#Concerts

Expecting Greatness Without Proper Preparation

By David Lowry

“If you don’t think what I do is the best show on Earth, let’s see what you’ve got!” — Gene Simmons

You could learn just about everything you need to know about the music business from this statement alone. As a manager in this crazy business, I constantly hear things like “If someone would just give us a chance, they would see how great we are. We blow everyone else off the stage.” I have to admit I very rarely ever see something like this. Most of the time it’s just another band with very little stage presence, a set and show that never changes, improves or really entertains. Why is this, I constantly wonder? Is it because people don’t have enough time? They don’t have enough drive? Well it’s a little bit of everything really but mainly, they don’t know how to prepare and use their time wisely or efficiently. Many bands say “well the music scene has changed and it’s harder to get noticed” honestly that is just an excuse period.

The reality is that at the level most of the people reading this are at, it hasn’t changed at all. You still had to do everything I will talk about here just to get noticed and get offered that big record deal in the past. Today you have to do this, and at many stages in your career you may now have to do it all by yourself unless you can pay a team to help you, but the good thing is today you can keep control of your own music career, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the artist.

When I was younger and recruited as a tennis player to play for the Navy sports team, my coach once told me after I was getting frustrated with my inconsistency “Look kid, you may have got here on your own without lessons, but you can’t get down on yourself for not being able to pull of what you haven’t trained and prepared for. Unless you are Chris Evert the number one player in the world, you have absolutely no right to.” Okay I just dated myself I could have said Tiger Woods but the point is made. Bands that haven’t achieved the level they want shouldn’t get mad at themselves, the scene or the music business when they haven’t ever even learned to prepare properly for this business. If after years of serious effort, practice, planning and execution you still aren’t achieving the results you wanted, then you can get mad and frustrated. Until then you are swimming upstream. So turn yourself around and start swimming with the flow so you can get to your destination faster.

In order to get to the next level that every band seems to think they are ready for takes usually a lot more work than they are putting in and truthfully until you get the very basics down like I have posted in past blogs you aren’t ready for the next level. There are obviously many things to be covered here but for the sake of this blog let’s just talk about live performance.

Live performance is the proof in the pudding. If you don’t have the best show at least in your neck of the woods, then you really have nothing. You need to practice, prepare and plan your lives shows. From everything on how to talk to a crowd to how to prepare the right set list and how to put on an energetic entertaining performance. Your practice time should include all of these things and you should never practice with out playing like you would on stage. Why? Because, it takes practice to put on the best show on Earth! You have to practice moving like you would live so you are used to performing that way which leads to making fewer mistakes, check out what does looks good vs. what doesn’t and just as importantly keeping yourself in shape for your live performances so you don’t get tired or worn out. Live performance takes an extraordinary amount of energy and you should be in shape for it just like any athlete prepares for their performance.

You need to find a way to bring a live show or performance that blows people away. What does that mean? I don’t know for your band and can’t tell you until I see it, but the problem is no one is even trying to figure it out. Besides great songs, this is the most important part of your career. This is what creates viral social media marketing. It makes people buy your merchandise at your shows because it creates the emotional bond between fan and the band. It is wins over the skeptics and the industry people you need to help your career. Bands seem to be very unoriginal when it comes to live performance and it can be very hard to tell one band from the other.

To put it bluntly, “No one cares about your career, until you do.” This means until you are willing to truly focus, get together as a band, start acting like a business and a band that can actually blow people away, you are just another band taking up space and spamming every ones Facebook wall trying to get attention the wrong way.

I ask you this; can you beat Gene Simmons at his own game? Learn from the very best at what they do. Quit posing and acting like you are the next big thing when you aren’t because you really haven’t done what you need to do. Become the next big thing because you want it more than anything, because you have put in the time, effort, planning, practice and execution and then let the crowds decide who puts on the best show on Earth. Actions speak louder than words folks. If you are going to talk about how great your band is don’t you think you better deliver on that statement?

Remember you are only as good as your last show.

Till the next time. Get it together and good Luck!

David Lowry is the President of The Lowry Agency, a full service artist management agency that works with musicians, speakers, entertainers, actors and models based in Nashville, TN. David manages and or books the musical careers of Brother Cane, Damon Johnson (Brother Cane, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper), Rob Balducci, Dave Weiner, Jon Finn, Kris Bell and Mindset Defect. For more information please contact The Lowry Agency at http://www.thelowryagency.com.

