And what you can learn from rocking with the best
In April of of this year I had the huge privilege of opening for Gangs of Ballet. An alternative rock band from the warm shores of Durban South Africa. They came to East London to perform at Hemingways and the band really knew how to WOW the audience.
Here are a few lessons I learnt from them.
Disclaimer - There is so much you can learn from opening for established artists that it's hard for me to even condense what I learnt into a bite size readable blog. However, it's better to share than to keep the knowledge trapped in my head.
Years ago our church had a worship workshop clinic that was run by Brad. At the time he was a little known worship leader who was competent on his guitar and had an obvious passion for music. His passion was contagious and regardless of what he was singing if he meant it, he would make you feel it too. Those years of honing his skills have undoubtedly helped him build the confidence to lead the band and most importantly, how to lead an audience.
Lesson: No matter where you are, always be willing to step up and put your art on display.
It maybe old to you but it's new to them
While having dinner before the show I was surprised to hear that they had been performing their songs for the past 4 years.
Now that was an interesting point because they had only been in the public spotlight for the past 2 years. So that means they had been performing "underground" building momentum for years prior to their national success. One could say that that time spent honing their sound was what contributed greatly to their current success.
These guys are so ready to perform that all they asked me before jumping on stage to perform was how many songs do you want us to perform?
When I replied, "We are here for you guys, the stage is all yours."
Brad smiled and said, "We'll give you all we've got."
Lesson: Know your music like the back of your hand, but treat each performance with the respect it deserves because it maybe old to you but its new to them.
Prior to the band's arrival, much had been made about the departure of their bassist, Hardus de Beer. However, when meeting them and talking briefly about it I thought it was pretty cool that they didn't speak bad of him or view this change as a barrier or a stumbling block. Rather they seemed to use it as a stepping stone and although you could see they were still slightly hurt (It had happened pretty recently), they were determined to soldier on.
Lesson: People will come and go. Stay focused. Stay strong and soldier on.
The Story behind the story
The songs that seemed to resonated the most with the audience were the ones that had a back story. When Brad was telling the story of how a song came about, or where they were when they played the song for the first time it let the audience feel like they were a part of the journey. This approach added character and depth to the set making key songs more memorable. Now when I play the songs in my car I feel like I connect with the band more.
Lesson: Story telling makes a difference to your approach with an audience. Use it wisely and use it often.