Friday, August 26, 2005

EC 05

OK, I've calmed down enough to actually write about the event.

(Long pause)

Or maybe not. This is what I feel when I attend something like this, be it a smokin' music festival, longtime immersion in the wild, or some kind of more traditional spiritual training. When you're living a moment fully, there's no room to write, since the observer's role requires distance.

EC was like that. The memories come almost as a laundry list. Arrived just in time to jump into an organized drum circle, with cicada accompanyment. Grabbed a quick bite at the flea market, then climbed up to the castle ruins for the gig. Kodo on fire as usual. Took a bus over to the campsite and set up in the dark. Three days of travel had worn me out, but somehow once again, I beat jet lag.

Saturday morning, woke early for a swim, getting out only after receiving five jellyfish stings. Caught some Fringe stuff at the shrine--Miyake daiko, hula, etc. Stayed out of the sun under cover of the tarp at the Kyoto Journal booth. Besides working the festival, I did double duty as PR for the magazine. Hung out with Ben and Jacob, two amazing guys from Antioch who are spending the summer in Kyoto as interns. It was great fun, rapping with people, or taking solitary walks around to other booths, talking to J-hippies. As is usual with that crew, it was a very mellow, relatively drug-and alcohol-free, asexual scene. In the West, you'd find tripping couples copulating in puddles of technicolor vomit. But not here.

Carlos Nunez's set was wicked mix of Celtic, Spanish and Arabic flavors, though somewhat strangely paced, with a few fast numbers followed by the occasional mellow one. Kodo joined them for part of it. I danced the second half, spinning to the jigs in my unique faux-Riverdance style, stomping my feet to the drums. At the end, the clothes I'd bought earlier in the day were drenched. Wandered the flea market area, but the mellow music brought me down. I caught a bus to the campsite. Some young English girl followed me around awhile, but I wasn't interested and ditched her when I went to my tent to get instruments. My drum had been in the hot tent all day causing the head to stretch and go out of tune. So I took the shakuhachi instead. Unlike the cohesion of the night before, the scene on the beach was segregated into three gaijin groups and only one Japanese, but the latter was the only one playing music so it was there I settled. Not for long. The music didn't really build into anything, and no one was talking, merely pounding their drums or spinning around in an annoyingly narcissitic fashion, looking cool. Hipposers. I went off to bed.

Early the next morning I had to work at the EC shop. Perched behind the CD section, I quickly grew busy, dealing with customers and their money. The cumulative fatigue of the past few days was beginning to hit as I tried to make change. I remembered an old SNL skit where Chevy Chase, as Gerald Ford, is asked an economic question at a press conference. He responds, "I was assured that there would be no math." At lunch, I hung at the KJ booth again, then took part in a Miyake Taiko workshop, squatting in a horse stance, rocking back and forth until my calves screamed, pounding sideways, the sticks stained with the blood pouring from my broken blisters. Pure heaven. Cooled down by taking a swim with Jacob, jumping off spiky volcanic rocks as rain began to fall.

That night's gig was Kodo and Carlos playing together, me dancing and jumping, and yelling out "Yeah!" like a marionette with Tourettes. Watching supurb musicians at the height of their talents is almost religious. With all that dancing, I no longer have an ass to speak of. Afterward, I hung again at the flea market, watching the fire dancers do their exotic thing, balls of flame spinning dangerously close to flowing skirts. Then, I was crammed into the luggage space of a car-load of J-hippies. Despite the yogic contortions, I played my flute as fare.

Awoke soaked. Throughout the night, rain had dripped thru the tent onto my back. I guessed I haven't seam-sealed this puppy in awhile. All the clothes in my pack were damp, but the electronics were unscathed somehow. While I broke camp, the sky opened (naturally), so I stripped down and finished the job in my underwear. Of course, once finished, the sun came out. Spent the morning cleaning up the flea market area. Kodo came down to play for the boat departing at 10:20. As they hit their final note it was echoed by thunder, and then rain came down in biblical proportions. It was a quick storm but everyone was drenched, including the group and a team of documentary filmmakers who lost a camera. A tent from the flea market made a break for freedom, rising and spinning into the air, before it lost momentum and fell into the harbor. (I talked to the owners later who said that losing the tent was a shame, but they were happy to make a home for the fish. Ah, the understanding of hippies.) As I cleaned up, I said farewell to many new friends. One 10 year old followed me around, so I played Tom Sawyer and "let" him help out. And he didn't even get a staff T-shirt.

That afternoon I helped break down the shop. Since I was the biggest guy there, I was of course expected to move all the really heavy stuff, the victim of horrible size-ism. (Hey! You in the back! Keep your smutty thoughts to yourself.) Kodo member and friend Shin-chan gave me a lift in the official Kodo tour truck up to Kodo Village. There was going to be a BBQ for the band and staff. I was a little early and felt guilty for sitting around while the band members prepped food for us. They'd played their asses off for us and here they were cooking for us. Amazing spirit. So I helped Ei-chan built the BBQ pit, both of us cracking jokes and catching up. At seven, the rest of the people began to arrive, namely the band, the staff, and members of the fringe bands. It was a great scene of good food (including sopapillas which they'd learned to make from the Taos drummers who played here a few years ago; I'd never seen any outside New Mexico before) and drink, the best being the blackberry sake made by an Ainu woman, a drink of 70 proof with a kick like a horse. With all the lubrication, even more friends were made. Around two, I felt it was time to go but couldn't find my sandals. There were an identical pair near the door, two sizes two small. No doubt some drunk person had worn mine home. I was given a pair of incredibly small slippers to wear out into the heavy rain. Only the next morning did I see my heels and sheets, streaked with mud.

Since all I owned was soaked, I'd stayed at the hostel. In the morning, headed down to catch my ferry to find Kodo ready to go again. Most of last night's partygoers were on the boat, so the group played us off, okuri-daiko. The best was yet to come. After a three year absence, I'd gone to Sado in the hopes of reconnecting with the Kodo members I knew, hoping to renew friendships. In Tokyo, I got the call. I was being invited to come back next week, for ten days of special training in drumming, dance, and voice. An incredible honor. Crazy how this world turns for me sometimes...

So I did Tokyo by day (two yoga classes; some DVD hang time with Zach and Dana and Eli; lunch with Colleen) and Osaka by night (dinner with Keith at some weird Umeda restaurant filled with religious artifacts and gorgeous women; stouts at the Merseybeat pub in Namba, where I saw a photo of Catherine and Nicki of the 'Nog) and headed home. Here a week, then back to Sado again...

On the turntable: "Billy Bragg and Wilco, "Mermaid Avenue"
On ther nighttable; Paul Auster, "The Book of Illusions"

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