Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 17 2012

My weekend, let me tell you about it

Back-to-back gigs made for a wonderfully strange weekend to coincide with the first hints of fall in the form of cool rain/misty non-heat/whatever you want to call it. The kind of weather that makes people turn off their air conditioners, realize that the air conditioners were covering all the noise from their neighbors playing Mahjong, and then promptly turn the air conditioners on again.

The Muddy Basin Ramblers were on the list to play at the old abandoned bottle-cap factory in Nangang on Saturday afternoon as part of a rock festival, aimed at the city’s youth, called the Black Town Music Festival by the art group URS 13 that did the Dihua Street exhibit where we played and I exhibited some photos a while back.

I’d never disembarked at that particular station before, and got lost  a few times in the labyrinthine connection between the MRT and train stations on the way, but eventually I emerged close enough to follow the sound of heavy metal screeching to the factory, which turned out to be comprised of the graffiti-covered shells of several large buildings, stripped of everything, the floors and walls sporting interestingly shaped protrusions leftover from the process of making bottle caps.

I managed to get within about 50 meters of the stage before the noise drove me back. Judging from the dozen or so people braving proximity to the band, the booming, echoing acoustics were not working in their favor. I wasn’t sure if there was any applause; the ringing in my ears might have cancelled it out.

You might ask: What the hell was a jug band doing at a rock concert? I suppose they were going for a certain amount of variety, and they knew us from the Dihua Street activities. In any case, after a lengthy sound check on stage, we were sure of one thing: They were into us. Even during the sound check a large crowd had gathered, applause breaking out even for short bits of music to test the microphone setup. Once the actual show began, the huge factory space filled to capacity, though it was hard to tell with all the lights on the stage. The sound guys had done a great job, testing each instrument individually and then the band as a whole.

The show went well, with the exception of one very odd key mishap, and everyone was happy. For our final song, David told the crowd, “This is a Taiwanese song we learned recently; you might have heard of it. Sing along if you know the words!” We then played the intro to “Wang Chun Feng” in a schmaltzy Nakishi style, and delighted screams erupted from the crowd.

Thumper and Sandy had to leave after the show, and Conor had another gig, but David, Slim and I hung out. Well, Slim and I hung out on the steps in front of one of the old buildings, on which is inscribed what TC actually stands for, and chatted while we waited for David to bring us back the Most Delicious Chicken Rice Bentos in Nangang or Possibly the World. Even Slim took more than two bites, and that’s as ringing a declaration of Goodness as there is. The rain came and went, people came and went, the sounds of subsequent bands wafting over to us on the wind. Strange things happened. I think a panda was seen at some point.

Sunday was the day of the Blues Queens Cruise, our second performance aboard the riverboat that plies the Danshui. Chenbl and I wandered from the metro station onto the wide plain of grass along the riverside that was recently added, confounded by the addition and the obvious lack of a riverboat in the vicinity, but it was further down the river a ways, docked amidst several smaller vessels. For a moment, in the cool mist, I could imagine walking down that path in some past decade, ticket in hand, and boarding a steamer bound for Japan.

This feeling was reinforced when we got on board after pushing the last few tickets on the dock with a show accompanied by a fellow in a wheelchair who could summon goat-dogs with his teeth: Japanese was the lingua franca of the boat, as most of the passengers as well as the other musicians were from that island nation to the north. The cruise was a benefit for Orchid Island, which was damaged heavily in the last couple of typhoons.

The mist lifted as the boat left the dock, pushing out into the river and heading towards the ocean, the sun glinting across the far-off waves of the open sea beyond the river mouth. The Japanese band played on the top deck first, and the sun dove slowly towards the horizon through various stages of clouds as the ship turned this way and that, until it was a cherry pop dipping into the ocean.

Various other craft were passing to and fro as we marched to the edge of the larger ocean waves before turning around, and we took the stage as night fell, the lights on the shores of either side blinking and flashing, the outlines of the mountains beyond fading in the darkness. Our sound was crackly and jazzy; it was a good show again. How could it not be? We were on a riverboat, playing our music as night fell in a cool breeze.

The boat docked once again at Danshui, and we walked to the old street to look for taxis, but the taxis were having none of this. They hesitated to appear, and once they did, the did not like the looks of us. David sat on the corner and played a tune, and the dancers danced, and the photographers photographed. A mainland Chinese couple yelled at us for “taking too long to decide” and promptly jumped in a cab that had been considering whether we would be worth the risk. Someone called a taxi service, and more cabs appeared. I motioned for one driver to roll down his window. “Where are you going?” he asked. I showed him the address, and his face fell.

“I have something to do now,” he decided.

Eventually we managed to find taxis over to Mudskippers, a bar on the river near Guandu, where David promptly launched into the epic “Ballad of the Chinese Tourists Who Stole My Taxi”. Conor and I accompanied.

As the other Ramblers contemplated my varied and important secrets, dinner was served: Chowder, caprese, spaghetti and fruit. All delicious, thanks to one of our band’s most loyal and longstanding fans, Jaye. You know Jaye.

We played, talked, danced and sang until the threat of the last train back to the basin called us to our senses. Then we talked, danced and sang on the subway back through the wee hours left before the week ahead.

posted by Poagao at 12:24 pm  

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