Cosmopolitan2016

6th August 2016

Leicester’s Cosmopolitan Carnival

2016

Coming up in August

Cosmopolitan Arts presents – Leicester’s Cosmopolitan Carnival
on Saturday 27th August 2016 – from 2.00 pm to 9.30 pm
Leicester City Centre: Jubilee Square, High Street, Clock Tower, Humberstone Gate and BBC Radio Leicester.

The Cosmopolitan Carnival arts festival is taking over the city centre hosting an impressive line up of live music, dance and art.

Calvin Jeffrey in 2010 Photograph: by Harjinder Ohbi
Calvin Jeffrey in 2010
Photograph: by Harjinder Ohbi

BBC Radio Leicester’s Kevin Ncube and Toni Finney, will compere the main stage in Jubilee Square. Artists include Leicester’s very own The Brandy Thieves, national awarding winning rapper Curtis Clacey, The Orator, UG and the world’s best DJ Jon 1st DMC will be performing an exciting collaboration, rhythmic Afrobeats by Afro-Kubanza, rising soulful star Dominique Brody will be singing, Jesse Wright will wow the crowd with her amazing voice, “Britain’s Got Reggae” stars from across the country will be performing.

London-based band Code Ninety will inject to pop music element to the stage, soothing gospel music from Kaine Mass Choir and the fabulous Illusive Quartet will perform stylish jazz.

A range of free arts workshops will be available including Chinese calligraphy, origami and dragon making and lantern making plus much more.

There will also be a grand finale performance “Cosmocular” in Jubilee Square 8.30pm – 9.30pm, conceived, project managed and artistically directed by Amanda Leandro of Cosmopolitan Arts. This dazzling performance will involve a fantastic large-scale film projection piece by Amanda Leandro, French and English pyrotechnic performances by Pyrox and Select Dance, beautiful lanterns and giant puppets from Same Sky, an amazing live music performance created by Lead Composer & Music Director Richard Everitt and Co-composed by John Berkavitch, Carol Leeming and Miranda Booth.

Astounding spoken word from Leicester’s best wordsmith  John Berkavitch and spectacular vocals from Carol Leeming, of which both have specially written new pieces of work for this performance.

The ensemble includes the best musicians from Leicester: Will Todd from By The Rivers will be playing bass, the highly acclaimed pianist Mike Sole, skillful drummer Malcolm D’Sa, well known jazz saxophonist Marcus Joseph, heavenly harp by Miranda Booth, exceptional tabla by Hari Trivedi and awesome trumpet by Julie Maxwell.

This dazzling and spectacular performance is a unique one off experience, showcasing Leicester’s most talented artists along side national and international artists, this is one not to be missed!

There will be a stage at the Clock Tower compered by well known comedienne Kirsty Munro, hosting a vast array of cultural music, comedy and spoken word, including: Euphoria a seven piece Chinese folk group, Hari Trivedi will perform amazing Tabla and Sitar music, Ian Hall and Lindsay Warnes-Carroll will bring side splitting comedy to the event, The Orator Rhetoric Literary Society Poetry will be present wonderful spoken word, from London AOA will perform a unique blend of hip-hop enthused songs, Billy and Jody’s acoustic experience will inject some fun to the event, Calvin Jeffrey and Deven Stuart will both sing songs that will lift people’s spirits and Mr Shay livens up the crowd with some MC’ing.

Andrea Kenny of The Brandy Thieves at Simon Says... 2015 Photo: Kevin Gaughan
Andrea Kenny of The Brandy Thieves at Simon Says… 2015
Photo: Kevin Gaughan

On the High Street there will be an exciting blend of activities and performances, including an amazing dance performance area hosting every imaginable genre of dance. There will be a humorous street theatre performance, African drumming workshop and activities from Talent Match.

On Humberstone Gate there will be a funky open top bus stage with live reggae and acoustic music and a range of free arts activities, hosted by “The Drinks Bus” and “Britain’s Got Reggae”. There will an art gallery in BBC Radio Leicester and lots of free arts workshops including a DJ master class with Jon 1st, DMC World Champion 2013.

This exciting FREE event has something for everyone and is one not to be missed.

 

Tetrad’s Us and Them#4

Sunday 22nd November 2015

Us and Them

Us and Them is a series of shows that take place at the Attenborough centre, produced by the Tetrad Company.

