To say or not to say on stage…
Many a times in life when we speak without thinking, we have had to eat our own words. These days, cracking jokes on every social media post or trying to be funny is the “in” thing. But sometimes our own wisecracks could fall flat – “mooh ki khaani padi”, as the saying goes in Hindi.
For musicians on stage (especially the lead singers / performers), not saying anything to the audience could make experiencing a concert pretty boring. Or maybe not?
However, there are some things one should never tell their audience when on stage. These points have come as feedback from musicians / FOH engineers, and from my own personal experiences while attending various types of music concerts.
Quiet please. We’re still on sound check.
Most shows don’t start on time in India. And the audiences walk in late assuming that they won’t. And in case the crowd is on time, sometimes they find that a little “ting, tung” is still happening on every instrument on stage. Instead of asking the audience to be quiet or asking them to leave the venue, the artistes can make the sound check process interesting to witness.
At one concert, Ustad Zakir Hussain said, “for a short while you all would hear some Chinese music. It is called tooning.”
Don’t copy this idea. Figure out your own new thing.
My tabla is not sounding right.
As explained in the #SAundcheck article – “know your sound guy” – address the FOH / monitor engineer by his or her name. Not many bands can afford to have a stage mixing (monitor) engineer in their team. When your stage monitors may not be sounding right during an ongoing show, use signs to have the levels adjusted. And do it in such a way that people don’t get distracted.
As guitarist Sanjoy Das explains in his #converSAtion, work all this out with the FOH team before the show begins.
My throat is hurting.
The audience feels cheated if you tell them you will perform in spite of a bad throat. If you sing poorly just for the sake of it, you will not only see the audience leaving the venue in a while, but you will lose a huge fan base as well. Cancelling your show is a better thing to do if you’re really unwell. The event team then will end up getting a heart-attack is another story 😊
Sorry, I forgot the lyrics
Many a times, one has travelled a long distance and the band has directly come to the venue from the railway station or airport. Chances are that if not well-rehearsed, then lyrics could be forgotten or jumbled up. In today’s times, carrying lyrics on a smartphone or a tablet could do the trick. And help you not utter these words ever to your audience.
Anyone been to the recent U2 concert in Mumbai (Dec 2019) will know how the show ended with this important point being ignored.
You guys are so boring.
Even if you are background music for the audience, many of whom are talking to each other or most hanging around at the bar (during wedding / corporate concerts), never tell them that they’re boring. There would be some people sitting or even standing at the back and listening to you intently, and you should encourage these fans to dance or sing-along. Others are bound to come to the stage and join the others. So, don’t give up.
Many a times, the city’s VVIPs are made to sit on fancy sofas closer to the stage. Chances are they don’t know any of your songs. So their mobiles may keep them engaged. Never chide them. But smartly try to get them on their feet to dance to a peppy number you may have.
I lost my mom yesterday.
I know this is not a line one utters (or can utter) in every show. It could have happened. Well, very sorry to know about your loss. But then either as mentioned earlier, just cancel your show. Or else if you think you want to be a professional, don’t even bring such a sad incident up, and also ask the compere not to mention it either. People come to a concert to let their hair down and to enjoy your music. Don’t depress them with such news.
I have a flight to catch.
At many college festivals, things go on for a little longer due to the encores. In case there is poor connectivity to your hometown (or base), try to start the show early and take the last flight. Even better is to go back the next day. If some people have come from say Pune to Mumbai to attend your show, they will go back very disappointed that you ended it early. Plan your show timings well. Don’t show off that you’re busy and so have to rush.
As shared by a colleague, this is what a singer said when he came on stage. Hello, yes. But sir you are in Delhi now. What a turn-off for the audience it was. Musicians can’t be so stoned or worked up that they don’t even remember where they are! Don’t goof up on the college names either where you’re performing. Especially the thank-yous in case you want another gig at the same venue later.
There would be many more such don’ts. Maybe they are even more important or critical than these mentioned. Just make sure as performers you do the job well, on and off stage.
After all, your audience is your brand ambassador. Go win them.
…working towards building a healthy music community in India.