A little venture of mine during high school, mainly senior year, so almost two years from today, I was recruited for a worship band for a community church. Sounds fun, right? Wellllll….
Ok, so it wasn’t as bad as I expected it, but it certainly was a new experience to me at the time. To explain a bit of backstory, my school did weekend retreats at the end of every summer. This was for incoming freshman, and I played guitar for the retreat three years in a row as part of the schools chapel band, blah, blah… The start of my senior year, one of the community church’s managers saw me playing and decided I would be the perfect new recruit for their service band. (How he thought that, I don’t fully understand) I gave him my number, and sure enough, I auditioned and got the job.
The audition was surprisingly professional, yet very brief. I showed up with my application (the fact that they had an actual application was more professional than what I was used to), my guitar, my suitcase of pedals, and my trusty amp. The guy who actually lead the band part, who shall remain nameless (We’ll call him M), was very laid back, typical youth pastor type. They told me they already had an amp waiting in the wings, all miced up, and he complimented my somewhat unorthodox pedal briefcase. The sound tech had me all ready easily (which was a grand luxury compared to the unreliable sound equipment which failed half the time at school), in a few minutes. I played along to backing track, which felt very awkward, as opposed to an actual band. I was also introduced to using in-ear monitors, which was new and alien to me. M liked my playing, and I started two weeks from that Wednesday, and I was playing for the middle school band (there was a high school service, too, but work conflicted with it), and I had a new side gig!
The general gig:
The performances that I did play for were very nice, very streamlined, very professional. Everyone playing loved to be there, and I was probably the second-youngest player there at that time. It was perhaps a slightly alienating experience, given that I was not used to such luxuries as in-ear monitors and a drum set behind soundproof shields. (I could actually hear myself think.) The oddest bit from the start was playing along to a click track, mixed with a pre-recorded keyboard track. Although I had learned to play well with the keyboard tracks in a lot of Who songs (Baba O’riley, for instance), it was a different monster to be playing on a live stage, with all of this going on.
A good part of playing in this gig was the fact that pedals were not only accepted, but also encouraged! The thing about modern/christian rock is that the guitarists generally use lots of delay, reverb, anything that makes it sound very… spacious, for lack of a better term. Playing wise, this means playing with a volume pedal, to achieve that almost pastoral guitar swell sound. It was slightly different to me at the time, but it opened up some new ideas in my playing, which I always welcome. Two nights were generally fun and the energy of the and was purely amazing! The songs were fun and poppy at the start, with everyone dancing and smiling. The set of three songs were concluded with a slower, but reflective song, and my playing felt natural, and it was a great release from the high energy part of the set. It was great, and I live for those live moments
There was one night where I had met a younger guitarist than me, who was the youngest player in that band, only about a year or two younger, but still. He was an absolute wunderkind, a one of a kind, a prodigy, etc. He absolutely loved rock music like I did, and he was super bluesy in his playing, it was wonderful. I played a Rush riff to warm up, and he picked up on that during set up and smiled, and played another Rush riff, “Limelight.” We started talking about gear, exchanged playing style tips, the usual. He also had kind of the same “rebellious” streak as I did, telling his past struggles with the ultimate enemy: the sound guy. One great story was how at one gig he played, (which, funny enough, I attended.) he fought against a sound guy who kept turning him way down in the mix over the show. He responded with a pedalboard filled with about 5 to 7 of the same type of overdrive/boost pedal, set in a path to each boost each other. He said that each time he was turned down, he would kick another one on, just for more volume. He continued until all of them were on, and when he was inevitably turned down, he turned all of the pedals off at once, and the soundguy panicked, and turned him up again. The kicker was that when he reached the solo, he then kicked all of the boosts on at once, resulting in the loudest sound possible, along with a defeated sound “technician.” I had responded with stories of my struggle with my then-senior year band director, who wanted me to not use my amp, in exchange for a direct box, (which I have learned were not only bad for the equipment, the practice of using them on electric guitars was frowned upon.) and we both had a great laugh on how we both got revenge. He was a great player, and lived for the instrument and captured how cool it was to play guitar in my eyes.
…all nice things have their end:
After about three or so months of playing in the band, I had to leave, partially due to scheduling of a musical (a nightmare gig for another story) and wanting to play in my own band and writing my own music again. I went to take a break for one musical, but that show turned into a longer break for another play I was in as well. I felt slightly bad leaving them on the broken promise of me coming back, but I had to just move on, and focus on my project as well as other ensembles.
The gig was fun, but I had to leave, in order to expand my playing and writing. I had a personal life that I needed to attend to as well, and frankly, I felt suffocated between all the ensembles and activities that I was working in. I can still look back on some of those shows and love the energy from those nights, and I still learned a few new things, and that’s what counts to me, I guess.