Playing an Art Show – On Site

Monday I talked all about how I prepare to play music at an art show. Lots of lists and a pile of panic get me right to the door, but once I’m inside there’s a bit more that needs doing. It helps me burn up the nervous energy on the stage, get better reception from the artists in the audience, and ideally make life easier for the event planners, who are an especially harried form of human being. Make an event planner’s life easier, and it will pay you back in more work. So here’s what I try to do:

Check in

I aim to arrive a few hours early, and I’ll find an organizer or volunteer to check in with. I am there, I have all my stuff, and I’m ready to go.  I’ll check  out what’s been going on been going on that day, and ask about any changes to the schedule. Things get rearranged and re-shuffled in the moment, and I like to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, but showing up really early gives me the time and mental space to adapt to changes. It is the least fun bit, but has saved me so many headaches in the past.

Check up

Once the event knows I’m there, I’m usually left to my own devices, and I wander about and survey the space. I’ll find somewhere to store my gear, where the bathrooms are, snacks, etc. I’ll tune up my instruments so they’re ready, and do a sound check if I have the opportunity. Having tasks to do keeps me from wandering about in pre-show haze, and gives me clear steps that lead up to getting on stage. It also prevents me from idly taking up space and drinking all of my water in a sort of nervous motion, because two hours on stage gets awful if you have to pee 15 minutes into the set.

Check out

So all of my little jobs are done, I’ve been wandering about for twenty minutes, and there’s still plenty of time. I finally do the thing I’ve been putting off, and check out the actual show, wandering from booth to booth, having awkward conversations with people who half recognize me from other events and hunting for art for my studio. I’m a super introvert, a recluse that can only be coaxed out of my lair with the promise of popcorn and people who’ll laugh at my jokes. But mingling is important. Getting to know the artists is important. Not because of networking, or yes because of networking but not only because of that. Because we’re on the same team. We’re trying to get by doing the thing that’s secretly the real reason we get up in the morning. The thing we think about between seconds at our jobs. Being part of a community like that is valuable, no matter how bad I am at it. So I want to connect with them and their work so I can talk about it meaningfully on stage, and maybe they’ll help me by laughing, singing along, or just applauding. I become more than background noise, I’m a person, and I can take that energy and amplify it.

A lot of this gets distributed when I’m with a band or troupe, but when I’m just a man, a plan, and a music stand, I find that it’s really important to reach out and find ways to counter the loneliness and isolation that can happen when alone at an event. It can make it hard to give a good show, and that will not do.

I’m playing on Sunday at Altekrea, a local show for comics, nerdery, and horror art. 100% of the proceeds from the performance go to Equality Florida’s GoFundMe to support the victims of the Orlando shooting, and I’ll be matching donations up to $100. It’s gonna be a good time, and we’ll get some pictures and videos up for the finale.

Jim Tigwell

A survivor of two philosophy degrees, Jim Tigwell spends his days solving interesting problems in software. By night he can be found at poetry slams and whatever art opening has the strangest cheese selection. Host of the biweekly Concept Crucible podcast and occasional blogger, Jim is also a juggler, musician, magician, and maker of digital things. You can find his music and videos at Woot Suit Riot, a channel that doubles as a home for wayward and timid creators. Observe his antics there, or heckle directly on Twitter @ConceptCrucible. If the software and internet game doesn’t pan out, he’s determined to be a great Canadian vampire hunter.

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