The challenge of the musician becomes an awareness of such a phenomenon so that they can harness this energy being exchanged.
At every gig, there is an unspoken dialogue that happens between the band and the crowd. This conversation is not visible or audible by any means, and although the musicians may directly be talking to their audience in between songs – or the crowd may be saying things directly to the band – there is more dialogue at play.
What I am talking about is the energetic exchange that occurs between musicians and their audience. The musicians set the tone of the room through the music they play, and the audience feed off this energy provided. In return, the audience gives a certain vibe back to the musicians, which they then feed off throughout the gig as they perform. It is a kind of silent conversation.
I first came across this phenomenon in my art classes. As a visual artist, live drawing or painting is an essential part of my training, wherein the artist paints directly from a live model, who is often posing for three to six hours in a sitting. I began to notice that the vibe of the model would set the tone for all of the artists working in the room. If the model is having a bad day, their negative energy can be felt and is transferred to every artist painting them. A model that is joyful and calm, however, has a presence that can also be felt by the artists who paint them. This energy is often visible in the artists’ work, even though no audible communication has taken place.
Likewise, after having attended many, many gigs as a band photographer, I began to notice the same sort of things occurring between musicians and their audiences. Countless times, I’d witness a musician perform the exact same set list and the same quality of performance, but the response of the audience would be different each time. Sometimes, the audience would become fully engaged in the performance, singing and dancing along and giving their full attention to the band, while the same performance to another crowd could evoke very little interest.
Given this, the challenge of the musician then becomes an awareness of such a phenomenon, so that they can harness this energy being exchanged and, consequently, set the tone for the entire room. In other words, daring-enough musicians have the power to create – out of thin air – an emotional response or sense of focus from an audience that is hard to replicate in other settings. To me, it is a great thing to watch, and it is the reason I continually make an effort to go to live gig after live gig in Perth.