If you’re a fan of live music, you might be wondering why bands occasionally have rugs on stage. Interestingly, rugs present a whole host of unique of interesting benefits for band members in a live performance setting.
So, why do bands have rugs on stage? Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, rugs are much more comfortable to stand on than the stage floor itself. They’re also used to prevent trip hazards, stop equipment from sliding around the stage floor and attenuate the on-stage sound.
Keep reading for an in-depth account of each of the above benefits:
There are two types of comfort that band members derive from stage rugs:
- Physical comfort
- Emotional comfort
When headlining a show, a band will likely be stood on stage for at least 90 minutes (often with a heavy instrument strapped to them as well!). Many bands also make use of physically demanding choreography, such as jumping and dancing. This can lead to muscle fatigue in the feet and legs, which significantly impacts a band member’s ability to perform over the course of a tour. A stage rug essentially serves as a cushion, reducing muscle fatigue and making the stage floor much more comfortable to stand on.
Some band members also prefer to play barefoot in order to better-execute their choreography and obtain more control over their foot-operated effects pedals. A rug provides two comfort-related advantages for barefooted musicians:
- Softness: Rugs are much softer than the stage floor itself, making them much more comfortable to stand and execute choreography on.
- Coolness: When performing outdoors, a stage floor can absorb significant heat from both the sun and stage lights, making it unbearable to stand on barefooted. A rug absorbs much less heat than a wooden or concrete stage floor does, meaning band members are able to tolerate being barefooted.
Performing in front of thousands of people can be a nerve-racking experience. For this reason, many musicians use a rug to provide emotional comfort when performing on stage. Rugs provide emotional comfort in three distinct ways:
- Familiarity: Band members will often choose a rug that’s similar to one they have in their home, recording studio or rehearsal space. This can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity, therefore reducing the negative effects of nerves.
- Personalization: It’s common for band members to personalize their rug in order to instil a sense of authority, self-expression and control. This may be a favorite color, sports team, band, design or a treasured piece of artwork.
- Buffer: For some band members, a rug can act as a ‘buffer’ between them and the audience, helping them feel more at-ease whilst performing.
Rugs effectively prevent the following safety issues:
- Trip hazards: Stage floors are often cluttered with wires and leads, which serve as a trip hazard. To circumvent this, a rug is often used to cover all wires and leads.
- Spillages/slip hazards: Most band members will take a drink on stage with them, often placing it by their feet for ease-of-access. However, drinks are commonly knocked over when executing choreography or operating foot-controlled pedals, resulting in a slip hazard. Additionally, band members often sweat on stage, which may also cause a slip hazard. Rugs can absorb spillages, preventing slip hazards and reducing the risk of equipment being damaged.
- Instrument damage: Guitar straps will sometimes break mid-performance, sending the instrument crashing to the floor (often face down). If this happens, a rug can soften the blow and reduce the risk of the instrument being severely damaged.
As most stage floors are made from either wood or concrete, they tend to be slippery. This can cause equipment such as foot-operated pedals, microphone stands and stage monitors to slide around the stage floor, making it much more difficult for the band members to perform effectively. Similarly, band members run the risk of slipping over when manoeuvring around the stage.
To prevent equipment (and the band members themselves) from sliding around the stage floor, a non-slip rug is commonly used.
There are two primary positioning advantages that rugs offer:
- Personal space: Over the course of a tour, a band may deal with a range of different-sized stages. Often, the band won’t have time to become fully-accustomed to any one stage prior to a show, making it difficult to judge how much legroom they have during the actual performance. A rug can serve as a guide on how much legroom each band member has in order to prevent them from bumping into each other. Similarly, band members may be playing in different stage positions from show to show due to differing stage setups. If the band hasn’t had the chance to soundcheck prior to the show, rugs can allow musicians to quickly identify their place upon gracing the stage.
- Aesthetic: When playing a larger show, many members will position themselves an equal distance away from each other for aesthetic purposes. Rugs allow the musicians to stay in position and maintain a strong aesthetic.
For Sound Attenuation
Stage floors are incredibly reflective surfaces. Therefore, sound from both the amplifiers and monitors tends to get bounced around the stage, making it difficult for the band members to stay in time and hear the mix properly. Rugs help absorb some of the sound, serving as a cheap and effective form of sound attenuation.
Similarly, guitar tones can come off as a little shrill when they’re being reflected off of the stage floor. When performing in a smaller venue, rugs can remove shrill-sounding reflections by absorbing the reflected sound.
Whilst rugs offer a wide range of practical benefits, there’s also the simple fact that they look cool. When using rugs for show, bands will usually opt for one of the following designs:
- Oriental: The reason many bands use oriental rugs on stage is not only because they’re aesthetically pleasing, but also because they’re embedded in tradition. Since the early 20th century, jazz musicians have stood on oriental rugs during live concerts; a tradition that has subsequently been passed through various different genres of popular music. Similarly, a band with an oriental sound may use oriental rugs as a visual representation of their influences.
- Album art: A popular technique is to divide the album art from the most-recent album by the number of visible band members, then create rugs showcasing a different portion of the artwork for each band member. Similarly, if a band is on an anniversary tour for an older album, album-themed rugs are often constructed for aesthetic purposes.
- Colors: Colors may be used to express a band’s personality or causes they care strongly about. For example, a band with a strong focus on LGBT rights may opt for a rainbow-colored rug to represent their message.
So there you have it! All of the most-common reasons why bands have rugs on stage. If you have any further questions, feel free to comment below and I’ll reply as soon as I can!