Levi Benton, Miss May I

The first time we ever played a show was obviously a local show—and not only was it our local show, but it was the first time I had ever seen local bands. Ever since we started I only saw our band and bands at arenas. Nothing else! So I was so confused of how small the show was and even more confused that the crowd was only my family and a few close friends, equalling about 30 people. I remember going on stage and not knowing what to say to the crowd or how to move. I basically looked like I was in a disco band with bootcut girl jeans on and pelvic thrusting offbeat. I specifically recall saying I never wanted to play a show again because it was too hot and the lights were in my eyes. Now, a thousand plus shows later, I guess it didn’t bother me as bad as I thought.

Matty Mullins, Memphis May Fire

I flew from Spokane, Washington, to Dallas, Texas, to audition for MMF, not knowing what to expect at all. When we finished jamming, Kellen [McGregor, guitar] looked at me and said, “Cool man, can you be back down here in two weeks for a show?” Little 19-year-old me was so overwhelmed but so excited at the same time. I flew home, my wife and I packed up our one bedroom apartment and started the drive to Dallas to start our new life! Shortly after I arrived, I played my first show with the band—a Dallas festival put on by Mike Ziemer called Monster Mosh. It was the biggest crowd I'd ever performed in front of and thankfully nothing went wrong. I'll always be so thankful to the Dallas music scene for welcoming me with open arms.

Read more: So What?! founder Mike Ziemer tells us how he built a festival from the ground up

Matty Taylor, Tennis System

My brother asked us to open for his band at the Black Cat in DC. It's a bigger venue, and Dave Grohl is a part-owner, and my brother's band had a big following. I was nervous. But it also made me hungry. I didn't want to lie in his shadow. It was also the first time I had played with a second guitarist. I had just written all of these songs, and I forgot the words to two of them. We were halfway in before I was like, “I got this,” and everything clicked.


Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. I was king of the oompa-loompas when I was five years old. I knew right away, they were carrying me around on their shoulders. It was a good time.

Mike Fuentes, Pierce The Veil

When I was in high school, I was in a band with Nick Martin. Nick Martin is actually playing in Sleeping With Sirens now. He is their guitar player now, but me and Nick Martin were in a band called Underminded that we started in high school. I think some of our first shows were actually playing during lunchtime in high school. We did it a couple times, and it was so funny because the first time we did it, we were so nervous. We played in the quad. It was a big grassy spot behind one of the classrooms. I remember one show we played, it was at a private school, and a mosh pit broke out and they shut us down. All the kids were mad. They definitely pulled “no moshing,” and I hate that rule. After we played, everyone—all our friends and even all the kids we didn’t get along with in high school—was like, “Dude, that was so awesome. You guys are rad. How do I get a CD?” I think right when that started happening, we were like, “Well, if we can play here then why can’t we play at the local venue?” Eventually, we started recording some demos. We burned some copies and handed them out for free at high schools. Eventually we got a show at the local venue and started promoting that. You get all your high school buddies and anyone you can to go to those shows. From then on, you support your ass off and write more songs—just keep hacking away.

Spencer Ussery, Big Jesus

Our first show was a direct support slot for the band Coliseum at 529 in East Atlanta. Our friends WHORES. opened. I played guitar through a Peavey PA system because I didn't have any gear otherwise. Absolutely bonkers first show for us.

Awsten Knight, Waterparks

The first Waterparks show was at a super tiny venue, and we were headlining. We sold all the tickets in presale, so it was technically sold out, which ruled—but for some reason we thought it'd be tight to only have halogen lights go off every few beats, so the room was completely dark, and we couldn't see what we were playing at all. Also, the openers were a rap group called DWHB, a metal band called Invent, Animate and then a band called PIZZA that we made up, and we just left a pizza with a microphone onstage for like 15 minutes before we played. 11/10 first show. Best band. Best Christmas Spirit.