Improvizone

Preparing for the gig

Andrew Booker 2007-02-26 22:51:51

This weekend I finally set up the electronic kit and checked I remember how it all works. As you can see from the picture it takes up a lot of room. During setting up I was thinking, do I really need this much stuff? It's a free gig in a bar, I am not getting paid and there could be nobody there.

It's a lot, but it takes up no more room than an acoustic kit, especially not in the back of the car. More fragile perhaps, but then I wouldn't kick the acoustic kit down the stairs either. If you squint hard enough at the picture you can see my two drum modules (Roland TD6 and SPDS), audio/MIDI firewire interface (Presonus Firepod) and my two 140W rms powered monitors (Carlsbro PM12). You can also see a mixing desk (Spirit Folio F1 14-2), a sound module (Korg 05R/W) and an effects unit (Ensoniq DP4). Those three I could do without. There is nothing I can do on those that I couldn't do on the laptop if I tried hard enough. And this is the irony. Virtual studios these days are tiny. But they're tiny when they don't need to be, because studios often don't have to be moved. Gig stuff could do with being tiny, but if you want to be able to control it and play your instrument at the same time, it's not good having it all inside a laptop. You need all the knobs.

For the time being, I can get what I want out of this stuff, so I'm happy to take it. If over time I can shrink it and increase the functionality at the same time, that will be a bonus. As far as taking it to a free gig in a bar, the way I look at this gig is as a location recording. I could take exactly the same stuff and the six of us could go into a studio and do exactly the same thing. Except there would be absolutely nobody listening and it would cost me. This way is better.

Hopefully some people will turn up to watch us, in which case I reckon there are two important things improvisers must do at a gig like this, in the following order of importance.

If you think I've got those the wrong way round, you either make music for popular mainstream consumption, or you're not a musician at all. Either way, I disagree. I can't predict the musical tastes of everyone I'm trying to entertain. Probably they don't really know what they like themselves. But I do know that it helps a lot if I'm getting off on what we're doing, and one sure way of killing that is if someone is playing something really dull. Better to not play at all than bore the band. If we're bored, the audience doesn't stand a chance.

Am I worried about us being able to carry off this gig? The prospect of making up an entire gig as you go along is, as Mike (Bearpark) says, only scary when you think about it. As far as I'm concerned, it's all in the preparation, doing as much as possible getting to know the gear and what it does, without actually rehearsing together. For me the whole point is the liberation and excitement you get after working stuff out on your own for days, and then suddenly hearing someone else play some notes with you. Between the five of us we've clocked up about 10 hours of improvisation as duos. It wasn't all great, but then we didn't have the responsibility or encouragement that comes with an audience. We do now, and we only have to turn in a 2.5 hour gig. The numbers say we've probably got it.

What I am worried about is the venue. The owner just might not like us, or we might attract far fewer people than he was hoping. The other thing is that this is a bar, not a gig. People have not necessarily come to see us, and they need to be won over. One of the reasons I went for a Tuesday not a Friday is that I didn't want to risk clearing a perfectly good crowd in the first 15 minutes. If people scarper, we will have failed. And in a couple of days I'll be able to tell you whether they did.

First gig 27 Feb 2007 at Imbibe, SE1 << | >> How the first gig went