My First Stage Experience
By Caleb Knott
My first stage experience happened in the June 2007 when I was about eleven years old. At that
was my favorite band, as I was just getting into heavier music. My Dad received an email
from a mailing list saying there was a guitar competition going on, sponsored by the band Kutless
which required you to enter through YouTube. You had to make a video with appropriate
tags for them to notice. Kutless and Jack Higginbotham, president of PRS, would then review each
video and choose six candidates. Each candidate won the opportunity to play the song "Somewhere in
the Sky" with Kutless on stage at a festival or concert; one candidate per event.
Being eleven years old at the time, I thought, "I probably won't get in, but I should at least try." So, my dad grabbed the video camera and I got my guitar and we began recording. We set up a boombox to play the song behind my guitar playing. Timing my playing with the starting of the song was hard. I was ready to give up because I had played the song many times, committing it to memory, but we couldn't get the timing right. The next day when my Dad got home from work he said that we should give it another shot. After a couple more tries playing along to the CD player, I said, "Let's just do it without the CD." I played the song by myself and got a good take. That same video is still on YouTube and has gotten over 9,000 views.
Since my Dad was in charge of most of the video stuff and the emails, he received the email from Kutless's manager saying that I was in! I had been chosen for one of the six spots. He called my mom to give us the good news. I was ecstatic for the rest of the day. I would be playing on stage with one of my favorite bands at CreationFest (2007) in Pennsylvania!
The Trip and the Festival
Soon, it came time to pack up our stuff and get ready to drive to Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is about an eight to nine hour drive from our home, so I had all that time to be excited about what was to come. CreationFest is not only a great set of concerts, but also provided for camping, which was great for my family, since all the hotels were fully booked. When we arrived, we set up a tent and inflated our air mattresses. Since it was the middle of summer, rain was common at this festival and most of the area had dirt that turned to mud from the rain. Our tent leaked, letting in water, which made for a damp night, to say the least. The next day we were all thinking the same thing: "There has to be some kind of hotel around with a room." Most of the hotels were filled to the brim, but we managed to find a hotel relatively close to the festival that had a cancellation.
The first two days we saw many bands that we loved, like Toby Mac and Thousand Foot Krutch. The second night had a candlelight service following a band named Casting Crowns. The attendance was approximately 100,000 people. I was amazed to see so many people at this festival.
It was the third day, and for some odd reason, I wasn't nervous at all that I was going to be playing that night. I was expecting to have butterflies in my stomach all day, but for some reason I didn't. Earlier in the day, Kutless was doing a sound check. They were to play on the main stage of the three stages. We were there watching the band members check their instruments and sound. Since I was still pretty small, my Dad lifted me up on his shoulders. We were waving like crazy people at one of the guitarists, James Mead. He eventually saw us and waved and smiled.
Later in the afternoon, we made a call to the band manager to arrange a meeting time so we could get our passes for backstage. Walking around backstage, we saw the band members hanging out, as well as some musicians from other bands. The manager called the band over to meet us. They received us like family and talked with us for a while. James told me that I was the only candidate who had played the song the way they were looking for it, meaning I played the rhythm part instead of the lead during the verse of the song. Then the guys introduced us to the band Barlow Girl, which my older sister was a big fan of at the time. They were very nice and welcoming.
Nighttime had come and I still wasn't nervous! Though, the rest of my family was nervous enough for all of us. The Newsboys' guitar tech perfectly tuned my guitar, and I was ready to go. My guitar was made by my father, a commercial cabinetmaker and woodworker. This was also the guitar I used in my audition video. A few songs into Kutless's set, James gave a quick introduction and called me out onto the stage and hooked me up. I would be taking his place in the song while he videotaped the performance. Earlier, James had told me he had lost his amp at the airport and that he was using a replacement. It was a Marshall half-stack that he referred to as the "Partial Marshall."
As the singer, Jon Micah Sumrall, was speaking to the crowd, I yelled over to the drummer, Jeff Gilbert, to give me a count-off on the hi-hat cymbals when they were ready to begin the song. Before I knew it, we had started playing the song. People could probably see how into it I was by the expression on my face. The other guitarist, Nick De Partee, was playing the lead parts over my rhythm guitar as we went through the song with our heads banging. The breakdown of the song came and Jon Micah motioned to me to move to the front of the stage with the bassist, Dave Leutkenholter, and Nick, but it took me a second to register his motions because I was so caught up in the song! The crowd was amazing and ready to hear Kutless's music. By the end of the song, the crowd chanted my name. I felt like this entire thing was a dream. James came over and gave me a hug and plugged back in as I left the stage. My family and I stood by the stage headbanging for the rest of the show.
After The Show
We got to hang around with the band backstage while the Newsboys played the last set of the night. The guys from Kutless signed our t-shirts, and James signed the back of my guitar. They told us that they would post the video of each candidate from all six festivals on their website and let their fans vote for the performance they liked most.
We finally got back home after our fantastic but tiring trip and were ready for the results. The time to vote came in July, but then Kutless's web site crashed! So many people were on the site trying to vote that the site couldn't handle the traffic. They sent an email saying they would have it fixed soon. We asked all of my family to vote for me to help increase my chances of winning the most votes. I was hopeful, but doubted that I would win. Soon, the site was back up and the voting went on.
Did I Win? Did I Win?
A few weeks later, we were at my grandparents' house next door when my Dad came home saying that I had won! We ran home to look at the e-mail and the website where it showed I had won the most votes. The grand prize for winning was a PRS SC250 guitar and $100 in Kutless merchandise! Even now, when I watch my performance video, all I hear are my mistakes. Then again, I suppose that's how it works sometimes. That one e-mail made my month, because I was expecting a new guitar. I was told the guitar would be made and shipped in a few weeks or months after I decided on the color, and I could choose my Kutless merchandise online. I ordered two Kutless jackets—one for my brother and one for me—plus a shirt for my mom and a shirt for my sister.
A while after I had chosen the color and inlays of the guitar, it arrived at my house. Excited, but being patient despite my excitement, I waited for my Dad to get home to open the box. When he came home, he got out the camera. I opened the cardboard, got rid of the packing material, and pulled out a black guitar case. I slowly opened the case thinking of Legend of Zelda when Link opened a chest. There it was, a Dark Cherry Burst PRS SC250 guitar. Thinking back, I couldn't have asked for a better guitar. This PRS SC250 is now discontinued because of a lawsuit with Gibson over the position of the three-way switch, so I consider myself even more fortunate to own it.
You can see the guitar my Dad made in my audition video.
And here is a video of my new PRS SC250.
Or take a look at some other PRS guitars .
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.