Tonight I played a show at the Cat in the Cream, a local coffeehouse with excellent cookies that puts on some pretty cool concerts. The show went well, but was thrown together rather haphazardly (I started planning it about four days ago). Here's a photo:
And here's what I learned:
Warming up is really important. I know this, and have known this, but taking 20 minutes before you go on to stretch, warm up your voice, and get the blood flowing makes a huge difference. The first song or two are the most important for concert-long morale, and if you're spending the first 3 minutes of your show marveling at how your voice just isn't doing what it's supposed to, it's not likely you'll regain that later in the show.
Set lists are even more important. And they take a lot of time. For a serious show, the set list should be finished at least a week before the show, if not earlier. As I found with this show (and throwing it together over the last four days), there is real art to creating a good setlist. The infinitely wise Chris Thile spoke earlier this week about the solo tour he did earlier this year, and how he set up his set list to equalize the music he played (which was primarily folk songs and Bach). He wanted people to approach folk music with the same intellectual approach they may take to Bach, and to approach Bach with the same liberty to move and feel things as they do with folk music. He makes a great point about the many associations people bring to concerts. Stuff to think about.
Also the Punch Brothers rock. That deserves a whole different post, but they've been in Oberlin this past week, and they continue to shake me to my musical core.
Other things learned: Soundchecks - Hella important. There were a number of weird settings going on at the mixing board that we fixed in the soundcheck, and if we didn't fix them, the show would have really sounded much worse. Whew!
Also, this is a totally lame blog post. You deserve better. Will try harder in future.