The First Gig

Sheesh! I look like someone shot my dog and stole my wife, or vice versa. . .
[Photo by Esther Kohn-Bentley]
Each musician only gets one first gig. The Leslie Spit Treeo only knew about three songs when they got their first gig. Tony Hightower tells some great horror stories about his early days. I think I got off easy.

It all goes back to September 1998. Robin is the president of University College (UC) student government and Heather is the UC Literary Commissioner. They were scrambling because the person who was supposed to organize their "Lounge" events had to cancel on them.

Just hangin' out at the JCR
I was hanging out in the Junior Common Room, which most people call "Diabolo's". I always hang out there when I'm on campus for lunch. Robin and Heather decided if they couldn't find a musician today, the event was off. They'd just show a movie or something. Robin dropped by Diabolo's, probably heading for the student government (The Lit) offices. Robin had heard me perform once before, at an open-stage. So he asked me if I'd like to perform.

I said, sure, that would be neat. So we met with Heather and discussed it. We concluded that it was just not a good fit--it was too soon, and I'm not a jazz musician, which was what Heather wanted. That was cool by me. After all, I wasn't actively seeking gigs. But they promised that I could perform at the next lounge.

Later, we settled on Nov 19. I was a folk singer (am I really a folk singer?), so I could go on the Kindergarten Lounge. That was to be an event where exam-stressed students could calm down with fingerpaints and Dr. Seuss and stuff. The idea took some getting used to--I don't like to think of my music as juvenile--but when I got into it, I really got into it.

I played ukulele, guitar and piano. No flute.
[Photo by Esther Kohn-Bentley]
I contributed some slogans to their posters. ("Ever tried mixing fingerpaints and beer?" "Are you tired, listless or depressed? Maybe you haven't had enough nap time!") I made this music section of my website. I polished up "The Rainbow Connection" and "Puff, The Magic Dragon". Learned "I am a man (with four fingers)" and "Aidelweiss". I drew up a list of songs. Announced the gig when I performed at open stages. Handed out handbills. Got in touch with all kinds of old friends. Got all psyched up.

Last night, I performed. The only musician on the bill. And I played two 45-minute sets while making very few mistakes. I even got paid for it, so technically, I'm a professional.

What could be more comfortable than performing in one of my favourite hangouts? I didn't have a bit of stage fright. But I was on an adrenaline kick anyhow.

Not to say that it was perfection. The crowd was pretty small. Only one of the friends I invited came, which was disappointing. And after the first set, I really lost the audience's attention. And there were awkward pauses as I fumbled with the set list or switched instruments.

But who asked for perfection? It's a first gig, for crying out loud. You've got to start somewhere, and Heather said my performance was amazing. She liked "Waiting for the Gap". The girl I wrote "Wish I Were an Asshole" about was there, and she complimented me too. A bunch of people from my old frosh group showed, also. My mom and step-mom came out to support me. And my friend Amanda was working the bar, so she heard a lot of it. That's fitting because she's the reason all this happened in the first place.

You see, last summer, Amanda came to an open-stage to see me perform. She brought her boyfriend too. That would be Robin, the UC president. And that's the only reason Robin had seen me perform, which is the only reason I was asked to perform at UC.

Gig: performance or job. Here, I mean a musical performance, at a certain time, date and place.
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