Queensryche with Blackwater James at The Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, TN November 2nd, 2011.

By David Lowry

Queensryche recently performed in Nashville, TN for their 30th Anniversary Tour at the Wildhorse Saloon. What impresses me is that after 30 years, Queensryche haven’t lost a step. It can be easy for a band to rest on their laurels after having major success – to just tour to make a living instead of always trying to raise the bar for themselves. In the case of Queensryche, they go out of their way to make sure each show is a flawless performance. Although 30 years into their career, fans can still expect a top notch live show from Queensryche.

Queensryche played a good mix of the new and old songs that defined their progressive metal sound. Geoff Tate, considered by many to be one of rock/metals greatest singers of all time, brought his theatrical showmanship and legendary vocals front and center like a great front man should do. His pitch was excellent as always and his distinctive vocal tone truly separates him from all the other vocalists out there. Geoff is always fresh sounding, inspiring and makes us wish we could all sing like him. He carried the audience through a journey of classics that brought back memories of better times and the days of our youth – cranking “Operation Mindcrime” on our stereos. Drummer Scott Rockenfield continues to impress as he has always been a great showman fueled by creativity, vitality and an uncanny sense of what to play and when to play it. His drumming has always been original and had it’s own voice within the songs. In a day when so many musicians over play and step all over the songs or vocalist, Scott brings a maturity to be admired and appreciated. Eddie Jackson was as solid as ever, bringing up the rhythm section with Scott. His playing is tight, vocal harmonies solid and he was able to interact with the crowd when able to get out from behind the microphone. Guitarist Michael Wilton played perfectly with that great “aunch” tone that Queensryche has always been known for. Watching Michael play those great chord voicings is a reminder to strive to not use power chords every second of a song. It was great to see Michael’s fingers flying around the fret board dialing in those solos we all love to hear. Parker Lundgren is a very under-rated and impressive guitar player. He plays effortlessly with great flair and filled the shoes of those before him very admirably. Parker is a great fit for the band with great harmony vocals; good stage presence and he nailed all the parts perfectly.

The Wildhorse Saloon was filled almost to capacity, which is a major achievement in Nashville for a rock band. It’s another feather in the cap for Queensryche as I have attended many shows where the venues isn’t even half full. The audience proved well versed in the new material as well as the old as they sang along with the words of every song proving that Queensryche fan base is as solid and rabid as ever. As I arrived early for the show, the line was already a block long going in both directions, another rarity in Nashville.

All in all, Queensryche is a band that has earned its reputation for being a completely unique, adventurously innovative and amazing live band. It’s well deserved and the amount of detail in their sets is something up and coming bands should aspire to. Queensryche’s sound is crystal clear, their performance and image are always top notch. The professionalism they project should be the rule for all bands and the level at which they perform should be the benchmark. Rarely will you find a band as well rehearsed as Queensryche nor as serious as bringing you a show you will never forget. They always leave you wanting more, which is a sign of an experienced band who have written a catalogue of songs that never get old.

Opening for Queensryche was the local band Blackwater James. Blackwater James came out on stage unfazed by the fact they were opening for such legends. They brought an energetic show and for the most part won over a crowd that was eager for Queensryche. As Blackwater James played, fists were pumping, heads were bobbing. From my point of view as I walked the room watching the band and the crowd, the audience really liked what they saw and heard in Blackwater James.

Singer Christopher James brings an energy and intensity that is refreshing. The twin pairing of guitar players Christopher James and Deanna Passarella are a lot of fun to watch. Both are capable guitarists with great stage presence.  Bass player Josh Burns helps drive the bus with steady grooves, passion and a great vibe on stage. Drummer Todd Schlosser is an in the pocket drummer with a sense of presence that makes him extremely fun to watch. This band has potential and is getting better every show they do.

At the time of this writing, The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with Queensryche or Blackwater James.

What Makes A Good Front Man?

One of the biggest and most important things in live performance is the strength of the person fronting your band. This is a major area where lots of bands trying to make it need the most help. Take a look at the most popular front men/women of all time and ask yourself, “What is it about them that the audience connects with?”

Legendary front men or women like David Lee Roth (arguably the best front man ever), Mick Jagger, David Coverdale, Anne Wilson, Paul Stanley or Steven Tyler can give you great insight into what it takes to get your band to the next level. Doing your research into the greats and implementing what you learn can help make your band “larger than life” and allow you to capture the attention of the crowd you are playing too. Not all front men are electrifying or great looking but are still incredibly successful, just look at Ozzy Osbourne. Some front men/women are quirky or odd like Mick Jagger but there are two things they all have in common, they all have a very distinct style and presence and they all live for being on that stage. They revel in it. There is no doubt in their mind that they are where they belong. This allows them to own the stage like no one else. This is critical for successfully drawing in a crowd, creating unforgettable live shows and growing your fan base. It also means they work like dogs to keep their music out their and in front of peoples faces. Depending on the genre of music you are in, the front man or woman attributes my need to vary to certain style, but one thing always is constant, they always command the stage.

Let’s take a look at a very talented front man as an example. Gary Cherone has fronted the hit rock band Extreme and the legendary Van Halen. He is also currently fronting a band called Hurtsmile with his brother Mark. Gary has a very theatrical, animated and energetic stage presence. Gary’s style isn’t for everybody but it doesn’t have to be, as a matter of fact not one front mans is. Gary owns the stage and because of that, he has been able to front two major bands, one of the biggest rock bands of all time actually. Some people may not think Gary was a good fit for Van Halen but I completely disagree. Gary did his job and he did it well. Go back with an open mind (forget David and Sammy) and watch the live videos from the Van Halen 3 tour concert clips or any Extreme show. Trust me, he wouldn’t have gotten the most coveted front man job in the world if he wasn’t very good at what he did. Gary has captured audiences for years and has a strong fan base having sold over 10 million albums and a #1 hit single with “More Than Words” in Extreme alone. He has an incredibly compelling style and if you listen to the many different genres of songs he did with Extreme or on his solo album you can see how much a of a provocative singer and front man he is.

That charisma that Gary brings to the table is high energy, raw at times very intimate with the slower songs. You can see his theatrical background (he was in “Jesus Christ Superstar”) with his over the top stage presence, which always gives the audience something to look at. He allows them to see that he is completely into and lost in his “zone” during his performance. There is no doubt as to where Gary belongs when he is on stage. You know how much he loves his job every minute of every performance. Watch closely what he does when he isn’t singing such as during guitar solos. Notice how he doesn’t distract from or sing over the other musicians but yet he either adds to the moment or keeps the energy up while waiting for his spot to sing again. Watch how Gary interacts with the crowd and keeps them involved and how he makes them feel each performance is just for them. Watch what he says at the start of the show, in between songs and the end of the night as well. Gary gives it everything he’s got every performance and isn’t worried about the people in the crowd with their arms crossed. By the time the show is over Gary has left everything on the stage and he wins them over with a very honest and real performance. He doesn’t worry about the audience members who are negative. He let’s the people who love the show spread the word. He let’s the system work for him. Gary gives the audience what they want, a real powerful, energetic and professional show. He is a thankful performer and in return, he and the band develop a devoted international fan base and Gary is able to create opportunities very few front men have been able to do.

To many times front men or women don’t really take their jobs seriously or maybe are unfamiliar with everything it really takes to “bring it” to the show. Many are just lazy about preparing for a show. Don’t let this happen to you ever. Take a cue from Firehouse front man C. J. Snare and always be professional and prepared. Treat every show like it’s the most important show you have ever done. You have to learn how to own that stage and work the crowd. You have to “flip the switch” when you get on stage and become that “rock star.” Know what city or venue you are playing in. You should know the names of the bands playing with you that night. Engage your crowd and invite them to your party. You are the host. Bring them in and entertain them. Learn to lead them especially on a night that is tough or there are not very many people in the room and there is not an “energetic” atmosphere. You have to bring the crowd that energy and get them “into” the show.

Go back and do a study of not only your favorite front men or women, but also the ones who are very successful at being that leader. Your job is to constantly improve not only your singing skills but also your stage presence, charisma and speaking skills. Don’t let genres or eras prevent you from learning from the best. You can learn as much from a classical/pop artist like Lara Fabian as you can from a rock star like Brett Michaels.

Just remember that being a great front man or woman continues when you are off the stage as well. It is a 24 hour a day job. We will dive into that next time so stay tuned.

Good Luck!