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Strategies to Cover Onstage Equipment Failure
Responding to a posting by Petri about software failure,
it occurred to me that most sophisticated live loopers I know
have little strategies they use as performers, to cover equipment
What are yours?
For mine, I always take a simple stomp box pedal looper and have it
in line before my LP-1/Repeater. In the future this will be
an LP-2 Mini Looper but for the past few years it has been a Line 6 DL-4
and now, currently, a Line 6 M9. If major gear fails, I try to
move the performance forward and keep playing (attempting to check
out the gear furtively as something else is playing)
I've had so many equipment failures in my life (Lexicon Jamman, Gibson
EDP, Electrix Repeater,
Looperlative LP-1) that I have been forced to finish entire shows with a
simple stomp box looper
so I've practiced doing that. It means one has to change aesthetic
gears and immediately
get over one's disappointment that things failed. Moving the
performance forward immediately
from a musical standpoint is crucial at this time, imho and with the
best possible attitude visible to the crowd
(even when you feel like hell and are NOT pleased). A little acting
comes in handy here.
Of course, with all the special features of the sophisticated loopers I
use, this means my
entire show changes it's course so I try to keep a 'beginners' mind'
attitude about it
all and remember the delight I had when I first started using the
Lexicon Jamman or
the Line 6 DL-4. I was so turned on when I first started looping or
when I got any looping
gear for the first time. I think it's efficacious to use that.
I actually think there is something magical watching someone like Lili
a humble RC-2 looper that has no bells or whistles (or even the
backwards, double/half speed
features that I rely on constantly in my own looping).
Some of the most creative performances I've ever seen were by musicians
using the most basic
of looping techniques and technology and being very creative. Some of
the most creative
performances I've ever seen have also been unbelievably sophisticated
(so much so that I ,
as an experienced live looper can't even figure out what the artist is
doing though the resulting
music is amazing.)
One of the things I like to do if I have a major equipment failure is
use that failure humorously
in addressing the audience. I've learned that when musicians are
upfront about adversity on
stage that the audience actually pulls for them. It's funny because,
emotionally, it always
feels like egg on my face and I have a bit of shame that I'm a techno
klutz and have caused
the problem (though frequently, it has just been gear that goes down).
The important thing about this strategy is that it is crucial to keep
engaging the audience,
even if you have to talk to them while you scramble about and see if the
problem is fixable.
Secondly, I remember that music is more important than technique, so I
try to continue playing
if at all possible.
Lastly, if things are really untenable and a solution is longer than a
couple of minutes away,
I ask the audience if I can be allowed a 'time out' and then announce
a short intermission.
I find this is a good way to indicate respect for the audience and then
let's the performance
pressure off so one can attend what's wrong.