Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 17 2005

I almost missed the train to Taichung on Saturday….

I almost missed the train to Taichung on Saturday. Which is exactly how I predicted it would happen, because I am often late to stuff. I called David and arranged to meet him on the platform, though, so they wouldn’t have to wait and could leave without me if necessary.

I made it, though, and found I had the most luggage of anyone, even Slim, who had two tuxedos. Of course, I had two trumpets, but still.

The mere act of boarding a train, hauling a big leather instrument case up on the rack, followed by your hat, switching the seats around to face each other and settling down for a few hours makes a great impact on a mind desperate for a change of scenery. David, Conor, Dana, Will, Patrick and I talked our way down the island through the rain, pointing at scenery and chewing coffee beans.

The blackened landmark of the Golden Plaza greeted us in the rainy afternoon as we pulled into the scaffolded train station. We caught a couple of cabs to the Hamilton Hotel, an institution not quite as grand as its name implies, but cheap enough, in the canal district. Plonked down on tightly fit hotel sheets and snapped on the cable. Later we all went down to David’s room to go over a few songs, a fact I’m sure the neighbors enjoyed through the thin walls.

When we ventured out that night, the weather had gotten worse; colder, rainier, and now featuring gale-force winds. We fought our way, leaning into the blast, through the alleys and byways to 89K, where our gig was scheduled. David bought an umbrella at 7-Eleven that lasted less than a minute in the howling wind.

The bar was cozy enough, dark and woody. We set up carefully, the floorboards creaking ominously under our feet. I put a mic under the basstub, but it didn’t seem to carry very much. Nonetheless, the gig went well. Afterwards we hung around a bit, drinking and watching inane music videos on the projection screen. At one point they played the We Are The World video, and people cheered their favorite musicians of the 80s when they appeared.

The weather on Sunday was drier, but also much colder and windier. We arrived at Tiger City to find a few small tents and even fewer people in the square out front where we were to play. Thumper disappeared while Conor, Slim and I huddled around a sausage grill for warmth and sustinance. A large black dog lay curled up next to a box nearby.

The first few bands, including Boogie Chillin (who, in all honesty, rocked), were the bravest, as they faced the worst of the weather and the smallest, soberest crowds. By the time we went on everyone had drunk enough to keep warm. The sound people didn’t know what to do with the bass, so they put a mic next to it that didn’t do anything at all.

Our act was broken up into two sets: the pre-Jason Hu set and the post-Jason Hu set, as the mayor arrived right in the middle and had to come up on stage to chat with the hostess, grammy winner Hazel Payne. Fortunately, this gave the sound guys a chance to run out and get a clue, so our sound on the post-Hu set was much better, and people could actually hear the bass. At one point towards the end the sun actually came out, and the whole band raised their hands simultaneously, pointing up, and the crowd cheered at the sudden warmth.

After we were done, a Slovakian bluesman named Peter Bonzo came on stage with a resonator guitar a lot like David’s national. He warbled and shouted and made jokes in accented English, and in general put on a great show. Sandman got his sax and went up and played along, a performance he would repeat many times into the drunken night.

The main act, the Joanna Connor Band, was incredible. They were almost too good. It wasn’t just the ease with which they played, it was the slightly jaded way they played, in contrast to the hyper amateur efforts of the other bands. It was a delight to listen to, of course, but, well, I don’t know. Something was just a bit off. Maybe it was just me, or my growing sobriety as the whiskey wore off.

DC Rapier was the emcee, and despite some strange ICRT-like activities, like a ten-second kissing contest, the event went off pretty well. The last act, Chicken Rice, was very entertaining. The drummer described the band as “The most important psychobilly band in Taiwan”.

Before we knew it it was midnight, the tents were coming down around us, and then we were hailing cabs. Slim was going to spend another night at the Hamilton, but the rest of us were off to hunt Wild Chicken buses back to Taipei. We lugged our stuff from station to station, only to be told the wait was an hour or more, out in the elements. Eventually we made it to Aloha, where they at least had an indoor waiting room with drinks and papers to read. I got the last and worst seat, the middle seat in the very back, but at least I got a seat. They had awful soft-porn movies just begging for the MST3K treatment, and the bus ladies had to keep shushing Hyatt and me all the way back.

Peter Bonzo had two more gigs, one at the Riverside bar near Taipower on Tuesday, and another at the Living Room on Wednesday. Only a handful of people showed up at the first gig. I hadn’t eaten all day, and the place was short on eats, though it certainly charged enough just to get in. That night I brought my pocket trumpet and nothing else. A Taiwanese guy named Mark was playing harmonica so enthusiastically it was like a little shock. Conor and DC were also playing harmonica. It’s a popular instrument, I guess.

Wednesday night was much more lively. A lot more people showed up, including Thumper, Sandman, Jez, Dana and a lot of people I didn’t know. Luckily there was a good-sized crowd as well or we would have looked real silly, all of us up on the stage like that. A Taiwanese guy on drums really rounded out the sound, and we got a real storm of a jam session going on, all led by Peter Bonzo and his resonator guitar.

A much less interesting band then came on…ok, I’m biased…and I caught a ride with Sandman and Jojo back home to Bitan, stopping off for sugary treats and 24-hour doujiang on the way.

posted by Poagao at 5:33 pm  

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