There’s a live music producer named Tom Jackson who has a great motto regarding live music. If your songs don’t sound the same, why do they look the same?
Fast, slow, happy, sad, horny, pious. Some musicians move the same, emote the same, bore me to death the same regardless of the story they are telling. I’ve certainly been guilty of playing bad shows and I’ve seen my share of forgettable concerts. Why are they bad? Here’s the secret: fans don’t go to a concert for the music. We go for the show.
Good songs are the minimum starting point. If all you’re going to do is play the songs, I’ll have a better time staying home and listing to the recording. My job as a performer is to implant the emotion and experience of each song directly into each member of the audience. Easier said.
My upcoming album is Supernatural Steampunk and I am currently developing my Steampunk-centric concert to debut at Capclave in October. As I progress from performing paranormal/scifi songs to standing firmly in the shadow of steampunk, the fire under me has been lit and I can feel it. Fandom for steampunk expects the visual and the tactile. They expect a show and so do I.
If I am performing Our Future is in the Sky, a bouncy, optimistic song about flying machines, it should look and feel entirely different from The Dead Crawl From the Earth Alive, a tale of raising an undead army gone wrong. Making them sound different is easy. The work is in how to make them look distinct, and I don’t mean costume changes.
I am a solo performer. I stand behind a microphone. I have no set or lighting team. So how do I change the visual experience so drastically?
Well that’s the secret, isn’t it? It’s not easy. It’s posture, facial expression, vocal emotion, eye contact, comfort, and confidence. And more rehearsal than you can believe. Once you know how to play the song with your eyes closed, rehearsals begin. Theatre actors seldom have productive rehearsals until they have memorized their lines.
My column here on Darkcargo will be about this. My experiences as a genre musician. Writing, recording, performing. Attending Cons, getting inspiration, and, hopefully, my meteoric rise to the top of the pops.