Let’s Go To A Gig!

ariThose 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.



1 thought on “Let’s Go To A Gig!

  1. My gigging experience was completely different from yours. My first “rock” gig was at the age of twenty and in Central Florida in 1983, these were the facts. The first ten years of any gigs I attended were in medium sized venues holding 2000 and up. I could not get into clubs until the age of 21, so I missed things like The Ramones touring with Holly + The Italians in 1981! Punk Rock never really happened in Central Florida until almost a generation later. Rock clubs of the time had mostly cover bands and there was not the infrastructure to support original music. New Wave bands I collected from the UK never made it over here until the mid-80s. Many of my favorites had broken up or never played remotely close to the American southeast [see: The Tourists, Ultravox, Wire, OMD, Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, Echo + The Bunnymen] and the ones that persisted by that time they were really dogged in their pursuit of the American airwaves. To my dismay [see: OMD, Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, Echo + The Bunnymen].

    I only experienced something akin to that which you write of in the 90s. I was in my thirties, and finally, the rock club scene in Central Florida was vibrant. There was a great environment of local acts performing original music usually in a garage punk or rockabilly genre and these acts kept us out 3-4 nights per week. When there wasn’t live music, the dance clubs were also happening and rare was the night where I was in bed before 1 am. I didn’t drink so your bar rules didn’t apply. After the gigs, my hair and clothing would be so encrusted with cigarette smoke [not to mention perspiration and yes, spilled beer from others] that a shower was necessary before sleeping. Thank goodness the flame of youth allowed me to skate by on 3-4 hours of sleep a night for almost a decade. Best of all, I eventually met my wife when we kept showing up at the same local act’s gigs!

    Many was the time when I went to see a regional touring band and the local act that I had never heard of was even better; sparking a new thread to follow as they had their friends play with them and an inroad to the local scene developed. I used to always buy the band’s latest album if I had nothing else before seeing them, but some of the most transcendent concerts I can point to [Dick Dale, Escort] were from bands that I had almost no preconceptions of. In the new century, smoking in venues vanished when I moved from Central Florida to Western North Carolina. Now seeing a gig where smoking is allowed is unthinkable! I went to Atlanta a few years ago and saw one of my favorite local musicians from Central Florida in the 90s and he was playing a dive bar that was insanely thick with atmosphere but the cigarette smoke was unbearable. How did I ever put up with that? Starved for good live music, I guess!

Tell us what you think! Did you like the post? Do you agree? Do you have some information or experience to share? Please let us know by commenting!

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close