The dark side of performance management

The Insiderz played last night and we weren’t very good. A combination of a few little things meant that we were below our usual standard. They were silly, frustrating things that could easily have been sorted but for whatever reason, they weren’t. The report card says ‘must try harder’. In our defence, many of the people we spoke to immediately after we finished said we were great, brilliant etc.

It’s difficult sometimes. You play a venue several times, get to know the type of people who are there, develop a relationship (no sniggering, please) with the boss and then you turn up thinking you know what to expect. A simple thing like a large party of people new to the place might be enough to throw the crowd and a normally appropriate set becomes completely inappropriate. A landlady/lord (landperson?) who’s stressed after a bad day means that things that can usually be sorted out amicably become insurmountable problems.

It’s frustrating for the band. Sometimes there is nothing we can do right. Sometimes, the landperson has booked the wrong type of band for the night and can’t be seen to lose face. Sometimes, the guitars/bass won’t stay in tune (a particular problem in hot, humid venues when the wood of the neck can expand or contract quickly). Sometimes we get the fumbles. Sometimes the sound isn’t right or one of us can’t hear the others properly. All bands suffer from it.

The test, of course, isn’t purely about the night. One or two bad gigs don’t mean the band is rubbish. The test is how the band looks at the problems, learns, improves and carries on. If we play more gigs at which we ignore the problems and we under perform (sorry, HR language creeping in there), then shame on us. If we play more gigs where the landperson gets it wrong, shame on them (but don’t blame the band). If people turn up expecting us to play modern pop (it has happened) then shame on them, as we clearly market ourselves as rock ‘n’ roll (with the emphasis firmly on the ‘n’). The reality is that we will go on, get back to our usual form and this will just be a minor episode for the band autobiography. (Al Pacino is playing me). In fact, we’re playing tonight, twice next week and we have a full diary until the end of the year.

To prove that it’s not just us that makes the errors, I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the concert that became Pink Floyd’s Pulse album. I heard David Gilmour’s bum guitar note in the beginning of ‘Shine On’. Listen to the live album or watch the video and there is no bum note (it mysteriously disappeared during mixing), but you can hear the cheers as we celebrated the fact the Mr Gilmour was human after all! The first couple of bands I was in did some horrendous gigs in the Coach House in Swansea. I listened to the tape again the other day. I cringed so much I nearly turned inside out. But hey, we got crowds in and a following of sorts. I’ve listened to many local bands having bad nights; it wasn’t just us.

So I’m off in a few minutes to make some noise again. This time it’s a pub we’ve played often. Watch this space – well, the one above this one actually – to see what happens. And think about joining us and supporting the Oxjam Festival in Neath later in the year. More details coming, but it’s in aid of Oxfam, so it must be worth a look.

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