Winnipeg, Canada-based punk duo Mobina Galore was on stage during first show on their recent European tour with Against Me! when guitarist/vocalist Jenna Priestner realized something had gone wrong.
“I play through two guitar amps, and I have them set up through a YBA pedal so they both run at the same time,” she said. “Our nerves were already there because it was our first show with them. The sound check was all good, we went on stage, everything is good and then part way through the first or second song I heard a huge drop in the levels from my monitor and I’m just like, “Oh, shit! What’s going on?” In a lot of my songs I’m constantly singing, so there isn’t time to take a second to look around and see if something got unplugged or what happened. [This time] it turned out one of the amps just totally blew.”
If you’ve ever performed in a band, you know that you can be as prepared as possible and life can still get in the way of a perfect set. When that happens, you have two choices: you can totally freak out, or you can roll with the punches as they come until you find a solution. In this instance, the band, which has been around since 2010 and has seen their share of stage mishaps (their own and others), played through the song and thankfully the venue’s sound person was on their game to help out. “At that point, you have to put a lot of trust in whoever is doing sound in the front of house because if they don’t notice that something is happen, they’re not going to be able to remedy the situation. It’s happened to me a couple of times. Running two guitar amps, one of them will go, and the front-of-house person will notice and just double up on my other amp and fill the sound. Because there is nothing you can do, right? You have 30 minutes to play a set and you don’t have time to really do much troubleshooting on stage. You just have to wait until it is over and figure out what went wrong after the show, and hopefully get it fixed before the next one.”
Mobina Galore is currently on their own tour of North America, in support of their recently-released LP, Feeling Disconnected (New Damage Records), and once again they’ve found themselves facing technical difficulties. “My amp head just blew the other day and I’ve been borrowing gear from other people,” she said. “It’s pretty annoying because you get used to your own sound and the tones coming from your amps, specifically, but at the same time it forces you to manage and make it work, and it’s been alright for the last few shows. I’ve been able to borrow an additional amp from one of the other bands and just make it work because there’s always something that goes wrong.”
With that in mind, Priestner shared some tips for troubleshooting or lessening the impact of unexpected gear issues while on the road. Feeling Disconnected is available for purchase now.
Stay Calm: To stay calm, I usually touch base with my drummer [Marcia Hanson]. We both usually know if something has gone wrong, if one of us has messed up, or a guitar gets unplugged or a cymbal falls over. We touch base with each other and give a quick glance that says, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t let it stress you out.” Make that eye contact with your bandmates to make sure they know it’s all good, you can get through this, and it’s not a big deal. You need that support and you need to be able to communicate without actually communicating.
To Err is Human: When you see a show and you see the band bickering on stage, it’s the worst. You have to stay positive and laugh it off, or it gets worse. That’s the thing about live music. Something is going to go wrong at some point, and you need to remember that you are just a human and you are playing music live. Just wait until the song is over, find out what is wrong, and try to fix it. Sometimes I’m jumping around and I’ll unplug one of my cables. If people are engaged and they are watching me, they’ll see exactly what happen and they’ll say, “Oh my god, that was funny!” When people mess up, it just makes everyone human. It’s about staying calm and knowing if you look nervous or freak out about it, the audience is going to see that and then they are going to be wary of you throughout the show. So stay calm and laugh it off.
Find Support Offstage and in the Crowd: Onstage, you’re relying on stagehands, or people in the audience depending on the venue you are playing. It’s a constant thing for us that the mic stands are really crappy and worn out, and they’ll slowly start falling. If someone out there in the audience happens to be a musician, they’ll hop on stage and help you out. I do that all the time when I see bands play. That’s the thing—just getting the crowd engaged in the show so they really want to be part of it. When they want to be part of the solution it’s really awesome. Everyone wants to be on stage, so if some kid gets to jump up and save the day they kind of feel like a hero, and it makes everyone else in the audience feel more like they are a part of the show.
Be Organized: I do a lot of band management stuff and I am a very organized person. That’s important because if you don’t have an actual manager you need someone in the band who will take over those duties… I’ve got a dropbox folder, “Mobina Galore promo,” that I update every year with our band bio, stage plot, band photos, everything that a promoter or an agent or a sound tech needs so when we’re on the road we’re not scrambling to pull over and find wifi to shoot a press photo to someone. We have a link we can send them to instead.
It’s about managing your time well. If people ask I can say, “Go to our website and you will find everything you need on there.” I always carry hard copies on me as well. We just have a bag we carry around to shows and stuff with paper copies just in case. It’s kind of being overly prepared for something going wrong and having a preventative measure for something in place to hopefully solve the problem quicker than being, “Oh my god, what do we do?” Putting stuff like that up on your website is so easy to do, but a lot of people are lazy, or don’t think it’s important at all. If I was running a venue and I saw that, I’d think, “This is great! I don’t have to email them for anything.”
Do Your Research (which includes playing more shows!): When you start out, everything’s a learning curve. When I was just starting out I was Googling things like, “What’s a stage plot?” “What’s an input list?” and stuff like that. For an artist who is starting out, it takes a while to find out all the assets that you need, but once you start learning, it starts being easier for you. And knowing what exactly what you want to hear on stage is a matter of playing more shows. The only way you’re going to learn it is to keep playing shows. Every stage is different. An outdoor show is going to sound different than a smaller club. Some places have crappy monitors, and even though you know what you want you might not get it in your sound. The only way to get what you want is to play more shows, to ask properly, and to not be an ass on stage. So many people you see playing shows and saying, “I can’t hear myself.” All you have to say is “can I get more vocals in my monitor?” Just be polite. Everyone there is doing a job.
Cultivate a Strong Social Media Network: Social media makes it is so easy to reach out to people. Like when my amp head blew the other day, initially you would panic a little bit, but now you can look at your schedule and post, “Hey, does anyone in Milwaukee know a good amp repair shop?” It takes a while to get your friend list growing, but I put a lot of stuff out on social media. “Do you have a guitar I can borrow at tonight’s show?” Guaranteed, like I said earlier, someone will want to be the hero. They’ll show up at the show with a guitar, you’ll put them on the guest list. Social media is huge! Just getting the word out there. Everyone wants to share and help out. We’ve even needed to get people to run our merch at the Against Me! shows, and we just reached out on Facebook. Friends of friends of friends will just want to help out. It’s pretty cool. There is a lot of garbage on social media, but if you use it to your advantage then it is super beneficial.