BY MANISHA WOHLFORD
ASTD 3930-01 / MUSC 3930-01
Instructor: Alan Blair
Live Music Analysis
3 May 2018
“Up last we have a song that is near and dear to our hearts… we finished writing it about three hours ago. We can actually only play it if we have a capo… but we forgot to bring one with us, so does anyone one in Little Cowboy or Dear Genre have one we can borrow right now?” A man dressed in dark jeans and a flannel reaches into his back pocket and extends a capo from the audience to the lead singer of Big Tobacco standing on stage. Big Tobacco can close the three boy-band show with a guitar heavy, impassioned anti-love song with plenty of jumps and headbanging. Throughout the night, each band had the opportunity to fill the venue with their rock-based sounds. They each came with about ten friends or followers leading to an audience of 30 smiling faces, only filling a fourth of the Ready Room. Three small, local bands coming together to host a concert provides an opportunity for the members to get practice in a live setting which also provides a means for publicity. They were able to connect to fellow musicians that make the same style music as they do. The use of a small, intimate venue, distribution of CDs, and overall fan connection made for an impactful evening.
By having a small, intimate audience, the bands were able to practice their showmanship in a judgment-free zone. The performers moved through their sets without a second thought about their actions and were able to familiarize themselves with performing in front of a small crowd of people. The main guitarist for Big Tobacco closed his eyes and swayed with emotion as he strummed violently on his guitar and nearly fell off the raised stage when he tripped on the cord plugged into the amp a few feet behind him. Each band had their technical flaws, whether it was the way Little Cowboy could not balance their instruments correctly with the guys working the soundboard; or the amplifier and guitar problems afflicting the guitarist of Big Tobacco. Not long after the start of Dear Genre’s set, the drummer lost control of his sticks, and they propelled towards the audience. The bumps in performances continued to make the evening feel like a jam session rather than an actual concert. Every hiccup accentuated how the show did not entirely go as planned. Each band adapted to the stage by the end of their sets, and they were able to learn how to perform in front of a live audience successfully. Although the performances had their mistakes, the audience was able to see the band grow before their eyes, enforcing the closeness of the crowd.
Off to the side, a white plastic collapsible table rested with a few t-shirts and posters decorated with Big Tobacco, Dear Genre, and Little Cowboy's names. In addition to the merchandise, the bands had stacks of CDs, each containing a single song. The groups gave these homemade CDs out for free, and it was a way for them to get their music out and have their exposure go beyond their 45-minute sets. This opportunity gives them a means of diffusion for their music, one that is placing a physical copy in the listener’s hand; more direct than just telling the audience to check their music out on Bandcamp or Spotify. The homemade way of the CDs only made the bands more personable and easy to connect with strengthening their bond with the audience and emphasizing the intimacy of the evening.
Every person in attendance fed off the passion exhibited by the performers and did their best to match that passion through dance and cheering. The bands played at the energy level of the listeners standing only a few feet away, careful to make eye contact while singing, and never failed to engage in conversation in between songs. The bands used each other's networks of fans and followers to broaden their scopes. All three groups are “underground,” indie bands, so it a sense they were each other's “support” bands. It allowed for greater exposure sustaining a bigger audience, which will probably already like their music based off their attendance to the concert to see the “main act,” in this case, the one band they came to support. The small following of people each band brought with them grew to like the music of the other groups. With their phones tucked away, the audience was living in the moment, securing the connection between the artists and the newfound fans. Further strengthening this connection, the artists took pictures and conversed with fans after their sets. The intimacy of the concert contributed to the success of the evening, as well as setting the stage for the bands’ future success with their new fan base and mastery of stage performance.
Link: Big Tobacco