By Thomas DeVoy | May 7th, 2015
House shows are radically different than venue shows. It's you and your friends hanging out and playing music for each other. The environment is normally stress free with no pressure to perform well or promote heavily. The people who attend house shows are there for the community, and you probably know 80% of the people there. They are fun, encouraging, and normally they are free or very cheap to attend. I've seen a lot of bands take huge steps forward by rocking out a house show. But I have also seen some bands take huge steps backwards by not understanding that it is a totally different environment. Here are five ways to blow minds at your next house show:
1. FREAKING PRACTICE.
I'm probably going to start every list with this. It's so important and it takes WAY LONGER than you think to do it right. Just because people are not paying to see you doesn't mean you shouldn't practice just as hard as you would a venue show. The conditions will be far from perfect so you need to know what you're doing. No lyric sheets or chord charts. I would even go as far to say that you need to memorize your set list. Which should be easy because you should be practicing the set enough times through to play it front to back without thinking about it. Who knows what the lighting will be? Will you even be able to read that piece of paper on the ground? Take the time to prepare as much as you would if it was the last time you were ever going to perform.
2. TURN DOWN.
I have seen far too many bands think they need to crank up their amps so that everyone can hear them. We're in a two car garage, we can hear you just fine. It turns people off. Yes it needs to be loud enough to be heard over the drums. But it should not overpower the vocals. If people are not coming right up in front of you to listen to your set, it's probably because it's too loud. Even if you disagree with me, why would you ever want to discourage a single person from your music? Which brings me to number three:
3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVEN SOUND DISTRIBUTION.
Not only should you turn it down, you also need to make sure that every instrument can be heard. During band practice get the volume to a decent level and then start fine tuning everyone's amps to make sure everyone is at a level that can be clearly heard. On top of that tinker with the tones of the individual instruments to make sure they blend well together. This will make a HUGE difference in the presentation of your music. The dispersion of sound needs to be even not just horizontally (Volume) but also vertically (tone.) If you don't know what you're doing you can google it, or just play around with it until you hear it. (Trust me you will know when you hear it.) It is so satisfyingly beautiful. Once you have found a good volume and tone of all the instruments TAPE DOWN THE KNOBS. You don't want all of your hard work to go to waste when you're transporting your gear.
4. PLAN TRANSITIONS AND DO IT WELL
I wrote about this in the last blog but it applies even more here. There's going to be silence when you end each song. It's easier to get away with because the setting is pretty chill but how much cooler would it be if you planned and prepared the first 10-15 minutes to be solid music? I'll answer that; it would be dope. Also plan what you're going to say so you can effectively communicate what you want people to know.
"Uh...Yeah... We have T shirts and other stuff at our merch table."
No. Here's a better statement:
"Thanks so much for coming out we really appreciate it! All the bands are sounding good tonight! We have T shirts, vinyl, and free stickers. We would love to talk to you. We're going to be hanging out all night. This next song's off our new album that you can pick up at our merch table."
Which person are you more likely to talk to? A house show is a really good setting to practice speaking in front of people because of how many people you already know. If you don't like public speaking then tough nuts, you have to if you want to successfully promote yourself and sell your merch to anyone other than your mom.
5. TALK TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN.
This is probably the most important thing. Networking is everything and if someone showed up to hear you play in someones crappy basement then that means they actually care. Those are the people you want to connect with. These people are the people that you will benefit the most from. Get them on your email list and connect them to your social media. Hang out with them and make a friend. If they connect a personality to the band they are more likely to come back. Don't forget to follow up with them later that week and thank them for supporting you. Be humble and be thankful. If it wasn't for them individually then you wouldn't be where you are.