Preshow’ing your show

One of the great things about performing at fairs is getting to see all of the other acts at the fairgrounds! You can learn a lot from watching other acts!

One of the huge lessons is watching everyone’s preshow audience build/warm up. The different act have different goals with their starting audience. Some want as many people as possible and some want to select their audience and try to get the people who aren’t into what they do to leave. Neither approach is right or wrong, but which ever way you do it, it should be intentional!

Tomorrow my week starts with performing at the Moisture Festival in Seattle. This is a variety arts festival and the shows are in a theater, so I don’t get to try to select my audience. I get to perform for whoever bought a ticket. This festival is a blast, so it’ll be fun!


A Day Booking Fairs

My core market is performing at state and county fairs across the USA. I do perform in a lot of other markets, but that’s the one that’s the biggest chunk of my income. Magicians and other performers frequently ask me how to get into fairs. Most fairs book at conventions, and here’s what a day looks like at a fair convention.

Get up and head to the coffee shop for breakfast and to do my morning writing and to get any work out of the way as I’m going to be busy until I go to bed. Then it’s a walk back to hotel to get changed and head to the convention center.

I’ll be exhibiting at the trade show as well as showcasing my act later in the day. I get the tradeshow floor early to chat with people and do some networking. You can get a lot of work from friends referring you for a gig because they’re unavailable, or from an unrelated act that a booker mentions they need a magician to.

The trade show was open 5 hours, so I spent most of that time talking to people and doing close up magic at the booth.

fair trade show

After a couple hours in the booth, I ran over to the showcase stage and did a 15 minute showcase.

louie foxx fair magic show

After the showcase and briefly talking to people at the stage, I headed back to the booth to wrap up the tradeshow day doing close up magic. The trade show booth is immediately packed up once the trade show closes.

trade show
close up bar magic

Now that the tradeshow day is over, I head back to the hotel room and freshen up before I head out for an evening of networking. This is where the real relationship building happens. I’m out around town meeting and hanging out with people. I normally just hang out and don’t do a lot of magic for people, but occasionally I do when it makes sense. Also when hanging out, many of the people who run fairs are my friends, so I’m chatting with friends and not always trying to sell my show.

Another thing that I like to do at these is find other magicians and jam with them.

magic jam in salt lake city

Some performers think that jamming is a waste of time at these because you’re not out talking to bookers. I do it for a couple of reasons. First it shows bookers who are all around and see this know that I’m a MAGICIAN, not some dude that does a couple of magic tricks, and second I love jamming magic!

Then I go to bed, and get up and hop a flight home!

These conferences take place over several days and it’s exhausting, but also a lot of fun. I think they’re a great way to book shows, however they’re not necessarily the best way for everyone to book shows. Some people aren’t good in a trade show booth, or can’t nail their show every time at a showcase. Then there’s the financial consideration, these are expensive to go to, and without any sort of guarantee of a payout…and the gig won’t happen for months!


The Rocket Card Fountain

I’m still working on my Rising Card routine. At the end of it I’m doing a bit where I push the out jogged card back into the deck and it rises up again. I do that several times, but the bit is lacking an ending. It’s the same joke over and over again.

I’m thinking that maybe after it gets pushed down and pops up a few times, I set the glass into my case, THEN all the cards come shooting out of the glass.

I started playing with it in the green room at the fair a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t really try it at any shows at the fair as I don’t want to deal with the clean up of cards everywhere at the stage I’m at.

Here’s what the ideas will look like:

I’m using The Rocket card fountain. I really like this, it’s pretty quiet and so far is very reliable. I can’t wait to actually try it in the show!


ProMystic Color Match FTW!

About a week ago I was able to switch back to using the ProMystic Color Match and I’ve been using it with 100% success! I’m glad to be able to not Anverdi Color Match set where I was constantly getting a missed signal. That doesn’t mean that the Anverdi set is bad, it just doesn’t work for how I work.

The ProMystic set is the set I’ve used for years, and that may be why I prefer it. I know why it works, and when it doesn’t, I know why it’s not working. I feel like I definitely committed giving the Anverdi set a chance. I know tons of people that prefer the Anverdi set over the ProMystic. I think ultimately your performing style will dictate which works better for you.


News Highlight Reel!

Last week I was performing at Montana Fair in Billings, MT. One day the news was there taking video for their fair highlights. This is always tricky for me as if I don’t talk to them, they will always use a super wide shot that’s out of context and makes no sense. In a highlight reel, stuff doesn’t need a lot of context if the content is chosen correctly.

