I’ve played to audiences of 1 person and I’ve played to audiences of 10,000 people over the course of my career in a live band. I’ve made some basic mistakes over the years and I’ve learned some good lessons from them. One mistake that I made early on in my career was not seizing the moment and giving an over-the-top show when I’ve played in front of very large audiences.
I consider a large crowd to be anything over 1000 people. I have played to audiences of 1000 or more quite a few times over the course of my career as a live musician. It’s such a great feeling to look out and see a big crowd but it can also be quite intimidating and I’ve blown it a couple times.
Let me give you an example. My band Shufflin’ Noah was working the all-original scene back in the mid 90’s and we were used to playing to audiences of 20 to 50 people. We were tight, had great songs and could put on a reliable show. We landed a 4th of July gig at the local lake opening for the headline act. It was a great day and around 2000 people showed up to the show.
We were extremely well rehearsed and the music was spot on that day. But we made a mistake and we didn’t work the crowd like we should have. The crowd welcomed us to the stage with a large ovation and we proceeded to play very well but we didn’t talk to the crowd enough. We didn’t interact with the audience like we should have and the audience slowly lost interest in what we were doing up there.
We really didn’t see much come from that gig in terms of more bookings. We got some good applause that day and had a lot of people come up and tell us we were really good. But we didn’t get any other gigs from that show and I believe it was because we didn’t seize the moment and take control of that crowd.
Now, flash forward about 8 years and hundreds of gigs later. My band “In Stereo” landed two nights at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. We opened for Sheryl Crow on one night and Barenaked Ladies on the second night. When we hit the stage there were 10,000 people there and we knew not to let the opportunity pass.
We worked the crowd like crazy those nights. We talked to them, pumped them up and even ran down off the stage with our wireless instruments and gave the crowd some high-fives while playing our show. It was very spontaneous and we seized the moment.
After those shows we got opportunities to open for Little River Band, Joan Jett and Quiet Riot. We got a lot of bookings out of those Olympics shows and I believe it was because we made an impression working the crowd. Somebody saw that we were capable of carrying a crowd and we got bookings because of that.
So my point in all this is, when it comes time to step up your game you need to do it. If you get a big crowd, don’t let a case of stage fright do you in. Make sure you’re well rehearsed and just let it rip! Use your stage banter and get talking to that crowd. Those big crowds are the best and you don’t want to regret letting a moment slip by. So seize the moment and make it count! -Matt-