Witnessing Band's First Gig

In this article you'll find just a story about the rock and roll dream.

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This article is not a how-to, and I'm not trying to give any pointers, so don't be angry if you get to the end and you haven't learned anything. It's just a story about the rock and roll dream.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my friend Andy, who told me his band was about to play their first show. He asked me if I wanted to come along and check them out, and he told me he'd get me in for free if I gave them a hand with their gear. I said sure, since I'm always happy to go out and see a few bands, especially when it's not costing me anything. Also, I think there's something special about seeing a band perform their first gig ever.

The night of the show, Andy and his partner-n-crime, Dan, picked me up. I should tell you right now that these two guys have got balls. They've got great big hairy brass balls, and I'm talking about daring, determination and fortitude, not about their actual genitalia, which I've never seen. Andy and Dan are from a small town in England, and they felt that they didn't have a chance to get above the local pub/covers act routine in the area, so they decided to sell all their shit and head to a city where they could break through. The two cities they looked at were Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia. After a bit of research, they picked Sydney.

Due to immigration laws, it's only possible to spend one year in Australia in most cases, unless you are sponsored by a family member or a business. That means from the moment the boys touched down on Aussie soil, they had 365 days to get set up, audition members and get a line-up together, jam out and learn a complete set of songs, gig local bars and clubs, get the attention of a record company and finally get signed, so that they wouldn't have to leave the country again. You want daring? That's daring. You want determination? That's determination. Hell, that may even be a little bit crazy.

I actually met these two guitar-slingers when I tried out for them on bass. They had me jam with them for almost a month before they said, Look Nolan, you're all right, but we need someone with a bit more polish. Actually, they needed someone good. I mean, I'm an okay player, but I'm not get your band signed in twelve months or your money back good.

The night of the gig, the boys drove out to this rough-looking bar, way past the airport (standard for a first gig, I think). I asked them how they managed to get a show so far out of the way and they told me they did it the old-fashioned way: they recorded a four song demo at their practice facility and drove copies out to every bar they found listed in the local rock magazine (probably forty or fifty places). This was the only place that had called them back.

We met the other members of the band there, and got all their gear inside. There would be no sound checkthey were second on a bill of four bands and would be expected to plug in, do a quick levels check and play.

By the time the first band was playing, the lead singer still hadn't shown up. It seems the others players were used to this from him, but they needed him there fast. They also needed the forty friends and relatives he promised to bring with him to fill in the audience. He finally showed up about half an hour before the band was due on stage, and he came in force. There were only about a dozen people in the stage area watching the first act, but the singer brought two dozen more people with him.

The first band finished up, and we got all the gear up and plugged in. The sound tech started going through the levels of the drums when the power cut out, leaving the stage in total blackness. Something had blown, and there was no electricity at all to the stage area. The boys cleared out of the way, and the bar staff got to work, climbing under the stage with flashlights, trying to correct the problem. It took about twenty minutes to get everything back up, while the band stood at the side muttering about bad omens.

Screaming Thunder (not the band's actual name, but just as cheesy as the one they picked) was supposed to start playing at nine, and they didn't get their sound check done until nine fifteen. The crowd was patient, because it was almost entirely made up of their friends. They finally got going, and their first song went well, although the guitars sounded somewhat thin. After the second song, Dan, the rhythm guitarist, told the sound tech his monitor was off. They couldn't get it back on. For the rest of the gig, a staff member was crouched in front of Dan's monitor trying to get the damn thing to work.

Andy was having similar troubles. Andy uses several effects pedals, and a bad connection somewhere between them was causing his sound to cut in and out. The songs sounded pretty good, and the crowd was having a good time, but there were long pauses between each song as the boys tried to straighten out their equipment. The delays interrupted the flow of the set, so it was hard to get a steady pace to the show. During the songs, the players stood stiff, too concerned about the equipment problems they were having to cut loose and have fun, and too nervous to rock along with the set of good tunes they had written.

