Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vintage Music for a Vintage Market

As diverse as our own backgrounds might be, the Ramblers are a Taipei band. And though we've traveled the island a fair bit in our mission to bring our music to the people, it is always to Taipei, the Muddy Basin, that we return. This weekend, we are going to perform in the very heart of the Taipei basin, the old neighborhood of Dadaocheng.

With the recording and editing of our second CD completed, the mastering process is under way.  The album name, song titles, and lyrics are being translated into Chinese by a noted Taiwanese poet. We're planning some type of premiere for the release of the CD, probably in October, but the date and venue are still up in the air. There's a lot going on in October, and we don't want to make our friends choose between seeing us and the Flaming Lips, or attending Daniel Pearl, or going to a wedding in Hsinchu.

As far as recent gigs, we've played twice in recent weeks. At the end of July, when the Blues Cruise was postponed, we'd had our hearts set on performing outdoors on a river at sunset. To fill the hole, we headed down to our local riverside park in Bitan for an impromptu practice session. Our friend Steve Kim was there with his camera (and his dancing shoes), and he captured this short video of the Ramblers jamming along with Sylvain on a Django classic.

You could call it a performance, but when the security guards come around and say that performances are not allowed, it's a rehearsal. That's what we did, anyway, when two black-clad renta boys tried to shut us down. And we kept on, till the crowds had thinned on the bike path and all the songs that needed to be played had been dusted off. Dave found a story on the Net that tells a similar tale from 1949 New York. Musicians to the rescue!

This past week, we played on the Forest Stage at the Formoz Festival on Sunday 7 PM. We followed Sangpuy, an indigenous Taiwanese performer with a large following. Unfortunately, when his show ended, his fans all followed him away. With a big sparsely settled amphitheater in front of us, we performed our new songs for the first time in public since recording finished.

Photo by Steve Kim
We were not alone, however; old friends from Taipei had come to share the evening with us. Along the steps were fans and friends who'd spent the day sampling rock acts at the different stages; dancing on the wooden floor that fills the area in front of the stage, stalwart members of Taipei Swing stirred the sultry air with their limber limbs.

Photo by Steve Kim
Just two score minutes later, we were off the stage, carrying our gear back to our luxury tent. Our name was above the door, and our personal attendant was ready to pull the canvas door aside as we entered and exited. We were treated well by Formoz, from the competent sound crew, to the guy in our tent, to the hundreds of blue-shirted volunteers who kept the festival orderly, the crew of the artist's lounge we commandeered Sunday evening, and the kids who checked our ID bracelets when entering a venue.

Photo by Formoz
The Ramblers have a history with Formoz, not that we'd played here before, but as attendees. In 2005, we met Michelle Shocked here and through that association were invited to perform with her at the Wall a few evenings after her gig at Formoz. Years before that, several of the Ramblers attended Formoz at Huashan Artist Village and saw Biohazard perform. I don't know what's become of Biohazard, but I have read some shocking news about Michelle.

As for the Ramblers, we're here in Taipei, where we belong, and we're preparing for a performance in the Dihua/Dadaocheng neighborhood, perhaps our second favorite outdoor locale to play, after Bitan, of course. The event is billed as a Vintage Market happening on the square outside of the Yongle Market on Dihua Street. That's in Taipei's historic commercial district, where restored 1900-era brick shop buildings line the narrow streets.

It has been suggested that we are playing without the benefit (or hindrance) of amplification. We love to mingle with the people when we play, so throwing us out into the crowd will be just what the Medicine Show ordered. We've done it before in this neighborhood, and we always cause a traffic jam as people crowd in to get a look and a listen.

If you can handle the heat, come on down to join the Rambers, a vintage band, at the Vintage Market. We'll be there around 3 and ready to fill the air with our jug band swing at 4. If you're not sure where the Yungle Market is, have no fear; they have maps for that very concern.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

May 11 at TAV with Bob Log III and La Cumbia Balkanska

Our next show is coming up this Saturday, May 11, at Taipei Artist Village. We're back at one of our favorite Taipei venues on a multi-band bill that includes La Cumbia Balkanska and Bob Log III.

We start the show at 5 PM, La Cumbia Balkanska follow us, ant Bob III occupies the stage till 10 PM. That seems like an early end to a great evening, so I have to wonder what's going to happen later.

According to the latest rumor, advance tickets are NTD400 via KGB (Kiwi Good Burger) and or NTD500 at the door.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ramblers at the Yilan Green Expo

Put on your best flip-flops and grab your douli! (That's the local name for the type of straw hat worn by the guy planting rice seedlings  in the photograph below). The Ramblers are heading to Yilan this Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

We'll be playing at the Wulaokeng Scenic Area (武荖坑風景區) in Yilan County. We will not be performing informally on the sidewalk, as we occasionally do in our own  backyard at the legendary Bitan riverside in Xindian, however.

