Have you arrived in a strange city, burned out from two days of travel, only to find the venue you expected isn’t at all what you thought it was? It’s common to arrive at a venue to discover not enough outlets, a stage too small to even fit the drummer, let alone the drum kit, a terrible slap-back echo, and a mixer that looks like it came from Radio Shack ca. 1987. However, with a little bit of planning and flexibility, one can avoid such unpleasantness. Here are five tips to help adapt your performance to a new stage.
Do your research
Most venues will have their technical specs on their website, and if not, they should certainly have someone you can contact who knows the room. You should get in touch with the technical director beforehand, and let them inform you thoroughly about the space. Not having access to a technician, stage plot or tech specifications should be a big red flag, as that’s a sign that you may be dealing with a less-than-ideal situation.
2. Know your show
You should have a clear idea how much stage space your act requires, as well as what you need to run the show smoothly. If you don’t know what you need, the house certainly won’t be able to guess on your behalf. Draw up a clear stage plot and tech rider, and make clear to the venues what your minimum requirements are. Present these specs to the house tech director, and they should be able to inform you immediately of any issues.
3. Arrive early!
Every moment you have in the space will be precious, and if unforeseen problems arise, you will have ample time to deal with them. That being said…
4. Adapt quickly
Time is money, and the more of it you waste on adapting the show to the new environment, the less you have to find creative solutions. If you only have the lighting designer for 3 hours in the afternoon, don’t waste her time by “umming and awwing” your way through tech rehearsal/sound check. The final result will not only fall short of your original vision, but won’t even rise to the level of adequate. Having a contingency plan in place will save a lot of time that can be much better spent making your show amazing.
5. Be flexible
Although compromising artistic vision for the sake of maintaining the integrity of your show may seem agonizing to the “artist”, it will be a necessity to a successful touring act. Perhaps you may not have access to the mixer, lighting hang or stage dimensions that you’d like, but being flexible will allow you to make the best with what you’ve got. -Make sure everyone can play the songs with stripped-down equipment (combo amps instead of stacks, smaller drum kit, floor monitors rather than in-ear, etc…) -Have a rehearsal or two in “minimalist” mode, or even rehearse your set unplugged. (I once had the power go out in the middle of a show. We continued acoustic by candlelight, and it was a memorable gig for everyone.)-Rehearse in various physical configurations. You never know when the drummer could end up playing on the floor, your bassist having to play from the wings, and your singer too far away to make visible cues.-Try putting on an informal show using only the most basic of equipment. This will help quell anxiety, as well as prepare you to deal with anything the situation may throw at you in front of an audience. Touring is about bringing your art to the world, and overcoming difficulties creatively is part what make you an artist. By prepared to perform under any circumstances, you will not only improve the quality of your show, but open many performance opportunities you may not have thought of previously.
written by: kevztunz