Sunday, 14 April 2013

I'm going to call them get togethers

So after last nights disaster with deleting my blog post just after I'd spent a couple of hours writing it, I'll have another go.

Three or four weeks ago I decided to try my hand at these hangouts on air and joined the open mic songwriters showcase shows. So this is the story so far.

Last Sunday, they ran an earlier version to try and connect with musicians in the Uk and Europe and I was down for the 7.45pm slot. I decided to do this one from my studio in Ford Park. The studio is based in an old, very large mansion house, that is no longer a house where people live. In the week it has various users who hire rooms and offices. At the weekend it is quite often empty, especially in the evenings, and as this was Sunday evening it was as quiet as the grave, except for me and my hangout friends on my laptop.

So here I am in an empty house, in the control room of the studio sitting watching the first couple of artists and then it's my turn. I'm the only guy who's shown up from the UK, all the other performers are in the States or Canada.
Just prior to me doing my thing I felt nervous, like I would at a gig. With a band it's not as bad, but doing solo gigs always brings on that tension. To get that same feeling sitting by yourself in an empty house, about to perform to a webcam and five or six faces in a film strip at the bottom of the screen. Like playing to miniature pixies.
I get my introduction from the host, Jonathan Blackshire and I tread carefully into the opening chords of King Canute. At the end of the song there's a ripple of applause from out there in hangout land, from the others watching and waiting to play.

Now here's the weird thing, suddenly this feels just like a live gig, where you can feel the energy from the audience feeding into your performance. But this is me playing to a laptop in a room all on my own, so how does that work. Maybe that "vibe" is not just in the room were in. Often you can only see the first couple of rows of people anyway and the rest are invisible and just felt.
Well in a way thats how it was doing the gig on this internet "get-together", I prefer that to the google name of  hangouts, but I digress.

In a lot of ways it's more like doing a recording session, with just you and the engineer. In that case you perform for the engineer/ producer, so thats how I see it. But there is a difference, and that is the size of the audience that may be watching. Beyond those few people in the film strip there could be thousands, or at least twenty.
So Hangouts on air, that are flagged up in advance, like a gig, become something else, not a live gig and not a recording session. This is a completely new way of interacting between the performers and their audience. From the artists point of view, well mine anyway, I still was nervous before I began, but as soon as the first few bars had been played I was Ok, just like doing a regular live gig. The vibe from the audience could be felt, across the madness that is the internet with it's masses of wires, and satalites and things plugged in, and out at the other end. It's a miracle the whole thing works this good, it passeth beyond all understanding.

And it was fun like live gigs are fun.

I know people are going to be resistant to pick up on this and give it a go. I've met a lot of blank stares when I mention HOA, understandably, I suppose, but when I explain it, they seem to dismiss it as a weird thing to do. They're still stuck with live is best, and I agree, perhaps it is. But recording music in a studio is a bit odd, you have to do quite a lot of it to get the best results, it's a craft and it takes time. HOAs are to me very new, and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the next couple of years.

I'd like to do one with the beat combo, I don't know if you could do a band, although we're sort of acoustic so it might work. But that will come, bands doing live hangouts, I can see it not too far off. In fact I'm sure some are doing it already.

On May 5th I've got myself booked as a featured artist on the songwriters showcase, that's a bit of a step up but I'm really looking forward to it, see you there everybody, Ill send you an invite.