What exactly happens backstage before a show? Ask 100 musicians, and you will get 100 different answers. Almost all mention mental preparation and the actual getting dressed for a show. Every performer I know admits that he/she gets somewhat nervous or excited just before going onstage. Backstage is the priming before the ignition. I can only speak from personal experiences, so I think I’ll share a few other things that have happened.
Earlier this week, I was on a corporate gig. Our dressing room was the size of a small closet and we had to share with other vendors. Hmmm, this isn’t going to work. Bathrooms are an option, as are other closets, and even your own car. I chose the bathroom. Fortunately, it was the women’s bathroom so I didn’t have to explain why I was putting on false eyelashes while in a partial state of undress. Still, it is funny to see other women’s reactions when they see me like this.
On a gig last month, I was backstage with the band, and we were all very excited and somewhat nervous. To break the tension, someone told a very off-colour joke. The tag line has now been a favourite word we actually say to each other when we notice one person is getting too tense.
On other gigs, the band actually gets together right before going on stage and does a special handshake. It’s like a team bonding before a game, and we do go out onstage and work together to make the best show possible for the audience.
We all have to find a way to deal with that nervous energy so that it works to our benefit while performing. I pace. I mean I PACE! I usually walk around a venue 4-5 times before going onstage. That’s a lot of walking at most venues. When given limited space, I pace back and forth. I run the music in my head and in my fingers as I pace. I don’t like to talk to anyone since it breaks my concentration. I don’t want to see any guests backstage before a show; only musicians and those directly related to producing that show. I don’t even want my family near me right before a show. It’s a distraction, and I have seen a difference in my own performances when I have those distractions.
It’s a special “something in the air” backstage before a show. Each person doing his/her own thing to prepare. I pace, then I hit my stride once I’m on the stage. I am most comfortable there. After all, the stage is my true home.