October 3, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

“Always leave them wanting more.”

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’ve been to a show lately. Maybe you’ve even been to a few lately; it’s touring season, after all. Shows come in all shapes, sizes and lengths for a lot of different reasons, but here’s the thing: There’s a perfect amount of show that’s used rather sparingly.The perfect amount of bands on any given show regardless of set length is, in fact, three. All shows should be three band shows. Three band shows are the Goldilocks of shows.

Four band shows, arguably the most common iteration, have a larger margin of error than three band shows. So much can happen. The opener could be an inexperienced, unprepared dud; the second or third band could play too long, forcing the headliner to cut their set short to make curfew; the headliner could also, and this is more likely, drone on for too long and cause fans in attendance to mentally tune out; more changeovers equal more downtime equal more people yawning between bands (which then causes them to yawn during bands, too). These problems become augmented on five band shows, which are also shockingly common, or even worse, six or seven band shows. If a show has more than five bands on it, there should at least be free pizza provided by the promoter to the attendees.

Three band shows allow for a lot of good things to happen more easily. A lot of the time, the opening bands will be allocated a little more time than the standard 25-30 minute set, which can make for stronger performances with more calculated risk-taking, and the chance that maybe you’ll hear that deep cut or b-side you’ve always wanted to hear live. It also allows for more time and flexibility should something go wrong—if equipment issues arise, there’s far less pressure to rush through them when there aren’t several more bands that need to play before curfew.

Assuming changeovers are 20 minutes each between bands, three band shows will have 40 minutes of changeover as opposed to an hour for four band shows, 80 minutes for five band shows or 100 minutes for six band shows. An hour or more is a long time to stand around, waiting for something to happen. That time can zap the energy right out of the room to the point where, by the time the headliner finally takes the stage, fans are more ready for it all to be over than they are ready to rock or mosh or stage dive or whatever. We’re living in an era in which attention spans are at an all-time low; efficiency is paramount.

On three band shows, each set feels like an important event to the attendee. Paying attention to every drum hit, guitar riff and vocal inflection is far easier when in the back of your mind, you know that these bands are going to play and get you home at a reasonable hour. It’s odd; maybe it’s a feeling exclusive to older showgoers, but getting hyped and staying hyped is a lot easier at a three band show than for any other type of show. Hey, some of us have work in the morning!

Some promoters have a hard time saying no to bands who want to be added onto three band shows. They should say no. That show’s already full, they might say, but there’s a show coming up in two weeks that could use a third and final band, they’d continue. The band, schedule permitting, would happily accept, knowing full well that it’s better to be one of three than one of four, one of five, one of six or one of seven. Maybe they’d practice harder before the show to ensure they had enough strong material ready to fill a slightly longer set time. Maybe they’d go to practice and just drink beer instead of practicing, but either way, they’d have a better spot and the fans would have more reason to pay attention to them.

We all have lives here. Let’s quite literally get this show on the road.