When I was 18 I wrote a list of 53 things I’ve always wanted to do, some more eccentric than others; sew an entire outfit from scratch, live on a narrowboat, paint a room wearing dungarees. Some were more commonplace things; get a tattoo, take more photos and play a gig.
I actually played my first gig in May last year, an open mic at a coffee shop. I was so flustered I supposedly told the small crowed of disinterested musicians many times that I was “going to pee myself, I’m so nervous”. I don’t remember this that well. I covered two obscure indie songs and an acoustic version of OutKast’s Hey Ya.I’m pretty certain I did pretty badly, awkward guitar playing and singing that frequently went flat. I’m not putting myself down, I just know that I was so nervous there was no way I didn’t mess it up.
This is not what I consider a first gig. Turning up at a café with a guitar on a whim that you might be able to play is not a gig. It’s a rite of passage. It’s the prequel to the novel of actual gigs. It’s something everyone has to do, maybe once, maybe a hundred times. It’s fun and a good place for debuting new songs you’re not too sure about, or covers you just love playing.
An actual gig, to me, is when you actually get booked to play a venue. The thrill of accomplishment followed by the wave of nerves when you realise that people will have paid money to see you, and that if you let them down, they’re going to be regretting spending three quid. Spending most waking hours refining your own songs, singing them on repeat, making sure you won’t falter.
On the day I was actually unfazed, more concerned with trying to stop my hair doing that thing it does to really think about the fact I was going to be sat in front of people baring my soul lyrically. I kept waiting for the wave of nerves but it never came. I knew I had practiced my songs so many times there was no way I could have messed them up, and I just reminded myself that even if I did mess up, what does it matter?
I was on second, and after I was done tripping over cables and actually managed to sit down I played a set I was pretty happy with. So, it turns out, practice actually does make (close to) perfect. If you’ve got an even half an ounce of musical talent (or poetic talent- I did half music, half poetry in my set) give it a go. Silence the whiney demons that tell you you’re no good, and do it. Even if you mess up, it’s still fun and will at least make a half decent anecdote.