Tonight’s show was Us and Them #4.

tetrad image

As the invitation notice stated: ‘Us and Them brings together people who are excited and inspired by innovative, bold and thought-provoking experiences of performance. Watch performances by Tetrad collective members, alongside developing work from guest artists within the fields of comedy, dance, theatre, live art and multimedia performance. This event will engage people in dialogue about contemporary performance, providing opportunities to network and foster prospective performance makers.’

Performance Line-Up:

Robert Hardaker, ‘CHANT (cleanse)’
Sam Metz, ‘Got something to say – but no joy’
Katherine Hall, ‘Buoy Up’
Sophie Swoffer, ‘Take the Shot’

Tetrad is a collective of De Montfort University MA Performance Graduates who are dedicated to building upon the network of young performance makers in Leicester by offering performance and professional development opportunities. Founded in 2014, Tetrad has brought together local artists, thinkers and citizens. In partnership with Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester Tetrad have designed Us and Them, a platform of new performance work by local young artists which creates a great opportunity to experience the exciting innovative performance work by the next generation of East Midlands based artists.

Tonight’s performances

Robert Hardaker is a contemporary performance maker and live artist, based in Leicester, England. Hardaker’s practice aims to recollect a supposed co-existing consciousness and memory aided by the curation of a space and the highlighting of the senses. Through bodily action he forms his own likeness, memories and emotions around himself; the audience is a malleable entity who can choose to become part of this dialogue. They are not forced into experiencing a set of emotions, yet are guided by the artist into singular, fleeting moments of involvement. The body becomes a vessel for intimacy and reaction, works are impossible but necessary tasks, full of supposed contradictions.

Hardaker graduated from De Montfort University in 2012 with a first class Ba (Hons) degree in Fine art. In the same year he was awarded the Embrace Arts Award for dedication to arts practice and worked with Leeds art gallery to produce work for Grassington Festival Art Trail in response to Richard Hamilton’s Kent State – this work is now part of Leeds Art Gallery’s permanent collection and lending library. In 2013 he performed as part of Roger Horns’ “Youth” at the Hepworth Gallery (Wakefield). Hardaker co-ran the Attic Arts Collective and Studios (Leicester) curating various exhibitions and organising the art at Handmade festival 2013-2014. Since 2012 he has been a studio holder at Two Queens (Leicester).

Hardaker’s performance took place in one of the upstairs studios. I dropped in during the interval. The artist was completely naked and squatted on a mound of material in the middle of the room; the mound resembled the nest of a bird; his wordless activity involved tending the nesting material, digging a hole in the middle of it into he vomited. The impact of the performance was to evoke something that felt primeval, was enigmatic and at times disturbing. In the later Q&A session we learned that this was a shortened version of a long piece. Someone said it was about vulnerability and power. As he said “I put myself in this situation.”

(Cleanse) is a coming of age, it is the ridding of youth, It is a love letter to the past and an embrace of the future. Performed as a nocturne, it happens in the background, It is messy and uninvited. The performer forms his likeness around himself, before washing; the audience is a malleable entity, the programme notes explained.

Sophie Swoffer, ‘Take the Shot’

In Sophie Swoffer’s performance, Take the Shot, the audience stood in a marked square in the middle of the hall. Around them, she performed her haunting journey along the rain-stained pavements of film noir, against a backcloth of rain sound effects. Video cameras and screen and projects stood at various positions around the room, displaying Sophie’s image and performance when she in the vicinity of the camera. Scenes in her performance conjured up images we would associate with film noir, evoking feelings of danger and grotesqueness whilst playing the role of a femme fatale.

Katherine Hall, ‘Buoy Up’

Katherine Hall’s, ‘Buoy Up’, saw her enter the stage carrying the kind of buoy that small boats would tie up to. Part dance, part mime, the performance she created images through her movements against a sound background of water splashing.

The cast put on a game show in which they placed a variety of objects in the performance area and asked members of the audience what each of the actors should do with specific items. Whilst the actor was out of the room, suggestions were decided and the audience could encourage or discourage only by applauding, as the actor got ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ when near to or handling an object. It was amusing and entertaining.

Sam Metz,Got something to say – but no joy‘ Used the irregular and awkward shapes created by the elongated limbs of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, as a trigger to give a sense of celebrity, disenchantment, ritual, gender and conformity.

