Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 10 2021

National Concert Hall shows

My co-workers were reminded that I play in a band last Friday when I hauled all my instruments, including my trumpet, euphonium and washtub bass stick, with me to work in the morning. The reason was that the Muddy Basin Ramblers were embarking on a two-day run at the National Concert Hall, which is kind of a big deal here. I stopped for a salmon sandwich on the way over, getting there around 2. Though we had rehearsed there before to get all the sound stuff right, we were going through the whole shebang again in the afternoon. It wasn’t easy, playing effectively two shows in a row. I went over to the Mos Burger under the parking ramp for a coffee and chocolate boost, and found that they were selling several different flavors of Tim Tams, an Australian chocolate treat I’ve been a fan of since my trip there in 2001. I bought a package of caramel ones.

Chenbl showed up that afternoon to help sell CDs and merchandise at a table in the lobby. We then had some nice healthy bento dinners. The staff at the NCH were very professional and took care of everything. A bit before the show, David was asking if anyone had any chocolate, so I gave him a Tim Tam, and then offered them to everyone else there. I could tell he was nervous about the show as he even took a sip of whiskey before we walked on stage to a packed house. I wondered if the concert hall staff,  who were surely more accustomed to classical music aficionados, were used to the raucous nature of our usual audience, but they seemed to take it in stride.

The combination of whiskey and caramel Tim Tams wasn’t great for David’s voice at the start, but he soon overcame it, and the show was a roaring success. I had been holding back during the rehearsal because I know I only have so much playing in me for one day, and had enough left for the show. I think I might have even smiled a couple of time. Our musical friend Ric 荒山亮 added a lot to the show with his Taiwanese Hokkien rendition of Dance Age. Chenbl did a bang-up job in the lobby, selling most of the CDs and merch, and we signed a bunch of things afterward in the main lobby. Some of my photography students even showed up.

Saturday morning I experimented on ordering a big breakfast on Food Panda, which might not have been a great decision as I wasn’t in the mood for lunch by the time I showed up back at the NCH for our second show. We didn’t go through the entire show on Saturday, but I was tired from the previous day despite a burger, chocolate and more coffee from Mos Burger, not to mention another good bento dinner. The second show was…fine. For sure, Steve and Cadence danced up a storm on stage, the house was packed again, I saw some more friends and students in the audience, and David’s voice was much better due to his abstinence from chocolate and whiskey; I just wasn’t really playing at the top of my game…nothing horrible, just sloppy here and there. Chenbl couldn’t make it on Saturday either, but we managed to sell some CDs and other merchandise anyway, and signed more stuff out in the lobby after the show. Then it was back inside to clear out our things, and back out to the parking lot, past the crowds of fans of the other classical concert that had been taking place in the other auditorium, and sitting on the bench by the smoking section and drink machines where we hung out while recording Hold That Tiger years ago. The other Ramblers were buzzing from the show and talking with friends, mostly foreigners, who had come to see us. I sat by myself for a few minutes and then went home.

Chenbl woke me up on Sunday morning, calling to say they were heading out to the Fuzhong area in Banqiao, so I took the subway over and followed his geolocation dot on my phone to the market where he and his mother were looking at this and that. Chenbl’s mother often says she hates walking, but in markets she can walk forever, it seems. I stood in the middle of the street, greedily soaking up the sunshine I’ve long been missing and occasionally snapping a picture, while they shopped. I also picked up a nifty Lucky Beckoning Cat doormat (Last one in the shop! For a pittance! You know how it goes). We met up with Chenbl’s father at the temple after lunch at a place near the market, and then walked over to Banqiao Station to look at the Christmas displays there. We sat down near some Lego setups and talked…well,  Chenbl’s father talked and I listened, mostly. He has a deep, extensive knowledge of many things, particularly politics and engineering, which was his profession before he retired. Originally from Tainan, his Mandarin has a strong Taiwanese accent; he is also a great resource for Taiwanese questions I have, which is quite a lot as my Taiwanese could be a lot better.

Dinner was braised pork rice at a nice restaurant in Snake Alley; the place was hopping, in stark contrast to how empty the area was during the outbreak in cases there over the summer. It’s good to see it coming back, and the food was delicious. I was feeling much better.

Tomorrow we’re back at it with two more gigs in one day (!)…out in Nangang in the afternoon and then Tiger Mountain in the evening. Unfortunately Taiwan saw it’s first local case of Covid in a while yesterday in the Nangang area, so despite being fully vaxxed I think it would be best to play it safe and stay masked up when possible. The predilection of most people here to stay masked has been one of the many reasons we’ve managed this so well so far, despite the anti-mask conspiracy theorist white dudes ranting and raving on f.com and the FB expat groups. Omicron will get here eventually as well, but hopefully our vaccination rates will continue to rise enough to keep the impact manageable.

posted by Poagao at 12:01 pm  

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