For the past 6 months I have been making album tracks with the exact same live modular case, using the same master patch. So it’s very easy to transfer specific album tracks to play live. I do improvise within the track but there is 90% structure to each track.
The big thing for me is I rehearse a lot before a gig. I start at least 10 - 14 days before and rehearse about 4 to 5 hours a day, so everything becomes second nature and you don’t have to think too much at gig time. I also record full sets to DAW every few days so I can see the timings / and change the track listing. I don’t care if I play a bar with 3 people or a room with 3000, I rehearse the same way. I think preparation / rehearsal is the most important thing about playing live. I also plan a lot for backups in case certain modules break / fail, so I also have alternative song, like easy self generating patches in an emergency. I also carry extra long patch cables that covers the whole length of the case. I’ve had some fail at soundcheck. I have backups on USB of every firmware / tune / hex / txt file for Earthsea, Teletype, Ansible, ER301. I also upload to a Dropbox account in case I lose the USB.
I do switch styles during my set and also look closely at the kinds of music the support acts play and the type of audience. If the support plays say techno, with a lot of drum heavy beats, I’ll cut out a lot of my drum stuff and play more melodic, ambient stuff. If someone’s playing ambient, I’ll play more glitchy drum stuff. I am very aware that audiences can get bored after 5 minutes and start going for their phones and is the reason I play different styles of music. I also play some stuff by hand improvised and other stuff sequenced. Some of the sequences stuff is live sequencing and live looping also. I think the audience appreciate it more when they see you doing stuff, instead of just pressing play on a sequencer and twiddling a few knobs. My system is I guess is a hybrid, digital sampling / analog synth.
I use different monome sequencers as it allows me to switch styles of music quickly - Earthsea, Levels, Kria, Meadowphysics. I also have enough material prepared that if any one sequencer module fails, I am covered by the other modules. I no longer rely on one sequencer module to make tunes. I split the case in half. The left side is analog, melodic, sequencing side - run by Kria, Levels and Meadowphysics. The right side I lean heavily on er301, glitchy, sound design, drum stuff run by Earthsea which I play improvised by hand. Down the middle is a master mixer we’re I fade from left side to the next. I treat the live modular a little like a dj. While I’m playing a track on the right side of my case, I am lining up the next track / sequencer on the left side. I use a different sequencer per track. I also use a looper pedal to hold the end of 1 song before fading into the next. If things go pear shaped during a track changeover I increase the reverb mix send to max while I sort it out. I do plan a lot around switching over of songs as I am paranoid about a quiet dead space. Since playing live I am shocked at the number of modular artists that don’t carry their own small external mixer - it isn’t absolutely essential in my book - just to see audio levels, tweak and eq, or just using the headphones during soundcheck. An external mixer just gives you a bit of extra control rather than leaving it to a potential dodgy sound / house engineer.
Other things I did to minimise setup time at gigs was to buy flat right angle patch cables - so no patching required… everything is prepatched. I made things smaller, so easier to carry. I use H9’s instead of the larger Factor pedals. I use a few external effects so I bought a shared power supply that powers all of them and only need 1 powerstrip / 3 plug sockets. I changed my external mixer to a smaller one. I play tuned sequences and was spending too much time at sound checks, tuning oscillators externally. Now I use a 4hp one from Noise Engineering that is permanently patćhed to the oscillators. I now can now retune instantly, I check a few minutes before I start playing.
I think the other key thing to note about playing live is that you are now not only in the music business, you are in the entertainment industry when you step onto a stage. You are playing to entertain people who have sometimes paid to watch, so I don’t play obscure b side type material and try and play something that I think the audience will enjoy. That might sound like a really obvious thing to say, but a lot of artists I feel don’t think like that.
Ps - I also check in my isms modular case every time at the airport as it comes with a custom pelicon case which is rock solid. Since getting the er301 I can now happily play with 3u for live with lots of variation which I couldn’t really do before.