Last weekend at The Nile Underground, my band played in front of our biggest crowd yet. Cove red in sweat and clearly engrossed, I first had the thought while watching opening act Jezebela belt out the hook to Take Me To Church by Hozier.
‘Oh man, oh geez, look at how many people are already here!’
And just when I thought the adrenaline from my previous performance was wearing off.
I was coming from Market on Main. Another event put together by Gift & Thrift that was conveniently across from The Nile. Right on Main & Macdonlad. My band GUSHR played on the blocked off corner about an hour before our Femme Fest set. It was the perfect warm up for what was to come.
I knew I had a long night ahead of me, I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for whatever feeling came post show, but we’ll get to that later.
After Jezebela’s set, there was applause, there was whistling, and there was an exciting energy spreading through the Underground and it was like
everyone collectively had the
‘This is gonna be exciting.’
I looked around, able to see the crowd more now that the lights are up and I’m no longer fixated on the stage. First thing I noticed were the outfits. Everyone looked so cool. I see a Bikini Kill shirt. ‘Nice.’ I notice someone with the sides of their head shaved, leaving just a mohawk ‘Sweet.’ I notice another queer couple. ‘These are the kind of people I want showing up to my shows.’
Following Jezebela was Sophie Dorsten. A singer/songwriter with a soaring voice and flair to deliver a chorus that’ll surely be stuck in your head for days to come. Accompanying her was sibling Alex Dorsten, who played lead guitar and while it looked like he was just tapping his foot to the tunes, he was actually playing a kick drum. A decked out one with a QR code to their Instagram page. ‘That’s such a great idea why didn’t I think of that?’
I move my gaze from the kick drum over to the crowd again and this time I notice a couple dancing! This excites me and I smile, wondering if more people will be dancing later as well.
Sophie announces her last song and I’m not smiling anymore. I’m squatting against the wall, near the side stage with my hands clasped together, trying to stop the ropes in my stomach from knotting. I have to play drums for The OxxyMorons, and they are the next act. As the last chord rings out, I stand up and start making my way towards the stage. I let Sophie and Alex know they did a fantastic job, and then I’m sitting behind the kit. We start soundcheck, which eases the nerves a bit. The Underground has incredible sound (shout out sound guy Jordan!) so I know we’re in good hands. The rest is up to us. I’m handed the setlist.
“You guys ready?”
The lights go off, and we go on. I prepare myself for the first song as our lead singer Krys talks about the patriarchy. I take one last look at the crowd, then a deep breath, and count us in. “1, 2, 3, 4!”
Immediately I’m no longer nervous. I’m having fun. I’m hearing this song that we practiced so much in the garage and it sounds so different. It sounds amazing! I’m singing along, I’m headbanging. I squint through the sweat that’s covering my eyes and see the crowd doing the same thing. They are actually enjoying us! This encourages me, and I start playing even harder. Before I know it there’s a rupture of applause and the loudness of it is enough to push the words right out of my mouth.
The remainder of The OxxyMorons set went just about as smooth as any band could hope for. I could honestly say it was the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. At this point I’m used to singing and playing drums, which requires more concentration. This was a chance for me to give drumming all my energy, and I did just that.
I managed to be surprised by the audience’s reaction after every song.
Our last one was a cover of the feminist anthem, ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’ by The X-Ray Spex. The song that’s usually the most difficult for me during practice, ended up being my favorite of the set that night. Afterwards I watched as MJ from Bullet Babe asked Krys for her setlist. That was when I knew it. We nailed our first set ever.
As Krys and Geo (guitarist for The OxxyMorons) walked off stage, Em and I stayed behind. Em is the bassist for The OxxyMorons. She’s also the bassist for GUSHR, and we were up next. I should’ve felt ready. If anything warmed up. But I didn’t. I felt nervous all over again. The ropes in my stomach from earlier have tied themselves into knots and I suddenly couldn’t feel my arms. I take deep breaths and remind myself to focus on them.
I bring my attention to Paul, who just learned our songs a few days ago, and ask him if he’s ready. He says yes and I believe him. I then turn to Em, and ask her if she’s ready. She nods and gives me a thumbs up.
‘Here we go…’
I start with introducing the band. I’m nervous. Because I’m nervous, my natural impulse is to make a joke.
“Our usual guitarist Destin couldn’t make it out tonight, so we just decided to get the brown version of him. We are an all brown band now.”
To my surprise, there’s laughter.
“Anyways, I’m Neci Nite, that’s Em, and we are GUSHR.”
The second I start playing it’s tunnel vision, and that’s just how it’s always been. At least for GUSHR. I’m playing drums, I'm singing, I’m sweating, and there’s a million thoughts going through my head.
‘Do I sound okay? I wish I was in the crowd right now. Oh geez this is only the first song.’
Each song ends with a generous applause, and because I hate awkward pauses, I follow up with a joke. If not after every song, then after every other one.
“Follow us on social media! We have everything but TikTok and Facebook. We don’t believe in having a TikTok if you’re over the age of 20, or having a Facebook if you’re under the age of 50.”
“This one is called knee deep/tongue tied. If that sounds scary it’s ‘cause it is. Don’t do acid.”
That’s basically how every GUSHR show goes. There’s a lot of jokes. Some good, some bad. A lot of awkwardness, but also a lot of honesty. If someone leaves a GUSHR show feeling seen, that’s all that really matters to me. But if they can leave with the feeling of being seen, and also find themselves enjoying the songs, then that’s even better.
I wish I could have seen more of the crowd while I was playing. I have to take off my glasses while I play or else they’ll fall off, so everything I did see was blurry. I did however, hear all the claps and whistles, so I think it’s safe to say GUSHR had a successful set for the Femme Fest.
That was it! I was done! My job for the Femme Fest is over and I can enjoy the rest of the night as a show go-er! And that’s just what I did. Next up was Standard Deviance. A band I admittedly have not heard of until Femme Fest, but quickly became a fan of. I spent a majority of their set moshing, and when I wasn’t moshing I was admiring the stage presence and dynamic force of the band.
The evening felt lighter as the fest went on. All pressure was off of me now, and I was free to order a drink from the bar and scope out the rest of the scene. The art booths at the Femme Fest were accompanied by genuinely talented and nice people. I wish I could say I spent more time on this side of the fest, but I quickly found myself socializing with old friends who came out to the show, and people I have never met before. Other musicians, vendors, artists, punks.
Speaking of punks, Bullet Babe was next on the bill, and this was a band I have heard of and was excited to see. I also spent their whole set moshing. Short a guitarist but nothing short of entertaining, Bullet Babe killed it and I was not disappointed.