Well, I made it. It was a nerve-wracking and sweaty evening, but I am pleased to report that I didn't totally shit the bed. Exactly a week after my initial decision to just be open to the prospect of gigging again, I put together a set and performed before a small crowd for the first time under the name Next Paperback Hero.
I haven't stayed up that late for anything but New Years in a long, long time, especially on a Friday after a tiring work week. So I was definitely feeling it as I drove up to Frank's for load in at 9 pm (I know, I'm old.) It was clear that as the last act to be added to the bill, that I was going to have to go last. In this case, that meant starting around midnight. But beggars can't be choosers and I was grateful for the opportunity.
I was actually quite thankful I didn't have to go after the opening funk/jam band. Their vibe simply did not mesh with mine at all. The touring band, Wild Age, was a great transition as their set was still energetic, but brought in more of the indie vibe. (Read more about my thoughts on Wild Age here!)
I found a couple of things I need to do:
1. Build a pedalboard. All of the other guitarists had pedalboards...so it was a bit awkward to pull out all of my pedals one by one, check the dials, plug them in, etc. Not only did I feel like an amateur, but I saw how easy it was for them. They literally took their pedalboard out of its case, plugged it in, and away they went. #Jealous
2. Buy a handkerchief. Despite it being pretty cool outside, the venue was warm and the stage lights were radiating heat. I'm a sweaty guy in general, but this really took the cake. Sweat streamed down my face and into my eyes. I know that wiping it away with sleeves is weird, so I tried to power through. Kristen tells me she's seen people carry handkerchiefs while playing shows, wipe their brow between songs, and it is far less distracting. Well, that's what comes next!
3. Practice. Now that's not to say I didn't practice enough for this gig. I put in quite a bit of time and did what I could. And while I had a few misfires with the loop pedal, they were relatively easy to overcome. The real issue was comfort. It a bit harder than I remembered being alone out there and I could tell that I wasn't as moving nearly as much as I did when practicing at home. But I've been gigging for years, alone for the better part of three years. So why now?
Well, in my experience, a new band or new set up hits the reset switch in many ways. There are so many new unknowns that you can't anticipate how it's going to go or feel, no matter how many times you practice. Sometimes, you just need to get that first gig out of the way and learn from it.
I can tell you that this gig felt significantly better than my last performance from over a year ago. I don't know if I technically played any better, but overall it felt good to have some of these songs out in the world again, not just online. At the end of the day, this was all I needed to start moving forward again.
In summation, I'm glad I got out there and did it, learned some valuable lessons, and feel more prepared for the next one. I can't say I'm going to go book a bunch of shows, but I am open to playing more and striving to find balance between gigs, studio, family, and everything else in life.