September 10th 2014 (Blog Post 2)
WAY BACK WEDNESDAY ...
I'm heading to Denver tomorrow for the screening of the documentary about my symphony at the Docuwest Film Festival but I can't get Asia off my mind! So in honor of finding out this week that I'm touring Japan and Taiwan this fall I thought I'd post my story of touring China in 2012. I thought it was my last tour and a glorious tour it was! I haven't played in a band since as I've gone full force into composing for orchestra (and a little film), but I must say that I am most ecstatic about performing on stage! And going to freakin' Japan! So here is a flashback...
One More Song (China Tour - Summer 2012)
I won’t lie. After the 1st show, I’m a bit nervous about the rest of the tour in China. I’ve only been here for a little over 24 hours. Stepping off the plane I felt like I walked into a scene from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The airport dwarfed even the bigger stadiums I’ve visited in the US. Skyscrapers engulf the skylines for miles. For me it stimulated a child-like imagination. With the simplest of tasks getting lost in translation, I knew I was on my own to observe, learn, and soak up this fascinating culture. Oh…and avoiding the crazy drivers and bikers was a real life Frogger experience!
There wasn’t much time to waste after getting checked in to our hotel. A quick dinner, meet & greet with Chinese Noise Revivalers, & it was off to bed for an early call time to rehearse. 4 hours of rehearsing in a dungeon with no A/C was trying but exhilarating, hearing our Chinese drummer, Tyler, blaze through the songs and destroy his kit, like Animal from the Muppets. I sensed a high-energy explosion at Yiyitang that night! We walked to the club & briefly sound checked with our horn section and additional cellist. Wall of sound!
It’s show time. We left it all on the stage. The crowd screamed, the cheered, the danced and we delivered with an energy like no other Noise Revival show ever! 8 songs in what seemed like a blink of an eye. I’ll never forget the crowd. The moment. The love. Walking off stage and hearing a slightly lisp-y chant of “One More Song” that sounded more like “Juan Mo Sawg”. Why! If only we had rehearsed an extra song! Who knows why it ended like that? The club owner put it best. “Next Time”.
Busking in Shanghai
Talk about getting out of your comfort zone! But what a joy it was to walk around the tiny alleys in Shanghai and play 3 or 4 songs, then walk to another corner and do the same. EVERY time we played crowds stopped. And not just 5 or 10 people. At least 25-30 each time & a lot of times 50-60. And who know how many camera’s have our “mugs” on them! I love that about the Chinese and how they get so excited and take photos of everything. We even made money. The 1st night we made enough to have a feast at an amazing Japanese restaurant. The 2nd night photos of the group playing on the subway made a blog and eventually landed us on the front page of the Shanghai Post on the internet! It was retweeted over and over and eventually the Chinese government chimed in! They said to look at this as an example of what not to do on the subway and to make sure to follow the rules! Gotta love it!
There is no better feeling that representing your city. Being from one of the most creative and vibrant cities in the world is something I am proud of. Being able to grow up in Austin and then be a music ambassador is something I’ll cherish forever.
I had the privilege of meeting members of the Foreign affairs office in Shanghai. My involvement in The House of Songs and the numerous meetings and events with City and State officials, diplomats, ambassadors, etc really prepared me to talk about collaborative possibilities between the 2 creative cities. I was also fortunate to be escorted to the National Flag Museum in Shanghai. I was treated like royalty and I owe a lot to Troy Campbell & Don Pitts for these opportunities.
Like most, I’ve made the mistake of over packing on trips. It tends to be something unavoidable. So over the years I decided I’d comprise certain luxuries for a healthier spine! Last year I learned not to pack a pair of shoes that is a size too small! Getting blisters after a few days was one thing, but having to walk with them for a month longer was a lesson well learned! Riding a bike 60 miles in one day was another good example of a lesson well learned! So this year I decided that I was going to pack the least amount of clothes possible and see where it gets me. 5 shirts; 2 jeans, 7 socks, 7 boxer briefs, 1 jacket and 1 pair of shoes. Half way into the trip, I’m already thinking how to better prepare for next time.
I always seem to start all my posts while sitting on a plane reminiscing on my past travels and pondering my future adventures, which after a glorious week in Shanghai, they look to be all over the world in hand with my amazing angel by my side. This post should have started sitting on a train to Wuhan, but it now begins in transit in a cab traveling across Shanghai. Guess why? Yep! Half of the group missed our train to Wuhan, which happened to be the only one of the day! Lost in China! So how did we get here? Well, let’s just say that everything is moving slower here in Shanghai. I’m awe of the structures, the nooks and crannies of stores, the hole in the walls around every corner. I’m in no rush. I take every moment to breathe in the smog, to smell the pollution, to gag at the dog on the menu….ok! I’m going too far! But it’s all there! I’m sharing the whole city with hands locked and hearts in tune, which is the real reason for strolling instead of speeding,. No experience compares. But this experience is the basis for why we missed our train. Oops! Maybe we should have walked a little faster to the metro. Packed the night before. You get it. 10 minutes to get to the train, 1 escalator, 400 Chinese people in the way (Did I mention the pace of the people here?) and 100 pounds of luggage each. We tried. We sweat. We really sweat. We failed. Only two made it. Now we are altering our plan and rushing to the airport hoping to get flights to make the show! Damage Control indeed! Mission accomplished? I’ll follow up with another post. Did I mention it’s my birthday?
Here’s the follow-up to my birthday! As you can tell, we made the show! The crowd in Wuhan was amazing. So was the band in more ways than you think. I walk off the stage and the crowd screams for an encore. Of course we have no extra songs. I hear Josh get on the mic and start to tell the crowd it’s my birthday & the crowd goes wild! At this point I’m in the crowd and they are rockin’ & a rollin’ “Happy Birthday!” From the crowd I jump on stage and encourage the crowd to jump on stage. Ten to fifteen people climb the rail and start dancing and bobbing their heads. I get a chant of “Wuuu – Hon … Wuuu – Hon” going! This was the best birthday I’ve ever had. We danced the night away for hours and truly lived it up! Thank you Wuhon! Thank you Josh, Anita, Vince, Tyler, & Michael!
Bright. Lights. Sleek. Exhilarating. Too bad we only had the opportunity to stay in Changsha for 1 night. Every building was trying to out “light” the next with crazy flashing neon signs. It enthralled my senses like I was in Blade Runner. I swear that movies backdrop was based off of Changsha. Around 8:30 pm we squeeze into the venue. Literally! I could barely get up the winding stairs without hitting my head every turn. We set up and the speakers don’t work right as we are supposed to begin playing (9:30). The crowd is quiet and to themselves but I assume they are antsy. An hour later we grace this tiny stage called the Freedom House and the crowd came forward. The room looks as if it holds 100 people max, but the owner said they could fit twice that. We tonight the floor shook and the stage almost caved in. I forced this crowd to come up on stage for our encore. (Yes! We finally rehearsed an old Lil Blokes song, Rolling, for an encore!) They finally let loose and danced, jumped, and even moshed! Their appreciation soon followed as we stayed on stage and they lined up for photos for almost an hour! Thank you Changsha! TNRO loves you!!!
Chongqing & Chengdu
Chongqing & Chengdu were nuts! Crazy times in China I tell you! I can’t emphasize how much more difficult & longer it takes to get around China with a language & reading barrier, especially in these lesser-known cities. I had heard and even assumed that we would see westerners everywhere, but that was not the case. It was 99.9% Chinese all the time. So we missed our early trains both days! We had to rush to the venues for quick sound-checks, check into our hotels, & we were lucky to get a bite of food before taking the stage. But that’s all ok. Because the stage is where we belong. Where we feel at home. Where for 40 minutes there is no language barrier. The Chongqing crowd danced, clapped, did the wave, and came on stage for our encore. After the show a 30-minute photo session ensued. Michael was told by 2 Chinese girls that they loved him. Josh was offered a Chinese fathers’ youngest daughter. Chengdu was even crazier. We showed up & only had 30 minutes before we had to play. We were dirty and had our luggage and just fumbling about. Little Bar was packed. The crowd was more relaxed but let us hear it louder than any crowd, after each song. It was the only city we didn’t get an encore, but it was my favorite crowd. I knew they were loving it because I had their full attention with every word. I was saddened that we had to rush out to make it in time for our hostel reservation. I would have loved to hang out with the crowd. Now I’m off to Beijing for the finale. I’m overwhelmed by the crowds. The new fans. The new admirers. I love the New Noise Revival!
Beijing – The Final Transformation
My friend Fernando lived in China for 5 years. He called me when he heard I was touring in China. While excited for me he said he didn’t think my music would go over well in China. Well, we took China by storm! Like a flaming chariot! Beijing was the final litmus test. Every city we played we won the crowd over the moment we walked in the venue. Beijing was more foreigners and they were all sitting. 3 songs in and they were charmed. They danced more than any other crowd and this was the final transformation. This tour was the most exciting tour I’ve ever been on. We bonded as a band in a special way. Who would have thought that our metal drummer, Tyler, from Shanghai would have worked for the Noise Revival Orchestra? Well it was the perfect ingredient. Most likely the missing ingredient that Fernando didn’t know we had up our sleeve. Our stage presence and charm sucked them in and our music sent them home smiling. I see a brand new rock n roll record in the future…and I see a lot more of China in the future as well!
Special thanks to Tyler Bowa who was more than just our drummer. Without him I can’t imagine how we would have communicated or not gotten lost. Nichols & Zangnan Promotions for doing all the preplanning and being the main catalyst for our coming to China. Rose for being cool. Michael & Todd for playing horns with us in Shanghai. Troy for letting me work abroad and follow my calling. My beautiful baby Anita for capturing all the content for the band and putting up with the hectic touring schedule. 24/7 for the amazing interview. Clement for the hospitality at Temple Bar in Beijing. German guy at the hostel who acted as our translator and waited forever as we tried to book flights on the phone our last night. Shanghai Post for putting us on the cover. The TNRO fans from Austin that are now living in Shanghai and came to support. Not the guy who gave Josh chocolate at Temple Bar. All the people who helped us get a bass guitar for Michael in every city! The organizer in Changsha who took us out to eat late night after our show. Josh & Vince who took the risk in me and in the tour…wasn’t it the trip of a lifetime guys! For Michael for being in on the China trip from the get go! All the promoters and people who helped spread the word! The lady who warned us before we were about to eat cat! Kaye at Lazy Bone who was the most friendly host ever! We hope you get to visit the UK & the US one day! Don Pitts, Troy Campbell, Ashley Buchanan, & Charlotte Huskey who provided me with the opportunity to be an ambassador for Austin and it’s sister city of Shanghai. Sarah Kendel for running my Facebook and the bands FB while I was in China. Clayton Lillard for having my back in Austin. My sisters M.I.T roommate, Erin, for supporting with such last notice. I love connecting the dots around the world! My beautiful Anita again. This time for still going to The Great Wall after I spilt juice all over her 1 minute before the bus was leaving :/ Tyler Bowa again! This time for putting up with me being a diva. I’m sure I forgot a few, so I’ll continue to update this blog as the memories pop up in my head!