Eye contact at gigs

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PhilMPhilM Frets: 42
Might be a bit of an odd one this, but I really struggle to look anywhere but my feet/pedalboard during indoor gigs. I've played in front of 10,000+ and found this easy compared to playing to 50 in a pub. Outdoor gigs usually require sunglasses so no issues there.

What do you guys do? Stare at the back wall? The ceiling? Or do you single-out one person and look at them?
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  • KKJaleKKJale Frets: 822
    I struggle with that too...

    The actor's technique is to look just an inch or two above the line of sight of the very furthest people in the audience... don't fix on one spot, just do the occasional scan or glance. Looks perfectly natural, apparently (though maybe not at the most intimate gigs, a spot of proper eye contact when you can manage it will probably work best there).


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  • not_the_djnot_the_dj Frets: 6360
    I know I stare down at the floor/pedal board too much so I really try to look up and around as much a I can.

    If you don't want to make eye contact with the audience then look just above their heads.
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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 2920
    It's slightly easier on a raised stage, you can just stare over the heads slightly and no one can really tell. Do that stood on the floor in a pub and it's more obvious your head is back and you are avoiding eye contact. Look at a feature like a poster, light fitting, door frame etc.
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  • PhilM said:
    Might be a bit of an odd one this, but I really struggle to look anywhere but my feet/pedalboard during indoor gigs. I've played in front of 10,000+ and found this easy compared to playing to 50 in a pub. Outdoor gigs usually require sunglasses so no issues there.
    Simples! Just wear your sunglasses to indoor gigs too. Eye contact problem solved, and you'll look edgy and cool to boot....until you fall off the stage...
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  • TrudeTrude Frets: 447
    I usually just stare into the dark void of despair.  There's usually one at the back of most social club gigs...
    Trading feedback here
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 8453
    edited April 30
    I often found this a challenging aspect of gigging. Looking at someone you know can help, our only regular supporter was our singer's wife so I used to spend a lot of time smiling at her. I sometimes wondered if she thought I was being over friendly. Sometimes I'd be staring at the back wall and often in pubs there would be a TV on so I'd be playing a gig whilst reading the subtitles on Sky Sports News. Singing BVs or playing harmonica  meant I could pretty much screw my face up so that helps.
    It is also one of the reasons for wearing a hat whilst gigging, it slightly narrows your field of focus and makes it harder for other people to see your eyes so you aren't constantly catching eye contact with strangers. 

    When I did groupwork ( I used to deliver sex offender treatment programmes and things like that) we would talk about 'lending focus.' If there are two of you delivering a group  and you are looking at your notes/ phone/ feet whilst the other person is talking it sends the message that the other person isn't interesting/ as interesting as the thing you are looking at. So look at your band mates, particularly during  any moments that feature them. Bass solo? Look at the bassist; you may have heard it 100 times before and find it boring but that's not the message you want to send. Not looking straight ahead can be a bit weird but if you can manage the band line up so that you aren't all in a straight line then that helps to do so without twisting around.
    So, in brief, treat the audience like a large group of sex offenders.      
    Who invaded Spain in the eight century?
    The Moops.
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  • PhilMPhilM Frets: 42

    So, in brief, treat the audience like a large group of sex offenders.      

    If you've ever gigged in Swindon you'll know how easy that is ;)
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 4490
    I'm not great at it when I'm nervous. But I've always thought it's best just to do what comes naturally. I find quite often playing covers it's easier to relax, and when I do I find myself naturally looking about the room, at the instrument I'm playing, making eye contact and interacting with band members.

    When I play originals, my music is usually a bit more thoughtful, introverted and intense than a set of crowd pleasing covers, so in those cases I figure it's OK to get a bit more engrossed in the act of playing the instrument. So quite often I pay less attention to the crowd, but have always assumed that they understand if an artist is lost in the moment. So I quite often would be looking at what I'm playing, but then moving with the music, obviously interacting with the rest of the band etc, so people didn't think I was just standing there, being boring.
    Captain Horizon (my old band);
    Very (!) Occasional Blog
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  • LestratcasterLestratcaster Frets: 542
    edited April 30
    If its on a bill with bands we're friends with usually they'll be at the front messing about and bantering so its easier to have a bit of interaction. If anything it helps me relax a bit more as we all know each other and used to seeing each other. 
    Its the crowds that are dead and barely move that make it awkward, as there's no reaction to the music.

    Its harder to play in bigger room with fewer people than a smaller room with a packed audience. Usually I'm walking/running around the stage to focus on one particular person, and sometimes I'll have a little wander about in the actual crowd (benefits of being on a wireless system).
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 4426
    On the rare occasions I play guitar in public, I tend to be playing at the introverted end of the musical spectrum so persistent eye-contact avoidance fits with the shtick. As an audience member I find eye contact a bit disconcerted as it feels a bit like making eye contact with somebody whilst eating or having a wee.

    Where I've been involved in public music and I've not been doing the introverted miserable singer routine, it's been in an ensemble where it's acceptable to look at each other the whole time, or as a solo piano where you have a massive heavy hulk of an instrument to look at and avoid eye contact so even better!

    Appreciate others would not feel the same about it during a standard rock gig though - I just have the ability to glaze over and stare into nothingness so maybe the audience do think they are getting eye contact!
    If there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows
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  • pintspillerpintspiller Frets: 732
    Sometimes I look at somebody I know and make rock and roll faces or nods. I usually stare at the ceiling. Or my fingers.

