Tuesday, November 22, 2005
If you’ve seen the Muddy Basin Ramblers on stage, you probably imagine that we spend most of our free time in the studio rehearsing. In fact, we do. Thanks for noticing.
Now, take that bag of gasoline away from your face and read the truth.
The band normally meets on Saturday evenings to rehearse. (I didn’t say every Saturday.) Recently, we’ve been getting together at Sandman’s place. Sandy’s place is good, not for its acoustic properties (although they aren’t bad), but because none of his neighbors have complained about the noise yet. It’s also near the MRT, and Athula’s Sri Lankan roti stand.
On a side note: If you don’t know about Athula, get down to the night market just behind the Hsintien MRT station. Look for the Sri Lankan guy selling rotis, flat bread roll-ups filled with spicy curried meat and fresh veggies. Athula’s has a couple of stools for customers and is just opposite a 7-11 (for cold drinks), so it’s the official Muddy Basin Ramblers post-practice retreat.
Athula’s slogan is “No drink, no party.” The last time we partied with Athula, he showed up with five friends and the largest bottle of whiskey any of us had ever seen. That man surely knows how to have a good time.
This last Saturday was a practice weekend, and we met up at Sandman’s to work on some songs. We generally rehearse more diligently when we have a gig coming, and let me be the first to say, “We got one coming.” More on that later.
Surprisingly, we all arrived very close to the scheduled starting time. This may have been due to the challenge to everyone to show up on time made by one very punctual band member, who shall remain nameless.
When I walked in just before 6, Dave and Will were in the middle of a song, and they sounded good. Conor showed up not long after, and for the first hour, we kept it loud the entire time, with nary a break for a drink or smoke. After realizing how unusually productive we had been, we decided to slacken up just a bit for the next hour. No use setting precedents that we won't be able to follow in the future.
Will and I were trying out our new mp3 players/recorders, and we captured several of the jams. The quality of the recordings is similar to what you would hear if someone at a concert held their cell phone up so that you could hear what the band sounded like.
With TC busy filming Lady X in Guanhsi, Dave drafted Conor into trying the washtub bass. He played it on a couple of songs and sounded great. Dave soon jumped up, whipped off his right slipper, and began pounding on the bass string with that. Take notice TC.
Conor also learned a new song on the ukulele, and since he apparently picked it up so fast, Dave handed him a re-tuned banjo with a capo on the neck and told him to try the same song on that instrument. You should know this about Dave. He likes the band to be on its toes: changing instruments and keys are just two of the methods he has for keeping the sound fresh.
Slim had his tap shoes with him, and he was certainly in fine form. I was real impressed with his rhythm that night. He also had the trombone along, and although it hasn’t showed up on stage, it’s coming along nicely. Keep an ear out for Slim Willy and the slippery trombone coming to a roadhouse near you.
Although TC couldn’t make it in time to practice, he did show up later to accompany the band down to Athula’s for rotis. Before everyone left to get food, Sandman convinced Dave to restring his resonator guitar. This gave me the chance to grab Dave’s National, and after a few minutes of listening to me futilely trying to find a chord, Dave showed me some of the basics for slide guitar. I was off.
Funny thing about that guitar, playing it, you don’t notice how loud it is, but everyone else is thinking, “jeepers, that thing is loud, and that guy can’t play it for shit.” When I saw Sandman’s orange cat throwing himself at the screen door, apparently to escape the sonic barrage, I begin to wind down my performance. It is intoxicating playing that guitar, though, and I found myself in a Bukka White trance pretty quickly.
In fact, once I stopped playing, I realized someone new had shown up in our studio/Sandman and Jojo’s living room: Stray Dog, at least I think that is who it was. He was picking up blankets that S and J were donating to his animal shelter. Apparently, Stray Dog is well known among Taipei’s dog owners as the guy who makes those awesome organic dog biscuits.
The next gig: if all goes as planned, the Muddy Basin Ramblers will be performing in Mei-nung, Kaohsiung County over the weekend of December 10 and 11. It’s a Trees Music event, and will feature Shen-hsiang, members of his old band, the Labor Exchange Band, Okinawan legend Takashi Hirayasu (check out this link), and others. See our Muddy Basin website for more details. Come Saturday night to see performances by each of the bands and hang around on Sunday to see workshops by the musicians.
By the way, the art at the top is by Matisse.
Posted by thumper at 1:40 PM