After the performance the artists gathered in the main hall for a question and answer session. The gave the audience a chance to explore aspects of the various performances and ask question about what inspired them. Because several of the acts involved interaction with members of the audience, the question was posed ‘what is the role of the audience?’ In the cafe area outside a board invited people to comment on another question: ‘Are we here to perform or entertain.’

That question reminded of what I had written in my forthcoming novel The Trench, a story about a live music venue and the bands that play there. I wrote:

Jennifer, said: “Making music… is a performance. You have to get up and entertain people who you have not met, in a room you have never been in before.”

“Yes. You have hit the nail right on the head”, David said. “It’s a performance. Music is about entertaining people. It’s not that different from acting in a play, or being part of a dance troupe. It’s all about the art of performance – whether you do it alone or as part of a group. People go to see bands, singers, dance groups because they want to listen to music and be entertained.”

Some of the students looked confused when they heard this. They could relate to the word ‘performance’ but ‘entertained’ – that was not a word they had associated with music before. One young man put his hand in the air and said: “Why is music about entertainment? Surely music offers much more than that? There is much more to music than just being entertained!”

The next Tetrad Us and Them show is scheduled for 13th March.

see also:

Our article about the Us and Them that took place on 3rd May 2015

Visit the Tetrad website.

Music

17th September 2015

Articles I have written about music

This list brings together in one page the articles I have written about music.  Not included in this list (as yet) are the articles I wrote for the old Arts in Leicestershire magazine. I plan to re-publish some of these in the archival collection on this blog.

An X-factor for bands?

Band promotion

Bands and singers

Classic rock is dead

The Economics of local live music

Editorial bias in music

Flash gigs

History of music in Leicester

Local music – does it matter?

Major new festival showcase for Leicester

Music history

New bands starting up

Standards for live music venues

Thoughts on singing

Venues: friends or foes?

What makes a good band?

What makes a good gig?

What makes a good live music scene?

When should gigs start

Where is live music now?, in Arts in Leicester magazine, 2014

Writing about music

See also:

A list of all my published work

Writing about music

9th September 2015

Writing about music:

Choices and consequences.

This is not the first time that I have written about the perils of music journalism. Writing about bands and the performances they give can be a dangerous thing.  If you get it wrong, it backfires on your reputation as a writer. On more than one occasion I have been criticised for writing only about the bands I like. Such criticisms have come from people whose opinions are respected.  My stock reply is along the lines of ‘well if I think a band is not very good, then there is no pointing writing about them.’ Bear in mind, that (at Music in Leicester magazine) we are not paid to do this work; it is a voluntary commitment – we do it because we are passionate about music.

It has been suggested that this magazine should write honestly about all bands, whether they are good, bad or indifferent.  Sorry. But no. We just don’t have the time to provide a service of that kind; we are not a Wikipedia-type website for general knowledge about everything musical (even within the confines of Leicester.) I write about bands that I like, whose music I think I understand and whose performances tick the various boxes that I use to describe what I think is good in terms of live music. [What makes a good band?]

All those who write about gigs and bands choose which ones they want to devote their free time to.  I cannot direct people to attend certain events; if I am asked which events I would suggest, I do so, but this is not a paid job with a chain of command. Volunteer reviewers are more likely to go to a gig and write about it, if it is one they like. Apart from me, all the other writers have full-time jobs and have to fit their music interests around these.

Doing justice to a band

Having thought about it, I am of the opinion that,  if I see a band and their music fails to excite me (either because I do not understand it or because I am just not in the right frame of mind for it) then I should not write anything. It is a disservice both to the readers and to the bands if I write something half-hearted, just to give them a mention. In other words, it would be better to say nothing than write a review that fails to justice to act or set. I have a habit of turning up at a gig without having researched the bands beforehand; life is very busy and time is short, so it is easy to skip the pre-gig stuff and hope you can wing it.

How long does it take to write a review?  Well, very roughly speaking, it takes

Prep – up to 30 minutes for pre-gig research
Attend – Two to three hours to get there, see the bands and get back
Write – varies a lot but say 30 minutes on average, per band
Photos – allow 30 minutes to process photos and upload them

So, we are talking about a time commitment of between 3½ and 4½ hours. That’s just single gigs; and then are festivals… Writing time can be extended if you want to listen to a band again after you have seen them or watch any YouTube videos they have of their performances (often helps to check if you got it right.)

