For the past 8 years, I’ve had the amazing experience of playing the Star Spangled Banner in some of the biggest & most historic venues in the USA. Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years:
How Did You Get The Gig?
From what I’ve learned, the music business is a business of contacts and thick skin. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is an understatement. Anthem gigs are the one exception. Shea Stadium was my first anthem experience and that came about by simply going to the sports team’s website, getting the contact info to mail/ emailing my press kit and hoping to get a call. That’s how most of my anthem gigs happen. As my resume gets stronger and I gain more contacts in the industry, so will my chances – hopefully.
What Goes Through Your Head When Playing?
The more I think about it, the worse it is. All preparation happens during practice beforehand. I try not to over-practice, take care of my sounds/ equipment (ie echoes, distortion, amp noise, etc.) and eliminate any potential problems days before the gig. If I can downplay the experience and take it for what it is (1min and 15sec of music), the smoother it usually goes.
How Do You Prepare For Something Like That?
YouTube. Imagination. Past experiences. If I can research the venue prior by watching other anthem videos and seeing where they stand, how they sound, and the amount of people in the crowd, I can get an idea of what to expect.
What Equipment Do You Take?
Less is more. The faster I set-up/ break-down, the smoother things are. I always bring 2 guitars (1 main guitar, 1 back-up) and an extra shirt (I tend to sweat when playing in 104 degrees). Here’s my checklist.
What’s The Most/ Least Amount Of People You’ve Playing In Front Of?
The Shea gig was 50,000+ – everything else, not so much. I have different guitar settings for the amount of people in the crowd. The emptier the arena (especially domed arenas), the more sounds will echo. If it’s a packed house, I add echoes to my sound but let the venue dictate the echoes in less crowded settings.
Why Not Play It Like Hendrix?
1. Because I can’t. 2. I’m not Hendrix. 3. Because it’s been done. 4. It’s a different era. Sport teams want a conservative version. Years ago I sent a crazy rock version I did and got a call back from a team saying I’d get boo-ed if I played it that way. I still think what I put together was original, catchy and enjoyable but oh well. The more violent the sport, the more likely I’ll play a rock version than a conservative version. There’s only been one occasion where someone hasn’t asked if I would play the Hendrix version.
What’s The Process To Get Booked?
After mailing in your submission, they’ll get back to you if interested. Sometimes they have a number of dates to pick from or just one to fill. Parking, arrival times/ sound check, comp tickets, etc. are sorted out beforehand. When you get there, you’ll usually get your pass(es) at will call/ front desk. The person I’ve traded emails with is usually the game time contact but not always. If there’s a soundcheck, it’s before the gates open and usually lasts about 1 minute (ie “Can you can hear your guitar? Yes? Ok – we’re done”). Then you wait for hours and are expected back about 10 minutes before performance time. It’s over in a flash I get off the court/ field asap. Hopefully there’s a secure place to store my gear so I can enjoy the game! No two anthem gigs are alike – even if you’ve played the venue before.
Any Crazy Stories?
Aside from the time I forgot to bring my guitars? True story – I left my house with everything except my guitars one time. Luckily, my wife did the “idiot check” (ie ask me what I’m forgetting) and we had enough time to turn around and get them. Then there was the time the front desk employee told us to stand and wait in the corner for 20 minutes while the Game Operations staff came to get us. I remember one time getting the countdown to when I’d be live and still wasn’t getting any signal out of my guitar until 3 seconds before playing (a cable became unplugged when it was being moved around by game staff). All those things happened at the same gig, by the way. I won’t even get into the time I was told to be back in the waiting room at 6.45pm and heard my introduction at 6.40pm while I was roaming around the stadium…
How Can I Get Those Gigs?
Keep trying: I get rejected (ie never hear back) more than I get accepted. Be thankful: build upon each experience, learn from them and use that knowledge to better yourself. Lastly, remember to send your submissions in well before the start of the season. Some baseball teams won’t accept submissions after mid-February even though the season starts in April. Be courteous and mindful that they get 1,000s of submissions each year so make what you send stand out. Never burn any bridges – it’s not worth it.
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