So I had my first gig as you may have guessed by the heading. It was last Friday. Oh but I have to go back a bit further. Like to when I started music. So, it's now three and a half years earlier and I'm weeping because my fiancé has left me and I've crashed my new car into a tree and been kicked out of ad school. So I pick up a guitar which has been left by the fiancé because this is how thick I was about music back then, I bought him a right handed guitar. He's left handed. So he'd left it and gone. So I think, 'well I'm unbearably miserable I might as well learn a song on this guitar'...
I had a yearning for 'Something's gotten hold of my heart' by Gene Pitney.
I should mention I'm also left handed but I thought, well, at least it was there.
So I learned the song. Got bored playing it over and over, learned something else, from memory 'Isis' by Bob Dylan (great song). Then I wrote a song. And that was it. I was off. But I couldn't sing in front of anyone, I would record songs and play them to people instead. The people in question got annoyed for ages until they realised I literally couldn't do it. No sound would come out. It's this weird thing from childhood. Don't know, just couldn't. So as therapy I went busking on Queen St. Discovered: reasonably able to sing in front of total strangers. Utterly depraved. Flip forward a couple of years, still writing songs, still can't sing in front of anyone I know. No, not true. A couple of people. Two to be precise. It's okay but sickening in the stomach. And not in a pleasant butterfly-ey way more in a fainting spells way. Fast forward to New Years 2015. Sitting under the lifeguard tower in the dark and rain on Bethells Beach with the dogs, singing Cat Stevens as loud as I could into the wind, I resolved this year would be the "year of the gig". I thought maybe by October or so I would be mentally prepared... Yadda yadda yadda, the universe is tricky, blah blah etc. etc., my friend Heath (from Royal Falcon) asks me if I might like to open for their band and others on Feb 20.
I can't say no after making my little resolution because that would have been so unbelievably lame and pathetic so I do what any musician is arguably meant to be doing anyway if they aren't a selfish wanker and I say 'yes of course I (Sinatra Frank,) will play your gig'
Once I say yes of course I am absolutely pooping in terror and the next thing that happens is I'm practicing with Heath and Steve (aka: The Jim Novak Experience), aka: the ex fiancé who left me those years ago with a right handed guitar and a reason for living; we're playing three songs of mine, a Royal Falcon cover (Black Barco) and a Jason Molina song (Nightshift Lullaby). I figure that is a good mix of songs for a thirty minute set. Unbelievably I start to enjoy playing music with others instead of tucked up in my armchair at 3am with a guitar and an iPhone. It's totally different, a far less pervy occupation. Singing is almost wholesome, hearing my strange sketchy dreams from the small hours transform into g-rated daytime reality. It's cool. I'm happy about it all.
My lovely friend who is a sound tech finds out I am doing a gig through sorcery and cancels another gig so he can do our one.
It is all very magical. We practice and practice for three weeks. The night arrives.
Steve and I take Clonazepams to ensure we have a successful evening and don't die of terror. My makeup looks good. I dye my hair blue. It looks good. I have my rosin and a new bow. I am supposed to soundcheck around eight but I want to get there a bit earlier to lurk. Heath txts me to say everything is a bit held up and not to rush. That is all. I miss this txt. At the bar, I am expecting to see Len my friend, a handful of musicians and a couple of stray bartenders sitting on their haunches. We arrive to about fifty people who are having some kind of send off for a work mate. They are dining at tables and drinking wine and looking very civilised, and, settled. Not like people who might be leaving the bar any time soon. These are very straight looking people with the correct hair and shirts to attend nine to five jobs ages ranging from 20s - 60+. I go into the bathroom to have some panic attacks but the clonazepams tell me it's fine, that it's just like rehearsal only fifty times noisier and not to see them as people, more like a backdrop and Len is going to make us sound great anyway. I walk out with renewed confidence.
Soundcheck does in fact go to plan or thereabouts. Though fifteen minutes before the gig is due to start. There is some major feedback from Steve's little nylon guitar which he is playing as a bass, this scares certain patrons and the saw playing fascinates some slightly. Good enough.
One tequila and lemon drink and three cigarettes later and me and the clonazepams are feeling fine for this gig.
No sooner are we introduced by Jonty, the gracious manager of The Thirsty Dog on K'rd ("Always a performance") then Sinatra Frank's "gig" falls over. Spectacularly. I'd like to add I only invited a couple of friends to this gig, two to be precise, one a best childhood friend and one a musician. I thought two was probably too many but thought it mean not to "promote" for the other bands' sake.
So there are my friends, ready and filming as we begin to play Gravity. A song of mine of which I am rather fond.
You can listen to it here
And my mic doesn't work, at all. So my lips are moving but there's no singing. At all. Like one of those dreams where you go to urgently call someone and your phone turns to wet tissue paper. Or you get given a fast horse which becomes a shopping trolley with a broken wheel. Everyone has those right? So I'm staring at Len and he obviously thinks I'm singing too quietly out of shyness and gives me the 'raise it up yo' signal from the back of the room. So I'm gesturing, no, it's the mic, which looks quite comical and mime-y, and one of the punters calls out, 'hey, you're singing your heart out and we can't hear you', and I'm like, hey it's cool, I can't hear me either. All the while Steve and Heath are just playing bass and drums over and over waiting for me to start singing. Len recognises there is a problem and comes to help out but some extra beautiful feedback happens and Len can't stop it because he's at the stage now and not his desk of tricks. This, I'm sure, clears a couple of people from the bar and the loudest ones into one corner of the room to huddle, albeit still quacking away.
And I'm smiling cos the clonazepams told me to, like it's all just some deranged part of the show, channelling my inner Judy Garland.
Okay I say. We're going to play a cover of a Royal Falcon song now. Sorry for all of that nonsense. And we play it, I think we get through it. It's terrible, the sound is not right. Someone from the audience, another musician, comes and adjusts Steve's mic. More lovely feedback. Len shuts it down. 'Misogyny', I say to the audience, who are looking quite shifty now.
This is a song that is quite fun for the other band members but quite hard for me. It's bass, drums and vocals. No gat. So I'm on vocals and vocals depend on bass.
Steve and Heath start bass and drums.
Except there's no bass. Someone is talking to Len, gesticulating madly, pointing our way.
Don't worry, the clonazepams tell me, Len will turn the bass on in a second.
So I'm waiting, the guy is still talking to Len, Len is looking at me like a spider caught in a web. No bass. I find out later, turns out one of the PA's has gone as well, so not really sure what anyone can actually hear other than the drums. That was what the guy has been gesticulating about, so Len is trying to fix two problems at once while someone is talking at him.
I'm smiling away. It's really great. The clonazepams and I are all about experiencing. Having the experience. Really being there in it. It's great. Finally, bass. I start singing, the mic is cutting in and out. It sounds shit. Steve looks at me, I look at Steve, Steve looks at Heath, Heath looks at me, I look at Heath, Heath stops drumming.
We're done. I say to the audience. I'm no longer sure whether they can hear me or not. I'm not even sure if I'm talking by this stage. I smile at everyone as drop our instruments and slink off, or float, not sure.
Our gig is finished.
They fixed all the sound equipment after our "performance" and everyone else, Bonsai Birds, Bernie Griffen & the Thin Men and Royal Falcon all play great sets.
My musician friend solemnly tells me there is no way any sound tech could amplify TWO nylon stringed instruments to a level to cover noisy bar patrons without getting feedback.
My other dear friend has filmed almost the whole thing.
My sound tech friend tells me he is having one of the worst gigs ever and 'this always happens when it's someone I actually care about'.
That is information I wish I had been given prior.
The clonazepams give me a small pep talk about 'at least having done it now, played a gig in front of people, some of whom I knew, feel proud, not your fault, etc' and I don't become hysterical at all.
It's a good night.