This calls into question what music journalism is about. I have sometimes Googled ‘gig reviews’ and gone through some of the stuff that has come up. This can be a useful exercise because any editor should want to compare the standards of his own work with that of others. One thing that stands out for me is that the best reviews (that I have read) are those that have clearly been written by people who know and understand the acts they are writing about. They have seen these acts before; they have listened to their music; they have taken some time to become thoroughly acquainted with the artists they are writing about. This makes them able to provide a justifiable and credible account of the work of that artist or band. Keith Jobey said:  “I know of a band who had a bad review (unjustified and not from MIL) about an early gig they’d played. They changed their name partly because it was being used against them. Happily they are now getting decent slots after positive MIL mentions.”

Standards are important

Looking back over my own experience of going to gigs and writing about them, one thing stands out – I have often not researched a band before seeing it for the first time. This results, in some cases, in a review of a poor standard.

Now, none of this would matter much, except that (a) Music in Leicester is one of the few places where people can read about bands and artists from our local area. We no longer have publications like The Monograph or From Dusk to Dawn and most of the websites that used to publish stuff about the local music scene have vanished. (b) I know for a fact that many promoters, venue managers and festival organisers check what we write here to get a feel for which bands are worth booking.

If there was a website that was a ‘wiki’ for all things musical in Leicester, then probably people would prefer to use that. All that music organisers have is Facebook as a source of intelligence about bands and artists – and that provides information but rarely allows for a more critical appraisal, and if they want to listen to a sample of tracks then Soundcloud and YouTube is also there. Good thought such sources can be, they provide only a partial picture. In most reviews we also try to describe how the audience reacted to what they were hearing; that is often a very important element of our reports.

There is also the issue of genre.  Some bands play music that I call ‘niche’; to do it justice, you have to understand what that music is about and that can be difficult for generalist writers.  I often see hardcore ‘screamo’ bands; I like some of them and others I do not. I have a general appreciation of this style of music but I do not specialise in it. A review of a post-hardcore gig would be much better done by someone who is really into that kind of music and knows the scene well (such as one of the musicians that play in bands of this kind.)

Responsible publishing

Publishing a magazine about music in Leicester is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. This website is not a fanzine; it might appear to be but it is not our intention to publish something that only promotes the acts we happen to like.  My fear is, however, that it appears to be just that. If this is the case, then I have not been doing my job properly. One solution to this problem is to get more people to write about more acts – to spread the net more widely. We have gone to some lengths to encourage contributions from people but the results have been less than good. Photographers are two a penny these days; but what is the point in seeing photos if there is nothing that puts them in context? Writing is not something that a lot of people go in for these days; either because of a lack of self-confidence or just a consequence of the post-literate society.

As an editor, I am delighted with the contributions made by our regular writers, Keith Jobey for example, to name but one and previously Kevin Gaughan. The problem I have is that there are just not enough people willing to go out to gigs and write them up; and in Leicester there are just so many gigs, that we can hope only to scratch the surface. As I have often said “so many bands, so little time.”

Where do we go from here?

What does this mean for the future of our editorial policy?  Well, I think it means that we have to raise our standards, make what we publish more credible and do a better job of writing about live music. The consequence will be that less will be published. Unless we can recruit more writers, that will be the result, given our current resources. Perhaps it is better to publish good quality reviews, even if they are fewer in number, than to make a half-baked attempt to cover a broad field. Bear in mind that anything that gets published on this website (magazine) stays there for all time; it is not ephemeral, it does not evaporate, it is a permanent record that stays on the Internet for as long as the site exists.

My conclusion is that we should write about a band or artist only when we have take some time and trouble to understand and appreciate their work. Given the pressures I am under, that means I will write much less – especially about the acts I have not seen before or do not know well. If a band is on tour and plays in Leicester (and the chances are they have not been here before) then they might have left behind them comments or write-ups about their previous performances. That gives an indication of what people think about them. Rather than watch a band cold (without any previous knowledge or experience) it is better to spend some time trying to get one’s head round what they do and then (when you do see them) you are more likely to write with credibility about their set.

The end of gig reviews?

