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Don't Punk The Opening Act! - By Chris Standring
"This business is tiny, word spreads and people lose gigs as a result if they are not careful."

An interesting thing happened to me on a recent show I was part of. My band was booked to play a pretty big festival in Orange County, California. It was a co-headline booking with another artist from out of town. For the sake of this article I won't mention any names. Now I have done and still do any number of festival dates, usually throughout the summer months, very often co-headlining, sometimes opening and more often as an artist on a festival bill of say 5 to 10 major acts throughout the course of a weekend. Very often on a bill such as these, bands are having to soundcheck "on the fly" which means that the promoter will rent backline for all acts (they usually rent exactly what the artist needs - so there is often tons of gear on and offstage throughout the day) and as one band finishes their set, there is a mad scrambling to tear down gear and within half an hour (sometimes less) the next band will be setting up and a soundcheck will happen as they perform their first song. If they are lucky they will get a 10 minute soundcheck ahead of time. Needless to say, social skills are of utmost importance, egos must be in check and one must be efficient and focused when it comes time for the next band to get on etc.

So I am booked to do this concert, it's a pretty big deal, about 1000 seater, the event is sold out thanks to a terrific promoter who knows exactly what she is doing. My band is booked to play first. I never have a problem with this if the band booked for the later spot have sold more records, bigger profile etc. etc. it's just business. In this case that band deserved their spot. When this is the case the closing act always get to sound check first, simply so the opening act can leave all their gear set up the way they need to for when they jump on-stage.

My band is all based in Los Angeles, the other band is based out of state. So that band didn't necessarily know who was playing in my band. I arrive early, meet with the promoter and immediately hear the closing band start to soundcheck. I went up to the bass player who was setting up as I wanted to introduce myself. The first thing he said to me was "Make sure your bass player resets my amp to the settings I'm using after he plays - the last thing I want to do is deal with that before I play!" - with attitude up the yin yang! Well, I just smiled and said, "You might want to talk to my bass player about that". Then he proceeds to thump and slap like he's a kid trying out a new bass in Guitar Center!

I couldn't believe it. The thing is, and this is where he went wrong, he didn't know who my bass player was that night. It just so happens that the bass player in my band is a very well known, highly respected player in LA, does tons of touring with the biggest names. That guy just assumed we were some little local band not getting paid or something. He didn't think. He had his own agenda.

So, my bass player shows up and the manager of the closing band goes up to him and says; "The bass player wants you to reset his amp before you leave the stage". He replies, "F*** that! That ain't the way it works and you know it! - tell him to come and talk to me!"

So the bass player in the closing band finds my guy and says "Man I didn't know it was you man, wassup man aww man - I love you man" - etc. etc, you can imagine. Pathetic. My bass player says" Cmon' man - don't punk the opening act, that ain't the way it goes dude!"

So, we do our show, it's killer, I have to say my live band is ON, I couldn't find stronger, funkier players if I tried. Standing ovation - the whole works. I go back to our shared dressing room after the show to drop off my guitar and see the next band warming up, the bass player looks at me and says - "Wow - you guys were jammin' up there -totally happening!" I smiled and said "Thanks - have a good show".

So where does that leave us? Not good for that bass player if he ever expects to get a call from me! He didn't start off on a good note did he? It was all about his ego and his wants and needs. Simply not the way to behave if you want to get on in the business. Trust me he learned from his mistakes that night I guarantee it. He knew he messed up.

Now I am very happy to say that in the professional world, certainly my format, this sort of behavior happens rarely, but it does happen. The problem is that the business is tiny, word spreads and people lose gigs as a result if they are not careful.

I have to admit I hate soundchecks, I'm not that fond of rehearsals actually, so I am the last person who is going to argue about getting offstage after a soundcheck to make way for another band, provided my amp works! Personally, I can't play on stage well if I know there is bad energy or a vibe in the air of discomfort. Music has to be fun for me so I make it a priority to make sure other bands get what they need so they are happy too. It's a win win situation if people are thinking straight.

You as an artist will no doubt be on a bill with several other bands. Be cool. Be professional. Remember, who knows who will be on that stage with you that night. They could make or break your career.



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Chris Standring is the CEO and founder of A&R
Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to Mesa/Bluemoon
Records. The music is marketed at NAC and Urban AC radio. For more info
on Chris' recording career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com


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