Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 25 2009

A couple of shows

Our first show last weekend was at Amuse in Taichung again. Much like last time, it was crowded, smokey, noisy and fun for the most part. When I wasn’t on stage I had to cower in a little corner trying to avoid the waiters rushing back and forth holding trays of snacks and drinks. This show still had the vestiges of our original arrangement, which included the traditional Chinese instrument and the Native American flute, but they were only on stage for a short time; the rest of the show had evolved more towards pop/rock tunes, and I’ve been playing more trumpet and less bass (the tub didn’t even make an appearance this time). Djavan was with us again, and though she was feeling a little under the weather she still managed to rock the place. I was feeling a bit off, though; the rest of the Muddy Basin Ramblers were playing at Capone’s in Taipei without me, and it felt strange not to be there.

We stayed at the same hotel as we did last month when we played there, but this time I managed to get to bed early enough to get up in time for the free breakfast, which I ate sitting by the window reading a book of Hollywood stories by David Niven. The only other customer was an older man ranting loudly across the room in Taiwanese to the waitress about President Ma.

We arrived at the High Speed Rail station in time for our train, but missed it as Pei-shan had not shown up yet, so we exchanged our tickets for a later train and sat around taking pictures of each other while Small Eyes went on ahead to Kaohsiung to make arrangements there. Ah-zhen is interested in photography, though all he has to work with is a rather pitiful little point-and-shoot, but he manages a few decent pictures.

I had the train lunchbox, which wasn’t very good. On the way down we could see flattened bamboo forests here and there, leftovers from the devastating typhoon a couple of weeks ago. Small Eyes met us at Kaohsiung Station, and we piled in a series of taxis to take us out to Pingdong, to the Meilirensheng club on the outskirts of town. After Chiayi, we weren’t optimistic. When we arrived at the large two-story frame structure, the air conditioning had just been turned on, and it was stifling inside. “It’s another Calgary!” cried Ah-zhen as we mounted the steps to find a very high, wobbly stage towering over the large space, with no guard rails preventing one from stepping off the side and falling to the stairs a dozen feet below.

But things improved after that; the owner, a small but enthusiastic middle-aged woman, arrived and made sure everything was going smoothly, and we were treated to an expansive and delicious dinner in the green room after rehearsal. As the show started at 11 p.m., we had quite a bit of time to kill, so I took a stroll around the neighborhood, which bore a striking resemblance to certain parts of Hsinchu where I lived for a time. The same three- or four-story concrete houses, many of them new and stylish and completely empty, interspersed with empty fields. I found a night market and walk around it taking pictures of people lined up at mini-pachinko games or catching very small fish.

I continued up the road, turning back towards the club and passing it (my phone’s GPS saved me from taking an extremely long detour) and walked up and down the main road we had traveled that afternoon, taking pictures of storefronts. Walking around an unfamiliar area with a camera, just exploring, is one of my favorite things to do, and I arrived back at the club with plenty of time before the show. Xu Jie, one of the sound guys was hanging around outside the club, and we chatted for a while.

The crowd that night was heavily aboriginal and very responsive; they really got into the show, jumping up on tables and dancing and shouting out requests. From the looks of some of the heftier patrons, the gangland contingent was out in force and having a good time. I thought it was one of the best shows we’ve done yet; it might be that folks around there have had so much to deal with lately with all of the destruction that they need the diversion. Noname and Pei-shan skillfully managed the number of enchores so that we could get away as quickly as possible, however, as the trip back to Taipei would be a long one, and the last bus was at 3 a.m.

I managed to sleep relatively well on the bus back to the capital, where we got our first glimpse of the new bus station across from the train station, the bus winding slowly up the spiral path. A towtruck stood ready, because if one bus stalled on the ramp, everything would grind to a halt. The facilities were modern and even kind of glitzy, like the high-speed rail stations in a way, but it took a lot longer to get off the bus than it used to when we just got off on Cheng-de Road.

As usual, we had a leisurely breakfast at a nearby shop, chatting about the show and other things before going our separate ways in the morning traffic. I’m going to miss that when it’s all done. Our next and last show is on September 4th, in Taichung. Honda, The Sergeant and Ah-zhen have been making noises about forming a band of their own, and have asked me to take part, but who knows if anything will come of it. In any case, I’ve already got a band.

posted by Poagao at 11:06 am  

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