As of today, I have cleared all the notes in my work book.  I have more or less finished my review of Simon Says… festival. I have cleared the decks.  It is time to make a fresh start. That fresh start should, I think, include doing the right amount of research before going to a gig. It might also include writing about ‘bands’ rather than ‘gigs.’  If you go to a show and see four bands but like only two of them, it would be better to write about those bands and say nothing about the others. (Notice I am talking to myself now.) That is not a gig review.

Recently I have been to certain gigs only because there were one or two bands that I wanted to see. I sat through the rest of the night and wrote about the others because I thought that justified my presence (on a free ticket.) I should stop doing this. The bands I do not write about may well be good bands and worthy of a positive review but that can be a hit-and-miss thing. I might not be the best person to write about them.

I think it would be better if we concentrated more on writing about bands and their music and took a more imaginative approach, including asking for comments from musicians and their fans, adding links to on-line sources so readers can make up their own minds and profiling bands to give the reader a better idea about what they do and have done.

Changing tastes

Like many people my musical tastes are changing. I know what I like. I know what fails to excite me. The range of live music that I feel impresses me is narrowing. Personally, I tend to like rock music that is popular and melodic. I do not dislike metal, punk, hardcore, etc. but I do not feel the same way about it and know less what makes some bands better than others within this context.  I should defer to others who are impressed by that other kind of music. I should not write about performances that are less than exciting (for me.) Others can do that job far better. The problem is getting other to write or even to comment.

This magazine was launched in June 2013; two years on, it is time to weigh-up its results. So, as of now, my gut feeling is that there will not be ‘gig reviews’ in any number and that what will get published are more articles about bands and singers and about the nature of our local music scene. If this provides readers with a more solid and credible coverage of music, then I might be doing my job properly.

Trevor Locke

Technical note

When reporters are sent to a gig, we ask the promoter of the show to give us free ‘tickets.’ This assumes that we are writing about the gig as a whole. If, however, to go to see one or two bands in a line-up, then we should ask the bands to provide us with tickets. If they want us to review their performances then they should provide us with the access to get in to see them. Having said that, some of our reviewers prefer to pay to get into gigs; that is their choice.

Shakespeare for the Facebook Generation

13th October 2014

I have included this review of Romeo and Juliette because I am planning an article about the impact of Facebook on young people.

The article was originally published in Arts in Leicester magazine in 2011.

For the moment here is the link to the PDF extract of the review (requires a PDF reader and will open in a new browser window.)

Romeo and Juliette review 2011

 

When should gigs start?

At what time should venue start their shows?

Last night, at the meeting of the Leicester Music Forum, someone talked about the time at which gigs start, here in Leicester  7:30 pm is the standard time for nearly all venues to open their doors, for the majority of gigs. They all start at the same time, bar a few events that begin at 9 pm and some that take place on Sunday afternoons.  Is this good?

One contributor thought not.  I also agree.  Venues should network and collaborate to give the ticket-buying public more choice as to when they can go to a gig, if they want to be there for the start. By staggering the start-time of their shows, venues might see an overall increase in the total audience going out to ‘see a band’ on any given night of the week. Well that is what was being suggested.

Will this work?  As someone who goes to a lot of gigs in many venues across Leicester, I frequently notice that at 7:30 – 8 pm there are not many people in the house. The room fills up by 9 pm and a raft of fans turn up for the headline set at 10 pm.  This suggests that a lot of people make up their own minds when they can get there and certainly don’t go to see support bands.

On another point, it was also said (last night) that it is common for a large group of fans to go to a gig to see their favourite  band and – when that band has played – they leave. Various comments were made about this well-known phenomenon, including “it is very disrespectful to other bands playing.”  This might be due to public transport and parking issues but I suspect the truth is that those fans came to see their band and were not interested in enjoying the music of other bands, that they did not know. It remains an vexed issue for bands and promoters alike.

Well, you might take the view that if they have paid to get in then they can make up their own minds what they want to see and how long they want to stay for. Some of the more street-wise promoters play the card of putting the band – likely to bring the most fans – on last. In contrast, I have also been to gigs where the crowd has arrived on time, stayed for the whole night and enjoyed all the music. It does happen.

