It was a great idea except for one thing: Tenzin owned a couple of amps and a few microphones. As soon as the first guitar player plugged in, music completely dominated Poetry Across the Planet. Zoe attracted a crowd of about a dozen for the first night but six weeks later when I made my final appearance, both the upper and lower floors of Tea O’Clock were packed and a crowd big enough to stop traffic hung outside the door as the electric music could be heard from anywhere in McLeod Ganj.
More and more musicians heard the loud music and showed up with gear. After everyone played a four-tune set it was open jam time and there were a half-dozen rotating musicians who formed the core of the new house band, The Himalayan Avalanche Orchestra. At that point my chops weren’t nearly as nice as some of the better guitar players in town, so I got to strum along on my acoustic while the HAO ripped into a number of didgeridoo-inspired rhythm pieces.
Even though nobody could hear me, I was in the group and I was actually stopped on the streets of McLeod by a hot Israeli chick saying, “Hey – you’re that guitar player – I really love what you guys do.”
It was ridiculously dangerous to my ego and I strutted around town as if I was Townshend in Soho. Zoe’s great idea turned me into a Rock and Roll tool. But there was a positive outcome too. I started writing my own material, something I still do when my brain is either settled or frazzled enough to take to the task. With a half-dozen new tunes in my satchel I looked for other places in town to play and everyone told me to go to Kana Nirvana on the Temple Road for their Monday-Night singer-songwriter showcase. I was more than game for it until I asked my brother Dan if it was a hard place to get to. Dan had been dragging me up a tight set of stepsto the performance area at Tea O’Clock for more than a month. He said there’s no way I was getting up to Kana Nirvana. It was straight up three stories with a wretched open-sewer moat separating the bottom step from the street. I’d relied on both Dan and Zoe for so much stuff that I didn’t push it. The Saturday nights a Tea O’Clock were damn fine nights as it was.
Fast forward to last week and I found myself in a bind. I’d told everyone at 90.4 Tashi Delek I was organizing an open mic at Nick’s Italian Kitchen, a ground-floor restaurant with plenty of space. I spoke with the owner, Nick, and he loved the idea. I made up some flyers and added in the big kicker: ‘All songs will be recorded for playback on 90.4 Tashi Delek the week after the performance!’
As long as the performer plays original material we can put it on the air. There’s just one problem: I only know one other guitar player. That meant I needed to find more players which meant I need to go play a set at Kana Nirvana. I’d been playing at a local drum store (actually just a tarp on the road covering some drums, flutes and didgeridoos) with the sales guy, Nuri, on and off for a few weeks and asked him if he could get me up to Kana Nirvana. Nuri’s the nicest guy in the world and he said it would be no problem.
LordTake Me Back to Portland*