The season of forced goodwill and grimace filled smiles is officially upon us. So with that in mind, please welcome to the stage Jake, our bassist, to regale you another tale of gigging woe. Merry Christmas to you all.
Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: This was a little while ago…
Venue: Some hall in the middle of the the creepy-arse woods of murder-ville.
At some point during the beginning of your broken-fingered clawing crawl over shattered glass towards rock stardom you’ll hit this point; you’re good enough to gig but no one knows who you are. Gigs are scarce. The merest hint of somewhere to play that isn’t just in front of each other will be like making love to a beautiful woman – you’ll just be happy to have the offer.
It was a birthday gig for a presumably upstanding guy just turning 19. Good on him for surviving this long I guess. Either way, we’re desperate to show what we can do so when his enthusiastic girlfriend asks us to play we are all over it.
“Sure thing we’ll be there! Where? … I have no idea where that is? Woods? Right. Village hall? What village exactly?Ok… yeah ok we’ll get a van or something. Any equipment there? None? Ok. A big van. A stage? Excellent!”
Filtering information to a band is a tenuous job to make sure they don’t bail or kick off. Graham approached this like a game of Chinese Whispers.
“There’s a stage!”
Of course we are sold, we’ll be elevated above the masses, like we deserve! Who cares if we have to pay £40 to rent a crappy van. Worth it in every way, it’s like every holiday rolled into one neat package for a new band on the scene.
So that’s what we do, we rent a van, we even coerce a friend into driving for us and helping roadie all of our equipment, people like him are absolute troopers; real fucking heroes of the scene. An angel amongst Devils. Then we drive into fuck-knows-where-ville to get presumably murdered.
We turn up at the venue promptly at 6pm and are greeted by Enthusiastic Girlfriend who directs us to the stage and then drops the first bombshell.
“I’ve just heard, he won’t be here until 9:30, it’s the soonest they can get him here.” Graham looks like a cop that just found out the doughnuts aren’t free. I’m trying to figure out the jail time on throttling her. There isn’t even a KFC nearby. “But I thought you guys could go on at 7 to entertain the guests?” Her and her mum. “We’ve only got the hall until 10 anyway.”
Graham forces a smile so brittle it should be made from peanuts and looks at the stage. “That where we’re setting up? We’ll get to it.”
“No…” Enthusiastic Girlfriend has the good grace to look apologetic just before she deflates us like a flat tyre in bad weather. “We aren’t allowed to use it, can you just kinda, stand in front?”
On the fucking floor. With Mum.
Bombshells 1 and 2 done We already know we aren’t getting paid for this and sometimes it’s best just to set your jaw and get shit done. We set up and soundcheck; we sound good, the acoustics here are excellent and our songs are gonna fill the room like banshee wails. At least Mum will get a rocking show, she smiles at me encouragingly. A few more people filter in like tramps looking for a soup kitchen and being disappointed at the lack of cream of tomato. Enthusiastic Girlfriend nods at us, she’s already told us we don’t have to play more than 45 minutes, they’ve got an iPod for later. She’s gonna be lucky to get 20 at this rate.
6 minutes in and my bass strap breaks. Clean break; I guess like me it was getting tired of holding on. Sick of playing to an audience made up of the ghosts of birthdays past and under the ever watchful eye of Mum. Something had to give.
I spend the rest of the show facing away from the “crowd” so I can prop my leg up on the amp and balance the bass. It looks pretty rock and roll except I’m facing the wrong way and I have to keep adjusting it. We struggle to the end of the set and then make our excuses and get the fuck out of creep-town. On the ride home I realise someone stole my shirt, I took it off pre-gig to play just in my “Fuck Society” tee. I bet Mum took it.
And I never did meet the Birthday Boy. We left before he arrived, if he ever even existed and this whole thing wasn’t just some cruel joke on us.
Like I said, playing early gigs is like making love to a beautiful woman. You won’t get to show her your best moves and you’ve probably paid over the odds for the experience, but you’ll still jump at every chance to do it.
Photo by Nick Vidal-Hall via Flickr.