Every musician, from the moment they decide to start their career, dreams of the day they finally get on that stage and perform for an audience. While I can't say that that has been my motivation for musical progress, I will say that I was very excited when I found out that the band that I have just joined, Before Serenity, was doing a performance just one week after I had joined. Yes, I was excited, but also very nervous. How was I going to get prepared for this? I didn't even know their songs from listening, let alone know them by heart for performing. So, I was in a bit of a pickle, but nothing that some good old fashioned practice couldn't handle.
I practised quite a bit in the week beforehand, obviously. I probably could have fit a few more hours in, but I at least got to the point where I had heard, and played through, each song at least once. Was I prepared? Of course not. I literally couldn't even remember how most of the songs went. Then, at the last moment, we decided to play two more songs that I wasn't familiar with, as well as a cover song, which I learned on the last day. I basically set myself up for a terrible performance.
Here is where the story begins.
It had been raining here in Redding for about 3 days before the gig. There was no obvious sign of it letting up for Saturday night, either, and instead, it seemed to pour down just that much harder. So, if I were to make a recipe for fail, it would probably include one part pouring rain, one part uncovered pickup truck, and at least 15 parts musical equipment. We had to find a way to get two tarps to cover our equipment successfully, and the really important stuff could go in the second car.
Well, to put it shortly, we were putting the tarp on in the pouring rain, and we probably didn't do our best. We loaded up our equipment, and headed out on our 45 or so minute adventure up to Mt. Shasta City. Unfortunately, within the first 15 minutes we realized that our tarps weren't doing much at all. Our equipment was getting soaked, and the tarp was beating on the cab of our truck like some stampede of wild buffalo. I had a BOSS pedal board in between my legs, and our extra cab Chevy was uncomfortably seating six people.
We arrive, and are welcomed with open arms. This was a relief, since the rain sure wasn't letting up, and even if we were getting poured on, at least we were in a good mood. So, we unload and start to set up. Every piece of equipment that went up made my nerves escalate more and more. I knew that, at this point, there was no way I could play everything correctly. I couldn't even remember chords to three of the songs, let alone how to play them. Our equipment was finally ready, thanks to the help of friends and the coffee house staff, and we were ready to go.
We had a nice break before the show, when we were served with very...interesting varieties of pizza. I found a slice that had broccoli on it, even. As gross as this might sound, I can say that it was some delicious pizza. Then, between the fatal mix of nervousness and various unhealthy edibles, I started to get a nice little stomach ache, not to mention that I was still sick with my now-two-month-long sickness. So, while popping cough drops left and right, I walked up on stage to start the performance.
Fortunately, there weren't many people there, besides friends and family. Still, I was nervous, and the show was starting. At this point, I found out what our set list was. The first song was one of the ones I didn't quite remember, too. I tried to concentrate, which pretty much meant I made some faces to our drummer. Fortunately, when the song started, the practice came back to me, and somehow I pulled through the song.
The rest of the first set, I messed up countless times. Fortunately, it didn't seem like the audience noticed much. Sure, I started out one of our songs completely the wrong way, and one other song I basically didn't play loud enough for anyone to hear (because I forgot the chord progressions), but I got through.
We got a break, and got to hang out for a little bit before our second set. We talked, drank some beverages, and played a little pool before we jumped back up on stage. Most of the audience left, and the house was mostly empty at this point. I pretty much lost all of my inhibitions, and I wasn't nervous at all any more. The last set didn't really matter, so we had a lot of fun with it. Our singer, while telling the story of one of our song's origin, accidentally used a friend of our's name instead of one from the Bible story. I rocked out, moved around, and had a blast. It's my opinion that I played better the second time, but maybe that's just because I was having more fun.
The show ended, and after all of the wrap-up and chit-chat, we had to load our equipment again, in the rain. Well, our crafty drummer pulled the pick-up to the front door of the coffee shop, which made loading easier, and a bit less wet. We re-tied the tarps, and fortunately, this time they held, and kept our equipment mostly dry for the ride home. Unfortunately, they still got soaked from the unloading process once we got back to the house, but we can just count our blessings.
So, what did I learn?
Well, I learned that I need to practice a lot more before I play live again. Also, I now know the pain that is unloading and re-loading equipment. I guess it's good to have a troublesome first experience. Now I feel much more content in knowing that the next time I play will be much, much better. I learned that a live performance can bring people together, and that, when everyone works together, it can make something seemingly painful turn into something completely fun and interesting. I barely noticed the rain, really.