Being in a gigging band can be a challenge under any circumstances, but if your band plans on being the entertainment at someone's holiday celebration, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make the experience much better for everyone concerned. Let's take a look at a few tips that will make that holiday gig as rewarding and stress free as possible.
7. Keep the Band Sober
This should go without saying, but if your band plans on making themselves available to play shows anywhere, then not getting completely wasted is important. That rule of thumb is doubly a concern for any band who plans on playing a gig at someone's special holiday party event. Being visibly inebriated might not raise too many eyebrows when you're playing a show at the local punk rock club, but if your bassist can barely stand while playing a jolly holiday rendition of "Enter Sandman" in someone's living room, that's going to worry a few people. Even if standard band practice is enjoying a pre-show six pack, it is advisable to skip hitting the host's egg nog until after the show, if at all.
6. Don't Embarrass Your Hosts
Any band who is planning to play a holiday party, particularly if it's at someone's home, should try to find out what's expected for them well before the event. For instance, unless the hosts are close personal friends, they probably regard the band playing their party as temporary employees (which they are), and may not be pleased with band members mingling with their guests in between sets. So if your drummer is the type of dude who likes to raid people's liquor cabinet before creepily "socializing" with the crowd, it might be best to leave him at home. There's nothing quite like the awkward moment where an enraged host confronts you because a bandmate offended a guest or broke something he or she shouldn't have been touching to begin with. The point is, some hosts may be fine with the band enjoying themselves at their gathering, but a lot will prefer you do your job and stay out of the way. A good rule of thumb is just to act professionally, and for band members to behave themselves. Leave the F-bombs at home, and don't embarrass the host.
5. Check Out the Venue Before You Play
If your band lands a holiday gig, it may very well be at a venue that's not a regular place they play, or it may be somewhere that doesn't regularly feature bands at all. In the case of a holiday party at someone's home, it is especially important to check out the area the band will be playing in, so that the right gear can be brought along or rented. Anyone who has played lots of shows at places that don't regularly feature bands will know how this works — playing a gig in someone's backyard will present different equipment and acoustic challenges than playing inside, or at a rented hall. Knowing what gear is appropriate is of utmost importance, as is getting a decent sound check, preferably before guests begin arriving.
4. Choose Your Music Carefully
The hosts may have a distinct mood in mind for their holiday event, and it's a good idea to get with them to tailor the band's set to their satisfaction. Perhaps they don't want you to dust off that cover of "Christmas With the Devil" that your band plays from time to time. It's a good idea to go over that type of stuff in advance.
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3. Have a Strategy If Any Guests Become a Problem
Overindulging at a holiday party is a tradition for some people, so if you've already cautioned your band mates to not get loaded, it's a good idea to have a plan if any drunk guests become a problem. Any good host will (hopefully) intervene if they see one of their buddies get out of hand in a way that screws with the band, but it's still a good idea to go over what to do if such an event arises — after all, no band wants some lush stomping around the area they're playing in and possibly damaging their gear. That's not usually a huge issue at a venue with an actual stage, but could be a problem if you're playing in someone's living room.
2. Be Aware of Noise Issues
In the case of a band playing at someone's house party, it's important to go over any potential noise issues with the host well before playing. Keeping volume manageable and high enough to enjoy without pissing off any neighbors is a major consideration. That pre-party sound check is a good way to find the right level of volume, and is invaluable if you're playing a gig at someone's home. It's probably a good idea to leave the Marshall stacks at the practice space if you're playing in someone's den.
1. Leave the Attitude at Home
A holiday party is (hopefully) a joyful occasion, but if one of your band members is rude to a guest, that can really sink the event's amount of goodwill and cheer. Even if you're not feeling the holiday spirit, it's part of the job to at least seem like you do. Turning that frown upside down, and resisting the urge to tell the host's drunken grandmother to go screw herself is probably the best strategy to have if you want to play these types of gigs.