What to Expect From Your First Few Gigs
The reception you get from an audience will generally depend on quite a few things. Obviously it matters how good you are but being a great guitarist doesn’t mean you’ll always get a great response. What counts is what sort of music you play, the clientel, the number of people there, the time of year and most importantly – how drunk everyone is.
I’ve played gigs in pubs and bars where the whole place is rocking, everyone is dancing, the audience love your music and you couldn’t really get a better atmosphere. Every song you get a cheer and you leave with a real buzz knowing everyone’s had a great night and you’ll be back soon. You love your job and know you will be doing this for the rest of your life.
The next pub you’re expecting the same sort of reception, you walk in and you can hear a pin drop. It doesn’t matter what you play or how hard you bust a gut to please them, it’s like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone just to get a clap from an audience comprised of the living dead. Nobody is bothered about an encore and you leave feeling really deflated, wondering what the point in all that was and why did you even bother.
Sometimes especially in Winter when people aren’t that interested in going out, you might find yourself gigging in a pub out of town with only a hand full of people watching, but if you’re making a good impression and they like what you play, it only takes a couple of people to appreciate your tunes to get a good vibe going and make it all worthwhile.
If you are really unlucky and get a gig on a bad night where nobody turns up, you may end up playing to yourself all night. Don’t worry about it, just think of it as paid practice and be thankful for an easy life. Whatever you do, don’t get too complacent just because there’s not many people around, the landlord is still paying you for your time and will still expect a good show, even if nobody is watching. You’ll also find the scene can also totally change at any minute.
I’ve played to an empty pub for two hours, been just about ready to pack up and then all of a sudden a stag party or rugby club bundles through the door. Within two minutes a dead pub becomes a vibrant party zone and you end up playing for another hour and a half just to keep the beer flowing whilst a whole pub full of drunk, 18 stone animals chant for more.
You never know what you are going to get, especially when you gig in a pub you’ve never played before so take every gig as it comes and don’t expect to much. Take the praise when it’s there, and don’t worry about it if it’s not.
I expect if you are in a band and have your mates to bounce off it makes things a lot easier when you have a bad night or are subjected to an unpleasant experience when gigging. You can still have a beer with the lads afterwards and moan about the crowd, but when you are a solo artist you only have your own thoughts to deal with so keeping a positive mental attitude is the one thing that will help you get through it.
Really good highs and really naff lows is what this job is all about, so be prepared for both. Try not to get disheartened if you have a bad night and don’t start thinking you’re invincible if you get a few good gigs.
Keep a level head and remember it doesn’t matter what happens, it’s the music that counts.