In a perfect world, your first gig would look something like this. A screaming sea of hipsters and supermodels. A phalanx of spotlights trained on your note-perfect performance. Smoke machines billowing. Valve amps purring like tiger cubs. A scrum of A&R men fighting to the death for your signature. Wake up. The reality is, fate can be a cruel mistress to first-time gigsters. Here are five things that will probably go wrong – and how to learn from them.
#1. Nobody will turn up
You swagger onstage expecting to be drenched in adoration – only to be confronted by the pub dog and a bloke changing the barrels. You’ve made the classic rookie mistake of relying on your mates to fill the venue, haven’t you? Next time, be sure to promote your show on all the relevant social media channels in advance – and you might actually be able to crowdsurf without breaking your teeth.
#2. Your equipment will let you down
From minor niggles like a dead battery to spectacular fails like an amp spontaneously combusting, there’s a clause of sod’s law stating that your trusty gear will choose tonight to go rogue. But just because your rig has gone to pieces, that doesn’t mean you should. Before your next gig, learn how to fix your gear on the fly, pack a spare of everything and master the art of telling the crowd a dirty joke while simultaneously changing a drum head.
#3. Some of your tunes will bomb
You just don’t understand it. Everyone in the band loves the half-hour freeform jazz odyssey – but when you played it live, you got pelted with root vegetables. There’s a valuable lesson here. Your first gig is the ideal testing-ground for your material, revealing which songs work and which prompt a stampede to the bar. Immediately after the show, get together to discuss the audience reaction – then strip the dead wood from your setlist.
#4. The soundman will give you the world’s worst mix
In your rehearsal space, you sound like Hell being unleashed. Now, you’ve just hit your first power chord and the pensioners have barely looked up from their dominoes. Instead of storming offstage, make a mental note to arrive early to your next gig, giving you enough time for a proper soundcheck and a chat with the engineer about the mix you’re after.
#5. People will want you to go away
On the plus side, the pub is rammed to capacity. The less-good news is that they’re all here to watch Sky Sports, and didn’t ask for a fledgling ska-punk outfit drowning out Glenn Hoddle’s half-time analysis. You could see this as a humiliating disaster. Instead, try to see it as good practice. Because if you can win over these surly psychopaths, you can triumph anywhere…