Instead, we’re appearing at the 2013 Yilan Green Expo (宜蘭綠色博覽會), where this year’s theme is Return to Forest. You'll find the address at the bottom of this post. Sure, the Taipei Times was just a little snarky when it commented on the Green Expo back in March,

Finding a sustainable solution to preserving our modern lifestyles and conserving Taiwan’s increasingly threatened natural habitat tops the agenda, though you probably wouldn’t guess it from the host of fun activities, lucky draws, performances and DIY workshops to be found there.
but a tour agency (whose copywriter had obviously studied a press release carefully, but translated it rather carelessly) was much more positive when describing the expo on its website, 
Due to the trend of eco-conscious, Yilan hold a green expo annually to encourage the public to join such environmental protecting activities such as planting and recycling during their daily lives and nature power....visitors will gain more info of sustainable ecology, environmental protection education, green lifestyle and their combinations through 12 exhibits and hands-on experience zones, such as Ecology Hall, Flower Hall, Fishing Hall, Farming Hall, Atayal Native Hall, Shrimp Hall, Charcoal Hall and so on.
There's no telling which hall we'll find ourselves in, but it won't matter much (as long as we've got a roof -- Ilan is so very green for a reason). We're looking forward to the nature power; it's supposed to be even better for you than a forest shower!

We’re definitely ready to play for an audience, as the long days we’re putting in at Soundkiss as we record our second CD don’t offer much positive feedback. Sure, Alex and Crystal are appreciative of our efforts, but they don’t break out in dance when we play, nor do they project the innocent curiosity that the very young and the very old do when first listening to us raise a ruckus.

We’ll be playing two shows, at 11:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M, so we’re going to have double the fun. Leaving Taipei at 7 A.M., so we can be on hand for a 9 A.M. sound check, won’t be quite so amusing, but the thought of an impending Yilan ramble will no doubt rouse us all from our dreams. Whether your day starts early or late, you'll have plenty of time to make it for at least one of the shows.

Wednesday’s a holiday, Labor Day, so most of you in Taiwan will have the day off. It’s easy to drive to Yilan, at least from Taipei, and Wulaokeng is near the end of Highway 5, not far from the Suaoxin (New Suao) Train Station. You could also take the train or a bus to Suao and take a taxi up to Wulaokeng. See? There's really no excuse not to come along.

The Wulaokeng Scenic Area (武荖坑風景區) is located at 75 Wulaokeng Rd, Suao Township, Yilan County (宜蘭縣蘇澳鎮武荖坑路75). You can use the map above (zoom in to see more detail) to find your way, however you choose to travel.

Admission to the Green Expo is NT$250 for adults and NT$200 for children 7 to 12 years of age. It's for a good cause -- Nature Power!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Scream Wrap Up

If you're looking for a wrap-up of the Rambler's Spring Scream weekend, you've come to the right place. No, it's not here, but I can point you directly to it, on Top Cat's blog. He covers all the good bits, flings a bit of mud (there was plenty to go around), but remains his inimitable, unflappable self.

He mentions that Thumper had a camera strapped to his head the entire show, and I'm sure he's dreading seeing what video might come of that.  Lest he wonder much longer, here it is.

Apologies to anyone who gets a headache, become nauseous, or goes blind from watching it. It's quite jittery in parts. Apparently ol' Thumper dances the whole time he's playing, and that involves a lot of head bobbing.

The audio was recorded live on stage, so what you're hearing is basically what it sounded like to us.

In his post, Top Cat mentions that we'll be busy in the studio working on our CD for much of the summer, but we've got a couple of gigs coming up in May. The first of those is on May first in Ilan. Check back here in another ten days or so to learn more about that event.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Rambling to Spring Scream 2013

The Ramblers consider themselves one of the older bands in Taiwan, not just because our average age is well above that of many groups, and much of our music is from the early years of the last century (or just sounds like it); it is to our longevity that the term older most accurately applies.

We got our start in 2003 when Dave brought us all together to jam to some of the nuggets of delta blues and jug band music, but our upcoming gig is at Kenting’s Spring Scream, which has been around twice that long. Founded by Jimi Moe and Wade Davis, Spring Scream has been a fixture in Kengting since 1995.

According to Rambler legend, Conor of the Harp attended the first one at Magic Studios, a pub on Kenting’s main drag (and next to a vacant lot where camping and stalls were permitted). Thumper claims to be at the next one, also at Magic Studio, although he couldn’t remember the name of the pub and had to rely on Spring Scream’s Wikipedia entry for that factoid.

