I started with a 500D about 3 years ago. that and the kit 18-55 got me some of my favourite pictures, so yeah it's not about the gear. It's nice that in a small venue you can often get away with a bit of flash, especially if you know the bands or you've chatted to them before hand. If they know they're getting a free bunch of photos they're not going to be too pissed at you for shoving a camera in their faces to get good shots.
also, here's a point... when people have been shooting my bands, it's never bothered me if they've used flash. I don't think I've ever actually noticed. but then having seen flashes going off all day every day for the best part of 15 years, I don't really see them at all now. weird.