Monday, February 04, 2008

The Grapevine

My music week last week panned out like this. Wednesday, I was supposed to be meeting up with my friend DD in Salud, but she cried off with a cold. I thought I'd trundle along anyway, since they usually have some live music there on Wednesday nights (I wasn't sure what because the lovely Mlle H was late getting out her weekly gig list): it turned out my old buddies Dan & Nico were on. And The Chairman happened to show up (despite having left his phone off all day and having thus been oblivious to my suggestions for a rendezvous there). As did Big Chris. And The Artist. And Tulsa. And a whole bunch of other people. A fine night.

Anyway, Dan informed me that they were playing a private party engagement on the next night, so wouldn't be performing their regular Thursday gig at Jianghu. Tired and penniless, I was grateful of an excuse to spend a night in. Tulsa went along anyway, to see what was happening - a loose little jam with the boss, Tianxiao (he plays a bit of tenor sax), and some of the Chinese regulars. Fun.

The next day, Tulsa reported to me that Tianxiao had invited her to a special gig there this coming Sunday afternoon. She hadn't clocked any details, thought vaguely the artist mentioned was "some laowai" but didn't recognise or remember the name (her musical knowledge is notoriously some way short of compendious). Sunday afternoon?? Hmm, curious - would be a nice change from the usual routine.

I bumped into Tianxiao at the show at Yugong Yishan on Friday night, and he was looking Cheshire-Cat pleased with himself - but the gig was already in progress, so we couldn't really talk. He just said, "Sunday, Sunday, must come!" Sure thing, TX, whatever you say.

Since it was, or had been, Tulsa's birthday, I skipped out of the Yugong gig a little early to meet up with her at Room 101 (fortuitously catching the last 30 seconds of their midnight 'happy hour' - which, T being a non-drinker, meant that she had to accept a pint of hot chocolate as her two-for-one....). And it just so happened that Dan & Nico were on there, jamming away with their new young guitarist buddy called Ben. They were having so much fun that they gave every impression of being likely to carry on playing until dawn (I finally dragged myself away around 3.15am). However, in one of the breaks, I quizzed Dan as to whether he knew anything about the mysterious 'special event' at Jianghu on Sunday afternoon.

"Oh, yeah," he said, "it's Charlie Musselwhite." What??!! Charlie Musselwhite at Jianghu????!!!! "Yes, that was the name he mentioned," nods Tulsa, belatedlly recovering the power of memory but still showing no inkling of realising the magnitude of what she has just said.

Charlie Musselwhite is A LEGEND. He is possibly the greatest living blues harp player. He has played with everyone. He's even played with my idol, Tom Waits. He is possibly the most important artist ever to play in China (no, I'm sorry, Wham! and Kenny G don't count). And he's playing in the bar that, over the last year (Tulsa, an obsessive-compulsive retainer of text messages, has determined that it was on January 19th last year that I first told her about the place) I have come to regard as my living room...... a bar that is, in fact, somewhat smaller than the living room of my apartment.

Oh my god.

So, yes, now I'm definitely going on Sunday afternoon, but...... extremely nervous as to whether word will get around too much. If more than 30 or 40 people show up, it will be unpleasantly crowded; if more than 60 or 70 show up, the show probably won't be able to go ahead.

After anguished consideration on Saturday afternoon, I nervously decided to notify three friends only - the three people that I consider to be the biggest music enthusiasts I know, and to whom I owe certain favours in this regard: Red T Ed, Mlle H (both music biz professionals) and my blog-buddy Jeremiah (a pianist himself, and a hugely knowledgeable music fan). I sternly reminded each of them of the tiny capacity of the venue, and begged them NOT TO TELL ANYONE ELSE.

I then spent a very jittery 24 hours, keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that the thing would go ahead...... trying not to get my expectations up too much.

Well, what can I say? We were not disappointed. Awesome.


Tulsa said...

I'd been contemplating how to fill friends in/write up the awesomeness that was last week's week worth of Weekend Gigs... which fabulously was only ONE part of a very social week...

but all the links, randomness, tie-ins, private invites...

glad i waited and let you write it out first. i think you captured all the randomness/amazingness/fabulousness of it very well indeed... right down to my my gigantihumoungous glass of hot chocolate that you graciously bought me to celebrate my birthday.

Froog said...

You're welcome. I might buy you one for one of your 364 Un-birthdays as well. (Well, I guess that was actually an Un-birthday - since it was Feb. 2nd by then.)

Also most welcome to link over (or just COPY!) on QTCS, if you don't feel like writing it up yourself.

New Year plans??

Tulsa said...

ah, but it was still my birthday :) as we live here but were born there (USA, UK, where-ever) I figure the day lasts till it ends at place of birth.

surprisingly *no* Chinese New Years plans! Last year I went to a loud, but fun laowai party where I was introduced to the pleasures of being obnoxiously loud with the music and what not without worrying about the Chinese neighbors complaining. But then I came home around 1am because I had a flight out the next morning. And it was *hard* to get a taxi... no surprise... and I was not walking distance from home... and it was cold... and i had no place nearby to crash until the day rolled around with more taxis.

I did have a moment where I debated whether finding a park bench to wait for the city to wake up or walking for 4 hours was the better option.

This year it is not so cold, but I figure anywhere I go, the chances of being stuck without a taxi are high. Which is a long way of answering your CNY question by saying, "no, no plans, yet."

and you? I hear the drum and bell courtyard is quite something...

and because this comment is already long enough ;) i'll just add that the car alarms are a buzzing outside my window as CNY pre-celebrations proceed in the field across the street from me.