“I’m terrified, my legs are shaking from nerves… I can barely move them to use the pedalboard… fuck”
I was at university, playing my second ever gig.
Have you ever had stage fright? I had it. Big time.
But I’ve skipped some stuff. This gig was the second time I played on stage at university. The first time I played on stage was at the freshers week.
(in the UK, when all the new guys start their first year at uni, or “college” as the Yanks call it, it’s called “freshers Week”. Basically, everyone spends a week getting crazy drunk and giving themselves acid burns on their oesophagus)
with the University Band Society. It was an open jam sort of thing. I had my back to the audience and faced the drummer – I had never played facing an audience before! Being on stage was terrifying enough, let alone actually looking at the people I was playing to.
We made up some riffs and improvised over the top, it was pretty fun. It seemed to go ok. I must have played better than I thought I did, because someone asked me to join their band. First week at university and I’m in a band?
He didn’t have to ask twice.
So I join this band, we hang out, I start learning the songs and we have some rehearsals.
And then it came round. The crowning moment in every amateur bands career – The Battle of the Bands.
So we enter the competition and we practice for that. The date gets closer and closer, we submit our stage plan to the people doing stage management… and the nervousness starts to build.
This is probably a good place to mention that, as a child, I had two big phobias:
- Dogs. As a small child, big dogs had a habit of jumping up at me. Terrifying. When you’re only 3 foot tall as a child, a big dog is like a T Rex coming at you. Maybe I read too many books on dinosaurs?
- Stage fright. Even theme park rides were intimidating because other people watched! Once, I was in a school play when I was 8 or so… on the night of the play, I actually locked myself in the toilets and refused to come out – going on stage was too much for me.
I still had a lot of stage fright, but it wasn’t as bad as when I was a kid. Having a big amplifier and a band with me helped a lot. I still get an enormous adrenaline hit before playing live, but it is much better now. So the battle of the bands is getting closer. Eventually.. the night arrives.
The crowd was pretty good, about 100 people or so. Friends, other bands, usual sort of crowd for a university event like this. We had practiced loads for this (well.. you know… once a week… that’s all a band needs to do, right? Have you ever been in a band and asked them to practice more often than this? People totally flip out, it’s pretty funny).
So we get on stage and kick into the first song. And the adrenaline hits my system like a tonne of bricks. I’m absolutely terrified! I can play ok but that is all I am focussed on, I can’t move at all.
In fact, I’m so nervous my legs are twitching! haha! Then the first solo comes round and I have to hit the pedal board to change tones – I barely managed to do so without falling over! But as I hit those first few notes, I hear a cheer come up from the crowd, that sounds like thunder breaking overhead – what a rush!!
I play the solo too fast, end a few bars early (quick note – rather than play a solo in time, I would play it as fast as possible), then wait for the chorus to come round again to join in with the rhythm part.
But – I made it! I was still alive!!
The rest of the show went ok after that. It was a lot of fun.
…and I was hooked. I knew I had to push for the next one. Push myself to the next level with my playing. See if I could learn how to play a solo in time rather than as fast as I possibly could!!
This was the first major experience I had on my journey to being a musician. In a few days, I’ll tell you about the next one.
If you’d like to hear the more recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent album, “Impetuous Desire”.
Thank you for being a listener and making it all matter.