5 Things I've Learned About Pleasing the Crowd

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By Jeff Kazee

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ mix of loud guitars, thunderous brass, a fantastically salty singer/storyteller, and rocking piano and Hammond B-3 has inspired me since I joined the band in 1998. Here are the five most important things I’ve learned playing in my band that I’m convinced will help you play in yours.

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1. Hammond as Horn Section
Horns can be an amazing addition to a band, but they often occupy the same sonic space as the Hammond organ. On fast rock tunes, I often use the Hammond as a faux second horn section, answering their riffs with punches of my own in the cracks. This creates a ping-pong rhythm that can help a song climb higher on those extended jams towards the end. I prefer fast Leslie speed for this.

2. Go Off the Set List
Not only do the Asbury Jukes have over 175 original tunes, we also know countless covers and aren’t afraid to pull from outside the set list. Did a famous musician die that week? We might play a musical tribute to him or her. Gigging in Baltimore? We might add Graham Parson’s “Baltimore” to the set.

3. Resist the Urge to Fill
In our band, chances are that Guitarist 1 is filling, and if he isn’t, Guitarist 2 is. Often times, I channel my inner Benmont Tench and keep it simple. Ever hear a Tom Petty solo section and wonder where the rest of the solo went? Sometimes, the best fill is the one you don’t play.

4. Dialogue with the Singer
Extended spoken intros over music can make the difference between a good show and an unforgettable one. Often, I complement Southside Johnny’s narrative with compelling musical conversation, guiding the volume and pace of the band via riffs that react to his words and tone. Watch your singer’s body language—it will let you know if the two of you are telling the same story.

5. Entertain Them
While some in the audience might know all the words to your songs, many of them don’t and are waiting for you to win them over. Even the smallest interaction with your fellow musicians and audience members can go a long way.

Watch Jeff play with Early Elton, his Elton John tribute band.