I'm basically a bedroom player -- or at least have been. I buy stuff, use backing tracks and jam in my "music room" (spare bedroom). Like many others I've had the desire to play live but don't really have a band. I have some people I jam with on occasion, but nothing very serious. Certainly nothing I could gig with.
One of my new year resolutions was to play in a live setting. This is the subject of this blog posting.
I have a buddy that I've known for quite some time. We know each other from riding motorcycles on racetracks as well as on road trips. Sportbikes. Great fun and lots of camaraderie. But in that sport over the years you encounter regular bouts of injury & ultimately death. Friends pass on treacherous roads or get taken out by "cagers" that don't see the motorcycle they just pulled out in front of -- ending their life. My friend and I have experienced enough of this sort of thing over the years and he sort of drifted away from the sport. I didn't.
Well, I guess I eventually did too. After my last 2 accidents and holding a buddy while he died, I just sort of started doing less and less of riding. My interests turned to guitar as something I'd always wanted to do but never made time for. Come to find out my buddy had already arrived there and was regularly gigging with a couple of bands. He is/was far in advance of me.
But we've kept in touch with one another -- I come over to his place and check out all the new gear he's acquired. I come out to watch his bands play and to support him. You know, that sort of thing.
I also witnessed him sell his printing business and go into a completely different line of work. Something he'd always wanted to do -- and having found the opportunity, took it. What did he do? He opened a rehearsal studio. He supplies all sorts of guitar/bass amps, drums, microphones, mixers, drums, etc. in each of the sound-proofed rooms at his facility. People can just rent rooms to practice in or they can set up recording time. And some, like me, just want to come by to try out a ton of different tube heads and cabinet combinations. Being a friend, I don't pay...
Anyway, one day he lets me know about the NW Rockstar League. The what, you ask? The NW Rockstar League. It's basically set up like a sports league. People sign up and get put together with like-minded individuals. They have to learn at least 10 songs and then they're put into little gigs here and there. At the end of the season there's basically a "battle of the bands" with judges, etc. and a winner is announced for each class. I'm probably going to join up.
Well, one of the things this league does is a thing called Build-A-Band. They have an arrangement with a local sports bar where every Wednesday night they have the stage. You sign up on their website for any song(s) you'd like to perform and which instrument you want to play (singer, guitar, bass, drums, etc.). Others sign up for the other instruments. On any gaps, the house band (my friend and the league commissioner) tries to fill in.
My buddy described it as being for someone just like me -- a bedroom player with no band but who would like to play live. I signed up and listed about 4 songs I felt I could play competently enough live (and that would be appropriate for a sports bar). I arrived to the bar with my axe in hand and took a seat.
The band that opened was kick ass. These guys were a professional gigging band and they sounded the part. There was nothing but polished music coming from them -- a bit intimidating.
Next my buddy and the commissioner got up with some others and they played a few songs (that other people had signed up for). After the last few songs they kept mentioning "...bringing Richard on up..." The nerves started to hit -- and I was glad it was just a few days before Christmas, the place wasn't very packed.
I was then called up. I got set up, checked that I was in tune. Talked to the other guys about which song I wanted to do (I picked the one I felt most comfortable playing), what tuning it was in (D#) and got it sorted out. We needed a singer but no one that wanted to sing knew the words -- thank goodness for phone apps. With lyrics at the ready we hit it. The drummer counted us in and we played!
I was nervous. And excited. And self-conscious. And stiff. And dry-mouthed. And clammy. And jittery. And electrified. And smiling...
When the first song was over, my heart was beating a mile a minute. I didn't know what was expected of me (if it was another's turn to take the stage or what) and I started to bail. I was called back before I even got my guitar off my shoulder to do the next song -- they wanted to keep a flow going. Cool! I picked the next song I felt I knew like the back of my hand. A couple seconds to find lyrics and we were on our way again!
At this point I was feeling really good. The next song was a bit more challenging -- if for no other reason than there are parts where the only instrument being played is the guitar. It's not particularly difficult when I'm alone, but was easily the most challenging I was going to play on the first night. But none of the guys that I was with knew it! I started to think we wouldn't do the song when the original band walked up and said they'd play with me as it was one of their regular songs. YIKES! Now the nerves hit again! These weren't just a bunch of fellow bedroom players, these were pros. I was intimidated.
They also happened to be some of the nicest people I've met -- making the experience AWESOME!
We got all tuned up and the drummer started off the song. The singer said his lines and I started playing. It felt really fantastic and I wish I had a recording of it because if felt like it sounded great! At the point I was to play solo the bassist (who was actually their guitarist filling in for the bassist to help me out) pointed to me with a "GO!" motion and I hit it. Man that was sooooo fun!
I got lots of hand shakes, fist pumps and "good jobs" in return of my "thank you"'s to them.
We then played one more song -- the easiest of the night, but also one of the most fun and rockin'. At this point I had a perma-grin on my face and was really enjoying myself (although still a bit nervous). I then sat down and finished off a beer. It tasted awesome!
I only came ready to play with 4 songs so I sat out the rest. Sure I know some others, but none that I felt ready to play live in this particular venue. Although there was a point when one song was brought up (they had a bassist, drummer and singer), needing a guitarist that I wanted to play. I just happened to know my buddy wanted to play it -- and even though he was out for a few minutes, I let him have this one.
That was Wednesday the 21st, and while I didn't go tonight (28th), I am planning on going next week. I'm more inspired than ever to learn more songs and to play with & in front of others. I sat down last night and by today had another song learned. It should be a crowd pleaser.
I highly recommend everyone that can get the chance to play for an audience do so. It's really fun and can inspire you to learn more! If you have a band (even if you only play in your garage at the moment) get out there and play for others. You'll find yourselves much more satisfied.
At this point I plan on joining the NW Rockstar League and playing in the Build-A-Band at least once or twice a month (heck, maybe weekly if I can manage it...)