First Gig: Anya Marina

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First Gig: Anya Marina

First Gig is our series at Stereo Subversion that asks various musicians to look back at their first-ever live show. Anya Marina is fresh from the recording of a beautiful brand new album, Paper Plane, but fortunately she also took time to reflect back on her initial nerves that had her convinced she’d never step up to the mic again. 

My first gig was at Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach, San Diego. I opened for a band called Bug Guts, a husband and wife duo whose brand of folk punk was almost as powerful and intoxicating as the high THC-content pot cookies they gave out backstage after the show.

I vibrated and stumbled through my set, voice quivering and hands shaking. I don’t remember what I played other than a couple drop-D songs about my friend Rommy (sung in broken French and decent English) and a cover of Freedy Johnston’s “Bad Reputation.”

While I played I thought about how stupid this was, how I wasn’t meant for this performing life, how out of place I was (“You’re not the musician in the family! Your sister is! Who gave you the idea you could even attempt to do this?!”) and how I would never put myself through this hell again. I thought, “This was a lark you should never again repeat. Bad idea.”

I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I thought about refunding all 12 of the people who showed up their $8. It was the least I could do. I was sure I would throw up the second I unplugged my guitar and stepped offstage, but instead I felt an odd sense of lightness, relief, and an altogether new wave of confidence pass over me. I hadn’t felt that way in years, if ever.

In 17 years of playing shows, I have continued to feel those moments of elusive and ephemeral oneness and wholeness, and in 17 years I have kept chasing them, even seconds after they flee my grasp.

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