Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 03 2007

Peacefest ‘07

Backstage at the Hoping for Hoping PeacefestOver the years, the Hoping for Hoping Peace Festival has gained a reputation, at least in my mind, for playing host to mostly crappy weather. Spring is Taiwan’s most unstable season, and it has rained at some point during every Peacefest I’ve been to so far. In the past, we always played the last act on the last day, Sunday, and were invariably shut down by the management before satisfactorily completing our sets. This time, however, we chose to play on Saturday afternoon, just before the mass abstract jamming/hand-holding/circle-dancing orgy they call the “Peace Circle”.

I shoehorned myself into the back of Sandman’s Sentra along with his dog Balu, and we set off for Longtan. Jojo had a rough map, but so engaged were we in a fascinating discourse concerning language acquisition that we managed to miss the exit; we had to go all the way to Guanxi and then back around. Then we missed another turn and had to stop for directions at a gas station before we finally got on the right track, arriving at the hippie-filled garden spot at about 4pm. To our surprise, the weather was gorgeous, with a fresh breeze and no sign of rain. People, mostly young, tanned foreigners with interesting hairstyles, lay spread out on the field in front of the stage. Balu played with the other dogs and cheerfully mauled someone’s Frisbee. A short, heavyset foreigner with frizzy hair rushed up to Slim and David, pushing cans of coffee into their hands and saying in a good approximation of a 40’s businessman voice, “Hold these, fellas, I need to get to promotional pictures…make sure the labels are showing!”

lotus pondI walked around for a bit, taking pictures of the temple’s lotus pond. After a while, we set up a little practice session behind the temple in a claustrophobic clearing next to a tipi. The grass muffled the sound of the washtub bass, and I felt tired and apathetic among the stunted trees filled with spiderwebs. We went over Viola Lee several times, but it seemed slow and lethargic, and I played a few rather inappropriate fills. Sips from a Rosemary Screwdriver perked me up a bit, and afterwards I used the time before our show to buy a decent whiskey coke to put me in the mood.

We took the stage as the sun set, and all I could see through my sunglasses were brief glimpses of the audience as the lights swept out and around the field. The bass was booming in a resounding fashion, but nobody else seemed to mind. We hit our stride early on and things only got better. People moved up towards the stage, and soon we had a large crowd, most of whom were dancing. The sound guys stayed on top of things, and the audience, which had up to that point only showed passing interest in what was going on on stage, was incredibly enthusiastic. Our allotted time went by in a flash of some of the most inspired Ramblry I’ve seen to date. It was almost surreal. Part of that was the whiskey, and part was the shades, but by any estimation, it was an amazing show.

We stepped off the stage into a shower of compliments, which was gratifying. The Peace Circle was next, and a group of other musicians took the stage with a guitar, a digeridoo, and some other instruments. The crowd assembled into a large, hand-holding circle and danced to the rhythm. I took some pictures and then joined Sandman and some others in a little horn ensemble that had formed next to the drummer.The Peace Circle

The Peace Circle lasted a long time, and I was tired afterwards. Slim, Thumper and I trekked up the hill a ways for a post-show chat, sitting on the dark road taking care to avoid being mown down by any unwary scooters. As the next band started up, we were glad we’d done so, because even at that distance it was painfully apparent that they were not only way too loud, but they didn’t seem to be playing any songs. I kept waiting for their soundcheck to end, but it never did. We sat on the road and talked until they stopped, which took quite a while. It might even have been more than one “band”. Maybe they have a following among others, but it was definitely not to my taste, and I could only feel sorry for the eardrums of those who stayed below.

Thumper took off into the night on his scooter, back to his mountain abode, while Slim and I toured the field again. The stage was back to its more-or-less unattended state. We were soon surrounded by Taiwanese girls, who oohed and aahed over Slim’s Chinese. Of course Slim, being the Evil Child that he is, sicked them on me by revealing my secret identity. In the end I was forced to show my card.

Sandman, Jojo and Balu were ready to go by that point, so we piled in the car and set off. Balu shifted around in his seat for a while before falling asleep and snoring, and Sandman soon followed his example. I sat watching the lit windows of the apartment buildings flash by. I love driving through the highway tunnels at night and spying the lighted tip of Taipei 101 over the mountains ahead. Traffic was reasonable; we made the trip back to Bitan in under an hour. But I was exhausted and in bed by 11.

posted by Poagao at 1:55 am  

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