I have a regular show at the Ivory Room Piano Bar in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a solo show every Tuesday night. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s always a great crowd. I like thinking of the show at the Ivory Room as my “test kitchen” – a space where I am free to experiment. I try new bits, play new songs, goof off, and have fun. Here’s the thing to keep in mind when playing most nightclub shows – the crowd is there to have fun with you (as opposed to most corporate clients who want to be entertained by you or most wedding clients who want something high-energy to dance to).
The test kitchen is where I can make mistakes (plus, the audience usually loves the screwups!). I experiment with new tools to use at the big show, and I sharpen them. It’s my chance to get things perfect, polished, and performance-ready.
Where is your test kitchen? Musicians – is there a regular show where you can relax a bit and have fun? If not, maybe look into hosting an open mic somewhere or just regularly participate in one. The key to a test kitchen is a low-pressure environment where you can feel free to fail. Non-musicians – is there a forum (maybe a cocktail hour group or online community) where you can connect with empathetic peers to bounce new weird ideas about widgets or formulas (or whatever you people talk about!)?
The bottom line is if you have the opportunity to fail without consequences – take it! What we can learn from our failures outweighs what we can learn from our successes by a wide margin. The ROI is immense!