28 February, 2011

From first to last

I had the privilege on the weekend of seeing a band's first ever gig. It's a daunting moment for those on stage - the first time you take the music you've been making in a garage or lounge room, and sing and play it into microphones and amplifiers in front of friends and strangers.

The thing about first times is that they happen a lot, whether it's noticeable or not.

What about the first time you ate somewhere, or the first time you experienced a particular food? I can remember the first time I ate pesto (which I blamed for a particularly ugly hangover the next day, thinking it was some exotic condiment I was unlikely to seek out again! Now I look forward to making it every summer). I never really understood tomatoes until the first time I ate proper ones, glowingly red in the Greek salad that was the first thing I ate on arrival in the dish's home country.

Sometimes the first time is the only time. I'll never take off backpacking around Europe on my own again. I'll never again leave the country for the first time. I'll never again see my first cathedral, waterfall or fall of snow. And that's just it - once you've done something for the first time, it's done. You've experienced it. What was unimaginable is now part of you. Once you've set foot in a new place, or felt a new experience, it can't be undone.

You may or may not remember the first time you saw someone you were destined to fall in love with. I remember seeing my partner for the first time. No lightning bolts shot between us, and it wasn't an immediate attraction, at least, not in a romantic sense. I remember the moment because lots of new things happened that day (it was my first day at a new job) and our relationship started soon enough after that I was still able to draw that first sighting from my memory banks and file it under 'Special' rather than 'Too random to remember'.

Whether you remember that first sighting or not, you can almost never know, as it's happening, when you're seeing someone for the last time. There are people from my past who I haven't seen for years, yet when I say, 'The last time I saw them was...', I mean it as a qualified term, as in the 'most recent' time. It doesn't necessarily mean the last time ever.

Watching that first-time gig came hard on the heels of watching a DVD of my favourite ever band's last gig. The Lucksmiths were together for 16 years before calling it a day. That's another experience, knowing it's the last time you'll ever do something. Sometimes you don't realise that either, but other times it plays on your mind throughout the experience, as you try to draw out those last few chords, put that extra emotion into each of the lyrics, make a small passage of time go for just a little longer.

You might be more comfortable with your material by the point you do it for the last time, but you can be as emotionally jumbled by memories and associations as you were by nerves and uncertainty the first time.

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