Allaying those first gig fears
So you’ve written some songs, or diligently learnt someone else’s, and your band is pretty tight after countless hours of practice and fine-tuning. You’re ready to play your music to a group of very fortunate people, who will always be able to say they saw your first show. Exciting, isn’t it. Only issue is you’ve never played a show before, have no idea what to expect, and are a bit nervous if you’re completely honest. No problem! We’ve got your back. Here we’ll take a look at a few basic things you can do to ensure your first show is a memorable one for the right reasons.
First things first; nerves. Any working or hobbyist musician will tell you that your first ever gig is a truly nerve-wracking experience. No matter how prepared you are, no matter whether you can play that tricky solo backwards with your fingers on fire, you’re still going to get the old butterflies dancing around in your stomach before you go on. Walking onto an elevated stage area, in front of actual real people, and having to remember everything you’ve practised is no easy task, so full kudos to you for making it this far. The reality is that ‘the fear’ isn’t something to try and get over or understand, but it can be used to drive you. So, as best as you can, try not to worry. Even the biggest stars get the nerves. The difference is that they know to expect them, and learn not to let it consume them.
Thankfully, there are things you can do prior to the show which reduce the amount of things which could go wrong, therefore removing some of the reasons for panic. Chief among these is the big box of spares. Every band worth their salt has a big box containing spare strings, leads, power supplies, gaffer tape etc etc. Keeping this close by means that any on-stage mishap can be quickly and easily remedied without too much bother.
It probably goes without saying that an agreed set-list is high on the list of pre-show priorities too; you’ll probably already have worked it out before the gig (at least we’d have hoped so?) but make sure it’s written down in big black marker pen and gaffer-taped to the stage so there is no room for confusion. Think about the flow of songs. Don’t start off with all your fast numbers and let the pace drop too much. Make sure you end with something memorable too. It’s worth perhaps keeping a song or two in reserve – you never know, the crowd may go wild for you and want more.
The most obvious, and mandatory, pre-show requirement is that you all know the songs inside out. This should go without saying but show-time is no time to be trying something out. Maybe you think, mid-verse, that you want to start thrashing around on your wah pedal. Don’t. Save it for practice. Nobody will know any different, and you won’t run the risk of annoying your bandmates. Stick to the script. You’ll be glad of it afterwards. The same goes for tone; decide well in advance how you want your sound to be and stick to it. Don’t start experimenting with obscure delay pedals or wildly different gain tones just as you start playing; everything sounds slightly different at stage volume and it’s easy to get flustered if things don’t sound how you remember them. At least with your own tone, which you’ve crafted beforehand, you’ll not be too put off.
Finally, try and enjoy it. Don’t be bashful – a stage is no place to be shy, after all – and remember that people will always warm to a band who look like they’re actually enjoying themselves. Isn’t that why we started playing music in the first place? Remember you’re up there doing something most people would only dream of doing. Do it well and the buzz is incredible.