Stage Designer looks cool, but as a cranky old sound guy, and a gigging guitarist I think the solution to the first issue is simple communications. Talk to the leader responsible for the sound system and ask them what they need.
It will probably be a simple list:
Part A: who is playing what?
Part B: what songs are planned?
Part C: who is featured on each song?
I'm quite accustomed to getting this sort of list at the start of sound check (when there is a sound check) or maybe 30 minutes before the downbeat. Not ideal, but what is? And if you get me that list a few days out I'm almost happy!
Not really your job, but if they haven't "color coded" the microphones yet you might suggest it. Not absolutely necessary, but if there is a unexpected guest performer, or an unexpected tune requested it can make life a little easier.
The rest? I'll leave that for someone else...
Excellent points, Bill.
I play a fair bit in Central Ohio.
Communication is absolutely key.
A nice friendly conversation with the Sound Guy/Girl goes a long way.
Tell the sound engineer what you need. If you need adjustments, tell them.
At this point, we've played a lot of shows... so I don't feel the need for a full sound-check.
Extended sound-checks are annoying to patrons... band members... and sound engineers.
As long as I have a decent line-check, I'm good-to-go.
A competent sound engineer can dial-in the mix "on-the-fly".
Get the sound engineer a stage-plot (as mentioned above)… preferably ahead of show day... and make sure they have a Set-List. You can add details to the Set-List. This eliminates a lot of unexpected issues.
Simplify your live setup... so that load-in, set-up, and load-out are quick/easy.
ie: We use a computer to trigger samples. If we had to connect everything individually, it would significant time.
Having the computer and audio interface setup (ready to go) in a Rack makes setup a breeze.
Connect electric, audio, and the MIDI controllers... and it's ready to go.
If you're a guitar player, have your wireless, pedals, etc (preconfigured) on a Pedal-Board.
Connect electric and audio... and you're ready to go.
IMO, Nothing worse than scrambling to get gear setup right before start time.
You've got pre-show "jitters", folks often want to talk while you're setting up gear, etc.
Ideally, I like to have all gear set-up and ready to go about an hour before show time.
That gives me plenty of time to relax, warm-up the voice, and mingle with the crowd.
Mingling with the crowd is important. Don't be the guy/gal who runs and hides during break.
Folks want to feel like they're a part of something (your show).
Taking time to talk with them before/after show (and during breaks) can help solidify a following.
Back to the sound.
ALWAYS hire commercial sound!
Cannot emphasize this enough.
Some bands think they're saving money (and can charge less) by running sound from stage.
Running sound from stage will never ever sound great.
Things will be out of balance, solos will not be properly heard, often vocals are too loud/soft, etc.
A sound engineer actively mixing the show makes a *profound* difference in the final result.
That same band that runs sound from stage may be a $500 band.
With commercial sound, the same exact band is an $800 band.
The guys make the same money, don't have to schlep PA, and sound significantly better.
Commercial sound... don't play gigs without it.
When playing the show, don't be the band that takes 30-60 seconds between songs.
Nothing kills energy quicker than disorganized bands trying to decide what they're playing next.
Once you've gotten used to a band playing songs boom, boom, boom (little to no stops), there's a huge difference in energy. Ladies get up and dancing... and you keep them there.
I'm all about the crowd.
IMO, The show should be a lot more about them... and a lot less about the actual band.
If there are any (large) egos in the band, this helps keep that in-check.
Play songs the crowd is going to love to hear.
They may not be your favorite songs... but when you hear folks singing back to you during performance, you'll suddenly realize why you're playing that song.
If you're in a bar setting, a little bit of booze is ok.
However, you have a responsibility to yourself, the band, and the crowd to be able to play/perform to the best of your ability. Sloppy drunk doesn't work on any stage large or small.
Have fun... but be professional.
If you're not looking like you're having a good time, chances are your crowd won't be.
Engage them. If you're having a good time... giving them energy... they'll give it right back to you.
That's the amazing "rush" from performing... the back/forth energy.
Be prepared for the show.
Be as well rehearsed as possible.
Plan ahead for potential problems with gear (extra cables, etc).
Have a backup guitar/instrument... or a backup if your tube-amp decides to die mid-show.
Don't assume that everything will automatically go as planned.
If something happens (tube-amp dies mid-show), handle it in a calm-professional manner.
If you're well-prepared for such things, you can move quickly/smoothly to "Plan B".