Can you feel the excitement?

Most bluegrass musicians now exist in a digital world we didn’t create, one in which we have to dispense with all modesty and relentlessly hype ourselves on various social media. Let’s face it: some among us relish this opportunity to engage in a steady stream of own-horn-tooting, while others of us still feel pretty uncomfortable with it, maybe even a little dirty.

One daunting task all of us have, though, is to figure out how to do this most effectively, without sounding like a broken record (with the revival of the LP, I thankfully no longer have to explain this cliche to millennials). In past columns, I’ve discussed the issue of trying to understand ever-changing Facebook algorithms. Whatever I said then is, of course, completely invalid and outdated information today, as is whatever you read about it two months ago. But no matter how many seminars we attend on how to make use of social media in our music business, and no matter how up to date and savvy we may feel about this stuff, we still face the struggle of how to be more original in our self-promotional posts.

As is the case with the writing of promotional material, finding better adjectives that aren’t overused continues to be a challenge. I’ve written in the past about the need to move beyond “dynamic,” “hard-driving,” and the fossil fuels-influenced “high-octane,” but what about the short social media post, attempting to generate interest in our upcoming gig, or our current chart performance?

I know I personally have a lot of trouble describing the positive way I or my band is feeling about the next gig, without having it sound exactly like how I felt about our last gig. I’m sure if you scroll through my band Facebook page or Twitter account (please don’t do this), you’ll see flagrant overuse of the word “excited”: “We’re excited to be playing at the Walnut Valley Festival!,” or “We’re excited to be returning to the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michiigan!” or “We’re excited to be playing the back room of The Kingpin Bowling Alley in Beloit, WI!”

That’s a lot of excitement. And note that it doesn’t attempt to differentiate between levels of excitement about these various gigs. I can tell you, in all honesty, that I am in fact very excited about returning to the Walnut Valley Festival and the Acorn Theater—a couple of our favorite places to play, while I’m less excited about the back room of the bowling alley in Beloit, a pickup gig we had to take en route to points west (I recognize that now we’ll probably never play there again—I’ll miss the grilled cheese). This makes the excitement seem a little insincere, and the word then carries less exciting weight than it should about the first two shows. Still, to the social media audience, I feel the need to be perpetually excited about everything, so “excited” I remain.

Surely there are better and more creative ways to engage in this kind of self-hype. Maybe its time to introduce new adjectives into the process, and perhaps try to set some more honest standards for how motivated we are to play certain gigs, or how happy we are about certain career developments. 

Note that even in this era of hyperbole we live in, tacking on multiple adverbs to the same adjective is not a solution to the problem, in my opinion, e.g. “we’re really really excited about our upcoming west coast tour!”

Before I list some adjective alternatives, I should stress that simply plugging in adjectives to your post randomly, in Mad libs style, is not recommended, otherwise you’ll end up with social media posts looking like this:

“We’re really feeling sweaty about playing the Lincoln Theatre this coming Friday. It’s a fragile place to play.”

Below are some new descriptive words and phrases to consider as alternatives to “excited,” “very pleased,” and “really really super happy,” with an attempt to separate them according to level of positivity:

For a gig you are truly excited about, for example, a number 1 song on a chart, the release of your new album that’s been two years in the making, or the birth of your first child:

  • thrilled
  • truly thankful
  • gleeful
  • honored
  • elated
  • over the moon
  • fired up
  • ecstatic
  • bursting with gratitude
  • on cloud 9
  • blessed (gospel band)
  • stoked (California band)
  • jazzed (aging hipster band)

For a smallish gig you’re happy to be playing, a top 20 song on a chart, the release of a compilation of your past hits, the birth of a third cousin:

  • gratified
  • pleased
  • optimistic
  • content
  • thankful
  • relatively enthusiastic
  • on cloud 6

For a gig you’d rather not be playing but still need to promote, a number 32 song on a highly specialized chart that was just created last week, the release of your bluegrass tribute EP to Neil Diamond, the birth of your ex-wife’s child:

  • interested 
  • comfortable 
  • satisfied
  • non-plussed
  • relatively okay 
  • accepting
  • meh

Tip: don’t just go to a thesaurus and look up “excited,” then enter any of the synonyms you find; you could end up with adjectives like “aroused,” and “hot-and-bothered.” Maybe there’s a bluegrass artist out there who really feels this way about an upcoming house concert date, but it would have to be a very special occasion.

Avoid these adjectives, if possible:

  • traumatized
  • enraged
  • insecure
  • scared
  • lustful
  • delusional
  • green

When in doubt, you can alway just post an image and write, “woo-hoo!!”