What I do is try to talk to them or whoever the media coordinator is and do staged video where I act like I’m performing for a crowd and we put the camera onstage to get video that’s better framed and I use tricks that you don’t need much context to understand what’s happening.

Here’s the video from last week:

Whenever possible I try to show or tell them what I’m going to do so that they know what to expect and can put their camera in a good spot. I will also tell them the bad spots to record from if there are any.


Dealing With Interruptions

Last weekend I had to deal with a crazy interruption during my show. It’s something I’ve never really had to deal with during a show. Independent of the fair that I was performing at was an airshow….and my show was the same time as the Blue Angels!

There’s really not much that I can do, the planes are loud and let’s face it, way more exciting than my show. I made a few jokes about, and stopped the show while they were performing, that’s really all that I could do.

That’s the most expensive opening act I’ve ever had!

It was only two days of an eight day gig, so there were plenty more shows to do without conflicting with the air show!


Improvised Storage!

This week the stage I’m performing on has a dressing area off to the side of it. I’ve been using it as storage for my show props overnight. I don’t just leave my props set up overnight because the dressing area is a tent. I pack the show back up, but leave the cases in the dressing area.

Since the fair is still open after I’m finished for the day, and no one is really patrolling the dressing area when the fair is closed, I lock up my gear.

magic show props

I’m using a bicycle cable to lock my gear to one of the tent posts. Sure, someone could probably cut the cables or locks, but I’m guessing the average person doesn’t bring cable cutters to the fair!

This gives me a bit of peace of mind and keeps me from having to lug my gear across the fairground at the beginning and end of day.


Pop Up Banner to the Rescue!

This week I’m sharing a stage with a show that has a large structure for puppets.

This structure can’t move between shows, so I have to perform in front of it. I don’t like having other acts stuff behind me while I perform and normally I will make the other act move their stuff to the side during my show. However that’s not an option this week. Luckily I had my pop up banner with me that I use at library shows.

This was a decent solution to covering up their puppet structure. The bonus is that it also has my name onstage behind me while I’m performing.


Six Tips for Surviving Outdoor Summer Gigs

This year I’m performing about one hundred days outside at fairgrounds across the USA. That’s a lot of shows outside!  Over the years I’ve learned a few things to make performing outdoors a little easier on your body.  This is what works for me, your mileage may vary.

Hydrate:  If you’re going to be performing outdoors, you need to hydrate. That doesn’t mean just drinking water during  your show, it means drinking water the day before your outdoor gig.  You need to start the day hydrated.   For me that means drinking at least a gallon of water a day the day before my first day of outdoor gigs and at least a gallon every day I’m in the sun. 

A good indicator of hydration is the color of your pee.  More info on this is at

Sunblock:  Use it correctly.  Apply it 15-30 before you’re in the sun.  I use one that’s for waterproof or for “sport” due to sweating during the show.

Summer Costume:  You need something to wear that’s consistent with your character that is also lighter weight and breathable.  One thing that I do is have a version of what I wear onstage for indoor gigs, but had a tailor convert the pants into shorts and cut the sleeves short.  It makes a huge difference!

Keeping Fresh:  Use a 50/50 mix of water and cheap vodka and put it into a spray bottle.  I use this to deodorize my clothes between shows or at the end of the day.   More info at:

Stay Dry:  I keep a hand towel in my case to dry myself off during shows when I get sweaty.  A magician dripping with sweat isn’t the best look.

Take Breaks:  In between shows I get out of the sun. There’s no shame in sitting for a bit in your car with the AC on to cool off.


Building a Crowd

One thing about performing outdoors is that the weather can make pulling a crowd very difficult. Last week at a fair, on Sunday it rained hard all day and attendance was really low during the day. I had the last show of the night and my show started an hour before the fair closed, so there was literally no one on the fairgrounds!

The picture above was taken from the stage about 5 minutes before my show’s start time. The challenge is what do you do? I probably could have called off the show and the fair would have been OK with that. Personally I will stand on stage and talk for however long my show is supposed to last. I can usually make something happen, but I wasn’t optimistic about a show happening.

Right after show start time I was on the mic working on jokes, and two people walked by and I started talking to them and got them to sit down and did some informal magic for them from the stage.

At this point with less than an hour left in the fair and a break in the rain, some other people started to venture out of the buildings, and about 15 mins into my show I actually had a crowd!

It wasn’t the biggest crowd I’ve ever had, but I did end up getting about 90% of people who walked by my show to join the crowd, so that’s HUGE!

The moral of this story is always work hard on stage and don’t “phone it in”.