Girl With A Guitar | The Female Impostor?

Catherine Elms

Catherine Elms

Since I wrote my last column, I played a gig!  It was a birthday party at a local bar, and I decided to perform as I knew the birthday boy and expected that the night would be a supportive environment in which to try my hand at playing bass and singing.  I enlisted my boyfriend as lead guitarist, but finding a drummer was a nightmare.  It’s true – one is always within 3 feet of a guitarist, but you can barely find 3 good drummers within an entire city!  Eventually I managed to snag the drummer from my brother’s band.  We had one rehearsal, managed to gel pretty well, learned seven classic rock cover songs, and rocked up on the day hoping that we’d remember everything.

I felt very nervous as I arrived at the venue to soundcheck.  This was my first band gig in years – I’d played live a few times when I was in a girl band, but now I found myself lacking the spunky carefree attitude I had in my teens.  I felt very self-conscious about being the only female in the room, and increasingly doubtful about my ability to hold my own.  Being a shy girl doesn’t help either – if I had the exuberance and relaxed confidence of my partner, I might’ve felt better.  As it was, I tried to relax and look confident as we set up, but inside I was terrified of being “exposed” as an impostor.

Turns out I needn’t have worried – the performance itself went incredibly well.  Highlights included everyone getting up to dance when we started “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, and the blokes at the bar singing along to our version of “Tie Your Mother Down” by Queen (I didn’t realise how misogynistic that song was until I’d already learned it, but sexism in the classic rock lyric is a whole separate column unto itself!).  The audience was very appreciative, and afterwards many came up to congratulate us on a job well done.

The reaction from the other musicians was very telling though – after we got off stage, they all approached my partner and I, congratulating him for a good set without acknowledging me.  I love him for his reaction though – he graciously deflected the attention onto me, saying, “Thanks guys, but Cath was the star of the show.”, at which they gave me an appreciative nod.  And if I can say this without demeaning the role the other two bandmates played, I was the star of the show – within my band, that is.  Both my partner and the drummer have been playing in bands for years, and are both well-known musicians within our local scene.  Playing live is second-nature to them.  On the other hand, this was the first time I’d played bass live, and I had the difficult task of playing some challenging bass riffs while singing some difficult vocal parts (e.g. “Back in Black” – the breakdown near the end of the song moves pretty fast!).  I was fronting the band, the only girl performing, and the newbie – a triple-whammy of frightening circumstances.  All three of us did a good job, but my job was the most challenging, and required the most bravery.  And I pulled it off.  I wonder why the men were too nervous to come up and congratulate me personally – because I know it’s not that I wasn’t good enough.

Catherine Elms

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