Many of us, okay, five of us, have been to the Scream at least once, usually as attendees, but also as performers, and one of us operated a food stall there one year. The lone holdout would be Top Cat, who claims, nay, boasts, that he has never suffered the ignominy of frolicking with the unwashed at Taiwan’s premiere music festival. Sorry Formoz and Hohaiyan, you’re johnnies-come-lately on the scene.

According to an uncharacteristically long email from Conor, he played the “third or fourth or fifth one with the famousPsycho Xiaojie (still got pictures of that somewhere), the band that coined a term still in currency on the same island today.” Certainly, few of you are familiar with that band, and if don’t know what the term means today, well, ask around. You won’t find it on wiki. Conor also shared one of the miracles that sometimes occur at the Scream. “Another time we both lost our boots, then found them again out in the field, and that made us feel blessed and grateful all the way on the bus back to Taipei, celebrating with Taiwan Beer.”

Dave, on the other hand, was somewhat reticent to share his experiences of attending or performing at the Scream, with symptoms that seem to suggest PTSD from his time with band The Pocket Monkeys.  He did, however, write about the event while a scribe for one of the beautiful island’s English language broadsheets. A cursory goggle on the Internet reveals numerous articles introducing Spring Scream’s many attractions and penned by the Mucha Bard, but I couldn’t bear to read any of them. If you’ve been at least once, you’ll know that no introduction of Spring Scream does the event justice.

See, it’s not about the music as much as the experience of taking part. Just ask Sandman.

With probably the most posts of any Forumosa member (tell me I’m wrong), the Scottish mannequin pulled this nugget from his memory, “All-night drive suffering from the flu -- with both of the Fxxxx brothers in the back.” Half of that story is terrible, the other calamitous. You figure out which is which. Thumper remembers that show, but he wasn’t performing; he was prowling the already crowded stage to film the band. If memory serves, the quality of the mix coming out of the PA was atrocious, and the soundman should probably count himself lucky for not tangling with either of the twins. ‘Nuff said.

Sometimes the music is the last thing people talk about after spending a Scream at the southern tip of the island.

Loquacious Slim, veteran of many a Spring idyll in Kenting, the other tip town, wondered which of his many stories were suitable to share. Thumper was quick to jog his memory of time they spent at the Lioufu Farm, the home of Spring Scream from 1999 to 2006. The one event both remembered fondly was speaking with a Hari Krishna just before leaving Kenting for a relaxing week at the Sanyuan Campground, now illegally occupied by the Miramar Hotel, in Taidong.

For Thumper, the stand out Scream was 2001 (or maybe 2000), when he operated a food stand serving what he claimed was Mexican food with his wife and two friends. That was a particularly wet and muddy Scream, and with three 18-hour days of work, the crew only covered its expenses, but what a gas. The food was slow-cooked, delicious, reasonably priced, and available from noon to 2 AM. Truth be told, there wasn’t much Mexican about the food, but it was hot, spicy, and wrapped in a tortilla from Costco. With the Jaegermeister stall right next door, Screamers could sate their appetites in a fine fashion, and step under the canopy to escape the rain.

Just had a look through my keepsakes from long ago, and lo and behold, there is the fired clay medallion that served as the all-access pass for the Scream that year!

An earlier Scream memory for Thumper was showing films on the projector set up after the bands had knocked off for the night.  One was a short film about his neighbor that won an award in a Taipei District Court (long story, ask me later), and the other was a collection of scenes from one of the pan-blue demonstrations at the intersection of Zhongshan South Road and Ketagalan Ave. Had the good fortune of meeting Stan (of Si Bang-ah) at that one.

Thumper also attended one of the years when the Scream was held on a patch of land just off the beach (now a private beach – shakes fist at developers!) in Kenting. That year, he and his wife ventured south with friends of theirs from the Xindian community that had recently moved to.  He stayed at the newly opened Kenting Howard Plaza, or whatever it was called then, and remembers letting a (now departed) friend into his room to use the shower, and to replace the bathroom slippers he had lost somewhere on his journey.

Is it surprising that with all of these stories, the music plays such a small role? With a handful of bands at first, and now hundreds of groups, Spring Scream is required listening (anyone still have those compilation CDs with music from the previous year that they used to give away?) for any fan of indy music in Taiwan.  Thumper’s favorites from way back include Q (a comedic bluegrass band), Miracle Saru (from Japan), Mimi Chan (also Japanese), Milk (expats from Taichung, some still around, though the band has gone)  and the then unknowns MC Hot Dog and Dog G (from Taiwan).

