Walking on stage for the first time was like stepping into a dream. The confines of the backstage with it’s familiar smell of cigarette smoke and abundance of empty beer bottles was left behind in a matter of seconds along with any feelings of security and serenity I had left. I remember clutching my brand new Fender guitar, my weapon of choice, with my sweaty, shaking hands, listening to the hysterical cries of the emassed crowd calling my name. I had no time to think, no time to question my actions before the fierce concoction of adrenaline and fear drove my legs, moving me towards the stage. I recall looking back as the door, my only escape, closed behind me and realising that I was totally and completely alone.
The crowd screamed. I strode into the seething mass of colourful snake-like cables and leads, taking each step with caution as not to trip and be engulfed by the slithering creatures beneath me. The brilliant array of colourful flashing lights pinned to the great overhanging roof, all trained on me, only made this more difficult as I moved toward the microphone which was drowned beneath the glare of the spotlight. At that time, the only thought going through my head was the anticipation of the events to come and the fear of what might go wrong. But I pushed past those thoughts and crouched down to grab the lead that would connect my guitar to the amplifiers. I remember the sound of the enormous stacked amps behind me, lining every visible inch of the walls, as I plugged the lead in. The feedback was awesome and the feeling of fear that had taken over me before was gone. I felt confident as the shouts of the frenzied crowd got even louder.
But their relentless buzz was drowned out by the heavily distorted roar of the instrument in my hands and the speakers behind me, acting in unison. The sound was bone rattling and shook the solid wooden frame of the raised podium beneath me. That noise, that beautiful but violent noise filled me with adrenaline as my hands frantically moved up and down the neck of the guitar. I watched as the heads of the mob below me moved in time with the music like some great machine of which I was the pilot.
But that time is long gone. Taking the first step on stage is now more like a recurring nightmare then a dream. I cherish the time I spend backstage away from the persistent deluge of noise produced by the ever present, ever hungry crowd, looking for a taste of my tired melodies. Putting down the cigarettes and picking up my old, faded guitar is something I dread, not for fear of failure, but the reluctance to walk through that door and play the same songs time and time again. There’s no rest. No time to stop and think. It’s the same thing, again and again and again.
Making my over to the microphone now is automatic. I no longer fear the cables and leads covering the ground; I know they’re just objects and I wouldn’t care if they swallowed me up, deep beneath the ground away from this constant repetitive hell I push myself into. But they never do. I drag my feet and try to smile at the horde of people in front of me as I carry out the routine task of picking up the lead and plugging it into my guitar. As soon as the amplifiers come online I start to feel disconnected from myself in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s like one of those near death experiences you read about where a person sees themself lying on their deathbed from another place in the room. Looking down on myself, I know that it’s just an empty shell strumming that guitar; the feelings of excitement and the adrenaline rush gone with my consciousness.
Yet the crowd still comes, time and time again. They still scream when I saunter onto that stage and move their heads in time with the music. But the stage has lost all that drew me to it with those dazzling lights and the wonderful sounds of the heavy guitar. The familiarity of those sights and sounds reminds me of a better time when I could enjoy those things, forgotten like a dream.