Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Listening Rooms

Over the years, I've played in some real shit holes. Actually, I think most live music played here in the US is played in rooms bereft of any sound design. Yeah sure, there's a sound guy there but often there's not a whole lot that can be done about a room that sounds like a gymnasium.
Obviously most music venues in the US are places where people buy food and or booze.  In such places, the band is expected to bring folks in. "Come on down for the music and stay for the chalupas."

Captive audience.

I think every artist craves a captive audience.  Bars and coffee shops are not this at all.  The old wisdom tells us we must "stick it out" in bars and restaurants and that if we are truly good musicians, the rest will fall in place.  There's definitely some truth in this, but if you're playing in a sports bar on a Monday night with 20 flat screen TVs everywhere, you have no chance. You are fucked from the get-go.

When I used to do Kindie Rock we often had a captive audience- a luxury really. I'm not against doing frank lloyd rock gigs in bars, but I surely want a captive audience again.

As I sift out what this new project will be like, I keep coming back to two concepts:

1. Stories
2. Music as an Escape

Stories- Each song tells a story and I especially love it when artists talk a bit about this in-between songs. What if the storytelling were expanded a bit more to create a theatre experience. Imagine Spalding Gray meets pretty much any band. How much better would the show be if you were taken even deeper into to the world of the song and the singer?

Music as an Escape- When people get home from work, believe me, they are usually pretty sick of their own lives. How much power do we have at work? How great is my life? They can have my body but they can't have my soul. Art inflates the soul. When people come to your show you should give them some relief from their own bullshit.

frank lloyd rock will be music and stories.

This will certainly require a captive audience. Spalding Gray reminds me that even the smallest of theatre spaces would be perfect for this. Thanks Spalding.

Monday, March 5, 2012

common problems with bands (part 3)

3. No Space- In music, space = silence.  Almost all musicians are fully unaware of the space in between the notes they're playing. How many local bands have you seen where everyone in the band is playing all the time? The drummer is busy filling every possible gap with dazzling fills and unnecessary flourishes. The guitarist is strumming non-stop like he's trying to break out of jail with a nail file. The bassist is showing off every Jaco Pastorius riff he ever learned. The singer is just trying to get a word in edgewise.
Learning to play an instrument can take years. Learning when not to play takes a lifetime.  Here is a great example of a song with lots of space:

Simple acoustic guitar part. Very basic drums with no cymbals, just kick and snare. The beginning of the song consists of a vocal, drums, guitar and hand claps. That's it. No bass until later. This song is full of space, yet it sounds full.

Here's another example of space:

The great Bootsy Collins with a 12 piece band!! 12 people are onstage and nobody is stepping on each others toes. Every time someone solos, the band backs off a bit and creates a "hole" for the soloist. These guys are listening to each other. 

I tried to find examples of bands that are stepping all over each other, but so far I haven't. I know those videos are out there but here's the thing: they're super hard to find because almost all the successful bands out there respect and understand space.

Less is ALWAYS more.