Day Two: Get the band together, boys

We had our first show last night, which became acoustic because of rain.. it was a lot of fun.

We had a rehearsal yesterday afternoon and our first show last night. I was a little worried at first if one short rehearsal would be enough before welaunched into all these shows. I had some concerns about clicking with the band and remembering all the songs.

Well, it was not a problem at all. My friend’s driver took me to the studio, which was way out there, a few miles south of Tianemen in a neighborhood I never knew existed, in a run down apartment complex, in the basement of a tattoo parlor. The studio guy, peroxided hair held back with some of elastic band, giant sunglasses on his face, tattoos covering his arms met me in the parking lot and walked me over. I descended a steep set of stairs, walked into the (very nice) studio and there they were..

I hugged Woodie, behind his lap steel, shook hands with Lu Wei and Zhong Yang. We all smiled and laughed a little. They said I looked the same, as if it had been five years and not five months. Peroxide guy plugged me in and we just started playing and BAM it was there. Like we had played the day before, an amazing feeling. And just like that I heard my own singing and playing elevate by a million.

The grooves are just so perfect for me, I know just what to do, just what to play. I don’t really know how else to describe it except the sum is greater than the whole of its parts and in my case far greater.

Being in Beijing sort of feels like coming home, but not really. There are too many missing and disparate variables, but playing with the band really felt like coming home. I don’t know how else to describe it.

The bummer part is it was spitting rain all afternoon and our gig last night was outdoors at the Stone Bar. We already had plans to eat dinner at Xiao Wang Fus, one of my favorite standby restaurants, which is right in the park, and I really didn’t want to just bail because I didn’t know who might show up. So I called Jonathan, the club owner and said, “We’d like to play acoustic inside and you don’t have to pay us or anything.”

So that’s what we did. I played acoustic guitar, Lu Wei played a djembe, Zhong Yang played bass through Woodie’s little guitar amp, Woodie played harmonica and Dave played sax. One vocal mic, nothing else amplified. And it was great.

Indeed, several friends showed up, as well as a handful of other people and we had a great intimate, cozy time, playing for about 30 people – but really playing for ourselves. As I was singing I was sort of amazed at the sound of my voice a few times — where did this come from? I wondered. My playing and especially singing in the band improved steadily as I passed various milestones, of just letting go and trusting myself. It reached a new level when we decided to move from Beijing because I suddenly realized this opportunity may never come again and I did not want to leave anything on the table. And that feeling is multiplied now. I really want to take some singing lessons and see if I can improve by actually knowing what I am doing. Because I know for a fact that it is possible to really improve just by doing it.

We videoed a few songs and I watched them today and was happy to her that it sounded like I thought it did – not always the case. I’ll try to throw one up on YouTube if I can figure it out. It is banned here, so I will have to be creative. There are other video services as well, of course.

We have two gigs today… one in the afternoon downtown at some sort of festival and one tonight at the Orchard, near here, where we will have many, many Riviera friends.

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