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What Does the Audience Want at Live Gigs

In this post I look at live music and ask the question "What is it that people appreciate when they go to watch and listen to live music?"

As with most things there really is not one right answer - it depends on the context. Considerations may include:
  1. The quality of the sound
  2. The presentation of original material
  3. How close to the original composition the musicians attain
  4. The amount of enjoyment the musicians have on stage and the energy they present
  5. The way the musicians dress and the image they present
  6. The technical expertise
  7. The way the band presents their own style within well-known tune
  8. The set of songs chosen to play
To different scenarios, each one of these points will have a different value or priority than to other points. So, for example, the quality of the sound at The Cavern open-mike Friday's is of less importance than the amount of enjoyment  to the musicians and the presentation of original material. Whereas at the Art Café the quality of the sound, the technical expertise and the closeness to the original composition are  more important. This is not to say that enjoyment and original compositions are not important at the Art Café, nor is it to say that  technical expertise and the closeness to the original composition are unimportant at The Cavern. What I am saying is that different things are more or less important for any given situation.


In The Hellhounds gig for example, we generally rehearse most weeks. We like to have a proper start, middle and ending to the songs and to have some sort of structure in-between - even though it may not sound like it sometimes. The songs will be done the same way each week - but with some improvement and with subtle and influential tweaks as time goes by (hopefully). Also, we will follow a song list (mostly) and generally we will start and finish our gigs at the same time and have one break in the middle. We also try to dress like we haven't just come from the pub or straight from work. What is important to a Hellhounds gig is that the songs are of a particular genre and are either familiar songs that are performed in a unique fashion and/or are more obscure songs of the same genre. What is less important is the fact that our technical expertise may not be all that fantastic sometimes. Although we are improving, it has never been a big concern to us.


When I go to see the D'Sco: The Geckos of Love the technical expertise is high and it is applied in a way so as to maximize the enjoyment and energy of the musicians (even though Dan was playing while lying down on the weekend - due to a bout of the flu I believe ;o)) which is then translated to the audience. Technical skills are 'not a concern' because they have good knowledge of their instruments - but they are 'not a concern' in a different way that technical skills are 'not a concern' to the Hellhounds (if you know what I mean :oP ). They are just as comfortable playing familiar songs as they are originals.

The Lazy Jazz Punks currently have an eclectic sound, with a mix of people from different bands coming together. Rehearsals for this band are something that the Phnom Penh Players Association do but the energy and enjoyment of the performance is always guaranteed. They play through guitar amps combined with a full P.A. (at the same time) and sound problems have never been of concern. Also, there is great variety in the technical skills. However, there is no doubt that the audience is always pumped and responsive to the gig.


The only thing of concern to the Beer O'Clock Band is that our guitars are in tune and the free beer keeps flowing. Again, we are happy to have a variety of musicians playing and singing just to see what comes out of the speakers.


For me, as a member of the audience, the most technically brilliant piece is seldom the most appreciated. I saw a band from the Philippines at the Cambodiana - I think you know the story. Their technical skills were great, their clothes they wore were specky, they had a whole different mix of people, the sound-system and mixer were first-class, they could perform a whole array of songs from a vast array of genres - but..... well I was tapping my foot to some songs on occasions. However, the dance floor was absolutely packed - sometimes I just don't get it!



What is it that people appreciate when they go to watch and listen to live music? Post comments to the Leng Plang blog.

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