Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jazz Night!

I'm not sure what that was, actually. Dixieland? Swing? I saw a friend's final Japan gig last night. I believe 5 bands were on the bill, but I stayed through 4. The place reminded me a bit of the Flicker back in Athens. Not really set up for live performances, but they made the most of the limited space.

Some little pudgy guy singled me out as someone to get to know. Enthusiastically drunk, he slurred something about drums or drumming.

"I am a drummer," he said. Mushmouthed or rubberlipped from too much booze, speaking in a tongue not his own. He shook my hand three times, high-fived me twice, fell against the wall, his head lolling above his shoulders. "You like drums?"

"Yeah, I like drums."

"You a drummer? Drum is great!"

"No, no. Guitar. I play guitar."

My new friend turned suddenly serious. I'd offended him as evidenced by his sudden disgusted look. He backed away from me.

"Gomen neh. I'm sorry," he said.

"No, it's okay."

If I'd been Bill Murray or drunk myself I might've said something smart assed or self-assured: "Been drinking, huh? Had a little too much. You should go home and sleep it off, buddy." As it was I just laughed.

A few minutes later, he came and high-fived me again. "I want to speak English," he said. "But it is difficult!"

"Yeah, me too."

It's one thing to deal with a disaster after it happens. To become like a rock, a solid person who puts emotions aside and deals with the matter at hand. As a long-time drinker, as someone who's actually been that drunk guy, I recognized the signs of someone who would soon be reversing the flow. At some point, all that liquid fun was going to come back out of him in a rush and the people nearby would become very unhappy and perhaps begin building professional relationships with local dry cleaners Sunday afternoon. When that realization hit me, I understood I had within me the power to avoid such a situation. I could act decisively and avert the problem before it happened.

With that in mind, I found another place to watch the bands as far away from this guy as I could get and still be in the same room. After all, he had his other friends to look out for him. Later, I saw him dancing. The beats were hot, very danceworthy and he and another guy were going at it. He kept falling backwards onto a woman who was sitting on a bench trying to enjoy the show, and each time his pal would catch him and try to pull him against the wall. Hopefully they were forcing him to drink water, too.

Big night for the man who loves drums. He was happy all evening, but I doubt he feels so chipper this morning.

So, in honor of the bands that swung the joint last night, and my blubbery, blustery new pal and his throbbing headache, the high school jazz band that inspired the 2004 comedy hit Swing Girls is touring the United States. They'll be performing in Washington, DC, at the opening ceremony of the annual cherry blossom festival there. A big, exciting experience for these talented kids, I'm sure. And I'm sure they'll rock the festival. I've seen some impressive school bands and orchestras since I've been in Japan, and this one in particular has put out a CD, with another in the works.

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