Have you ever been to a gig and felt awkward for the person on stage? Maybe they had bad gig banter?
Last week, I played an acoustic show at Spring St Social, Bondi. If you walk down Spring St you might miss it because it’s just a door in between Fitness First and Sushi Train. But if you find it, wander down the stairs. You'll find a cosy little venue with great music.
I was supporting Lucy B's film clip launch and hadn't done an acoustic show for a while. I spent a fair bit of time choosing which songs would suit the venue. Then the day before the show I thought I should work out something to say regarding Lucy's music video. I thought it would be respectful to acknowledge her special night during my set.
Then I thought, why not rehearse my banter like I would a setlist? Not word for word but topics. I started with introducing myself before the first song. Easy. Then I played Blackbird by the Beatles. So, I talked about how Paul McCartney used a Martin similar to mine in the recording and so on. It was a great gig and my friends actually brought up how much they enjoyed the banter.
Sure, some people would say let the music do the talking and I agree in most cases. However, it can be awkward to watch an artist sit there and say nothing while they organise their guitar pedals or have a sip of water. It’s not something that comes naturally to most but I believe it can be learned.
I’ve found it's important to assess your audience before and during the show. Before the show is easiest because your not concentrating on so many different things. If you have lots of fans there it can be fun to indulge in a little banter.
Having a look around and seeing if people are in their own worlds or are waiting to engage with the band is important. For example, if you’re playing at a restaurant, banter might be an intrusion on people's dinner and social time. Whereas, if it’s a rock gig, people just want to rock out, so something short could be better.
I think slightly rehearsed gig banter can be really engaging if its kept conversational and concise. And I've found it’s important to let your individual personality shine through. However, I think it needs to be relevant. I like to talk about the venue, the other artists and any anecdotes regarding the songs. News about the band is good too - like an upcoming single. I just try not to make it random.
So listen out at my next gig and let me know how the banter went, I’ll be practicing!
If you interested in reading more, check out Tom Jackson's great article on gig banter.