January 2, 1973

Where: Long Island, NY (Carle Place High School)
Band: Circus

This was the first real gig I ever played in my life. I used to have a real problem with nerves. I would get so nervous before a gig that I could usually be found backstage somewhere throwing up. Being the first gig, I was new to the terror of stage fright and for the whole week before this gig I was so stressed out that I’d periodically pass out from nervous exhaustion. Finally on the day of this gig, I decided that this shit wasn’t for me and after this gig I’m quitting the band and quitting the guitar. I couldn’t bear to get on that stage for some reason. I remember when we were doing the soundcheck, my wah-wah broke and I lost my signal. I knelt down over the wah-wah and just started hitting it. I remember looking up and the room just seemed surrealistic. Everybody looked like these aliens building the equivalent of a giant ant farm. I heard myself saying the words “help me…help me” over and over. Did you ever see the original version of the movie “The Fly” with Vincent Price? At the end of the movie there’s this fly with the head and arm of a man and it’s stuck in a spider web. It’s panicking and screaming in the munchkin-like voice “help me! help me!”. That’s what I sounded like to myself as I sat there in my delusionary panic. I guess from there I went on auto-pilot to finally get onstage and start the show. The funniest thing happened when I hit the first chord of the first song. I felt like I was reborn. All the nervousness went away and was replaced with this powerful feeling of calm and control. As the show progressed I metamorphosed into a different person. All the bad self esteem and insecurity melted away and was replaced by confidence and conviction. I was not a greaser, a jock, or any other label kids put on you in school. I was Steve Vai and I was playing my guitar and it didn’t matter if I was cute, ugly, cool, liked or disliked. That damn guitar and the feeling of being on the stage changed my entire view of who I was, and what the world meant to me. I was 13 years old and discovered there was no turning back. This is what I wanted to do, had to do, and was destined to do in this particular life. It was very nice.