Those early gigs we used to go were a steep learning curve. Whether you are going out to see your favourite band, or even later on actually playing one, there are certain guidelines to observe. Obviously no one tells you any of this before you find yourself being showered with beer and crushed in a massive blokey mosh pit aged 16. Even if they had, we probably wouldn’t have listened.
At aged 16, the first rule of gig club is that you talk about it all the time. From the moment the show is announced, through to whether or not you should/could go, who you are going with, to the logistics of getting tickets in advance, what to wear, will they play your favourite song, how will you get home, do you think anyone that you’re going with looks or even is old enough to get served at the bar, is it best to play the band’s records to death in the week leading up to the gig or starve yourself of them altogether, and so on right up to the point 30 years later when you can nod when someone mentions the night that you saw the Clash at the Lyceum.
As time goes on, you start to acquire further pointers of gig-going’s strange and sometimes self defeating etiquette.
At 18 the first rule of gig club is that you mention it a bit less and at whatever time you arrive, you head straight to the bar. You order a pint lager or snakebite and then stand around smoking while you size up the crowd. If a support band you’ve never heard of is already on, then a passing interest will suffice. Many good bands have been missed this way.
As the time approaches when the band you have come to see is due onstage you have several choices:
Number One – push to the front of the crowd next to the stage and get crushed and covered in beer. Upside, you will near the band you’ll see them up close, and have better stories to tell afterwards. The downside of this is, apart from the stray beer and the risk of being mashed, if it’s a very popular band, then it will be tricky to get back out and the sound will be deafening.
Number Two – Stay near the back for a wider view of events, be less jostled and enjoy a “better” sound.
Number Three – Stay in the bar, you’re too cool to actually watch the bands, you only came along to say you were there.
Until the age of about 25, I was always a number 1, now I’m more of a number 2, and very occasionally I’ll even admit to having been a number three.
However, after those first few gigs back in the late 1970s, I think both Ruth and I decided that the best place to really appreciate the full force of a band ….was to actually be in the band. It’s just a shame we didn’t know each other then! It took a few years of false starts, but by 1987 both of us had somehow advanced to the position of singer (Ruth) and guitarist (both) in flegling Indie bands.
Now we could watch the gig from the stage!
Another thing nobody tells you is that watching a gig and playing a gig are very different things. When you’re playing a gig, you don’t get to “watch” the gig at all, you just get to worry about forgetting the songs or your strings breaking, and despite all the hours of rehearsal, you become dependent on both the sound engineer and their equipment, which generally boils down to not being able to hear anything out of the monitors. You’d think this might have put us off, or that we’d have learnt our lesson by now…. however, after a decade+ long hiatus, both Ruth (with PO!) and myself in the Popinjays are back out playing occasional shows with our respective bands.
This weekend, we both have gigs, details are below.
Ruth has some final wisdom to add;
As an older punkgirl, here’s what I worry about now and then about a gig:
Then – Not knowing the chords. Now Forgetting the chords
Then – Looking fat (ha!). Now – Looking old
Then – That the words were shit. Now – Forgetting the words
Then – Too many people would talk to me after. Now – No people would talk to me after
Then – That the guitar lead might not work. Now – That I might leave all 5 of my leads at home
Then – That I don’t know how to set up the amp. Now – That I don’t know how to set up the amp.
Then – That I can’t hit the low notes. Now – That I can’t hit the high notes
Then -That no-one understands my important message. Now – That I might bore people with my opinions.