Don't let GAS get your eyeballs salivating. What I mean, is that gear only takes you so far. It is hard to think otherwise when coming here for the first time. Understand that you don't NEED a bass made out of exotic woods and state of the art features. However, it is best to buy a bass that is capable of staying in tune and can be set up to fit your preferences. Most basses in the $400-$750 will meet your needs... with minimal problems. For a rig, you WILL have to spend a little more than you will want to in order to be able to keep up with your band (especially if you are a loud band). I am also going to say that while you might be able to get great results from high end companies, in my experience, Carvin gets the job done just fine... and they are pretty easy on the wallet. Work on your technique, writing and general theory. Money can't buy musical knowledge, that is all you. Never forget why you are playing- remember your heroes. Play your ass off and have a good time.