Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 12 2010

LuvFest 2010

For the first time in a good while, the Muddy Basin Ramblers converged once again for a show, this time down in the wilds of Taichung County, at the ruins of the Dongshan Amusement Park, which was abandoned after the huge 9/21/1999 earthquake.

Usually Conor is the last to show up, but this time I was the last to arrive at the south exit of the train station where we’d arranged to meet, thanks to just missing a subway train. David rushed off to get tickets for the band and Chenbl, who was along for the ride. We caught the 12:36 bullet train, arriving at the Wurih Station in Taichung, where we eschewed the smaller taxis in favor of larger station wagons that could carry us in the fashion to which we, and by we I mean Sandy and his bottle of whiskey, are accustomed.

The Dongshan Amusement Park reminds me not a little of the old Xingfu Fun Fair at Bitan, before they tore the remains down several years ago: Vines, dull, flaking paint barely covering rusting, skeletal rides. A sad place. I kept thinking about the last day of the park’s operation, what everyone who worked there and played there felt and did. A few young foreigners were about setting up tents, as well as Landis, the organizer, who had hauled Conor as well as our gear out there in the back of his jeep.

The “stage” turned out to be the edge of a drained pool. The local wasp community took obvious umbrage at the encroachment on their territory (as well as their name) by the newcomers, and a large spider scrambled out of the stiflingly hot green room as we put our gear down.Outside, one of the pools held a mudlike concoction that was about 30% dead leaves, 40% water and 30% hippies.

Thumper raged about the sound guys, who were managing some impressively coordinated standing around as we went through a sound check that consisted mostly of ear-splitting feedback and the lead sound guy telling David how to turn the mic button on. Everything was loud and tinny except the bass, which…wasn’t.”Which way should I turn the mic, away from the speakers, I guess?” I asked one of them. “Whatever you like; it doesn’t matter,” he told me before another blast of feedback caused everyone to jump.

But there was no time for such niceties by that point; the show was beginning with a local band called “AWESOME SHIT.” It takes balls to call your band “AWESOME SHIT.” That, and maybe a burning need to compensate.

We held a little practice session of our own by the large gorilla, in front of the small carousel, and then split up to explore and get away from the incredibly loud sound of AWESOME SHIT. The park borders a small stream with a rickety suspension bridge. Partially submerged boats floated in moss-filled water, and a rusting monorail snaked though the branches above. Bats filled the skies, dodging at invisible prey, as, only a few feet above them, an apparently home-made white airplane flew, often sideways, over the park. An ROC flag was painted on its tail, and each pass was lower and slower, until it stopped. I didn’t hear a crash, so I assume whoever it was made it down in one piece.

Chenbl and I decided to get some burgers for dinner, but this turned out to be problematic: the guy working the huge grill was having a minor breakdown as orders mounted. We ended waiting for over half an hour for our burgers, which turned out to be the “nearly impossible to eat” size that is so popular these days. When I was growing up, I remember burgers being much more manageable in size.You could hold a hamburger in your hands, and bite into it without straining your jaw muscles. And it was good. Damn, but I miss Steak ‘n Shake. Later on, Thumper and Slim reported that the burger guy had just given up and stopped serving people altogether.

We were on at 7pm. The number of young westerners wandering the park increased as night fell and tents went up in various nooks and crannies. As we took the stage, the lights came up, nearly blinding us. I quickly ran back to get some sunglasses, but they only provided a small amount of protection against the brilliance projected straight into my eyes. The audience was effectively invisible; it was like playing into a closet door.

When we started up our first song, Viola Lee, I was surprised to hear that Sandy wasn’t playing his usual part. In fact, I wasn’t sure just what he was playing; he did seem to be having an inordinately good time, jumping around the stage regardless of mic positions and rubbing up against David like an attention-starved cat.

Fortunately the sound situation had improved somewhat; I could hear the bass, anyway, and there was scattered applause from the closet. I had to keep on my toes throughout the show due to various, er, whiskey-induced missing of elements, to put it technically, but things turned out alright, if a bit sloppy. Ok, things were very sloppy. But it was ok; the closet seemed happy, and we haven’t played a gig in a while.

After the show, the Ramblers scattered again. Slim disappeared into the Vagina Monologues Hut where he did some free-style scatting. Daring young foreigners pedaled along the rusty monorail above our heads, past the Pirates o’ Sodomy attraction while Sandy sat on a curb whining around hippies. Chenbl had sold only one CD due to the rampant poverty that no doubt ensued from buying too much beer.

We stayed to listen to Two Acres Plowed, which was improved immeasurably since their drum-machine days with the addition of a smokin’ hot fiddle, but we had to catch the train back up to Taipei.40 cramped, sweaty minutes later we were at the HSR station McDonalds slurping down ice cream and french fries before the smooth ride back to the Basin. I nodded off into a caramel-induced slumber on the train while Conor expounded on the meaning of economics-based employment, and before I knew it we’d arrived. Thumper, Conor, Chenbl and David bade farewell, while Sandy, Slim and I caught the subway.

“What do you do with that?” a Saudi Arabian woman asked me, pointing to the tub as we slid southwards.

“I’ll show you,” I said, setting up the bass and playing a few riffs, much to Slim’s amusement. Then I got out my trumpet, muted of course (I’m not an animal, you know) and played around to pass the time as Sandy waved to and fro to the motion of the car. Then it was the usual walk across the bridge and back to the Water Curtain Cave, where I fell asleep almost immediately.

posted by Poagao at 12:22 pm  


  1. You got a lot of the bits that stand out in my memories, and the ones that you missed happened when you weren’t around.

    Oh, and I merely offered to help the sound guys. If anything, I “raged” about the sound guys, rather than at them.

    No mention of that homebuilt airplane that was trying to prove the Wright Bros wrong.

    Comment by th — July 12, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  2. Damn, that’s right. I’d forgotten. I’ll add it.

    Comment by Poagao — July 12, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

  3. Impressive. Where are the pictures of the hippie pool?

    Comment by persimmonous — July 16, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  4. Dunno if I got any decent shots of it, I’ll have to look.

    Comment by Poagao — July 16, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment