What Makes a Great Gig? Part 1

Digital Music News conducted a survey of over a thousand ReverbNation artists to name the one place they wanted to play above all. The net result of all answers gave the following top ten list of most desired venues for gigs:

1. Madison Square Garden
2. Red Rock Amphitheatre
3. Wembley Arena
4. House of Blues Chicago
5. The Grand Ole Opry
6. Whiskey a Go Go
7. The Gorge Amphitheatre
8. Radio City Music Hall
9. Wacken Open Air Festival
10. The Fillmore at San Francisco

I reflect on this list as a lifetime garageband player. I ask myself, “How would it feel to play a major arena?” So I close my eyes and play back in my mind the 3-D film of U2’s Vertigo tour as they performed in front of over 300,000 fans in venues such as the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Not only was this stadium filled with nearly 10 times the population of my hometown but also very few fans speak English! So all my normal wedding band banter, such as “How you folks doin’ tonight?” would be a waste of breath.

Needless to say, the likelihood of any of my garagebands ascending such a stage is near zero. Why would hundreds of thousands of people pay to hear my band’s feeble rendition of some sixties medley? Still, if it were to happen, I’m certain that I would feel an overwhelming rush, not from the crowd, but more from the legitimate concern that my ten-year old amps, cords and keyboards didn’t crap out in the midst of the gig. My garageband doesn’t have an equipment tech on staff or a roadie—never did.

But halls and outdoor venues are merely brick and mortar. What makes a gig memorable are the experiences they share with themselves and with the crowd. I remember Paul Wertico told me once that a pro should play every gig with the same intensity. He finished a tour with a wildly popular SBB in Poland, then flew back to Chicago and played a bar mitzvah in Skokie with a North Shore society band the next day. Paul told me that his initial thoughts were to slough-off on his playing intensity, for his audience consisted of thirteen-year-old Jewish kids and their parents. But he realized that if he compromised on his passion for playing, it was the beginning of a slippery slope that could lead to inferior technique and sloppy playing in his career. So he played his socks off at the bar mitzvah and in-turn had a really good time. This may be one reason why Paul remains one of Drum Magazine’s top fifty drummers of all time.

What do you think about having a passion for each gig? What has been your experience?

Stay tuned for Part II.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *