The first tentative step out into the world with these songs and my new sense of purpose is complete.
My acoustic gig at Smoke & Mirrors in Bristol was last night – I had such an enjoyable evening and learned a hell of a lot about what I need to do going forward. All in all a very valuable and rewarding experience. So, let’s break it down. You might remember that I bemoaned how previous band gigs would end in feverish, angsty post-mortems – don’t worry, this isn’t going to be like that! This is simply a breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and a clear plan of how to improve the next gig.
I played around forty five minutes of my own material, and I must stress that I got paid pretty damn well for the gig. Its worth mentioning because independent musicians playing their own compositions often get shat on by venues and promoters – sometimes even being asked to pay themselves for the privilege of playing. Smoke & Mirrors should really be commended for offering paying gigs to artists with the chance to play original material amongst the covers. Its a fantastic, unique pub with a friendly atmosphere, great bar staff and incredible in-house magicians. If you ever visit Bristol I urge you to go in for a pint.
First, my audience – I played to around five people. For some, that would be considered a failure. But to me it was an ideal starting point, enough people to practice playing the songs to but not so many to add to the pressure. I don’t ever get nervous at cover gigs with the band. Ever. But playing acoustic guitar and singing on my own really intimidates me. There’s no hiding behind other musicians; my voice and guitar playing are laid bare, warts and all.
Second – My guitar sounds fantastic now that the L.R. Baggs pickup system is installed. Bob Taylor makes beautiful acoustic guitars but has fuck all idea how to amplify them – the Expression System is terrible. I’m so happy with it now, and Alfie Kingston came and very kindly engineered the gig for me.
My set went as follows – Irreversible State Of Mind, A Ghost For Every Road, Carousel, Time To Leave, Where Are You Now?, Table For Two, Blue, See Through Skin and the first ever performance of Green Eyes.
The set wasn’t perfect but it was far, far from a disaster for a first gig. The few people that were there seemed to really enjoy the songs, and a couple of ladies came up to me after said I had a beautiful voice and asked if I had a CD available. As you know I don’t yet, so I wrote the link to this blog on a business card instead. If you’re reading this then thank you! That was some much needed validation after my first attempt.
I used a stomp box borrowed from Alfie for some of the songs – basically a wooden box that you tap your foot on that triggers a kick drum sample. It definitely adds some much needed percussive drive to the more upbeat tracks and is something I need to think about investing in. Any tiny little thing that can help me stand out at open mics is worth considering.
Now for the things I can improve – first off, I tend to ramble between songs and be negative about them. If you’ve been reading the blog from the start you’ll understand where I’m coming from, but again I need to gain confidence in my material and introduce it appropriately, not ‘I’ve not played this for ages so it’ll probably go wrong, sorry and thanks for your patience’.
I’m also not confident with my fingerpicking while stood up. I need a lot more practice to maintain accuracy, as I’d rather be an artist who stands up as I feel it gives more energy to a solo performance. From now on every practice is done stood up. I could also have thought out the set better – it was a bit on the fly. I’ve learnt from my time in the acoustic duo to group songs by capo position to keep tuning more consistent, but I didn’t really prepare the set.
Speaking of tunings; Green Eyes is in an alternate one. After my first set I snapped my G string (ooh matron) and had to change it. I’ve never had to do that before. I think I’ll have to leave out Green Eyes until I can buy a cheap second guitar, its too much hassle, which is a shame as I think its one of my better, most honest songs.
Lastly I know for a fact I can make my voice more confident. That will just come naturally when the guitar parts are fully ingrained in my muscle memory.
A very positive start though! The most important thing I learned is that the year-long break from my songs, coupled with this gig showed me that I actually do like my own music. Its a start! I hope you enjoy the track I’ve included from last night, and can see what I’m trying to say.
Until next time!