Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Gig (a story)

It’s been booked for a few weeks. Because it is venue you have not played at before, you make the decision to be there early. This is something of a risky stratagem because you know there is a fairly good chance that nothing will be happening when you get there, no one will be around. But on occasions such as this you figure it’s worth risking being a bit bored for half an hour, because at other times when you did get there just in the nick of time you had a bit of a telling off from the soundman/promoter/first act for cutting it fine and then had to sound check in front of the audience, or go without a warm up altogether.

So you get there at the time requested, or just before. If it turns out that the was no reason to be there early then the journey will have been painless and taken less time than you had expected. If, however, it would have been extremely fortuitous to have plenty of time free before the gig to sound check, set up the swag desk and meet the other acts, then traffic, directions and weather will have conspired to use up the time you set aside to get there and spit it back at you, taunting your planning and making you 20 or 30 or 45 minutes late. Either way the familiar feeling in the pit of your stomach appears as you round the last corner leading to the venue and you set eyes on it for the first time.

You sound check to a nice empty room, then have time to kill. If you have a lover/friend/family member with you, you get them a drink (if the bar is open) if you’re alone, this is the point where you remember you forgot to remember to put a book or newspaper in your bag. You might chat to the soundman or promoter, or one of the other acts. This can kill a nice bit of time, and you can learn a lot about the venue and the local circuit. If you’re supporting a more established artist, then you try your best to make friends and share stories with them without being a pain. You are shy, and feel not great at being upfront and inquisitive whilst not annoying, and are relived if a little disarmed to discover everyone is friendly and full of great stories.

The doors open, and the crowd makes a big show of not piling in, simply because it isn’t there. The start time is nudged back because it looks fairly certain the only people in the room so far are in fact in the wrong one, and are expecting something quite unlike the concert you are all about to give.

Waiting. If that lover/friend/family member is with you then you try your best not to look disappointed and try to find the positives in the situation. You speak some words that you yourself don’t listen to and your companion responds by pointing out the positives in the situation, which are of course the same three feeble points that you yourself are hanging on to, and that always make an appearance at this point.

You go to the toilet. Again (his is how your nerves manifest.) Looking in the mirror you can confirm that you’re sweating already, and that your hair is sitting in exactly the way it’s been asked or maybe ordered not to. On coming out of the toilet however relief is your next emotion because the room has filled up nicely.

Finally the time comes and you are performing. You do your set. Impossible to judge thanks to the lights that prevent you from reading the faces which you would normally use as sign posts on the long road towards audience appreciation. Yet again you arrive at the curious state, purely of your own making, where you are both enjoying playing and hating every note of it. You finish performing and leave the stage, trying your best to look normal as you walk through the crowd you have just played too. Still in the emotional and analytical dark as far as your performance you somewhat reluctantly man the merch desk for the short interval between you and the next act.

Euphoria. Success. CDs sold, mailing list populated, web presences recorded on ticket stubs. You hang on to kind words and try to make mental records of names and venues discussed with knowledgeable concert-goers.

No comments: