Ok so that’s a bit of a click-bait title and not all of the gig went wrong, but quite a lot of it did – let me explain.
I did my very first live gig on Friday at a local “open synth” night (which you should check out if you like synths). It didn’t go very well unfortunately – I had no midi signal coming from my laptop (typically all works fine now I’m back at the studio) so I had to improvise all my synth/drum parts over a very sparse audio backing track. Not great, but I was actually quite pleased by how I coped with this very unexpected twist, and even started to enjoy myself during my final song which had gone completely off piste (as the only audio for this track was a vocal sample)!
But like every mistake in life this “less than optimal” performance taught me quite a few important lessons and I wanted to share them with you:
1 – The old rule of “never change anything on the night of a performance” is really important, but always be prepared to deal with changes that you haven’t rehearsed for. There are always going to be things that are different when you play live such as stage sound, where you can set your gear up, lights in your face (and no lights behind you so you can see your gear), gear packing up on you, no soundcheck etc. which brings me to “what I learned from my disastrous gig experience part 2″…
2 – Get a proper soundcheck number! Because this was an open synth night I had a very rushed setup (20 minutes) with no soundcheck whatsoever. I managed to do a quick line-check for my MS-101 and TB-03 cos they have built-in sequencers or keyboards, and also did the same for my TR8 drum machine. But I couldn’t line check every synth before starting the set. If I had, maybe I would have realised that I had no midi signal and could have fixed the problem. So the first thing I did when I got back to the studio was set up a 1-bar Cubase project that plays a note on every synth I own. So for the next live gig I can loop this bar and do a proper line-check for each gadget before I start to play.
3 – Be methodical when you set up your gear. I’ve been a drummer now for 30+ years and I set my drum kit up exactly the same way every time – bass drum first then snare, hats, toms and finally cymbals. I need to have a similar methodology for setting up my electronic gear which I’ve decided should be: position equipment, plug in power, connect audio, run soundcheck track and do line checks.
4 – I think the biggest mistake I made at this gig was taking too much gear. It was a 15 minute set with 20 minute setup and a rapid tear-down at the end. I had a way too big setup with me which I did set up in 20 minutes but it was a very manic 20 minutes with no room for problems (and there were plenty of problems). I was toying with the idea of just taking my 2 synths with internal sequencers and my modular rig, which would all run from the midi clock of my drum machine, but that would mean creating an entirely new set of songs and I didn’t have enough time to prepare this. So I made the decision to go with the songs I had ready and that meant taking the gear those songs needed.
5 – Finally, be prepared for if/when it all goes completely wrong! Luckily I’ve been playing live gigs (as a drummer) for a long time now, and plenty of things have gone wrong along the way. You learn to adapt and change what/how you’re playing to cope with this, but more importantly you just keep playing and remember that the audience might not have heard this stuff before so to them it just sounds like you’re doing what you rehearsed. So that’s exactly what I did. To the audience who hadn’t heard any of my tracks before they would have sounded very sparse and empty, but they were still tracks and I still performed which is the most important bit.
But anyway – I’m really pleased that I did the gig, and the audience was very friendly and really seemed to appreciate the tracks I played. The organisers were lovely and very patient when I was scrambling around unplugging and plugging in wires etc. I even managed to get a devent bit of video from it too! Here’s an excerpt from the final track I played. It should have been a remix of a song called “The Blue Pill” by the truly awesome Jessi Frey but at the gig it turned out to be an acid/techno jam which was actually quite fun!