October 11, 2011-Electric Guitars Around the World
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
In the 90’s grunge was in and Judy and I often visited Moe's Mo' Rockin' Cafe and the Crocodile in Seattle to hear bands that sounded like Nirvana and Pearl Jam where everyone wore black clothes and on Friday night the bands changed every twenty minutes. We were the oldest folks in the crowd and we were asked if we were the parents of the band, “or else why would you be here” but we didn’t care because we liked rock and roll and for six bucks you could hear 10 bands, some of which were actually good.
Since sailing out of Seattle we’ve kept a look-out for live music at the various ports we’ve visited and we’ve found it a few times.
In Mexico we could go to old Puerto Vallarta and hear Willie and Lobo. Not exactly grunge, but it was good music. We bought all of their albums.
In Papeete, Tahiti, during Fete’ in 1998, the sound checks from a rock stage near our mooring on the quay attracted us and we had a blast watching some young Polynesian punk rockers wail until after midnight.
Down-under there were lots of places to go in Auckland, Sydney, and Brisbane and we always preferred to find a venue where the band members outnumbered the audience and we’d have no problem getting up close. Intimacy was more important than a big name.
A real find was at the Gypsy Jazz festival in New Caledonia in 2003. We weren’t particularly fond of jazz but we thought we had to see at least one act as long as we were there. We chose one which was in an old warehouse converted to a club, reminding us of the venues in Seattle, and instead of jazz we found a USA rockabilly band with electric guitars and crowd all dressed in black. Hey, this is good! The French rock and roll fans just wouldn’t let the band leave the stage and even though we stumbled back to the boat at 2:00 AM I am sure that those guys played encores until dawn.
In Hong Kong we sat on the grass at Victoria Park for a couple of Rockit Festivals right downtown surrounded by high rise apartment buildings and neon signs and we wondered if the Chinese punk rock bands wouldn’t shake the windows out of some of them. Here the skinheads took the stage after midnight and the crowds got rowdy and we knew we were in for trouble when a couple dozen bouncers took up places in front of the stage to hold the barriers back against the crowd. Judy retreated from that mosh pit but I held my ground and got some good shots but barely avoided a fist fight when some asshole shoved me and said, “You don’t belong here, Grandpa.”
I asked him, “You want to eat this camera?” His buddy backed him off, lucky for me. Those were the good ole days I guess.
In Bangkok there was Tokyo Joe’s and that was one intimate place; I had to turn sideways to keep from getting in the way of the bass player when I went up to get some photos. In Chang Mai, at one riverfront club after crawling through three others, we found where the action was and crowded our way to the front for some great Thai rock and roll. Memorable.
The next year at the Phuket Blues Festival I got bored at musicians who played sitting down so I plunked a full bottle of whiskey on the table and told Judy & Randy & Laura, “Let’s make our own action here!” Judy just shook her head; won’t this man ever grow up? But we drank the bottle, the bands somehow got better, and we danced until we dropped. I think that was the straw that broke Judy’s back however because after that we had to find a good surgeon for her.
Now, three years later her back is better and we are back at the hard rock and loving it more than ever. In Durban last week there was a blues festival and we somehow got tickets for the final show long after the event was sold out and we enjoyed a few great acts before a South African guitar player virtuoso named Dan Patlansky fuzz toned his way into our hearts. His style reminded me of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, only unique in his own way, and we clapped ourselves silly when his show ended. The management wouldn’t let him come back out, something about an agreement they had with the local landowners, but we bought his CD and we have a few photos to remind us of another great night of music around the world.
We’ll be looking out for more.
Click here for more images from the Durban Blues Festival.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Durban, South Africa.
PS: Here is another band we ran across in Durban which we rather liked: