It’s milestone day, and this one is a doozy for sure. Raise your bottle of wine cooler, crank up your boom box and break out your Bon Jovi! Thirty years ago this very day was my first EVER gig with a band.
On April 29th, 1988 my band, “Silent Rage” competed in the Bath Firehall Battle of The Bands. I know this not because I have a perfect memory (hell, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast some mornings), but because I was smart enough to keep a journal of my musical exploits.
I actually formed Silent Rage with some friends in March of 1988, and can still remember vividly how much we busted our asses. Sometimes, we would rehearse four nights a week for hours at a time. Eventually, we got our very first show.
It was an under-21 Battle of The Bands gig in the town of Bath, Pennsylvania, and needless to say, with my band’s first gig now officially booked, I was stoked. Although I honestly don’t recall who won that night (it wasn’t us), I do remember the names of the bands we competed against: Lethal Tender, Cobalt Blue, Mizery and Detour.
But as I sit back and remember this day thirty years later, I recall a bull-headed, 18-year-old guitarist who thought he knew everything about music and being in a band. There would be a lot of growing pains for me over the next twenty-some-odd years. Pains that began that very night. For, while in full rock and roll mode, I neglected to realize one of the first rules or rock: timing is everything. So, when we were approached by the promoter asking if we wanted to go on last, I jumped at the chance. I thought, “Now THIS is a rock and roll dream!”
With the 8pm start rapidly approaching, I remember being downstairs pumping my chest and proclaiming to anyone who’d listen how WE were the headliners that night, and how WE had that coveted final spot. Little did I know it, but my hasty decision likely led to our own undoing. For, by the time we went on to perform, it was well past midnight and most of the under-age crowd had already had their fill of botched AC/DC and Led Zeppelin covers and had headed for the exits.
In true Hair Metal fashion, this was our set list that night. The first set list I ever played with a bassis and drummer:
1. Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)
2. You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
3. Talk Dirty To Me (Poison)
4. Pour Some Sugar On Me (Def Leppard)
5. I Can’t Drive 55 (Sammy Hagar)
6. I Won’t Forget You (Poison)
I liked the idea of “I Won’t Forget You” at the end. Kind of made the whole thing sentimental, in a rock and roll sort of way.
Here is the journal entry I wrote after the show was over.
4/29/1988: Well, the Battle’s history. We didn’t win. We were on last and I think that was the biggest factor, because everyone was gone. I think we did extremely well and I was sweating my ass off under the lights. The songs really sounded good. The sound man even told us that ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ sounded great. I threw out all of my picks. We had fun. I remember looking out and seeing people singing along to the first three songs we did: ‘Crazy’, ‘Shook Me’ and ‘Talk Dirty’.
I was so nervous until we finally started ‘Crazy’, then all hell broke loose. My guitar solo was great. Even though we didn’t win, I’m so happy to have done it. Winning is shit, I did what I do best; I want to do it for a living.
I learned a lot that night about what to do and when to do it. I also learned perhaps the biggest lesson of all about being in a band – the importance of group decisions. One member shouldn’t speak for all. To this day, I believe that had I asked what the others thought about going on last, the outcome that night might have been completely different.
In the end, I have no regrets. It was one of the best nights of my musical career, which began with my first guitar lesson three years earlier. For, with that killer opening guitar riff to “Crazy Train”, my rock and roll dream began.