5 Ways To Turn A Bad Show Around

Bad shows can be temporarily devastating even for musicians who’ve been performing professionally for years. Things like bad sound systems, unattentive crowds, and performance mistakes can turn something you love into a truly awful experience if you’re not careful. But while some shows are so bad they feel like black holes that you and your bandmates will get sucked into, that’s not the case. Most bad shows can be turned around. Here’s how:

Identify the real problem

The first thing you’ll need to do to turn a show around is to figure out what’s going wrong. For many musicians, identifying the problem will be all they need to do to finish out their sets strong because all that’s wrong is that they’re playing too self consciously. For others, like those performing on stages with bad sound, an emotional and playing adjustment has to occur in order to save the rest of the show.

Take an emotional step back

Emotions in music can be tricky. Playing with passion is mandatory if you want to be a musician worth your salt, but letting your emotions get out of hand can be disastrous in a live situation. Once you’ve figured out what’s going wrong, curb your negative emotions for now, and deal with them later. After the show, you’ll have plenty of time to process what went wrong during the show, but while on stage, it’s your job to play your music the very best you can.

Join ReverbNation for Free

Remember what you love about performing

In order to weather bad shows, you’ll need to come back to the heart of what you love about playing music over and over again. Having a real love for performing will give you the perspective and attitude you need to endure terrible experiences on stage and still want to make music. This sort of love can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t, but for those that have it, remembering your passion and honoring it when things go really wrong during shows isn’t always easy or natural.

Focus on your songs

Easier said than done, right? When things start going bad on stage, lots of musicians enter full panic mode, but panic is not your friend on stage because it distracts you from your purpose and the only reason you’re up there in the first place: to play your music. Whether it’s a crowd that’s not into your songs or a chorus you just forgot the words to, the only way to get a show back on track is to focus on your music.

Stop striving for perfection

Even without noticeable problems and performance errors, there is no such thing as a perfect show. So rather than dwelling on what’s going wrong on stage, striving to connect with your audience is the best way to move past mistakes and make your mark during shows. Most audiences will forgive mistakes, but they can’t get into something they don’t feel engaged with. Letting go of doubt, fear, and shame, and focusing on your songs is the best way to get an audience on your side.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

Rebecca5 Ways To Turn A Bad Show Around


Join the conversation
  • Mark Vieaux - July 27, 2018 reply

    Good article – bad shows, or a least a few bad song performances in a row, will happen to anyone. I do at least 50 ‘gigs’ a year and no matter how prepared or how comfortable, shtuff happens. My remedy is to laugh at myself, show the crowd that I’m just one of them, tell a brief story, and press ‘reset’.

  • James Carbonaro - July 27, 2018 reply

    There were only 2 times that I have been at a concert & things went bad for the performers on stage. The first time was when I went to see Neil Young. It was 1982, I think. The crowd went wild when Neil took the stage. Unfortunately, Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter were the opening act. I had never heard of either of them before because I wasn’t interested in country music. But apparently they are big on the country scene. None of the other Neil Young fans either didn’t know who they were either or they simply weren’t interested in listening to them. They weren’t exactly booed off the stage; but I did feel sorry for them after it was all over. The audience wasn’t exactly receptive. You could tell Jessi Colter was pissed because she stormed off the stage without saying a word. Waylon Jennings at least waved to the crowd as he said his good-byes. The second time was in 1985. I was at a professional convention. Somebody thought hiring Vic Damone to sing during dinner was a good idea. Nobody else did though. This was my first convention, so what did I know. Vic Damone got tired of being ignored pretty quickly & just walked off stage. I don’t think that he sang for the entire time he was hired for. Later on, when the topic came up, my opinion was that Vic Damone’s performance was, at best, unnecessary. The take home message from these two occasions was that you have to make sure that you know your audience. If you’re a gospel group, don’t think you are going to save someone’s soul by playing at a punk club. If you’re in a Village People tribute band, be smart & stay away from playing biker bars. I doubt any rapper would leave a favorable impression at the Grand Old Opry.

  • michael gilchrease - October 26, 2018 reply

    i think being up beat and realizing its not rocket science….just an imaginary ride around the room…..to most gigging guys its riding a tricycle and any real problems come from inexperience and the unneeded attentiveness to perfection and out of touch realities…..its a process of being ready and letting go at the same time…. if the band is good and ready they can perform under even extreme circumstances due to comradery and love of music in general….some believe in jinxes….some just play and forget as long as their paid…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *