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Re: Sit or Stand? Guitarist and Bassists only

Aw, yes…the old “sitting vs. standing” conundrum…

I do both, sometimes at the same gig.  As Ted pointed out, it is important 
to “play the gig”.  As an Artist In Residence for the California Arts 
Council, I frequently get gigs at art galleries and museums; often being 
background music for openings and receptions.  I also have a regular 
restaurant gig where I perform basically as background music for dining.  
these cases I am not, nor is the music I am playing, the “focus” of the 
events.  In such cases I sit (tho’ at times I do get up offa that seat and 
get funky…), and blend into the background.

For solo shows, where the focus is my playing, I usually stand.  The 
here is “the show” (and as this thread is melding into one on stage 
presence, I will address that as well).  For the most part, audiences are 
not so mesmerized by looping gear, technology or techniques.  Our culture 
has greatly elevated the performance, or “show” aspects of musical 
performance and, like it or not, most audiences expect to be entertained.  
>From time to time you can, and will, encounter audiences for who the 
phenomenon of music is priority; or those who are rapt by the skill of a 
musician applying his/her craft.  But even so, the entertainment factor 
weigh in.

For solo performers, and us loopists, this is particularly problematic.  
Often, when watching other loopists at work, I am quite aware at how many 
us are somewhat oblivious to the audience (and I have been particularly 
guilty of this in the past).  Granted, whether the audience is aware of it 
or not, what we do with loops is not particularly easy (timing is always a 
tricky issue).  When playing in an ensemble, guitarists, bassists, 
and even those awardees of great slack, drummers, are afforded the luxury 
having comrades to “cover” timing issues, lapses of concentration , and 
(somewhat dreaded ) “entertainment” factor.  Playing solo, and this is 
augmented by both the tactile and technological problems of using loops in 
solo context, illuminates these problems exponentially.

As to the question of stage presence and of sitting/standing, in all 
situations (save for the aforementioned cases where I consciously try to 
blend into the background) I strive to be engaged with the audience.  
members of our list who excel at this, and have greatly influenced me 
are Rick, Bill Walker and Steve Lawson.  All three of these inject a sense 
of humor and irony into their performances, engaging the audience, making 
light of their errors (sometimes giving focus to their trainwrecks), and 
making the sometimes cerebral act of looping more entertaining without 
stooping to the cliché rock-guitar type of posturing (although I have seen 
all three mockingly do this as well…)…and let’s face it, some of those now 
cliché gestures (grimaces, the tossing back of the head and feigned 
intensity are really just downright embarrassing).

A performance is a statement.  It has import. As performers it is 
to acknowledge our audiences, to recognize their intelligence and 
their patronage. Our level of entertaining that audience can greatly vary. 
The simple act of standing and moving about after being seated for a time 
can generate a visual interest.  Making eye contact with the audience, 
laughing, making off-hand quips, or even pausing your playing to listen to 
the loop and “actively contemplate”  your next move can all greatly 
an audience’s interaction with your performance.

A few years back I did some duet shows with our prodigal son, Andre 
  At the time he was using an old Roland drum Machine to manually 
“randomize” the processing of his EDP loops (knowing Andre, I tend to 
that most of this was hardly random.).  That alone could have been 
novel and intriguing, yet he took it a step further by placing that 
on a stand in the center of the stage, and walking around it dramatically 
pondering the sounds of his loopage, before rushing to the machine with 
hands and chaotically “playing” the buttons of the machine (which in turn 
would do amazing things to the sound of his guitar loops…).  It was at the 
same time aurally intense, innovative, visually stimulating and