How to Do a Farewell Show The Right Way
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
My band has been been together for about six years and in that time we've done some really cool things. We've released records, supported tours, headlined tours, played festivals, and more. We've had a great run and we are proud of what we've been able to do, but after all of those years of putting in close to full-time effort, recently everybody is drifting in other directions of life; baby, travel, work, etc. The question before us is whether we should break up permanently or take a "hiatus." There is no ill will between any of us, and down the road we may feel like coming back to the band in some form, or we may not. I just don't know if we should close the door forever if there's not really any reason to close it.
Also, and maybe more importantly, if we did decide to be done for good, where do you stand on "farewell shows?" I am not into the idea, but the rest of the band really wants to do it. They seem melodramatic and presumptuous to me.
I get what you mean about farewell shows seeming kind of over the top; the last half-decade of nostalgia-milking reunion tours and subsequent reunion tours that have re-started long dormant bands has de-stigmatized it, or at least bumped down the corniness factor. Since what you are saying makes it sound like it could be a real possibility that this is a last hurrah for a while, if not permanently, it's almost a courtesy to fans who have invested in the last six years.
Leave the door open by calling it a hiatus so it's less of a deal if you guys find that there is space in your lives to recommit to band activity. Announce them as your last shows for a while, for the foreseeable future--and do something cool to blow it out. Maybe the show/s at a more intimate venue that was crucial to your band's development, give away all your merch that would otherwise be moldering in someone's basement, sign all of it; make a commemorative button or tote bag or beach ball. Relearn early songs, have a social media fan-made setlist contest, blow the venue out with some prom-grade decorating scheme. If you don't have any band debt to pay off, make the whole thing a benefit for an organization whose mission is close to your band's heart.
This is to honor all the effort that the last six years you have put in to it, your connection to each other, your fans and the bookers, bartenders and bands that have supported you. I wish people did special shows more often, anyhow, but do something fun and make sure you put on a good show to leave on a high note. And then stay gone for at least a year. Do not come back from the dead in five months. Let everyone have a chance to miss you for a while.