Dangerous liaisons

Meeting people off the internet is no easy experience, Rob Garratt confesses

The Knowledge

Despite a history of messy internet meetings, Rob Garratt has decided to jump back in.

We’re sitting opposite each other in my apartment. Imploring eyes meet longingly across the table. We both want this to happen, I’m sure, but neither of us has the stomach to make the first move. Eventually I delve deep down inside, plunder my inner courage, reach out, and strike an energetic D chord. A few more strums follow and suddenly we’re off, locked into a seemingly magical, telepathic trance. I’ve scored this time, I think already.

It’s been a long time since I went looking for bandmates on the internet. I just got tired of all the effort, rejection and disappointment. And in Dubai, it always felt too random, too risky. But after a dry performance spell of more than a year, I knew drastic measures were required. I’ve taken the plunge, created an online profile listing my personal quirks, likes and dislikes, and anxiously await judgement from afar.

Tackling the tangled world of musicians’ web liaisons is an emotional rollercoaster. Described by one of my more successful pairings as ‘part business meeting, part blind date’, there’s an immense air of anxiety at the first encounter. Typically two people start with a casual drink to discuss their experiences, expectations and desires. If it feels like you’ve clicked, the braver party might make the first move: an invite back to jam – maybe even that very evening, if things are going really well. An offer to burn a CD or send you tunes generally means they’re already seeing someone musically, but want to keep you on the back-burner, just in case.

In my younger days I was more carefree, throwing myself out there and playing with any plucker who’d profess an emoticon-heavy soft spot for Neil Young. I jammed around London messily, with little regard for exclusivity or taste. I played Goth-folk with leather clad Italians, soul with students, blues with balding dads and earnest, aching Americana with anyone who’d let me share my originals. The weirdest? A plodding heavy metal band who, over the course of four rehearsals, changed lead guitarist three times; the first was imprisoned, I was casually informed, while his replacement absconded (to Skegness, I recall).

Often it was over after a single heartbreaking date, while many meetings grew into meaningful musical projects offering kicks, and in a few cases, riches (playing white reggae in rural England was surprisingly lucrative). It’s the others that really sting, though – when it fizzles out. There’s no disappointment like devoting chunks of your life to someone else’s songbook, but never consummating the partnership in live performance. I’ll never forget that dagger in the back from an indie band who, after six months learning brain-dead pub-friendly bangers, went behind my back to advertise for a replacement. I hope you’re reading this, punks.

It’s easy to see why I stepped back from this murky musical pastime, but right now I’m glad to be back and band-dating. I’ve made some ground rules this time: I’m only going to see one partner at a time – there’s more chance of it working out that way. And so far so good: I’ve met just one player, and despite initial concerns about our differing backgrounds, something stronger than a list of influences drew us together. Of course, you never really know until the third jam. Right now I’m playing it cool and waiting for him to call. Don’t want to appear too eager.

Rob Garratt is Time Out's online editor. Tweet @robgarratt for a band date.

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