Friday Flashback: My first gig...

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 11:51 11/04/2014

As a music blog that's creaking along towards being seven years old I'm sure we've covered first gigs - probably more than once. But this has been on my mind a bit lately, not just in writing about B.B. King this week and in remembering that awful Ray Charles audience. I go to more gigs than you do - most likely. And certainly I don't always go to shows that I want to attend. But I still like to get along to the gigs I love - or hope that I will love.

I'm restricted, cash-wise and with family commitments, so travel is mostly out of the equation. I miss more great shows than I get to see - this year I've missed Dolly Parton and Erykah Badu and in a perfect world I would have been at those shows. But I wasn't. I'm not sure it's any consolation to be seeing Morcheeba. But, as I say, it's a job. Or part of a job.

I'm still hopeful, every single time, that the gig I am about to see is as good as my first time.

When I wrote about B.B. King this week - and I've mentioned it previously, I know - I talked about being prepared for the gig, doing your homework. It's always ridiculous to me that someone would pay $150 - and all the other costs (travel, accommodation or parking, maybe babysitting) and not have some idea of what they are about to see.

When I spoke to Don Walker earlier this week (interview to come on Off The Tracks over the weekend) he said "I should probably tell you, right away, that I don't do any Cold Chisel songs". And that's worth knowing right? And fair enough. He wrote the songs for that band but did not sing them - he writes that material for Jimmy Barnes or Ian Moss to sing. He writes his own songs, in his sideline bands and for his solo records. And those are the songs for him to sing. Fans should know that. They should arm themselves with that information ahead of the gig.

I should say that Don Walker playing with The Bads next week should be a great gig. I love Walker's latest album, Hully Gully and I can hear how The Bads will suit that material; I could hear this in my head while listening to the new album.

My first gig was Eric Clapton, Auckland, 1990 - it was, therefore one of the best gigs I've ever seen. I say that, and link to me saying that, simply because it lit the fire. I caught the bug. I was hooked. At 13 I didn't know what to expect. I thought that Clapton was going to be using the same band as the opener, Midge Marsden. It seems so naive now when I think to me leaning over to my father, during the interval, and saying "imagine how good that band is going to sound with Clapton!?" But I did. I loved Midge Marsden's opening set And I thought his band was amazing. I was so enthusiastic. When Clapton took to the stage with his all-star session band (eww, flash forward some 20 years and here I am reviewing the bass player's ghastly and soulless debut solo album!) it was mind-blowing to me.

We had travelled up to Auckland for the show, well, it was timed with an overseas holiday. We were flying out to Australia and it just so happened that we could take in the Clapton gig at the time. Speaking of timing, this was pre his "Unplugged" and that bloody awful song that's now a funeral mainstay, and all the turgid albums that have followed - like, most recently, Old Sock. This was Clapton being, sure, an Armani Bluesman. But a damn fine one. There was material from Blind Faith and Cream and Derek & The Dominos and from that Journeyman album; one of the last half-pie decent solo records he's offered to the world.

The timing was everything.

I've seen Clapton since. And even with the baggage of the Unplugged rubbish, that song and all the crappy albums it was still a good gig. Even if the audience was about as much fun as that Ray Charles crowd. Even if the audience was upset they didn't get to hear Tears In [Bloody] Heaven. Even if the audience - clearly - hadn't done its research.

But that second time I saw Clapton was for work. I wouldn't rush to see him anytime again ever. I reckon I almost fluked a decent second gig. I couldn't really care to see him now.

But that first show - back in 1990 - that was everything to me. The gateway...The First...

My previous experience with live music was listening to a DD Smash gig outside the Soundshell in Napier. A local Mongrel Mob member threw a bottle and the gig got a bit nasty when Dave Dobbyn called him out. Then they let us in to see the very end of it for free - all of the families that were parked up outside with blankets and picnics.

Maybe, come to think of it, that was when I was bitten by the bug. That was amazing. Hearing Outlook For Thursday. My favourite song at the time. That was, after all, my actual first gig.

I must have seen Dave Dobbyn 20-30 times since then. And it's almost always been a wonderful show; never less than decent.

(By the way, next Saturday he'll be playing at Slow Boat Records, their final guest for the line-up for Record Store Day).

So, now it's your turn to wind the clock back and talk about your first gig. Was it a happy experience? Was it your favourite band? Are they still your favourite band? And did you feel it - then and there? Were you bitten by the bug? Were you hooked?

Or did you have a terrible time of it when you experienced your first gig? 

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- Stuff

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