Last weekend kicked off a busy little period for the Shottaz. We have a few gigs lined up every weekend for the next month, and we have a big double release just around the corner. What this means is that we have been working hard for the last 2 months to ensure we are well prepared for all this activity. We have had our now customary weekly rehearsals, countless meetings, and a lot of communication with key stakeholders. When things get crazy busy in a specific moment in time, it’s also guaranteed that things can get increasingly overwhelming, especially when you have a small team to manage things. The weekend gone is definitely not an exception. We had back to back gigs that were fairly big for us at this stage in our career. The first gig was an opening slot, supporting 3 influential Zimbabwean artists. It was a decent event which saw us performing in front of an interesting crowd, more on that later. Our next set was at one of the longest standing reggae/dancehall events in Melbourne, if not Australia. Both gigs went relatively well, but there are some lessons to be learned from each event which have no doubt been saved in the memory banks for future performances.
Starting from the bottom – Paying the dues
I’ve had conversations with fellow musicians about our established/successful peers in the industry. One concept we often throw around is that our fellow peers have paid their dues and are now reaping the rewards of their hard work. I’ve found myself throwing that concept around without really paying attention to what it really means. That said, when you really look at it, most people that find success in our industry will have to walk a similar path before achieving any level of success. Part of this lonely, thankless journey is playing opening slots to sober, apprehensive crowds. Believe it or not, having played many sets like this in the Yung Shottaz days, I had completely forgotten what it was like. Playing opening slots requires specific preparation, both in the lead up and on the day of the gig.
Leading up to the gig, it is essential to acquaint the audience with your music, assuming that they are not already familiar with your sound. Let’s face it, the fact that you’re on the bill as an opening act, not a headliner, means most people in that audience will not be familiar with your music. With that in mind, it’s a must to relentlessly plug your music to people that may attend the gig. This is something we took for granted leading up to our gig. We didn’t share any of our videos on the gig’s Facebook event page, we didn’t even approach any of the Zimbabwean radio shows in Melbourne for exposure. All we did was share the event to people in OUR network, and I must say chances were never high that many people in our network were going to attend this gig.
On the day of the gig, it’s important to engage the audience before you even go on stage. Talking to the people that are in the crowd before you hit the stage, especially if it’s a small crowd, will help them tune into your set when you do perform. When on stage, it’s also very important to read the audience and deliver your music based on the vibes created by the crowd. For us, we had an attentive crowd but they were static. We kept our energy up throughout our set, but the crowd did not buy into our set as much as we had hoped. This meant we weren’t able to connect with the crowd, making our set more of a showcase. Lucky for us, we had prepared for a tough crowd and were able to keep our performance tight for the entire set. If I’m being 100% honest, I felt bad after the set as I had been anticipating a different outcome, but after getting feedback from a few people I was able to relax a bit. The main bit of feedback I got was that our music sounded good, but people didn’t know the music which made it difficult for them to engage.
Trust the process – Never Deviate
Having had a mixed evening on Friday night, I had a chip on my shoulder coming in for the gig on Saturday. I was super focused all day. We had birthday drinks for one of my friends on the same night as the gig and I went through to show love to the bro. The drinks were flowing, but I stuck to my guns and only had a customary shot of whiskey with the bro as midnight approached. That said, we were advised that we didn’t NEED to attend soundcheck as it wasn’t necessary from the promoter’s perspective. I tried my best to make sure that we attended soundcheck but a few things came up as we were at the birthday drinks, and eventually the crew convinced me to skip soundcheck, BIG MISTAKE. We got to the venue early and as soon as I heard one of the DJs chatting to the crowd using one of the mics my heart missed a beat, and not in a good way. The EQ on this mic wasn’t great, and given that we were able to pick it up when a DJ was just talking, it didn’t bode well for us. We hit the stage late in the piece and managed to disperse a good third of the crowd before we got through our first song. I was advised that part of it was due to the audience being staunch reggae fans, our set was hardcore dancehall, but I can assure you that part of it was due to the fact that we didn’t sound great on the Soundsystem. That said, the set itself was quite wicked, the crowd that stayed behind seemed to warm into our set and the energy from them was great. The lesson from our Saturday gig was to stay true to our process, i.e. we agreed to NEVER miss a soundcheck regardless of the gig, we missed this soundcheck and whilst the outcome wasn’t bad in any way, I feel like our set could have been better had we made it to soundcheck.
Memories saved – Making them count
Given our experiences on the weekend, I feel like we refreshed some memories we had saved up in our Yung Shottaz days. A big mistake we made was not utilising the memories from back then in these situations, as we would’ve had different outcomes. That said, we have a few more gigs lined up over the next month and I am super excited to get stuck into those gigs. Funny enough, the next 2 gigs are quite similar to the ones we just had, The first one is at a long standing Dancehall event, and you can bet that we will not be missing our soundcheck. The next gig is an opening slot for an international kiwi artist, and you know that we are blasting that Facebook event page and will be showing up early on the night to engage more people in the crowd. I’m almost certain that we will be learning a few more lessons at these gigs, and that is a good sign of continued growth.