David Byrne in his excellent “How Music Works” talks about different acoustic spaces and how they change the experience for both artist and audience. My own personal experience is that this can be a fascinating process and its amazing how quickly the brain adjusts to playing in different situations.
The first time The Small Change Diaries played The Grove in Leeds I thought “Where are we all gonna fit?” Now we have played a few times, its obvious how we organise “Grove Formation” Of course platforms like “The Tiny Desk Concert” show that even in the smallest of spaces its possible to deliver a great performance. When my band first played GNUF last year, we played the underground stage which was more like a club to great effect. I looked at the main stage and thought “Wow that’s big!” After playing The Lagoa Guitar Festival where the stage was literally three times bigger, this time when playing GNUF main stage I thought “Wow it’s shrunk!”
The physical is neither “good” or “bad” just different of course, but dies result in some very different experiences. Its not just the space that determines the overall experience of course. The acoustics of a venue make a big difference as well as “the sound guy” In Lagoa we had brilliant acoustics as the venue was built with acoustic playing in mind. Also we had a brilliant sound guy and we had lots of time to sound check, something which is all too often very rare.
The strangest gig to date was a duo set in Leeds market. Yes, there was a PA, but the acoustics were terrible and during the set I kept hearing the memorable chant “Get your fresh fish, best price today!” All these experiences are invaluable in building stage awareness and this is why such performances make live playing such a fascinating experience