What to expect at a gig



Look. Gigs can be rough. I’m not going to fill your head with ideas of awesome shows night after night. The reality is that awesome shows - gigs that are really memorable - happen less than we would all like. Many things out of your control need to align perfectly for a gig to be great. 

However, if you have the right attitude, most gigs are good gigs. There will always be bad gigs, it’s unavoidable, but if you know what to expect before you arrive, you can face each gig with a positive attitude and a smile. And here’s the clincher; your positive attitude will affect everyone around you, including the audience.

Disclaimer - What follows should be taken with a grain of salt; it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and although not untrue, it’s my attempt at a bit of dark humour. I’m not saying all of this will happen all of the time, but you need to expect it will happen so that when it does, you can maintain your positivity and have a good gig regardless.  

So, here’s what to expect.

Expect to show up to sound-check on time, so you can wait outside the venue for an hour for the sound engineer to turn up. Expect to carry your heavy amps up 10 flights of stairs. Once you’re inside, expect to spend two hours listening to every other act sound-check their vast array of analogue instruments, then be told there’s no time to sound-check you. Expect to be told you will get a ‘line-check’ before you start. Don’t expect a line-check.

Despite early promises of ‘putting a really great line-up together’, expect to discover the other three acts on the line-up are smooth jazz, grind-core and a capoeira group. You’re an ambient folk ensemble.

Expect to have to store your $10,000 drum kit on the floor at the side of the stage. Expect to be the only one who bought a drum kit and have to share it with the other drummers. In fact, expect all the other acts to show up with nothing at all, and then break your gear while playing it before you. Expect them to fade away into nothingness when you ask them to pay for it, only to materialise five minutes later in time to drink your momentarily unattended beer before you walk on stage.

If you have arranged to be the person borrowing the gear that night, expect it to be a $100 drum kit that falls apart at the climax of each and every song. Expect the bass amp to be a DI box and the vocal mic to be green with rust and other peoples gum disease.

Expect to either play first on the bill before everyone arrives, or last after everyone leaves. Even if you play somewhere in the middle, expect the crowd to leave before you play and return once you’re finished. Like an intuitive ocean tide. Expect to be told you will now be starting at 9pm rather than 10pm, because the guitarist from the band scheduled before you hasn’t shown up yet. Expect to start at 10pm anyway because ‘the whole night is running late’

Expect to play to an empty room. This one hurts, but we’ve all been there (some of us multiple times). Expect 85 text messages from your friends 20 minutes before you start, explaining why they can’t make it even though they said they wouldn’t miss it. Expect your friends that do show up, to do so 20 minutes after you’ve finished.  

Expect the PA to be either pathetically underpowered, or aggressively overpowered. Expect the fold-back monitors to start making high-pitched squeals as soon as you strike your first chord, and continue to do so until your last. Expect the fold-back monitors to actually be beer crates with black paint that somehow still make high-pitched squeals. Do not expect to hear yourself on stage, ever. Expect to hear only drums, even if you don’t have a drummer. Expect to walk off stage and be told that all the audience could hear were drums and guitar. 

Expect a 30-minute set. Then expect to be asked to make it 20 minutes. Expect to be cut off if you play for more than 15 minutes.

Expect to receive a ‘drink deal’ as payment for playing. Do not expect to receive any drinks. Expect to play for free. Always. Also expect to pay for drinks. 

Expect everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. This way, whatever happens, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Expect to walk off stage feeling like the King or Queen of the world.

Expect that first beer after a good gig to be the best beer of your life.

Expect a satisfaction like you’ve never known.

Expect to replay every moment over and over in your head as you lay in bed with ringing in your ears.

Expect to want to do it all again.

Now there’s very little that will faze you before a gig. When something from above does happen, you can laugh it off and still put everything you have into your performance.