First Gig Have we lift off?
Tom was in a dead-end
job. It was dead in the middle too. Talking to him, it was hard to tell
what he actually did for a living but friends suggested it had something
to do with social work. Now in his late twenties, life was no longer
passing him by. It was trying to make a detour round him.
Hed started to push his luck at the office and he didnt
really care any more. He would turn up an hour late. He always left
early and was most often found sitting, feet on desk, playing a few
chords on his acoustic guitar, planning the great escape
by an ocean of adoring fans, stadium lights tracing incredible patterns
which swept across stage, over the crowd and into the sky before racing
back towards them. Music, their music, their own songs having grown
through fame into anthems. The glitz, the glamour, the adrenaline rush
of it all. It was a dream come true. It was here, it was now, it was
Toms mate, Dan, didnt really do anything. He sort of worked
at a few things. It was hard to be certain with him too. It didnt
matter to the lads though. Once they had realised that one could play
a bit of guitar and the other could sing, their dream had started. It
wasnt that they just wanted to be, it was that they were definitely,
unquestionably going to be rock stars. This certainty became, well,
even more certain once they lined up a gig at a pub in the north of
Leeds. It was in two weeks time and they had plenty of practising
to do. For a start, they didnt have any songs.
Practice went well. Well, it went and so did time. The two weeks became
two days and the tension mounted. Then cold, blue FEAR set in and butterflies
grew into hyperactive hummingbirds whirring within their innards. How
to cope with all the tension? Came the great day and drink provided
the answer, for Tom at least. It seemed sensible, considering the venue
was a pub, to have a few settlers just to calm himself.
Stories had been circulating by teatime that Tom was already drunk.
Hed begun early and was already in great form by the time hed
arrived at The Farfield, venue of their first ever gig.
Where better to begin than in a pub hidden so deep in the suburbs that
no one could possibly happen upon it by accident? Providing they survived
the night they could then look on it as a controlled experiment.
They didnt exactly have a reputation to tarnish and they had everything
to learn. So though it was all a bit scary, it was also ideal.
When the car carrying all their supporters drew up outside the pub it
looked to them like a neon-lit Colditz. They took Toms panicky
wave from inside to mean, "About time you buggers turned up, were
on!" Inside, The Farfield was less daunting: virtually deserted
but less daunting. One day, Tom and Daves fans would be as countless
as the fish in the sea but as yet they could all be named, quickly.
Tom had the desire, Dave had the voice. Did they have the nerve? You
need plenty of bottle to go on stage and it was clear they had already
had plenty, just to make it go all the better. Dave was edgy but still
in control, Tom was positively radiant.
With their five fans now in the pub, it pushed the audience easily into
double figures and triggered the lads on to the stage - or raised step,
to be more accurate. Soon they were playing and, like with the first
hesitant strokes in a rowing boat, they were unsteadily on their way
two would-be rock gods. Tom was planted firmly on a stool and
seldom gave less than 100%, sometimes he gave it more but usually gave
it exactly 100%. Daves voice impressed on the occasions he sang
into the mike, though there surely had to be a better p.a. than this
one, linked as it was through the juke box to every speaker in the pub.
Yet, amazingly, incredibly, despite all the difficulties, it held together
somehow. Ambition kept them going. Or perhaps it was blind terror.
As the evening tried to wear on, the performers learned to ignore the
talking audience. They grew indifferent to the fluctuations in numbers
as a gaggle of locals kept migrating between bar and pool room. The
second set of songs found Tom and Dave more relaxed, already seasoning
as pros; The Verve, Oasis, REM and Radiohead were being plundered and
the audience had, if anything, grown. Songs were being clapped and a
few were even beginning to sing along. Their own fans led the way, listening
whenever their conversation flagged.
The second set ended with the gig at its absolute peak, but a snag had
presented itself since a third set had been ordered the boys
had run out of songs. So it became a matter of which repeats it would
be easiest to slip in. Variety could always be introduced in any future
gig. What made this possible to believe was that, far from being disliked,
there was evidence that the locals didnt even mind the turn. Not
minding hardened to outright enthusiasm in isolated pockets as one or
two began to catch up on Toms drinking.
The landlord and landlady, hard taskmasters, did insist on a third set
and then slapped in a personal request as the sound of music filled
their pub. Thanks to the peculiarities of the p.a. system it even filled
the cloakrooms with Daves fine, distinctive voice. It had somehow
managed to filter out Toms gritty and robust guitar playing. By
the later stages of the third and absolutely final set, and far from
wishing to leave their audience wanting more, Tom and Dave were in the
throes of losing their religion yet again and were becoming
unstoppable. They only finally took the hint to do so when the landlord
began switching off the lights and shutting the pub.
Not a dream, but not a nightmare either, their play had earned them
a return invitation in four weeks time. Their first gig was over.
Lift off had been unsteady but they had left the launch pad.
Graeme Garvey 2001
Graemes first piece
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