According to journalista Alita Rickards, her top picks for Spring Scream 2013, Year of the Snake, include the following ten groups. “Post-rock soundscape masters Collider top my agenda, with the rest in no particular order: rock and rollers 88 Guava Seeds 八十八顆芭樂籽), pop-punk-garage group White Eyes (白目), rocker boys Liger Attack, who have a whole new roster of original songs I'm excited to hear, fun bouncy poprock grrrls No Money No Honey, Dr. Reniculous Lipz and the Skallyunz live hip-hop and funk, old-style jug band The Muddy Basin Ramblers, rock-funk-rap from Coach, psychedelic rockers Blind Acid Date, and live electro-dance act Kid Millionaire.” I doubt I’ll get a chance to see most of these groups, but I’ll definitely make one.

If you’re coming down for this year’s Scream, the Ramblers will be performing at 5 PM on Saturday, April 6, on the Green Leaf stage. Here’s a link to the map of Spring Scream. You can find all the pertinent information about this year’s event on the SpringScream site.

We'd love to see you in Eluanbi (near the lighthouse at the southern tip of Taiwan) for Spring Scream Double Snake. If you can't make it to this show, we'll be at the Green Expo in Ilan on May 1 and back in Taipei on May 11, opening for Bob Log III at Taipei Artist Village. Check back for details.

That's right. No photographs to accompany this post. After reading 1350 words, give your eyes a rest. Or, head over to YouTube to see what videos of performances at past years have been posted.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Q Square for Valentine's Day

This coming week will be the Chinese New Year holiday, but the Ramblers (or most of us) will not be taking it easy the entire time. On Valentine’s Day, that’s February 14 of course, we’ll be performing at Q Square. We’ll offer two sets, starting the first one at 5:30 P.M. and finishing the second by 7:30. 

View Larger Map
If you haven’t been to the new bus station just north of the Taipei Train Station, here is your opportunity. Here’s a link to Google Maps. The street view shows the building as it looks today, while the map view still shows a construction site. We’ll be raising a ruckus on the first floor, in the main entrance foyer near the intersection of Chengde Road and Civil Boulevard (Shimin Dadao). We won’t be hard to spot. We’ll be the dapper gentlemen with red roses pinned to our jackets (as per request of the management).

Our last show was at Millagarden in the Dadaocheng area near Dihua Street, and we had a great afternoon in the courtyard. There were lots of people enjoying the warm weather as they shopped for treats for Chinese New Year, and many of our Taipei Swing friends came out to kick up their heels. Steve Kim, photographer par excellence, was dancing away, but he also had time to get some great shots. Here’s one that I’d like to share. I hope Steve doesn’t mind.

In case you want to know the context for Dave lying on ground, understand that he’s played himself to exhaustion. The application of our self-titled CD is the medicine that heals his weary bones. What doesn’t show is that Dave has collapsed right on his straw hat.

There are also a couple of short videos on YouTube. I'm not sure who recorded or posted them to YouTube, but much thanks for sharing.

If we don't see you before Chinese New Year, have an excellent holiday, and may your Year of the Snake be prosperous and auspicious.

Hitching a ride

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Welcoming the Year of the Snake -- Videos Added

The Ramblers will be performing in our favorite courtyard, behind the Millagarden Coffee Shop in the Dadaocheng Distric, on Saturday, February 2, 2013. We invite all of our friends and fans (one in the same) to join us for an afternoon of music and good times.

** A note on the address of the show. For whatever reason, the address of Millagarden was copied incorrectly in the image above. It's not on Minle Street; its on Minyue Street. That's one reason we've provided a map to help you find your way. Click on the photograph below to activate Google Maps. Scale out and you'll see where Millagarden is located. By the way, Min-yue Street (民樂街) means 'folk music' street, so it looks like we've found the right neighborhood for our style of show.

View Larger Map

The narrow surrounding streets will be crowded with shoppers preparing for Lunar New Year, but we'll be swinging with a jazzy, juggy jive in a broad courtyard amongst historic buildings. This is a free show, and family friendly, so come on along. We'll be raising a ruckus.

我們在米拉貝爾咖啡館的漂亮舒服戶外空間會帶動一個新的新年的氣氛!來看演出是免費 (但請支持米拉貝爾咖啡館買一杯咖啡或茶吧)

(捷運大橋頭站 一號出口)

We've played here several times before, so if you'd like to see what a show in this welcoming venue will be like, here's a video to tempt you to join the joyous pre-New Year throngs on Dihua Street.

One member of the audience at yesterday's show posted these two short clips of the hijinks in the courtyard.