A few weeks ago, I made an etiquette guide to concerts for artist and fans, which listed a lot of Do Nots. I stand by those, but no one likes to be told what not to do. So instead, this time around I thought I would give you a perfect example of a great live show. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to check out Allen Stone at the legendary DC venue, 9:30 Club, and he laid down the blueprint for how to put on a memorable live performance. Let's recap...artists, take notes!
Get The Crowd Involved:
An artist is only as good as the fans let them be, so it's up to the artist to make sure fans feel like they are a part of the performance and Stone did just that. Between playing with your phone, ordering drinks, and hitting on that girl (or guy), there are so many distractions for fans. As an artist it can be hard to keep fans interested, but Stone didn't have this problem. He employs some unique tactics in order to ensure that everyone feels like they are a part of the show.
To make sure the environment was warm, friendly, and exciting, Stone really worked over the crowd. Busting out some preacher-like speeches with his band supporting him, he implored us to let go, relax and have fun. Stone's goal was to make everyone in the house feel like a part of something bigger, one big community of music lovers. He really, truly wanted us to be involved, and when someone cares that much, it makes you want to put the phone away and party.
Another great tactic he employed was the good 'ol fashioned call and response. Now we have all seen this done before, but Allen did it in a way I have never experienced. Instead of the usual "Hey-ho," Allen had the crowd yell, "We like mashed potatoes!" and "Where's the gravy?" And in the sassiest voice possible scream, "Don't talk to me!" He even broke out into some primal screams. He got me to laugh with this tactic and, as someone who is normally very reserved at shows, I couldn't help but get involved. In fact, we got so involved that during "Sleep," when he asked us to get down low, inches away from the sticky, beer covered floor, we (90% of the crowd) listened. You can have all the talent in the world (see Allen Stone), but if you can't rock the crowd like he did it won't get you anywhere.
Add Some Wrinkles To The Music:
Nobody wants to go to a show and hear a verbatim rehash of the album. You have to change things up so that your fans keep coming back for an experience that they can only get by attending your live show. Allen's opening band, Bad Rabbits, is a perfect example. The Dua Boakye-fronted five piece is one of my favorite bands (ever), who, to date, I have seen live ten times. Each time I look forward to experiencing the same songs as the previos show, but performed in a new way.
Stone is no slouch either. Where Bad Rabbits really change things up, Allen employs more subtle yet equally effective tactics. Whether it be a powerful, seemingly improvised vocal display, a smooth little guitar riff, some quirky dance moves or just a cover (in this case, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know"). The Capitol Records star-in-the-making offered plenty of reasons why buying a ticket to his show is a must. His recorded material is powerful, but if you really want to experience Allen Stone, you have to see him live. But perhaps the biggest wrinkle is...
Use A Live Band:
I know I said this the last time, but I want to make clear that the use of a live band is the single best thing an artist can do to make a show POP. Heading into the show, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would he do a more acoustic set (as acoustic songs seem to be his wheelhouse)? Would he have a small band? The answers are no and no. Supporting Allen on stage was an eight piece musician team, including a mini-brass section, two powerful backup singers, and a talented bassist who wowed me with an amazing solo. While some, weaker performers might be drowned out by such a vibrant, powerful band, it really helped bring out the best in Stone. His lively, energetic, and soulful vocals really stood out because the band gave him an extra boost of that "something." They blended so well together that the end result meant goosebumps early and often. Plus, it looked like they were all having a blast, often cheering each other on, which only helped to add to the welcoming, warm environment.
From Bonnaroo 2013
I could keep rambling on and on about all the great things Mr. Stone did to make this set a truly special one, but really the only way to fully understand what his live show is all about is to go yourself. Not even Edgar Allen Poe or Dr. Suess could put the electric atmosphere into words. I promise, as a fan or a fellow artist, you can learn a lot from Allen Stone's live show. Be sure to follow him at @Allen_Stone (for tour updates) and to find out if he is coming to a venue near you check here.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]