One thing that’s important is to be prepared when you go to a gig. Recently I was performing at a fair and hanging out with a sound guy who is my friend at his stage. He was at the community stage and had an act that didn’t bring a converter to get the audio output from his phone to a 1/8 inch jack.
This act was a singer, and sang to a music on his phone, so his only “instrument” was his iPhone. He didn’t bring the adapter dongle to convert the lightning plug to something that the stage’s sound system can plug into. Converters to specific phones aren’t something standard that a sound company normally has. They have audio cables that end in a 1/8 inch audio jack.
This singer spent all of his tech time running around to try to find an adapter, and finally had a friend bring him one from home. He was so frazzled when he started, he had rough show. When your show hinges on a $20 adapter, you should have three of them. One in your glove box, one in trunk of your car and one in your pocket. Honestly, that person should be travelling with a DI box as well, that was there have zero issues when they arrive at the venue.
Looking at little things like carrying an adapter, or audio cord can make your life a lot easier, and shows go a lot more stress free!
Yes, I do understand that there are times and places where you shouldn’t expect to have to bring your own DI box, like in an equity theater, however you should also have noted that you need one on your tech sheet. I should say that I would never expect the venue to provide a phone adapter.
If you need it and it’s possible, bring it! -Louie
One of the things about working a lot is you see your gear a lot and how dirty your stuff gets sneaks up on you. I try to give all of my gear a good cleaning at the end of every run. One thing that I missed was my microphone windscreen. It’s probably been a month or so since I replaced it.
It’s pretty gross!
Then there’s my shoes, I wipe them down every day. Here’s them at the end of a 6 day fair run:
They get a good cleaning at the end of the run. If I didn’t give them a quick clean everyday, they would get crazy gross and the deep clean a the end of the week gets them ready for the next contract!
…so the moral of the story is clean everything, not just the show props!
One of the things I hate is when people tell me they “have a joke that I can use in my act“, then proceed to tell the me the lamest, street joke. I always let them tell it to me, and laugh to be polite, but it’s never a good or original joke.
I recently had a musician working the same event as I was “give” me this joke: You show a beer and say, “I’m going to make this beer disappear” then you drink the beer. It’s a stupid joke because everyone gets to the punchline before you can deliver, that and the payoff isn’t that good. I’m sure some hack comedy magicians will tell me they kill with that gag, and if they actually do, good for them.
One of the reasons I always let the person tell me the joke is you never know what it will spark in your brain. The joke made me think of the old Ever Filling Glass. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a glass that you drink from and then it’s full again.
Here’s a demo video of it I found:
If you pared that trick with joke, you might have something that has a magical pay out.
You show the glass and a handkerchief. Say “the beer will disappear” and cover it with the handkerchief. Pretend to drink the beer from under the handkerchief and then show the cup almost empty. You then recover the glass, say, “it’s going to reappear…now!” and whisk the handkerchief away to show it’s now full again!
I think this would also work with Mago Murphy’s Appearing Beer Trick, you’d just have to work it slightly differently, starting with the full beer and stealing the gimmick while you pretend to drink it.
I don’t think I’ll ever do this, but it’s an idea…
Here’s the highlight reel of my shows at a fair last week!
You’ll notice the peeling off the center of a card trick in there. I’m really liking the trick and starting to think that I don’t necessarily need to custom print anything, and that I can use what currently exists to do the trick. One of the cool things about doing roving at a fair, you can do a trick hundreds of times in a short amount of time. You learn if something works or not very quickly!
This week I’m performing on a stage that has always given me trouble. I’ve performed on this stage on eight of the last eleven years and always struggled.
There are a couple of problems with the stage, it’s really dark and deep, so my show gets lost on the stage. Then you add in that you have about 25 feet between you and the first row of benches. Keep in mind the first three rows benches are in the sun most of the day, so unoccupied and basically a physical barrier between you and the audience. That puts the first row of people closer to 40 feet away from you!
The last time I was there was in 2019 and realized that if I moved the drum riser to the front of the concrete dance floor it would move me closer to the audience. That made a huge difference and this year I remembered to do that and my shows are doing well on that stage…well technically doing well on a drum riser on a dance floor.