Do promoters put on too many bands in a line-up?  It is not uncommon around this city, for there to be 4, 5 or even 7 to 8 bands playing on a line-up.  Most music fans find this too much to take in on one night. Gone are the days when you go out to “see a band”, that is, one band that is going to provide the music for a whole night. Such events are limited to covers or tribute bands that play pubs. The typical venue gig these days is made up of a series of bands tat play 30 minute sets, one after another.

Let me indulge myself in an opinion – the best gig is one played by 3 bands and no more. Two support slots and one headliner. Gigs that follow this formula are likely to draw the biggest crowds and to be the most enjoyable. Generally speaking – because there are exceptions, such as metal or punk nights or acoustic evenings.

So why do we get these huge line-ups?  In some cases it is because promoters want to maximise their ticket sales for the night. If each band brings 10 people then 7 bands might equate to 70 ticket sales. I can see the logic of that argument, even if I believe it to be flawed.

Three well-chosen bands – including a well-chosen headliner – should be able to fill a venue. Let’s look at gigs and see if a three band show starting at 8:30 pm works as well as a 7 band line-up starting at 7 p.m. What would aid this investigation is collecting data:  look at a sample of gigs, note their start-time and record how many tickets were sold.  Speculation on the basis of personal experience is fair enough to give us a clue about what might be happening; but it is only when we get data that we can begin to analyse what actually works and what doesn’t.

If our local music Forum achieves anything, it would be to challenge music providers to think about the way they do things and to objectively analyse what works best for the music-going community in our local area.

Thoughts on singing

Trevor Locke reflects on what he (as a member of the audience) learnt about singing when he attended the obsUnplugged programme of Acoustic shows in Leicester in 2013.

Performing covers

There are three kinds of covers

(a) Karaoke

(b) Just singing the song as it is in the original version – what pub singers do

(c) Taking a song and putting the artist’s own, original stamp on it, giving it a unique interpretation that has not been heard before.

When I listen to a well known cover (performed as part of a singing competition or vocal showcase), I would be looking for interpretation – what the performance of that song tells me about the artist in front of me and whether their unique take on that song shows me something about the singer. The better known the original song or artist, the more important this is. For example, Wonderwall by Oasis is a very well known song and I would prefer to not hear it sung karaoke-style, or as  just a faithful rendition of the original recording.  I would rather want  to hear what the artist in front me can do with it, to bring out aspects of the song that might never had heard before. I have listened to some very remarkable interpretations of well known popular songs, where the singer has taken the song and made it their own, producing a version that is markedly different to the original and given me a whole new insight into that song, using exactly the same lyrics and most if not all of the original melody.

Putting together a set list

If an artist is  given an allotted period of time in which to perform, he or she  can probably do about five or six songs.  In a showcase event, the  goal for,  a  performer, is to illustrate the range of their repertoire, demonstrate  vocal and instrumental skills and entertain the  audience.  A good performance is not one in which the artist sticks to safe, comfortable songs, any more than going for the really hard, challenging stuff,  throughout the set. The singer should open with a song which they know they can perform well, which is likely to capture the attention of the room, engage the audience and prevent people from going for a smoking break, the toilet or to
the bar from a drink.

Keeping them and holding their attention is the tasks of the opening song. The last song should be a vibrant, robust number that rounds off the set with something that will cap the set’s achievement and illicit sustained applause.  In between, the singer  has to show those in the room  what the artist is  capable of.  Things to avoid: too many songs which sound the same in tempo, style and content – most listeners appreciate variety – and too many covers that every one else is doing (yet another Ed Sheering song, oh no not Lady
Gaga’s Dirty Ice Cream again!)

Performing the songs

What engages audiences is feeling – the singer’s ability to get inside a song, believe in what the lyrics are saying, understanding what the song is about and then living the song,  while  on stage.  Inexperienced artists learn the words, the melody and the instrumentals and think that is job done.  It’s not.  Excellent artists spend some time trying to get into the role – just as actors have to get into the role of a character and live the part, so too singers should be thinking long and hard about the lyrics, the meaning of the song, what they are singing about and how best to portray the whole piece on stage. That might even mean deciding when and where to make gestures and facial expressions, the requirements of piano, forte and pianissimo passages and the internal dynamics of the piece. Whether
it’s their  own original song or their own original interpretation of a well-known cover, it’s about singers putting yourself  into the songs and acting it out on the stage.  An excellent singer will get this just right; one who is less good will over act.