    I remember when in the band I sang in, I used to choose someone in the audience to look at while I sang my angst-hate-riddled songs. I think it scared them sometimes.
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  • fandangofandango Frets: 1500
    Sometimes I look at somebody I know and make rock and roll faces or nods. I usually stare at the ceiling. Or my fingers.

    I remember when in the band I sang in, I used to choose someone in the audience to look at while I sang my angst-hate-riddled songs. I think it scared them sometimes.
    At least you only scared one person and not the whole audience. 
    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
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  • steven70steven70 Frets: 170
    edited April 30
    PhilM said:
     I've played in front of 10,000+ and found this easy compared to playing to 50 in a pub. 

    Not quite played to 10,000 but... agree with that and it's worse with people you know in the audience. Usually end up staring at the soundman or fixated on one of the illuminated 'Exit' signs. Flipping hate posey guitarists tho, would much rather watch someone fumble about looking at feet than pulling shapes and gurning.
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 2784
    Like most guitarists I have to keep reminding myself not to spend too much of the gig looking at the fret board. Staring at the audience like Wilco Johnson can un-nerve people in a small pub. I find it easier to focus on other band members, especially the singer when he’s on a strong vocal line, or the sax player when he’s taking a solo. Even when not watching them I’ll smile at their good bits. Looking at the audience is something I tend to do at the end of a song, nodding and/or smiling to the acknowledge applause. If someone responds when we announce a song, or when they recognise the intro, then I’ll smile in their direction.
    steven70 said: ... Flipping hate posey guitarists tho, would much rather watch someone fumble about looking at feet than pulling shapes and gurning.
    I’m sure my mouth moves with the wah.
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  • vizviz Frets: 5542
    I just try and look between the audience members so both of them feel involved. 
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  • If we're playing at one of those lovely pubs that leaves the tellies on while we're doing our thing then I'm sorted because I can't help but gaze, slack-jawed at the idiot box, whatever tripe it may be screening. 
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  • fastonebazfastonebaz Frets: 762
    I just keep moving,  stomping,  moving my head,  getting into thr groove,  look at fellow mates now and again, look at thr fretboard to check I'm on key,  look at the hot legs by thr bar and repeat,  also generally keep my eyes half closed to stop thr sweat stinging them. 
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 4426
    I just keep moving,  stomping,  moving my head,  getting into thr groove,  look at fellow mates now and again, look at thr fretboard to check I'm on key,  look at the hot legs by thr bar and repeat,  also generally keep my eyes half closed to stop thr sweat stinging them. 
    Yeah but look at the attention that gets you!
    If there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows
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  • fastonebazfastonebaz Frets: 762
    I just keep moving,  stomping,  moving my head,  getting into thr groove,  look at fellow mates now and again, look at thr fretboard to check I'm on key,  look at the hot legs by thr bar and repeat,  also generally keep my eyes half closed to stop thr sweat stinging them. 
    Yeah but look at the attention that gets you!
    Haha good point! 
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  • LuttiSLuttiS Frets: 1779
    PhilM said:
    Might be a bit of an odd one this, but I really struggle to look anywhere but my feet/pedalboard during indoor gigs. I've played in front of 10,000+ and found this easy compared to playing to 50 in a pub. Outdoor gigs usually require sunglasses so no issues there.

    What do you guys do? Stare at the back wall? The ceiling? Or do you single-out one person and look at them?
    I used to do this for one song in the set.. usually someone i know and i'd walk forward from the stage right to the front of the crowd,  stand stock still and just stare at them unblinking, unsmiling for the entire song. People around her would be open mouthed looking from her to me going wtf!? 

    Used to have quite a few people in the crowds who knew us, so it was like a joke everyone was in on and usually people tried to make me break and smile through doing increasingly stupid things, which others would then try and out do, usually ended up me breaking down laughing trying desperately not to fuck up the song. 

    Probably wouldn't work in a crowd of 10,000. 
    Or if you didn't know people around you. 
    Probably best not do do it. 
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  • hotpickupshotpickups Frets: 1147
    I struggle with this too but force myself to look up and smile as much as I can. 

    Whatever you do don’t turn your back to the audience. I hated that when a long gone singer of mine kept doing that and drove me mad as I kept asking him not to :(
    Link to my trading feedback:  http://www.thefretboard.co.uk/discussion/59452/
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3975
    I'm normally drunk when I play so not really that self conscious :) .... As I see 2 of everything I can't really stare at any one person either ... has to be both of them ! 


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • steven70steven70 Frets: 170
    edited May 1
    Interesting (maybe) and related thing to ask is who you are playing to? I mean, OK there is an audience and to some extent a 'show' happening...but who are you playing for - like your 'ideal reader' if you are writing a novel. For me it's the band, has to be, anything else is secondary. Not sure if that makes any sense likes, but...   
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  • midlifecrisismidlifecrisis Frets: 1610
    i use to look out and smile at an imaginary person in the audience, nowdays i just look around and make eyecontact . smile sometimes.
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  • siremoonsiremoon Frets: 637
    I just pick an object or spot in the room and focus on that.
    “He is like a man with a fork in a world of soup.” - Noel Gallagher
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