We all used to work full time jobs. Usually working till 5. One of us might take the day off and pack the van, but we started tired. Congregating at a central location, we all piled into the purple van. The air would be filled with a buzzing excitement. You felt it. Most of us had driven that road fifty times. Each landmark familiar. Conversation would be internal, laughter would be loud and naps would be had in advance of the nights onslaught.
Arriving in Sydney was an anti-climax. We’d get so excited about playing a show, the sweat, the adrenaline. But still having to load into the venue, with no screaming fans and the headliner wasn’t usually there yet, it was just us unloading into the back room.
The community that we had as a band was tight. We had played shows together for awhile. I was the newcomer but I had been at their shows photographing them for years. We had our own little roles. What we had to get ready, who we needed to be and talk to. When we were finished our own little bits and pieces we would return to the van to help the drummer. There were times when one of us would do less physical work and more talking and networking work. Which, in the long scheme of things was more important than carrying the kick drum in.
We would meet other bands. Some were humble and relatable. Others had the rockstar complex, but we were pretty good at breaking through that and just having fun with them by not being all that cool. We would meet up with long time band friends who had moved on, like ex-bass players or singers in other bands we’d played with. Sometimes we would even become go all fan-girl the times we would play with heroes. Standing still, staring at them creepily for a while until the drummer slapped you.
Then the fans started arriving. We knew some, were accosted by others, ignored by most, until the crescendo began. When the band before us would take the stage. We would do our last minute checks. Put on our capes (if only) and then that feeling would begin in the pit of our stomachs. This is our moment. The moment we practiced twice a week for. The moment we lugged heavy gear around and spent thousands of dollars on buying and maintaining said gear. The moment we had driven 4 hours after work to get to. It’s a funny place, that moment. Because its like a balancing beam. It can easily go either way. And that’s when personally the feeling of community, that sense that this is bigger than just me, overwhelmed every nerve in my system. It became a fun game. To affirm everyone, to congratulate other bands, to have fun with the crowd. Sometimes we even had our friend Geoff walk into the room, perfectly timed, gather all together and just pray for us. Because it wasn’t just the playing, it was the moments afterward in your exhaustion when you would interact with the crowd that needed extra.
Walking onstage, as your friends in the first band pack up was intense. Sometimes you would talk, other times both of you would be focused on the task at hand. You’d done this heaps of times before. But each time was still different. The quicker you readied, the more time you had to sit. Some sound guys treated you with respect and made everything go smoothly. Some sound guys had no clue. But all sound guys were a needed part of the night. Set up, warmed up, set lists in position. And suddenly the smoke machine half chokes you to death, or a string breaks, or the first song is played out of tune. That’s when you would look over at the bass player and laugh. Or nod in awkwardness. Then you’d start playing off the drummer, or joining in the banter of the lead singer, or add some different bits into a song, and the live music experience was improved. Even with strings broken you can still perform. Even when you made four mistakes it can still be fun. We played as a band, and it was good.
It was over in a flash. The four hours there, the four hours back, the 3 hours sleep before work started again. The head on collision avoiding, the endless red bulls.. and the 45 minute set of all the songs you had written together goes by so quick. But the crowds faces, when they dance and sing along to songs your best friend wrote on a roof at night three years ago. The adrenalin rush, the exhaustion at the end when you collapse next to a relative stranger who looks at you and says well done. The hilarious curly haired boys who make their own band shirts, the strange ladies who pull the lead singer and guitarist into a field to play an acoustic version. Its all worth it, because you succeeded.
Then there are the nights you feel like you are the worst guitarist in the world. Or the night that you put so much effort into not pooping yourself on stage that you forget the new ending to an old song. Or your amp stops working.
But in those moments there are also the times when the opening bands guitarist hands you his guitar. Or a kiwi band lends you their huge amp. Or the fact that your bleeding profusely from your hand somewhere means that you get awesome points.
And as the headlining band plays their last song you get a chance to just hang out. Meet some of the kids that came almost as far as you just to listen to music they liked. They honour you by buying the EP you recorded over two weeks. They get excited when you pull out the new T-shirts and you sell them all and even the moment when an older guy comes up wearing the first shirt you ever sold. Designed and created by two of your friends with their screen printing gear.
The drive home goes from exited story telling quickly into dead silence. With the drivers mouth full of sugar and the co-driver has taken a cheeky nap in the darkness. Then you hit Lake George and no one can drive on without killing everyone so Jeremy is woken up to do what he does best.
Getting back to the starting point every ones bodies are screaming out to just go to sleep, but the car needs to be emptied for school the next morning. So you all struggle to both stay awake and move gear into other cars without making a sound.
An hour later collapsing into bed you set your alarm to go off in three hours. You are home, you are comfortable and you just had the privilege of playing music you love with people you love in front of people who love you.
Bands work hard at being good, not just practicing and writing but in promoting. In the 6 years that this band was around, our lead singer became an amazing promoter but he also had to become a good schedule juggler. Getting times and places that all five of us could be at. Some of the band were strong at writing, or adding bits to already completed songs. Some of us were good at networking at shows to get on tours. Some were the peace makers when things got heated.
It was an amazing picture of the church because we were so intimate, we were so different, and we were focused on a common goal – to make good music and play it for people.
The members of the band were in totally different employment (except drummer and guitarist) We were at mostly different churches, suburbs, music preferences. But we kept to the common objective. The common sound.
Are churches sometimes too thinly spread? Do we sometimes even know what the common goal is?
Does it sometimes feel like we have all understood the common goal but the common goal seems to not line up all that well with anything Christ says??