I’ve always hated soundchecking after the audience has arrived. My first Real Band, The Accelerators, was always late for the soundcheck. Not my decision…as I was probably the one who’d hustled for the gig and vainly promised the promoter we’d be there at five for a show at nine. But an unmanageable cocktail of unready band members, traffic jams, overlong service stops, frequent van breakdowns and anything else under the sun invariably put paid to that.
I got that we needed to test sound levels and see if everything worked, but part of me would rather have been boiled alive than stand there in front of PEOPLE going “one two one two” and giving limp renditions – sometimes one instrument at a time – of parts of songs. Songs we might playing for real within ten minutes. Now, decades later, I see why it distressed me, hard-nosed little punkette though I was. I couldn’t have articulated it back then, but now I know:
Actors don’t go out on stage before the curtain rises to test their lines. Playing half-arsed snatches of songs at volume 11 to the audience-to-be just didn’t cut it for me.
The others, as befitted the mood of that era, honestly didn’t care if people were listening to the soundcheck or not. But at that tender point in my development, punk or no punk, a show meant A SHOW – i.e. the ultimate reason for practicing downstrokes and Chuck Berry riffs in our garage till my hands were dropping off, or minutely perfecting my panda make-up with eyes sore from hard contact lenses. I wanted to confront the audience with a proper surprise attack, not give half my powers away before even starting.
Today the still-dreaded late soundcheck sometimes doesn’t even take place. Or I get away with two chords and a quick “Guten Abend” But if I do have to take it further, there’ll be no half-arsed spoilers from the set and definitely no one two one two.