When it was over and they got off the stage, they got a big cheer from their supportive audience. Most people didn't seem to notice the problems they were having, and the strength of the songs got them through the difficulties. The people in the audience were able to focus on what was in front of them: five talented players, working their way through a dozen well-written songs.

The first thing Andy said to me when the equipment was out of the way was this: Did that sound as bad in the crowd as it did on stage? Since the guys had had nothing but technical troubles from before they even started playing, that was what they focused on. Each player had a different thing to worry about. Their dialogue sounded something like this:

Drummer: Oh guys, I screwed up the first song so bad. Man, I really blew it.

Bass Player: Man, that's nothing. I made big mistakes in every song.

Singer: Yeah, I was way off. Oh shit, and I forgot the words, too.

Rhythm Guitarist: I couldn't hear myself, so I didn't even know what I was playing.

Lead Guitarist: My guitar kept cutting out. I sounded horrible.

And then, every player in unison: I'm sorry guys. I let the band down. Even after all of their pals in the audience told them they sounded pretty good, they still focused on the negatives. But as the stress of playing their first show wore off, the pain and suffering of technical troubles and minor mistakes disappeared and was replaced by one feeling: relief.

That's the way it goes. The pain of doing it for the first time was gone, and with encouragement and advice, they were looking forward to playing their next show, and making it better. Little mistakes and electrical problems won't overwhelm talent and good song-writing. And just like one show won't make you, neither will it break you, unless you let it.

So the boys relaxed and made some toasts, and patted themselves on the back. It couldn't have gone much worse, and they still put on a good show. The only thing to do would be to keep working, keep practicing, and get ready to play another one.

104 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Metal Matt
    Actually I enjoyed reading that more than most other articles on here. Maybe it's cause I relate to it cause that was pretty damn similar to my first gig.
    Sneft
    the picture isnt of the actual band dude. its just something zoot puts up there.read the article.its a nice STORY.
    equal_heights
    yeah not the best ive ever read but definitely better than another "how to".nice to have something different. keep up the good work (meaning..give us the sequal...when it happens).
    _mush5_
    I really enjoyed this article. It showed just about everthing that can go wrong on stage. But you forgot to mention breaking a string on stage. Thats sux, and w/ my Jackson's Floyd Rose, it happens often to me. My bands very first gig is in about 2 weeks and i just hope we can pull it off ok.
    )Eric(Draven
    Nice article. I had similar problems with my second "gig" at my school. :-(, but it was really fun to read. Hell, if you made a couple more of these about a band traveling to australia it could be a book! Haha, I'm stretching it but this was interesting. Especially after that PRS article.
    Para_g
    nice article although now im pissing myself bout our first gig in a couple of weeks :s
    Xerothunder
    Good story, kinda funny because it happens to everyone, and anyone who says otherwise is a filthy, dockey-****ing liar.
    merfsullivan
    TheParallelFth: Okay, one last time for you all They Are = They're Their = Their (This one is the possessive noun) There = There hahaha I thought I was the only one that got annoyed by that! the only thing that bothers me more is when people confuse "your" and "you're".
    Your way out of line with that comment
    Mullet28
    for my bands first gig it was ok we had a great time till i blew the lead clean out of my cab, not to cleva. but our second gig was awful.....equipment is the bane of all upcoming bands its a pain in the ass
    partyinmymind
    you know...thats EXACTLY what my band's first gig was like...right down to the singer not showing up when hes supposed to...
    Covin
    This is pretty much what happened at our first gig too. Thanks for sharing, i'ts good to know that other people struggle with this kind of thing. We burned out for awhile because we got discouraged, but we're getting up again.
    Sean Mertiens
    still.... pretty good article! im lookin forward to my first gig in near future, but its kinda hard when u lack musicians
    Sean Mertiens
    could there possibly be a post that is not extended with several "FCUK" and stuff like that on this page...
    cactus
    same thing happened to me in my first gig just last week in a school party, we we're the opening band and also the underdog band because everyone else in the three other bands we're the popular dudes, we screwed up the first song but played the second one right but we still felt like jackasses on stage, anyways nice story dude
    neocon58
    2nd yes interesting but ultimatley pointless
    True, it was pretty good though.
    lacey_the_crazy
    Nice! First article I've read on here that had me wanting to know "What happened next?". They still in Australia, or what?
    godofthunder
    heh... heh... my one and only gig was at a charity gig for the tsunami appeal... we raised 3600 australian, we opened, there was a small but supportive crowd... we sounded crap to ourselves but they thought we were okay... sounds like your guys gig keep that austrlian scene going, get a few more guys in from england and we'll be fine
    dionysus85
    yeah good story man, its comforting to know i suppose that if your equipment f*cks up then its not all over and that its happened to others before, 4 stars
    hotrail1
    HAHAHA, my second big gig was like that, it was infront of 300 people on a very small stage, the monitors didnt work, i couldn't hear myself and our bassist screwed up every song, but the crowd couldnt tell there was any problems at all and it turned out retty well. But we had no sound check which was the worst part! i played the first song, a Metallica sounding number on clean!!
    original_rocker
    ok, so this article has now made me even more scared about our first gig which is in 10 days...and im the lead guitarist. i dont have anything to complicated 2 play, its just that were only doing covers and i have 2 sing, and were mostly girls in the band, so i think we may get slightly disrespected!!! ah crap im so stressed
    Metallica708
    my first gig was completely out of my element... it was an acoustic gig. and yet, the crowd loved it completely! gave my confidence an UBER boost
    dooda
    my first gig was in front of 30o-400 people and we went fine besides a few little mistakes
    Pinkfloydguy
    shit...i misunderstood that, its a STORY oh now i get it. Sorry everyone emo still sucks tho
    Pinkfloydguy
    EMO SUCK BALLS!! Anyway, i did my first gig in January of last year...and we were way better than would you described, this band needs more practice etc etc! Members of my band are all aged 12-16. Your band should play more classic rock stuff, that would be better.
    Brendan DEwald
    Dude good article i know how exacly you feel my first gig the classicle was louder than the lead and there was so much feed back . And the second was not any better but it got better.
    Glass_Prison
    That's a great story. It makes me want to join a band for the great experiences it offers!
    Metallica420
    SO!!??What happened next man!!??Awsome story man you gotta do a follow up on it man.That's like such a good example of the rocker dream man go somewhere far away with enormously hi expectations with no money and only 2 ppl lol great story man probably the most enoyable article I've ever read on here. Peace
    pitiful_lies
    whooppeeee a story. better than some of the shite you see on here.
    Butterknife: queen471: Wonderful. another Emo looking band. I aint ead this article much but i can tell bvy the pic of the lead singer that they are emo. Wonder-bloody-ful you're an idiot.
    Hahahahaaa..
    Windless Freddi
    It wasn't our first show but it was our first headlining gig. In a bar downtown Guelph. As the openin band is finishin up they did somethin with the P.A. and the thing caught on fire. We ended up not having a PA and used a shitty guitar amp for vocals. You could barely hear them and being singer wasn't the greatest feeling. I just did what any person in taht situation would do. Have the band play a song i don't need to play guitar in, and sing while walkin up to the bar to buy a drink. www.volition-aire.com
    Jonno
    thats it dude it dosn't matter what you play everyone is just as nervous. You just have to get out thereand live the rock n' roll dream!
    #1 nirvana fan
    In godofthunder's article, he says, "we raised 3600 australian". what does he mean? And if it's money, can anyone translate that into american currency?
    kbass9267
    my friend was bugging me throught the whole article but it still was good 4 stars
    atm_sk8er
    good article man, i enjoyed it better than any other article i've ever read. keep it up dude, gave me some insparation
    rubysoho8779
    ^ i agree with you, oriolesazb. i liked it. for once, it wasnt some "dont for one second think that you're a band just because you can play a few covers to some middle schoolers at a party" type of criticism article, or "you suck if you cant play *insert classic rock band here*" comment. im glad someone just wrote a story. thanks!