Telling people who you are

It is unlikely that the audience will be sitting there with a programme.  They might or might not have read the running order (if there is one) on the way in.  Most of them will have no idea who the singer is. The job is make them aware of you – your name and where you come from.  Either announce yourself to the room before you start singing or after you have finished the first song. It’s no good telling them your Facebook address – they will not remember it – but if you have cards or flyers with it on, leave them around the room.

Between songs,  you can tell them the title of song and something (briefly) about what’s in it and(if it is your song)  when you wrote it or, if it is a cover, why you like it and who originally performed it. Don’t just say “I am now going to do a cover by Ed Sheeran” and leave it at that.  Interesting though that might be, it still tells people nothing about why you are singing a song by Ed Sheeran and what’s significant about it.

People do not want to hear long speeches, anecdotes or stories between songs (in a six song set) but a little bit of personal chat helps people to relate to you as a person. You are not a singing robot. You are a person trying to make a room full of people like you and remember who you are (and, hopefully, will then want to  see you again at your next appearance.)

Solo singers with guitars

Should you sit down or stand up? This is a vexed issue and there are strong opinions for both options.  Singing coaches say stand up because that is the best position for breath control.  Others say sit down,  if that is how you feel most comfortable and relaxed.  Singing at your best is not a comfortable experience,  even for professionals.  When I see an artist sitting down to sing, I tend to think they are newly starting out amateurs (that might not be true but there is always a tendency to assume this if you have not seen this artist before.)

If you are  going to play guitar to accompany your singing, tune the instrument BEFORE you go on stage.  If you put in a new set of strings, do that several days before the performance and allow time for the strings to settle in.  We have seen artists break strings on stage and then ruin a good act while they restring  or waste time borrowing an instrument from someone else.

Make sure the audience knows you have finished

Some songs can have abrupt endings and if so, it is better to say “thank you” into the mic,  so that people know that the song has  finished.  At the end of your set, there is nothing wrong in thanking the artists that have been on before you and how much you enjoyed their songs.  It is a courtesy that is noted by judges and by members of the audience.

Flash gigs

We have just come up with the idea of putting on a flash-gig as a way of getting people to come to our show.

I don’t know what it is like in other cities, but in Leicester it is really, really difficult to get people to come to gigs.  There are over 8 live music venues in this city putting on gigs nearly every night of the week.  There are over 300 local rock bands all of whom want to play as many times as they can in Leicester venues.

This means that competition for the limited number of fans who are prepared to go out and see live bands is fierce. Most of the publicity for gigs is done on the Internet – through social networking outlets and the websites where shows can be posted. Printing vast quantities of flyers and posters is not just expensive – it’s almost non-productive.  If you go into our live music venues the walls are plastered from floor to ceiling with posters and there are always piles of flyers everywhere you look.

You can book a line-up of bands several weeks ahead only to find that by the time your own gig comes round, several other venues have started to publicise gigs that are in competition with your own. This is partly why we came up with the idea of a flash gig – an event date where we spot a date where not much else is happening and then we jump in, book a venue, some bands and then flog the publicity like mad.

It might work.  We shall see.  If everybody starts doing it might loose its edge.  As an idea it had its wow-factor. Every time we have put on a gig we have planned it carefully months in advance.  We have done all the things that promoters are supposed to do. Worked steadily and consistently with the on-line publicity. Printed posters and flyers and trudged round trying to get people to take them.

The big night arrives. We think our bands are really great. We think we have got all the elements right for a top night of live music. We wait for the queues to form at the door.

Then disappointment. Fewer people turn up than we had expected and we begin to wallow in self-doubt, wondering where we went wrong.  This pattern is repeated for touring bands – those who want to come to play in Leicester because they have heard its a place with good venues and lots of popular support bands. They have played up and down the UK but they fail to pull as many gig-goers as the little newbie band that went on first.  It can be a hard life for both promoters and bands.

After several years of putting on gigs I can’t just give up.  There are just so many bands that I really like and want to book for gigs. I want to big them up because I think their music is just so great. I try to think outside of the box, try out new ideas to see if they work any better than the conventional wisdom of how to market shows.

So, we try the ‘flash-gig’.  We will let you know if it works.

Postscript

If you want to see what happened to our ‘flash-gig’ you can read the report on our page

Arts In Leicester’s Flash Gig