Saturday, March 13, 2010

How I go to shows vs How you probably go to shows

Tonight I am actually going to the Harmony Sweepstakes.

I know, I know--Tim does it every year. Every group he's ever entered has won an award. He's been to nationals twice with two different groups and competed in at least 14 Harmony Sweepstakes Competitions (usually with multiple groups) in the last 6 years or so.  He's caused controversies, complaints, and shouts of joy. He's built a reputation for innovation in a cappella.

And I've never ever in my whole life been to the Harmony Sweepstakes.

So this year I'm going. Tonight. To see MouthBeats host, Wonder Voice and VoxBom compete (and the other groups, of course, but those are Tim's stage time).

So I started thinking about how you go to concerts vs how I do.

You drive to the location of the show, park in the big lot, and walk in.

I drive to the location, park on the grass or in the alley, and search for someone in charge who can let us load equipment in the back. Sometimes I park and come in the same way you do.

You arrive half an hour early or so. I arrive between 1 and 5 hours early.

You get your tickets from will call , pick up a program, use the bathroom, check out the lobby, and get to your seat not long after the house opens.

I head back to the dressing rooms/green room/ backstage area (depending on the venue), usually with something against the rules in tow, like 5 kids and a pizza or two, or 5 bags of fast food. Usually I have no opposition (because, quite frankly, if you act like you belong in a place, the staff usually assumes you do). Sometimes I head into the theater and give feedback on the sound check. Depends on the show. Sometimes I am the one who gives permission to open the house. Sometimes I just hang back--depends on the show.

You sit down before the show and enjoy chatting with your date. You might read the program to learn about the groups, the music, the venue.

I usually come and go several times getting things people forgot, delivering merchandise, checking with the house manager (or being the house manager), repairing or running for costume parts, etc. I sometimes get to sit and chat with my date, but usually with my back turned because I've been around the bands enough that the guys just change their clothes when I'm in the room (and, being a good mormon married girl, I don't want to watch even though they don't seem to care for the most part).

Sometimes I remember to get  my ticket from will call. Sometimes I just sneak in the stage door and head for my seat. If I manage to get a hold of a program, I skim it briefly for correctness in the bio (like are there spelling errors, did they use the one we provided or write their own, etc). I check which picture they used (always feeling out what's working of the promo stuff and what isn't).  I then skim the rest of the program, doing a quick analysis of the other promo pics in it, other bios and intros for groups, and for notices of other events in the venue or town that might hire Tim in the future. In everything, I'm checking the design, the effectiveness of the promotional stuff, and doing a quick scan of writing technicalities (grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice) and design technicalities (color, layout, framing, white space, and whether the design adds to or detracts from the purpose). Then I save it for evidence the show was performed (useful for applying for grad schools, and as a souvenir for me).

You sit and watch the show with your date.

I sit alone and watch my date.

During intermission, you chat with your date about what you've seen, use the bathroom, get a snack.

During intermission, I head back stage and chat with my date about what I've seen only if it's really important, run a few errands, and often have a "talk" with the sound guy (who always are as shocked that I am giving them feedback as women are when Tim comments on how nice their shoes are or something that he sees as costume-related and they see as men don't do that), check merchandise sales, and then head back to my seat.

After a show, you stand in line and wait to meet the singers, get autographs, buy merchandise, and then leave.

After a show, I sell merchandise or check in with whoever is, I stand in a corner or in the back of the room and watch the crowds interact with my  husband until there are only a few people left. These are usually the die-hard fans. If they are female and not with a date, flirty despite their date, or heading to the after party alone, I then step in and kiss my man and get introduced. (I KNOW...selfish of me, right? Just staking my claim before any issues arise.). Sometimes the diehard fans figure out who I am standing there in the background handing out extra sharpies when the guys' pens die, and they seek me out. (I've been called Mrs. Moosebutter more than once). Then I chat with people, usually tell some charming anecdote about the guys (fans LOVE inside information and little tidbits about their favorite performers).

After the audiences leave, I head back to the dressing room and wait until the other guys have left. Then, while Tim changes his clothes, cleans up the dressing room, collects stuff (yeah--how come the bands leave this for Tim? I'm still trying to figure that one out!), I give him a rundown of what I saw. Good stuff, bad stuff, audience response as I could gauge it, tech report, critique of the costumes, the flow of the show (what we call the "programming"), the individual performer's good points and bad points--the whole shebang. I'm usually what performers would call pretty brutal, but Tim needs the feedback from someone. Then I help Tim load out (collect all the costumes, equipment, etc.).  I am often on the stage both before and after a show, setting up, cleaning up, familiarizing myself with the environment.

Sometimes we then go to the after party and stay until everyone else is so drunk it's uncomfortable (which is not so drunk as they will get, but just to the point that they can't converse really anymore), and then we leave.

Sometimes we just go home. Depends on the event and the kids.

When you watch a show, you enjoy the music, enjoy the performance, sing along or tap your feet, notice who looks good and who looks bad, and generally have time to lose yourself in music.

When I watch a show, I notice how the costumes interact with the light and set, how the performers fill the stage and carry themselves, what things jump out that shouldn't and what things don't that should. I notice if the music sounds "right" or not, and tune in to the tech mixes, volume, and if I can hear every voice part. I notice who has good mic technique and who is awkward with the tech. (Did you know you can tell a seasoned performer by how they use a microphone? Really good, experienced performers will hold the mic different ways in different songs to get different sounds out of it and also to reflect the song better.) I notice pacing, costume changes, not just what is being said between songs but how it is said. I notice how the audience is fidgeting and listen carefully to what they're saying and the noises they make while the show is going. I watch the groups to see if they are doing their jobs, if they are screwing up the places that they struggled with in rehearsal, if they "sparkle", if the costumes work or need to be changed. I try to make sure that Tim knows where I am in the house and watch him for cues (very subtle ones) that he needs me to do something (talk to the sound guy, get batteries for a mic, meet him back stage). This rarely happens, but I'm alert anyway just in case.

I used to go to shows to enjoy the music. Now I can't help but analyze them. You go for fun. I go and work.

It just happens to be work that I REALLY enjoy.

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