Posts Tagged ‘live performance’

Well hello. Yes, as always, it has been Some Time, and I’m not foolish enough to promise it won’t be Some Time again until I post the next one. I haven’t really been in a disclosing mood. My father passed away the week before Christmas, and the year in the run up to his death was full of trying to find resolution, trying to deal with hopes dashed time and again, and trying to fit in all the things I wanted to say to him before he left us.

As a result, it was a strange year from a musical perspective too. I had intended to blog much more frequently, get my Patreon set up, release “Hummingbird” (now to be an album, not an EP) and gig much more. Instead I spent a large part of it seeing the inside of the Blackburn Royal Infirmary and googling things like “what to do when your parent has cancer”. Now I am starting to climb back on the horse, only to find the horse is more like a mule, and I forgot how to ride this damn thing.

Still, better late than never. I have been quietly chipping away at things in the background and today, dear reader, I’d like to talk about something close to my heart – expectations and how best to ensure they are met.

Let me illustrate with a story.

Early last year, I played a 3 set gig at a venue in York. Unnamed for their protection, and please don’t name and shame in comments if you know where I mean. It was a roaring success. Lots of my fans came, the venue did a roaring bar trade, random strangers kept coming up to chat to me and compliment the songs, it was fab. The venue contacted the promotor who had set up the gig and they were happy to have me back. Now, my set list for this was pretty much made up of stuff I had written, interspersed with some gentle covers – all in all the sort of set that goes with a half pub/half restaurant people-are-trying-to-chill-here vibe.

33448 Casee Wilson Eagle & Child 17-08-04

I returned to the venue in August. This was a completely different night. The bar staff were downright hostile, the venue was much quieter (illness and poor weather had shut down much of York that night) and in the first break, the bar staff approached the sound engineer and asked her to ask me to play more covers. I did notice, and gratefully, that several people stopped to compliment me on this occasion too, so it seems the disappointment with the evening’s entertainment was limited to the bar staff.

Quick reminder. I was invited back based on the previous gig. I changed very little on the new set lists, only focusing a little more on upbeat material as I had slightly less time so I dropped a couple of my more introspective songs.

I have heard from the promoter that that venue does not want me back.

The thing that kills me is that if they had said “listen, we’re going for trying to attract a more boisterous crowd, can we have more covers” when they had BOOKED me, that’s exactly what they would have got. They said nothing, leaving me going on what I knew from previously.

Two sets of expectations were not met here: I expected that my own material, which I crafted heart and soul and which they seemed to enjoy the first time, to go down equally as well months later. That expectation was not met and my self confidence took a massive knock.

The venue expected a covers jukebox, which they did not get. I doubt this gave them any lasting trauma, but I can understand that they may have felt disappointed.

So this goes out as a plea to venues. Please be clear about what you want. Please be aware that even if you don’t get what you expected, the artist has worked hard, so hard, to bring you these songs, and a little respect is not that hard to provide. And please, never put the sound person in the position of having to tell the artist that the venue hates them. That’s just unprofessional.

I’d love to hear from any artists or venue who did not get what they expected. How did you resolve it and what would you do differently next time?

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Good afternoon, dear readers, and welcome to another thrilling installment…

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been One Of Those Weeks. Murphy’s Law had applied Murphy’s Law to itself (for 3 X 3 the amount of things going wrong) and by Saturday morning I was a quivering, gibbering ball under the duvet, muttering “please, no more” again and again and again and again…

Ok, it’s possible I have exaggerated slightly. Still, it was a bit of a pants week, redeemed only by free books from Waterstones thanks to obsessive points collection in months past, and free cake. Free cake makes just about anything better.

Today has thankfully been better, and I’m optimistic for a sunnier week! The tale of woe that is last week does however tie in well with today’s theme, suggested by a friend, to write about my best and worst gigs.

In the same way that bad news should always be delivered first, I’ll open with worst.

Worst Gig 1 – The Duchess, York

Yes. I’ve played the Duchess. No, it did not go well.

I was thrilled to be asked. I was approached after playing at York Pride, and honestly, I thought this was it, at least a medium sized break to get me going. It was a November gig, and I came down with an awful cough in September. I didn’t know at this point that I was asthmatic, all I knew was, I had a big gig coming up and I needed to get rid of the cough.

By the time the gig rolled round, I was demoralised and still coughing. So I geared myself up for my voice to let me down.

Oh, if only.

The event was an all day fundraiser gig. At the point I arrived, it was still mid afternoon and the venue was dead. Maybe 16 people in the whole room, including the sound engineer. Most of the room was made up of a group of my friends, many of whom were seeing me live for maybe the first or second time. I’m amazed any of them have ever come back since because I bombed utterly. But not vocally, oh no, my voice was fine. It was my accompaniment, I completely forgot how to play at ALL. My fingers became unresponsive limp sausages stapled to my sweaty, shaking palms. The cold sweat started on the first note, and remained until we left the venue, a very very long 45 minutes later, trickling down my back like a trail of shame. It was unremittingly awful.

Witnesses on the day tell me it “wasn’t that bad”, but I know, and they know, that they are speaking out of love and telling a very big white lie. And no-one could flagellate me like I could anyway!

Lesson learned: Rehearsal, until utter boredom and beyond, is an artists best friend. Muscle memory can be relied on when stage fright has ripped out every other vestige of ability.

And so you can see how far I’ve come, here’s the only even remotely decent recording to come out of that gig:

Worst Gig 2 – An Unnamed Rugby Club Somewhere in the North of England

So this has a joint placement as worst gig, but for entirely different reasons. My 30 minute set was absolutely flawless.

I was asked by a friend to play this one, he assured me it was his local and it would be great. Here’s what went wrong:

It was a Rugby club……



…..On a Friday night.

I had, at that point, zero covers in my set. And most of you, I imagine, are pretty familiar with my style of music, especially a couple of years ago, before I learned which chords were the “happy” ones. The set was pretty introspective. Not sad, exactly, but not really a sing-a-long jukebox of chart hits. But it was all I had, I’d agreed to play, and the show had to go on.

There were about 40 people in the room. Two of them clapped, and my partner was one of those. There was a gentleman at the bar deeply occupied with imbibing a bright pink liquid that I have never seen sold behind a bar, not before or since. And at the end, one of the locals came up to me, and said: “You’ve got a lovely voice, love, but that was wrist-slittingly depressing”.

Erm. Thanks. I think.

Leason learned: Know the audience and tailor your set! 

My only consolation was my friend, whose local it was, had almost as hard a time as I did…

Best Gig – Malt Cross, Nottingham

This was the outright winner for best gig. I loved the venue, the other acts on the night were incredible, and however I sounded from the audience, The sound engineer wasn’t shy about using the “talent” button on the monitors (reverb to you and me!) so monitors made me sound like the biggest god-damned diva in the world. It was awesome. This was the first gig that made me feel like I could actually play live and it reminded me why I started performing in the first place.

For a reminder, I blogged about it here and there’s a radio show about it all too!

Honourable Mentions for Best Gig

City Screen – Everything I’ve done there. It’s always been to a packed room, and the sound engineers there are fab. It’s just got such a lovely atmosphere every time.

Vinnie and the Stars Fundraiser at The Winning Post (April 18th 2014) – Great crowd, great acts and supporting Vinnie was a blast.

And that concludes this weeks blog post. I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Now, I’m off to rehearse!

Casee is playing again at The Winning Post on Sunday 4th May, with CATSELF, a visiting artist from Finland, and the fabulous Floydian tribute band The Bleeding Hearts and Artists. 

Dark Side of the Room printable





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