Plymouth Rocks: agony of the first gig

Zac Goldberg (left) and Sasha Soibelman (right) perform. Picture: Jonathan Bryce

“This is agony,” says Zac Goldberg of psychedelic rock band Plymouth.

First gig. Photo: Tobias Kagan
First gig. Photo: Tobias Kagan

Plymouth is composed of four members – Sasha Soibelman, Tobias Kagan, Alon Loeffler and Zac – and they have been together for two months.

Tonight is their first gig. Half of the members of the band sit and act cool, while the rest wander around the public bar with skittish energy and masticated nails. As the audience wanders in, each is personally thanked by a member of the band for coming on the blustery Tuesday night.

Zac is apprehensive about a multitude of factors: the acoustics of the bar, what the turn-out will be like, what small talk he will make between songs, how the band will sound, whether he will screw up the lyrics and whether he will burst out laughing like he always does when Sasha starts shuffling on stage.

Rather than practicing Zac spent Monday evening designing the band’s poster – a collage containing both drawn and computerised animations of the band members.

All of these confessions have been included in an awkward and stilted conversation that occurs 15 minutes before they go on stage.

Hopefully these anxieties will be calmed by time and experience. However, this is their first live performance. There are no strategies that could possibly replicate those blood-curdling and gut-wrenching minutes that occur before they jump on the stage.

At 8pm the smallish bar is virtually overflowing with friends who offer their unwavering support. Of course, the toxic side-effect of this is the fact that it intensifies the band’s personal anxieties.

Zac and Sasha on stage. Photo: Aron Lewin
Zac and Sasha on stage. Photo: Aron Lewin

Despite the outflow of beers and the jovial pretences, the atmosphere among the 50-strong audience is tense with anticipation. The band’s musical abilities have always existed behind closed doors and while they have published their recorded music on social media, not many of us have seen them play together.

Just before they begin to play the same question resonates around the room: Will they be any good?

As they jump on stage and tune their instruments, the tension is palpable and their feigned equanimity is easy to see through. They do not respond to the jokes that are yelled out by their friends in the audience who are trying to relieve some of the pressure.

A hush comes over the audience as they begin to play.

Zac slides into autopilot mode. Zac has only ever had the one singing lesson and has only had one experience singing for an audience at Melbourne University.

However, the focus was a song-writing competition and this task is infinitely more daunting as it is in front of people that he knows and will see again.

For the most part Zac’s desire not to screw up is all-encompassing and eclipses all other traces of emotion. However, he enjoys himself more with each passing second. By the end of the performance, a wry smile is planted on his face.

Sasha is seemingly the most comfortable of the quartet onstage. In between songs he liaises and trades jokes with the audience and spruiks the band’s CDs, which Zac has also designed. Completely uninhibited, he dances to the sound of his guitar.

 Plymouth poster: designed by Zac Goldberg, with help from Alon Loeffler.
Plymouth poster: designed by Zac Goldberg, with help from Alon Loeffler.

The consensus is that they sound really good. The bluesy/psychedelic congruence comes out really well on the live stage.

After the performance Sasha is euphoric. He explains that the butterflies in his stomach  dissipated as soon as he arrived at the North Melbourne bar.

“The whole day I was incredibly nervous as I didn’t know what the place looked like and I could not imagine playing here,” he says.

“As soon as we got here all nerves [were] lost and I got really excited.

“Now I am just completely relieved and completely happy,”  he laughs, “that we did not fuck up!”

In addition to receiving a small margin of the proceeds made from bar sales, Plymouth sells out of CDs – which, after robust discussion, were sold at a nominal price.

“I just cannot believe that we sold all of the CDs,” Sasha says.

“The idea [was] to sell them for $2 each so that we minimise profit but maximise how many people take them home.

“It worked well.”

Plymouth’s first gig was the perfect launching pad for their fledgling career. Through effective self-promoting they had the pleasure of playing in front of a benevolent audience that was willing to laugh off any potential mishaps. They won’t all be so supportive.

Like every band, the next step for Plymouth is to build their reputation and acquire a steady flow of gigs. A number have already been organised for the near future.

If you decide to turn up to their next gig a bit early, you will probably see Zac sitting in the corner looking like he needs a hug. Don’t give him one, as he will probably not like that. However, if you choose to start a conversation with him, this is what he will say.

“This is agony.”


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