What's it like to perform live music again after a 5 years hiatus?
Last weekend I performed a live looping cover set at The Wakehouse, an outdoor events venue and restaurant bar in Reedley, California. I'd been preparing a live cover set for a few months and decided to perform it for the first time at a farmer's market type of event. Full disclosure, The Wakehouse is my most longstanding digital marketing client and my hangout headquarters.
It was the most natural place for me to play again.
I wasn't really prepared to perform my best, I just wanted to set up and hear my stuff on the big speakers and shake out my legs, feel a stage again. I did okay, I got through the material and people seemed to dig it. The first few songs were rough, I struggled to play the parts under pressure. But I shook it over time - veteran mental notes came to me in my time of need: "Just keep pushing through the material. Don't stop the music. You'll pick it up along the way." I didn't even finish the set particularly strong, but I got the material out and people were giving me very specific compliments, so I think that means they're not lying. I've naturally got lots of improvements to make but overall I'd give my performance a 70%.
Now I'm tweaking my sound a bit, improving it based on how the mood translates to a live environment. I'm basically picking out from my live set the best drum parts and building a slightly different style around them. Same thing with the instrumentation - removing some instruments I didn't end up using very much and replacing them with instruments that I'd like to experiment with next in this next iteration of my style.
There were a lot of rudimentary rhythms, guitar and bass parts, I can't have that in my next outing. Each part needs to have something specific to say. And the song selection needs to be refined. At this stage I'm thinking of taking the timeline further back. I'd like to cover a "40's-50's-60's" set of songs in my next outing. Maybe keep a few appropriate songs from this past set, which was mostly 90's hip hop and pop songs, that might fit the new styling.
Right now I am using a guitar and bass guitar with a few pedal effects, a Novation Launchpad Pro for performance of the percussion and softsynth instrumentation, and to control the arrangements with Ableton Live 10. I'm playing, recording, and looping all the parts as clips into Ableton and then controlling the starting and stopping of them with the Launchpad Pro. The instruments and mics are running through a multichannel mixer plugged into the macbook via USB. In the future I will add more organic instruments and a percussion setup. I will be immediately adding a foot controller and probably another midi effect controller of sorts.
I'm a week or two away from being ready to book more shows. My plan is to book different types of shows and feel out each one to see where my music feels/sounds best. The small local artist showcase shows, restaurant gigs, those daytime cafe gigs, small club gigs opening for an outta towner. Whatever I can get my hands on.
In the beginning you've gotta get a lot of reps in. Yet you've still gotta try to not suck in the beginning either, or you've got a long road of winning back the respect of the people. It's a much shorter road to solvency if you're good at the beginning rather than if you're bad at the beginning.
That's all. This post is meant to catalog how I see this point in my music performance experiment. But if someone does read this who is interested in doing a live music performance at some point, it should give them whatever they need to just go for it. And make note of the process.
Let me know your thoughts!
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