Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gratitude in the U.P., Sitting in with Nick Strange, Kirtan

Hello again,

It has been a nice few weeks since my last entry and there have been a nice array of gigs happening. First, I found myself heading North over the Mackinac (mack-in-aw) bridge again on my way to a gig with the Gratitiude Steel band. We had two shows lined up in the nice little U.P. town of Manestique. The first one was on Saturday. It was the 3rd of November, and the gig was at a grand opening of a brand new elementary school. The old elementary school was burned down due to an electrical fire started by a light in an iguana tank. The iguana was a classroom pet. I guess, in a way, you could say that the iguana gave his life for the students to have a new school. For some reason, it was all I could think about as we played. The band was set up in the gymnasium, where they had just put the final layer of gym-floor epoxy a couple of days before. The toxic smell was overwhelming, and I think it affected the whole band. I remember feeling a bit dizzy and feint the whole time. Later that evening I went for a walk along lake Michigan and felt a lot better.
The next morning we were playing at a church right down the road from the school. It was a fun ceremony, people really appreciated the music, and afterwards we all met in their banquet hall for a meal. Everyone was very nice. I definitely felt like I was back in the U.P. Before we left town a couple of the locals took us to the biggest natural spring I have ever seen. It was called Big Spring, (how fitting), and it was this 100ft. wide, 40ft. deep spring that had more than 1000 gallons of water bubbling up from the ground every minute! The water was crystal clear and there was a cool glass bottom raft that you could float across the spring and check out the huge trout that made their home at the spring. It was a nice send off before the 7 hour drive back down state.
The following Thursday I was on my way to a city called St. Joseph, city on the west coast of Lower Michigan. I was sitting in with the Nick Strange Group, who have just released their latest album titled 'Yesterday Was Better". It was an interesting gig for me because of the venue. It was a smokey club called Czars, and it was one of the first places I played after moving to Michigan from California. It was a pick-up gig with a band from the U.P. called Paulding Light who had just lost their drummer and needed a fill in. It must have been in the summer of 2001. The place had not changed a bit, and neither had the circumstances for my being there. It was a fun night, although there were not very many people.
The next morning we got up and drove back to Ann Arbor. That evening I played with the same group at Good Night Gracie's in downtown Ann Arbor. There was a big crowd and the music was sounding great. Playing multiple nights in a row really helps to tighten up the sound. It was good to fill in for that group again. Gracie's is a great place to play. They have a nice stage and the place is just big enough so you can fit a good crowd, but don't need a big sound system. I had fun and I look forward to playing with them again soon.
The next week was the monthly Kirtan event at the Friend's Center in Ann Arbor. It wasn't our biggest crowd, but the chanting had a ton of energy. I have been really getting into the idea of playing at those chanting events with my eyes closed the entire time. I usually have my eyes on the other group members and my own hands. I find that when I close my eyes, the music and sound is so much more in my immediate focus. This type of music making really lends itself to an inward experience, rather than a group effort to entertain. I am just now beginning to discover deeper levels of enjoyment when I play with this group. It has to do more with my own inward experiences, rather than a purely musical one, although the music must be in very good control in order to let it go. So I guess, the journey continues.....

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

John

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