Monday, May 22, 2006

Beijing stage debut

I made my Beijing performing debut last night at the Orchard, a great restaurant very close to our house. We’ll take you there if you come visit. The owner, Lisa Minder Wu is actually from Wheeling West Virginia. She has been here for a while, originally coming as a journalist. Her husband is Chinese and is a wood worker and craftsman. We have bought a dining room table from them, which we’ll have soon.

She asked me if I would put together a band and host an acoustic open mic night. I eventually called Matt Forney, a former WSJ reporter and Time bureau chief who is friend of a friend and whom I had met and chatted music with several times. He and I got together and played a few weeks ago, playing for hours with another friend of his in a little bar in a cool hutong spot downtown.

The chemistry was good. Matt is a fine musician, a step above me, which is what I need and prefer. Long story short, he has a group together that plays mostly old time music. Matt plays banjo and mandolin as well as guitar. Matt roberts, formerly the head of Dow Jones business here and a super nice guy, plays upright bass. There is an other guitarist and an excellent Welsh fiddle player, both of whom are leaving China next month and he wants to play as many gigs as possible before then and is open to doing something with me after that. So I hooked him up with this Orchard gig and he asked me to come play with them.

They did two and half fairly short sets of fairly trad music (bluegrass, Americana, fiddle songs) and some blues and even ”Willin’”. Then they called me up. There was a group of about 15 people I knew sitting right in front of the stage, including a couple of good friends. A lot of people here don’t really know about my guitar World life and think of me as a sportswriter. I think I surprised them a little.

Matt really wanted me to sing “Tangled Up In Blue," which I apparently did quite well during that drunken night in the Hutong bar. I’ll accept his compliment but that’s a tough one to sing. I asked to start out with something I could hit out of the park.. did “Deep Ellum Blues..” three chords and you can improv lyrics any time you forget some… went well… then matt said, “do you want to do an Allman Brothers song?” and the fiddle player said something about “southbound” and I almost fell off my stool and immediately started playing it.. I was pumped to hear her take flight. But alas she couldn’t really feel my groove and just sort of sawed along.. I think it went well though.. then we did “dead flowers” and then “Tangled Up,” which I think I pulled off more or less. I was sweating bullets from the lights and the exertion and I guess a little nerves. But it felt good. I got down and a fellow I had never seen before bought me a beer. Always nice. I was happy that Becky made it over. We had Yu Ying come over and B put the kids to sleep first then joined.