I know I have been away for a while but there is a very important reason why and you will find out a little later. Either way, here is another Story From The Road. This particular story isn’t comical in any way. Unless you find nervousness funny, then you may get some entertainment out of this one.
In 2013, I had just graduated high school and started going to a community college. During October, I became part of a band as their rhythm guitarist. I was given about 60 songs to learn in 2 weeks and I had to do this all during midterms. If you don’t know what midterms are, it’s when all of the teachers have a meeting and decide to give you tests on things they probably didn’t even mention in class. They have the meeting to make sure they give the tests all on the same days so that you don’t get any sleep whatsoever.
Well, my first show was coming up. Ironically enough, this was the biggest show they had booked at that point. We were playing at the Augusta Country Club in Augusta, GA. It was literally a couple of miles from where the Master’s is held. It’s safe to say I was just a little nervous (aka: a lot nervous). Due to the timing of me joining the band, I only had a short amount of time to learn all of these songs: therefore, my set list had writing ALL OVER IT. It was full of chords and lines and whatnot telling me what to do and when. Basically, it was a huge cheat sheet for almost every single song.
Fast forward to sound check. This was my first ever sound check. Ever. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t realize that I should probably have the guitar in my monitor louder than I needed because everybody else would be loud too. I didn’t understand that I needed to speak louder into my microphone so they could check my vocals (I’m a very quiet person and everybody in every band that I have ever been in can attest to that). I didn’t have in-ears at the time (basically headphones that are monitors so I can hear what I’m singing and playing). This means that I couldn’t control the overall volume of things in my monitor; the sound guy had to do it for me.
By show time, I was freaking out. Like, I was so excited about it but this was also the biggest show I had ever played in my life. EVER. The stage lights went off and we walked to our spots. I was all the way on the right. So, if you were looking at me, it would be your left. I had to walk across this huge stage just to get there and by the time I picked up my guitar, I felt like I had just sprinted 100 yards because I was so nervous.
Everything was set up like it was supposed to be. I made sure I could see all my chords on my set list before we even started. The lights came back on and we started playing and I just start strumming. It was cool because of the lights. It was cool because of the crowd. It was cool because of the band. It was cool because I was only 18 at the time and you had to be 21 to get in but they made an exception for me because I was in the band.
I finally fell into a happy little spot. I know I probably didn’t look comfortable on stage because I didn’t move around, like, at all. I’m sure the only part of me that was moving was my arms so that I could play. I was playing so hard. At one point, we had just finished a song and one of the lead singers started talking into the mic. Well, low and behold, he was bringing attention to me for it being my first show. I mean, thank you, but holy goodness, I was already freaking out without you calling attention to how nervous I was and that it was my first show with the band. He said, “Isn’t she doing great??” and the crowd just cheered and I felt a little better. I had this little shy smile on because I wasn’t ready to have attention like that. Like, I wasn’t mentally prepared for that.
We finished out the set and took a break. I looked down and saw blood all over my hand, my strings, my guitar. Just little spatters of bright red mixed with the dark brown of the guitar and bronze of the strings. By that point it had started to dry. I just kind of looked at it for a second like, what the heck? How did that even get there? I looked at my index finger and realized. I had been strumming the guitar so hard that I had broken my fingernail and had also been hitting the top of my fingernail and cuticle on the strings causing it to bleed; therefore, drying blood spots on my guitar. (PS: my finger never actually 100% healed from this. I have a mark on my cuticle and the nail on my index finger has never grown normally since then). And then it hurt. You know how a little kid falls and they’re okay until they see that there’s a little bit of blood and then they start crying? Well, it was like that except I didn’t cry.
Since, of course, it was my first show EVER with a band, my parents were there. I put down my guitar and walked off stage to where my parents were. They were smiling and I was smiling and they were talking about how good I was doing and I was all happy and then I held up my finger.
“What happened to your finger…?” My mom asked.
“Well, I was strumming so hard that it started bleeding. I have blood literally all over my strings and my guitar. I couldn’t hear it in the monitor so I was killing it.”
She found a band aid (she literally has everything you need in her pocketbook) and put it on my finger but I couldn’t hold the pick. So, I took it off and kept playing with a hurt finger. I was careful to not play as hard but that meant I couldn’t hear my guitar. Oh well. I just hoped I was playing the songs right.
By the time the show was over, I was very excited that I had even gotten through it without it being too noticeable that is was my first show with a band (other than the whole “it’s her first show!” thing that happened). I was breaking down my equipment, which wasn’t very much at all at the time, and looked back down at my finger. It was still a little bloody and I had black marks from the strings all over my fingernails. The top right part of my index fingernail was literally filed down past my skin. My nail was actually pointed and looked like I had been biting it but only one side.
I will forever have my first show memory for many reasons. Yes, I will remember it because it was my first show and because my set list had random letters all over it that only a musician would understand. But mainly I will always remember my first show because, ever since then, my index fingernail never grew back correctly. It is thinner than the rest. It breaks easier, and it grows with a dip on the right side of it. My cuticle will probably never look perfect again and it will probably forever have a little dark red spot underneath my skin because it never healed correctly.
I guess all I can tell you from this story is that, even if timing isn’t perfect for starting new things, good things happen when you push through your comfort zone. And even if your guitar strings have blood all over them and your finger will never be normal again, just keep playing.
Below are pictures of my first show set list and my 18 year old self.