I went to Emergenza yesterday and spent all evening there, dispite my horrible jetlag after the Firewind-gigs over in the US. Emergenza is an annual music-contest that showcases all types of bands and music – and many bands have actually used this as their stepstone towards future careers.
But let’s face it. Watching a talent show makes you realize so clearly why those who HAVE made it, DID make it, and why those who didn’t never will.
What I enjoy is the versatility of the music styles, and I can see the hopes and dreams in the young amateur-bands who are so thrilled to just get a chance to play live on a stage. There are no places for these bands to even GET the experience they need to get better nowadays (it’s even difficult for a semi-professional band to get booked). Contests like these can make a difference.
And although I sometimes either want to laugh or spew out some nasty sarcastic comment, I’m being stopped by an inner voice that reminds me of the fact that I was once exactly where those bands are now.
I was once young, unexperienced, nervous, excited to be on stage eventhough it was smaller than my living room table! I had big dreams and ambitions and my goal was to “make it” someday. Of course I didn’t hear what was bad with what we did back in the day – I thought it sounded great as long as we managed to get through the song!
[A very young me, my very first band-gig ever]
Image and stage show? What’s that? I was just standing there but in my mind I was a big star with a microphone and an audience. That’s all I needed. In reality, it was a crappy, small stage and the “crowd” consisted of a bunch of friends and maybe a couple of family members who felt that they HAD to show up to support us. Pretty much like the performances you had in school when you were a kid. I’m pretty sure that every musician who’s a pro today, once had to go through THAT period as well.
So, remembering all that, and then watching the young guys with their rock star dreams, made me appreciate what they are trying to do. Yeah, they look like their just crawled out of their Spiderman beds and gotten a pat on their heads by mommy before leaving the house… Then they get onstage and try to be/look badass and rock’n’roll and it’s just not working. :)
The first band out yesterday made me roll my eyes at first. School boys with a satanist-wannabe image, it just felt so ridiculous. But once I got passed that initial impression, I listened and they weren’t all that bad. It was tight and the singer mastered the growling dispite his young age. It’s also brave as hell to get up there as the first band of the evening and play to an empty hall. Would have freaked me out for sure. They did a good job considering the circumstances.
After them there was one weird band after another, who in a way were like one big live-tutorial in what NOT to do on a stage. If I had closed my eyes and only LISTENED to them, I’d have to admit that pretty much all of them were good, musically. Might not always have been my personal taste but I know good musicianship when I hear it, whether it’s amateurs or pros.
But it showed why so few bands make it to stardom today. They just don’t understand that in order to get anywhere nowadays, it’s NOT enough with JUST the music. The show is JUST as important, sometimes even MORE important…
Very few artists get rich by selling records, but if you’re a cool live-band, people will come to your gigs and they will buy the merch and spread the word. A good band will be all over YouTube whereas a crappy band won’t.
If you’re standing in front of an audience – acknowledge them. Closing your eyes is ONLY okay if you’re singing a ballad OR if you’re concentrating on a difficult part of the song (high screams or whatever) – but you can’t stand there with your eyes closed as if you’re in your own little world and forget about the people who are there to see you. Rob Halford started doing that, I hated every minute of it.
Eye-contact is number one. Movement is number two – work the stage. You don’t have to do somersaults, but at least walk from one side of the stage to another and meet the eyes of every person in the crowd, make them a part of YOUR experience.
That doesn’t just go for the singer – although it’s the most important rule for the FRONT-man/woman. The rest of the band has to be present as well, enjoy their spotlight for the time they are up there and drop the “I have to look like I know what I’m doing by staring at my pedalboard“-look.
Some bands were just copying their idols. That’s the number one characteristic of an amateur band. If I want something that sound like Metallica, I’d rather listen to Metallica, not a bad version of them.
Do your own thing. If you want to steal bits and pieces, go ahead, but never make it too obvious.
One guy was trying to sound like James Hetfield and that’s never going to take him to the stars. People have already heard James Hetfield, but they haven’t heard THIS guy, so he should work on sounding like HIMSELF and ditch the wannabe-ism.
Some bands were very professional and didn’t belong in a talent-show, they should already be playing real gigs and record albums. One of those bands, Charlie & Fredrik, had a dorky band name (absolutely hopeless, I hope they come up with something better in the future) but they were impressive. Great harmonies, great vocals, great playing… Maybe not much of an actual show, but super band. They didn’t even make it to the finals. :-(
That’s what sucks about talent shows without a jury. It’s ends up just being a popularity contest and about who’s got the most friends. These guys (and a girl) came from out-of-town and didn’t have pals there to vote for them. Well, I gave them MY vote at least.
Grand Slam, the band that I came there for, as I know (most) of these guys, put on a good performance, lots of action on stage, plenty of eye contact, plenty of “get the crowd activated”-stuff which is ALWAYS a winning combination. Get audience to sing along to your songs/choruses, clap their hands, dance, mosh, jump, scream and shout – and they are YOURS!
All in all, it was an interesting evening, although I needed my caffeine-chewing gum half way through because I was so tired to begin with. But this is where music starts – and I’d much rather see REAL bands playing LIVE like this, doing their OWN music and meeting people eye-to-eye, than watching a karaoke-show on national TV with people just singing other artist’s songs and never bringing anything NEW to the table (yes, I’m talking about “Idol” and similar shows).
This is the shit. Take the chance to go and watch some of this if you ever get the chance. :)
[Feb 16, 213]