The Characteristics of Rockstars
When I was 14, I became a rockstar...
I started playing bass in one of Trinidad and Tobago’s biggest metal bands and performed in venues like Anchorage, Tsunami, Pabloz, Privé, Woodford Cafe and numerous other bars and lounges around Trinidad, all before I finished Secondary School. These days were the coolest, creating some of the best memories of my young life. Though my professional trajectory veered away from musical performance, having that experience very much shaped the woman I am today, imbedding those useful ‘badass rockstar’ qualities which I carry through various aspects of my life and career.
It was the August vacation of 2006 when my father escorted me to the band room of Incert Coin- a veteran band of Trinidad’s metal music scene (yes, Trinidad has a lot of alternative music bands. Click here for a current local alternative music catelogue). At this point Incert Coin had already performed on stages with world renowned bands and recorded many albums of original work consisting of the most brutal riffs that only the most technically skilled musician could execute. Sure I’d been playing guitar for two years prior to this moment, but I was there to audition as Incert Coin’s bassist... playing a 5 string bass... for the first time... in a revered mental band... as a 14 year old girl.
Draped in all black clothing and bright orange All Star Converse on my feet, I was ready for my rock band debut. I was nervous, my dad was supportive and happy to be there, and the twenty- something year old guys in the band, who I referred to now as my big brothers, were all welcoming, encouraging and SO COOL in my eyes. I was ready for my audition. Songs were taught, strings were plucked and I ultimately got the gig and soon became known as “that badass bass girl”- significant because the rock music scene in Trinidad was utterly dominated by men.
Seeing any female on stage rocking out like she could possibly end your life was astonishing and weirdly endearing for most within this alternative space. Women were praised for their musical skills and demanding presence on stage in a different way than men were, in a more ‘astonished’ way- I guess its a bit uncommon to see a woman behave with such confidence... the audacity!
I personally felt like I had to hold my own on a stage with ruthless, head-banging musicians stomping and performing for a sea of equally ruthless concert goers eagerly waiting to be summoned to the mosh pit by a ‘guitar riff of death’. What does this look like? A 14 year old girl, fully 'screw-pan’, hair flailing about the place as she violently swings her head back and hurls it forward one hundred times over in time with the rest of her band while playing some heavy mental riffs as the crowd roars the lyrics to the songs. It was a dream. It was euphoric. I was liberated from chains I really didn’t know existed at the time because I had no idea that many girls, women and non conforming persons would never have the opportunity to feel this freedom to exist. Little did I know that I would come very close to this oppression of expression when I came out as gay a few years laster (I will examine this in Part 2).
So what are some characteristics of Rockstars and why should women, girls and gender non conforming persons adopt these qualities and how do they allow a sense of such freedom to exist?
- Confidence: The guts that it takes to get up on a stage like you own it and perform to a live
audience should never be underestimated. If a musician jams in their bedroom, does it make a sound? Sometimes you have to ‘fake it till you make it’ but when you do in fact start to personify this confidence, trust that you will be unstoppable. Some people won’t like this new unstoppable you... be it anyway.
- Brutality: Being referred to as ‘brutal’ is a huge compliment for a rocker, suggesting that they demand attention on stage by their antics and that you may not want to get too close unless you want a guitar headstock to face; they look like you really don’t want to get on their bad side because you can already feel their wrath from meters away; they execute all of their parts with utmost precision while doing the above two points, letting you know that they are in fact an alien. 1) Demand attention. 2) Execute your parts with precision. 3) Show your wrath.
- Heart: This is the reason that you see guitarists powering through guitar solos as their fingers bleed down to their pick-ups, or the reason why your bestie couldn’t meet up with you again because they’ve been in the band room day in and day out getting ready for the next big show (sorry Shannen!). Show up on that stage of life baring your soul, talents and making your presence known to the world. If there’s ever someone in the crowd who doesn’t like your style, just remember where you’re standing compared to where they are.
I challenged myself every day being Incert Coin’s bassist. I wanted be there on those stages and perform my heart out every night in that space. Mind you, its not all sunshine, rainbows and respect in the local rock space or absolutely any space for that matter, but the take away is this- being confident, brutal or having heart aren’t just characteristics reserved for the men I’ve shared stages with, these are my characteristics too, the characteristics of women, girls, non binary, LGBTQ+ people... the characteristics of rockstars.
By Megan Gill
@megtravelstt on Instagram
Ps- Subscribe to the Agenda website to be notified when Part 2 of this article comes out as I let you know how being a part of the local rock and alternative scene held me together during my period of coming out..