Over the weekend, while hearing apologies from a band member in the band I watched (and enjoyed the hell out of), something hit me. Not physically, but mentally. When there's a show, there are actually two shows going on. Meaning, there's the perspective from the audience, and then there's the perspective from the band. Too often, those perspectives don't seem to cross.
I've played many shows where something went wrong. That something might have been a missed musical cue or equipment issues, but rarely have I talked to an audience member that noticed the problem or thought it was a big deal. Yet when you get the band's perspective, those gaffes seemed to make the show one of the worst shows of all eternity.
In the case of what I saw over the weekend, I could tell there were some issues with a guitar, the amp, and the PA. Based on the looks between members and the soundman, things seemed to be frustrating all around. But for me as a fan, that didn't hamper the show. This was a band I wanted to see, and so many things went right for them that night.
In hopes this doesn't sound like a "don't sweat the small stuff" sort of discussion, I counter with how a person defines "small stuff" and "big stuff." If your desire as a band is to play as well as possible and not have equipment issues, then having a show hampered by sound issues is a big deal. But if your desire as a fan is to enjoy a show, hear your favorite songs (and hear new ones as well), and see a band play well together, then that stuff is small potatoes.
All this said, I could just be way too lenient. I remember a few years ago when a local favorite got a chance to play on a late-night TV talk show. As happy as I was to see the band play and get some great national exposure, all I read on the band's message board the following day was how loud the bass sounded. Um, what? You choose to overlook a great band share their charm on national TV and all you have to say about it is a bunch of nitpicking? That's not my style.
Frankly, I laugh at the idea that a band should practice over and over again in hopes of putting on a flawless show. As I've seen with my friends' bands and some of my own experiences, you enter a completely different world the minute you play outside of your practice space. If anything, you'd just better have your songs down and hope for the best. And it's important to remember that mistakes are going to happen, it's just how you choose to learn from those mistakes.