“What the hell am I doing?” I thought as I looked down at the bass. I didn’t even own a bass, yet here I was in front of an audience about to play the bass in my first paying gig. How this happened is, in my opinion, a fairly interesting story.
A week earlier, my friend’s band had a falling out with their singer and bass player. Like many singers, this one had come down with Lead Singer’s Disease (LSD), which is a horrible affliction that causes people to believe that they are better than the other members of the band. What ultimately caused the band to fire the singer and the bass player is what is normally called “creative differences.” Whatever the cause, the singer and the bass player were out, and I (along with another singer) was in.
Actually, I was originally going to replace both the bass player and the singer. However, after one rehearsal, we all knew that it was time to find another singer.
By this point, there were only a few days before the gig, and we didn’t have a singer. Furthermore, we had only had one rehearsal. In fact, that was the only formal rehearsal that we would have before the gig. And, I’m here to tell you that we were not good enough to go without rehearsals.
We finally found someone who would be willing to sing for us. Unfortunately, there was no time to get together and go over the songs as a group. We just told him the setlist and hoped for the best.
Time was getting tight. Our gig was coming up fast, and we were hardly prepared. Fortunately, my friend had a bass, so I spent time after school at his house trying to learn the songs. I was just happy to be involved; I was very excited about playing my first paying gig with some of my best friends.
Saying that it was a “paying” gig is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes, money exchanged hands, but we received $40 to split between five people. Needless to say, it barely paid for our gas and food that night. However, it was thrilling that someone was willing to hand us good money to play for their daughter’s 13th birthday party.
We later found out that the only reason we were booked was because of the old singer. Apparently, the birthday girl had a bit of a crush on the singer. We learned this after we showed up and the girl wanted us to call the singer so he could come sing for her. Fortunately, the girl’s parents were understanding and had us play anyway. On with the show!
So, there I was looking at the bass, wondering what I was doing. It felt like a million eyes were staring at me, although there was actually only about 20 people in the audience. But, they were all looking directly at us and waiting. So many thoughts crossed my mind. “Were we as a band ready?” “Was I ready?” “Did our singer know the songs?”
Ugly Kid Joe’s “Everything About You” was popular at the time, and that was our opening song. We launched into it, and we heard the singer sing for the first time. Conventional wisdom (and common sense) would indicate that you should never hire a lead singer without first at least hearing him sing. We didn’t have that luxury. It turns out that we got fairly lucky. The singer wasn’t all that bad.
By contrast, we as a band were not all that good. We weren’t bad, mind you, just unrehearsed and unpolished. And, we were losing the audience fairly quickly. Fortunately, the founder of the band had an idea: Get the crowd involved in the music! We started bringing up audience members to help sing the songs. This got the audience re-interested into the music, and we ended up playing the rest of the show that way.
I still can’t believe that my first gig was playing an instrument I didn’t own in a band I had been in for less than a week. But, all in all, it was an exciting night. We could have played better, but we had a great time, and I think our audience had a good time, as well, which is really all that matters.
matt Stevens says
First gigs are always scary!!!
my first gig,(20 some years ago)was actually for a hallowe’en party. i dressed as billy gibbons from the zz top eliminator days. although we had a really good time i was very nervous so the costume (with a few beers) really helped. my most memorable gig is the end of a wedding dance we played and as we played our last set the only person left was the janitor sweeping the floof in the gym. i believe the phrase is contractual obligation.