"My first performing experience was in a living room and I was extremely nervous. It sucked. My first ON-STAGE experience ruled though!"Ana Greco, Rapture But lets start way back at the beginning. Most likely youve been sitting at home, playing in your room or playing for the family for years. Getting up on stage and stretching your wings has always been in the back of your head. Suddenly the time has come. Most likely you started jamming with a friend in your garage and, if youre lucky, you actually got a song or two working. This may go on for a while. You may put together some other players and even pick out a band name but it never lasts. People move on, the situation changes and suddenly youre back in the musician pool. Youre also faced with an uncomfortable reality There comes a time in every young boys life when the fantasy of lighting your hair on fire and jumping off the coffee table grows old. Youre about to discover just how hard it is to put together a real band.
Its time to get out the Recycler and find some new blood. You start cold calling the 30 or so guitarists and along the way you make a disturbing discovery. Half the ads are so specific that they should just include the name and picture of the player they are looking for while the rest havent a clue and just want to play with ANYONE. Neither of these ever seemed to be on my list. But never fret (yes pun intended), somewhere, somehow there is an ad to which you can respond. Yes, there is another person in this world (or more specifically LA) that is just as desperate, just as scared and just as inexperienced as you are. Like Mr. Spock clones at a Star Trek convention you will find each other. And it will be "fascinating".
"The first time we played was at a party. We were too drunk and we choked."Johnny Crash "Lead Son of a Bitch", Johnny's Gang The hard work begins. Sometimes 3 months but most likely more than 6 months of the headiest times for any band lay before you. Unconstrained creativity before any of those walls have been formed. You might grab onto some pre-existing songs that a new band mate wrote add to them some band compositions and along the way you make some realizations. First of all the music is different than you expected. The music is a result of the members of the band and unless you have an extremely dominant personality, the songs will have elements of everyone in them. Second of all, you dont know if the songs are any good. You want to believe they are, hell you gave birth to them. All your friends say theyre great but they like anything. It all comes down to that first stage and your first night on it.
" it was like a riot in a bathroom"Johnny Crash "Lead Son of a Bitch", Johnny's Gang Lets see it's checklist time. Youve played the songs to the point of hating them. Youve managed to book the local watering hole by lying to the club manager about how long youve been together and the size of your following. Youve invited everyone that you have ever known to come see "this great new band, I know that youll like them " And mercifully only about eight people have shown up. If youre a guitar player youve most likely broken at least 3 strings TODAY. If you play bass you have no second bass or backup set of strings because "Those fat things never break!" If youre a drummer youre still messing with the setup of your $200, four piece kit that your parents bought you when you were 12. And if youre the singer, youre trying to remember the first word of the first song of your first set on stage. Yep, its show time!
"The drummer was face down in his set, the bass player was striking poses in an effort to look cool and the guitarist seemed mesmerized by his pedals. "Naughty Mickie, Morpheus Somewhere around the second or third song your senses begin to return, the numbness diminishes to the point of conscienceness and you remember that youre on stage in front of people! "Hey, somehow this is working and it sounds fair too", you think. As you gaze off the stage at the faint light illuminating the mens room you promise yourself to never again drink four beers moments before going on stage. Your friends are all smiling or at least pretending that theyre enjoying themselves, maybe this isnt so bad. The terror is subsiding. "Hey, this isnt so bad" you think. "I can do this!" And then suddenly, abruptly it all ends. The set is over.
"After the show I chased down my buddy and asked him if there were any probs, my worries were obliterated when he told me relax and get ready for my next show."E. "Puff" Walter, Jokers Paradise And now begins what, for me, was always the most terrifying aspect of performance self-criticism. Somewhere their exists a tape of that first show. You getting your hands on it is of the utmost importance for without it two things are guaranteed to happen. First, you will never have an unbiased representation of the evening. And secondly, one of your dickhead friends is going to sell it to VH1 the moment you get famous. You will be forced to endure years of embarrassment for partaking in a right of passage that brought you fame and fortune. You know it, I know it, and the rest of us are going to laugh at it.
If youre like everyone else several things have just happened. You made it through a 45 minutes set with "only" a hand full of mistakes. If you got your head about you fast enough you may have enjoyed yourself. And inexplicably you discovered that 6 months of work really is worth 45 minutes of fun. Youll do it again, you know you will. With any luck you wont wait too long before you get back up onto that stage. What the hell, youre a seasoned pro now. You dont have to lie to the club owners any more! Its only a matter of time before the girls are lining up around the stage, pulsating to the music. The songs moving them like some enigmatic sexual experience that connects your guitar to their minds. And then you realize Once again its about to "Feel like the first time!"
I would like to give a special thanks to the following contributors. Their experience and insight is why this article exists.
"Lead Son of a Bitch", Johnny's Gang,
E. "Puff" Walter
And our very own Naughty Mickie!