’s name, or even this website.
- Practice on a PA sound system setup and bring it whenever possible. No offense to the Sycamore house, but my sound was terrible. I wasn’t used to being in a sound system. I didn’t know their sound system. When my main beat tracks weren’t shining through the other layers the way they should have, there was no way for me to know it was because my stereo output was jacked into a mono input.
- Build and maintain various live set list projects in Live and Reason. After a massive number of attempted sync settings I finally caved and pulled in all my tracks and samples into one HUGE Live project. Seriously, over 50 tracks and over 150 scenes. Then, with Reason slaved to Live I was loading new Reason files for different sections of the set. That ended up being near-fatal because many tracks were setup to get signals from the same output from Reason. Halfway through the set 3 tracks could be running the same sound making it 3 times louder than it ought to have been. The solution I want to explore is to build several live sets that include various configurations of songs from my repertoire. Each set would be laid out not by song, but only by track and sample so that the live performance would be more creative and responsive. Also, each set would have only one associated Reason file with every instrument wired to outputs one-to-one so that there won’t be any track “bleeds”.
Anyways, the show was a great learning experience. I’m hoping to finish MetaTheories this month! (The last track is in the production phase) Afterwards I want to have a record release show and begin passing out the album to try and get more shows. Hopefully at some point next year, I will see you – the internet – out on the dance floor jamming to one of my tunes.