Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another crying shame

Jorma Kaukonen - a founder member of classic bands Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna - is playing in Beijing today. A number of the online listings folks have been saying that he is the first Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer ever to play here (I doubt that - probably Bob Dylan?); he's almost certainly the most important recording artist likely to be appearing here this year, or for a few years to come.

But, coming at the end of the Spring Festival Holiday, when all the music venues are only just opening up again after a two or three week shutdown, and when the expat magazines have been running on autopilot and largely ignored for the past month or more, this has had just about zero publicity. The venue sent me an e-mail notification about the gig only a couple of days ago.

I dare say the word will get around effectively enough, though. His support act, Beijing roots music combo The Randy Abel Stable, can probably rouse quite a fair-sized crowd just from the ranks of their friends and fans.

Unfortunately, the gig is at Yugong Yishan - so, I won't be going. These days, Jorma plays mostly American roots music - all or very largely acoustic. As I've observed a number of times before, the sound system and acoustics at Yugong are so poor that acoustic shows (and quieter electric ones) invariably get ruined by the background hubbub of the crowd.

Almost every experience I've had at Yugong in the last two or three years has SUCKED; and I think this is going to SUCK too.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Jorma has brought his own engineer to tease the best out of the sound desk. I hope the crowd are going to be so awed by his presence that they will maintain a reverential silence throughout his set. I hope the attendance will be neither dangerously overfull nor disappointingly sparse. And I hope they've started carrying non-shanzhai booze behind the bar again. But we all know that's not going to happen, don't we?

So, here's what we'll be missing - Jorma Kaukonen performing one of his earliest numbers, Hesitation Blues, accompanied on mandolin by Barry Mitterhoff, who's playing with him tonight.

YouTube also has clips of him playing this on his own, with Hot Tuna... and with Janis Joplin.

I shall be keeping my ear to the ground, in the hopes that he might play an unscheduled after-show gig somewhere later tonight, or perhaps tomorrow. Jianghu or East Shore Live Jazz would the likeliest spots, I should think. Fingers crossed!!

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