If your show is struggling in a venue, look at the obstacles that are there and try to figure out solutions. Sometimes there are no solutions that are reasonably fixable, like a post in front of the stage. However many times there are solutions, if you think about the problem.
As magic has more and more electronic tricks that are mass marketed a few problems are popping up. First one is customer support if they don’t work correctly. Usually the manufacturer doesn’t have incentive to repair the item. Sure they may replace it if you recently purchased it, but after that your main option would by buying a new one.
That’s why I like companies like ProMystic. They sell higher end products, and they will repair them. For example I’ve used their trick Inception for about four years and the screen went out on it. This is not their fault, I’ve used it in close to 1,000 shows across the USA (and North America) and over the years it’s been dropped, gotten wet, and still worked like a champ, even without the screen!
I finally had a gap in my schedule where I don’t need it and sent it in to them for repairs. For way cheaper than I thought it would cost for a screen replacement, they put a new one on it and it’ll be waiting for me when I get home in a few days.
For me having the option to have a four year old prop repaired instead of buying a new one is great! If you’ve been on the fence about getting anything from ProMystic, they are a great company and stand behind their products and help with support long after your purchase!
Show business is funny. In less 24 hours you can go from performing outdoors in the full sun (I’m not complaining, I love outdoor gigs):
To performing indoors at a really cool theater!
While both shows are similar, there are things that I do indoors that I don’t do outdoors and things I do outdoors that I don’t do indoors. There are reasons for that, the audiences are different. Inside I can take a little bit of time with things, so I can do some slower tricks. Outdoors everything is a bit quicker and I’m a little more aggressive when I perform.
I enjoy indoors and outdoor performing, and both have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. As a performer you need to learn what material of yours works in each situation. -Louie
There are some props that have always baffled me as they don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. The props for the Rice, Orange and Checkers trick is one of them. Below is a Rings n’ Things set that I own:
The middle container is the rice vase where you fill with rice, then rice turns into an orange. At the hotel I’m at, I found what I think it’s supposed to be in real life:
I don’t think anyone has really used containers like that in my lifetime, but I found what they rice vase is supposed to look like! I now only slightly less dislike the Rice, Orange and Checkers trick.
Right now we’re in the middle of the summer outdoor performing season. One of nice things about performing at fairs which are multi-day events is that you only need to load in once and load out once. After the first day my gear lives at the fair. Normally they are supposed to have a space for me to store my gear on the grounds, however that doesn’t always happen.
Last week my stage was a trailer and to avoid doing a complete pack out everyday, I locked my show to a chain that was under the stage!
Is this the most secure way to store a show? Probably not, however anytime you store your gear anywhere you are taking a risk. The amount of “locked” storage areas where I keep my trunk which seem to never actually be locked is very high! At some point you have to have faith that no one is going to the fair to steal your show. It does happen, I know of people that have had things stolen, however it’s pretty rare if you take basic precautions like locking things up.
Yesterday I took a quick break from performing on the fair circuit and did a senior show. This was a “monthly activity” for seniors at a retirement community. Most of these places need entertainment and host multiple entertainers a month to perform at things like monthly birthdays, holidays, etc.
If you’d like more info on performing senior shows check out my book How To Perform For Seniors which teaches you how to market and perform shows at these communities.
My current 40-45 minute show fits into the black case, which is briefcase sized.
The yellow case is my audio gear.
The show was put together to visually fill a little bit of space and not look like I’m just using flat handheld props that were selected because they easily fit into a briefcase.
The nice thing about this show is that it can be done using people from the audience, and it can also be done “no contact”, so no one from the audience joins me on the stage or handles any props.
Aside from any COVID restrictions, the no contact option is handy as sometimes you’ll have a less mobile group and it’s not easy to have people join you on stage. Having them interact from their seats is good, however if you physically go to them in the back row, a lot of the audience can’t see what’s happening. When you talk to them from the stage and the magic still happens onstage the whole audience can see what’s going on.