I can't believe it's over.
Somehow, I made it through the festival without passing out from
alcohol poisoning exhaustion, driving my motorbike off a cliff, or otherwise dying and/or embarrassing myself. I wasn't going to blog about it but I had such an amazing time, I find myself wanting to sit down and think about what just happened and if I'm going to do that, I might as well share it with y'all as I go.
We had 11 gigs in 10 days and while the other guys in the band thought that sounded not too bad, I knew it was going to be tough. And tough it was, running around the island to the different venues, jamming with the other musicians (some 400 (!) of us altogether, I believe), dealing with weird rooms, crappy equipment, variable sound, petulant superstars and all the other usual hazards of the trade.
I must've joined the world's only blues band where no-one drinks; our lead singer has recently given up booze and the others only drink a tiny amount. Which suits me fine since I'm more than happy to pick up the slack and take care of the band's allotment of free drinks at each gig :evil:. Of course, that meant that I was getting fairly loaded each night and since we were getting up (relatively) early in the morning (the buffet breakfast at the resort was excellent :-)), I was only getting a few hours of sleep each night and the odd cat-nap during the day when I wasn't running around like a headless chook (usually trying to get online to do Awasu support :roll:). And the other guys in the band were moaning about being tired :mad:.
One of the highlights of the festival for me was being able to see both Tewan with his regular band and Khun Inn. Tewan is something of a fixture in the Thai music scene and has been around for years, playing saxophone and an assortment of other instruments. I had seen him before playing jazz but this was the first time I had been able to see him in the Thai-jazz fusion setting that he is known for.
It was stunning. So many bands try to pass themselves off as traditional-local-music-meets-contemporary-pop fusion outfits by playing whatever they normally play and chucking in a few traditional instruments and a wind chime. But these guys were highly skilled in both contemporary jazz and rock as well as traditional Thai music and to hear classic Thai folk tunes weaving in and out of all these different styles in the course of a song was a treat. Khun Inn was equally amazing, playing Thai xylophone backed by a small army of percussionists all dressed in black. Wow!
After gigs, one of the smaller bars became the place to be if you wanted to jam, and jam we did. The quality of musicians was astounding, not only the overseas "stars" but also the local talent and guys down from the Big Mango. Of course, a lot of us were pretty, um, "happy" by that time of the night but the music was still of an amazingly high quality.
It was, by far, the best thing about the festival. For the punters, it's great to be able to see such a wide variety of different bands but for the musos, it's all about getting the chance to play with a bunch of new people and seeing what we can come up with. The punters knew that as well and the bar was packed every night with people up dancing and cheering us on. It was wild. Thailand has a 1am closing time that they have, in recent years, started enforcing but the cops were generally fairly tolerant of us and gave us a lot of latitude for the festival and we usually didn't finish up until 5 or 6 in the morning.
Another buzz for me was being able to jam with Leena. I had caught one of her shows earlier in the festival and loved it but wasn't able to get to see any more since I was busy gigging myself. I have to admit to being a total sucker for female musicians who are even a little bit good at what they do. We make it so easy for women to get by on their looks and batting their eyelashes that when I see someone who's actually good at something, it's a real turn on 🙂
And not only is she a great performer, but she's stunningly pretty as well. Thais refer to people with Thai-Western heritage as look kreung (literally "half child") and while twenty years ago it was something of an insult, once these kids started to grow up and everyone realized how amazingly attractive their mixed blood made them, it's now a very desirable thing to be. They are today's generation of pop stars and actors and it's almost getting to be you can't get a break in the entertainment industry unless you have a mixed heritage.
Sigh... Pretty and a good musician. I never stood a chance :-(. She had me at G/G/C7/G 🙂
Another thing that blew me away was running into so many people I knew from earlier sojourns in S.E.Asia. I used to play with Flynn Adams (a big black dude on a 7-string bass) 6 or 7 years ago when I was in Hong Kong and I also bumped into an old student of mine and her S.O. who I also knew from that time. We had lost touch with each other and I was gob-smacked when they popped up in front of me during a gig - I totally messed up my solo :-). Then I ran into a bunch of guys working in one of the bars that I knew 12 years ago when I was living in Chiang Mai. And then there were all the people I knew when I was living in Samui myself 7 or 8 years ago, who were still on the island. I guess I get around a bit... Good grief 😐
Of course, there was the spectre of the tsunami that hung over everything during the festival. The island was full of people who had either come over from the other side or had changed their holiday plans and everyone knew someone who had been affected by it. The festival organizers pledged to donate a large percentage of the revenue to the Andaman Aid fund - I believe they ended up raising quite a large chunk of money - and there's talk of a benefit concert being put on in the very near future. After everyone recovers, I guess :-). I'm certainly going to do my best to be there.
The next festival is rumoured to be in September this year but this time with some major big-name acts (in case Zakiya Hooker and ex-Curtis Mayfield guys weren't big enough). So if you're thinking about taking a holiday around that time, keep your eyes open for The 2nd Koh Samui Blues & World Music Festival. It might be fun 🙂