Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 17 2007

Street jammin’

“It’s raining,” I said on the phone to David, who was still entwined in the subway system on his way to Bitan. We’d promised Athula, the Sri Lankan rotti-provider and patron saint of the Muddy Basin Ramblers, that we’d perform on the street in front of his stand as part of the Taiwan Beer Festival on Saturday night. But all I could see from my balcony as dusk fell was sheets of rain. Still, I got my things together, just in case.

20 minutes later the rain had stopped, so I stuffed my pocket trumpet in my backpack and lugged the euphonium and the washtub bass components down the wet street and over the bridge, meeting my neighbor Brent and his wife on the way. The bridge was full of people, and I wondered if it might not be a good idea to have a sign saying “Do you know why you’re crossing this bridge?” on the Xindian side, as most people just cross the bridge and turn back. The strollers I can understand, but it’s the people who seem to be in a hurry to cross, glance at the other side, and then rush back that confuse me.

Xindian Street was full of people and pavilions selling various products under a curtain of Taiwan Beer ads, and Athula was doing his usual roaring business. We set up in the middle of the street. Just our appearance, with all of the unusual instruments, attracted a lot of people, but once we started the show we gathered up quite a crowd. They were in a festive mood, too, applauding and yelling in appreciation. It seemed that everyone had some kind of recording device running. Several people brought cups of herbal jelly tea for us all to drink through thick straws. Sandman’s dog Balu trotted around the area following up interesting smells.

kidThe rain started in again, and we moved under one of the awnings nearby. The acoustics there were a little better, but there wasn’t enough room for much of a crowd. As soon as it stopped, we moved back out into the middle of the street. We played nearly every song that involved the euphonium, which tired me out and left my trumpet performance lacking, but I managed anyway. At one point Thumper invited a small boy in a striped shirt to play the bells on his washboard, and the kid really took a shine to it; the look on his face was priceless.

We played the Taiwan Song, which David said was meant for just such an occasion. After another song I had just put away my trumpet and returned to find a spectator playing the washtub bass with a rather confused yet determined look on his face. He used so much force that he broke the pencil I’d been using to pluck the string in half. I let him play and retrieved my trumpet to play along instead.

We were halfway through Work Song when the downpour started. Big, heavy drops began splattering down, and around us a host of umbrellas went up. Slim slipped his hat over Conor’s amp to keep it from electrocuting anyone. By the time we finished it was pouring rain. I slipped the washtub over my head and gathered up my trumpet and the euphonium, which had tumbled to the pavement when Jojo had mistakenly picked up the unfastened case, and ran back over to the awning for shelter.

conorIt was 10pm, and the pavilions were beginning to pack up. We stood around chatting with local denizens, politely declining invitations to play again on other nights. I pinched the straw of my herbal jelly tea, trying to filter out the jelly part, but to no avail. In the meantime, some of the foreigners in the crowd were getting pretty drunk. One guy fell off his motorcycle, breaking a part off of it.

The rain stopped again. By the point, traffic was being allowed through again, and a cavalcade of little blue trucks approached to take away the pavilions. We weren’t quite finished, however. We set up again and played some quieter songs for a while before the police showed up, as we knew they would. More chatting and milling around ensued before Thumper and I whisked Slim away from his complicated social life, down to the dragonboat platform erected on the edge of the river, which was covered in beautiful fog. There, we chatted and drank until the wee hours. It was a nice evening.bridge

posted by Poagao at 5:10 am  

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