Saturday, May 10, 2008

An unexpectedly good Friday

I had been tempted to have a quiet evening in yesterday, to give me a chance to recover from what had been a more-than-usually gruelling week (in terms of both work and nightlife).

However, I had to head downtown to rendezvous with a friend to pick up the pay for a training gig I've been doing for him (great wedges of tax-free cash surreptitiously exchanged in brown envelopes - I love this country!). And so, it seemed only reasonable to suggest gathering for a post-work gargle to certain others of my cronies in that vicinity (and that's how I came to be prostrating myself on the floor in The Worm at 7pm).

After eating Chinese food all week, I then thought I'd treat myself to a 'Western'-style Friday night indulgence - a doner kebab from Kebab Republic in Tongli.

My friend DD had reminded me that there was a party in Salud a little later, to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the funky laowai-owned Nanluoguxiang t-shirt boutique Plastered, and I had agreed to meet her there. On the way, I just had time to drop into Reef for a White Russian or two (necessary medicine in this filthy, dusty weather - I am, on the whole, keeping to my resolution to cut down on them pretty well); the price has gone up from 15 to 20 kuai, but that's still by some margin the best deal in town.

Then on to Salud, where I was just in time to catch the speech of thanks by Plastered founder, Dominic, and then a guest turn by bizarre visiting celebrity, Shed Simove (I imagine it was pretty much a re-run of his appearance at The Bookworm which I'd had to miss earlier in the week; he's an oddball entrepreneur who, in addition to contributing to wildly successful British TV shows like Big Brother and The Big Breakfast, is apparently also managing to turn a tidy penny from creating risqué novelty items like Clitoris Allsorts jelly sweets and the Pubik's Cube desk toy). Alas, after that amusing interlude, we got a DJ who was utterly shite. Randomk(e) (good band, terrible name) were supposed to be coming on shortly, but having seen them only a week or two previously at 2 Kolegas, I was insufficiently enthused about staying on (and I gather the police closed them down after a couple of songs anyway).

I decided instead to look in at Jiangjinjiu (the most local of all my neighbourhood music bars, less than 15 minutes' walk from home), where the really good Ningxia folk-rock band Buyi were supposed to be playing. I had just missed the end of their first set, and the place was absolutely heaved out (it's a fairly tiny venue, and so, alas, easily becomes unpleasantly crowded and sweaty whenever there's a popular act on); it didn't look promising, and I decided to head home for an early night after having just the one beer. Luckily, the band reappeared at the very moment I was about to leave, so I thought I'd stay to hear one or two songs....... and it was such a brilliant set that I stayed for the full hour (their new drummer is pretty useful; Zhang Wei may not get the gig back - if he ever returns from his European travels). A great, great show - I love these guys. Particularly their tall and gorgeous female bass player! I even bought one of their CDs.

Although Jiangjinjiu isn't really big enough to host bands of this type, this drawback can also be part of its special attraction. Last night, there was absolutely nowhere to stand - except right next to the bar; which is right next to the postage-stamp sized stage. The bar, the area in front of the bar in which I was standing, and the stage all put together comprise an area not much bigger than a snooker table. Yep, I watched the whole show from about 2ft or 3ft away from the band. And the bass player smiled a devastating smile at me. Does she recognise me from all the other gigs where I've ogled her so adoringly?? I wonder.

And then, tired but happy, I wandered home, making it into bed before 1am - which is an early night for me.

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