While many frolicked in the high winds and long dusty white outs in the Black Rock Desert this last weekend, some gathered to commemorate the event here in Austin at an event called Orfunner. (‘Cause we’re all burn orphans for the year!) It was like a little “taste of Burning Man” with one flame throwing car, one thump throwing DJ, a couple of fire spinners and two small chill domes. At the center of it all, like something flown in from another time and place, was the glow of the outrageously overdone Blue Moon Roadhouse featuring live mad-lib sock puppet blues karaoke and, among others, me.
As my last film project has been winding down I’ve been allowing the long stifled and barely contained musical Kai to emerge. The result has been a slew of song ideas and a nearly insatiable desire to play guitar. I was struggling to get some tech work done the other day but I kept finding myself mired deep in guitar porn, checking out old videos of Stevie Ray or websites of minutia about the history of the EVH Wolfgang guitars. This was intensely frustrating because web surfing for guitar porn wasn’t anywhere on my priority list. I wasn’t getting tech work done and I wasn’t playing guitar either.
At last I just picked up my old Strat and played my heart out for the last few hours before going to bed. The lights were out and I’d just dropped my head onto pillow when I could almost hear the snapping sound as the relays clacked over in my brain. Suddenly I knew just how I was going to restructure my tech solution and solve my problem. Brains are mysterious things that way.
So I decided that it would be worth heading out to Orfunner for a day to do nothing else but play guitar all day with my friends at the blues bar. I pulled up, loaded my gear into the tent, and we started practicing immediately. Everyone left for a break and I goaded Nobodobodon up on stage to tell some really terrible jokes, in part so that I could keep vamping away behind him.
When night arrived to drape the Blue Moon Roadhouse in the more appropriate robes of murky darkness, the bar rose to take it’s place in a long history. The walls were dipped in blue light and the bar tables were moons. A hand painted, full sized cityscape backdrop filled in behind the band. Along the pilers were framed photographs of BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and, of course, Patrick Swayze who appeared in the film, “Roadhouse”.
The first notes chords of Red House punched from the ancient speakers, leapt out into the night and immediately began grabbing people by the ears and dragging them in. Soon the club filled with tiki-cup wielding patrons and hooting tutu clad cowboys. With Michael’s heckling and my reassurances we were able to get quite a few people to step up to the mic. Some were actually quite good vocalists and improvisors but most made use of the stacks of cue cards written mad-lib style by the audience members. They were everywhere, intently scribbling out tales of their deepest woes with sharpies. Lost cats. Shaving cuts. Embarrassing unintentional bowl movements.
There were swing dancers and guest musicians. We even took things down a peg for a few jazzy spoken word numbers. The band sounded good, gelled well and did a great job of working together to come up with off the cuff musical bits, dropping right into grooves and playing off of each other. The sound system Aaron put together was fantastic, and I couldn’t get over how well my old friend, my pink ’62 re-issue Strat, was singing. My playing is a hundredfold better when I sound good and can hear myself well. My friend Jose had been out of town for quite a while and despite my having grown a beard and lost the glasses, he claimed the reason he couldn’t recognize me right off was my playing. “You were playing so much better than I remember that, combined with the hat, I thought you were some great seasoned old blues guy!”
In trying to duck out quickly the next morning I was only waylaid once for an hour or two, and it was time well spent getting to know some people I’d been wanting to talk to for a while. I loaded up the van and cruised back to town to be welcomed by my projects now freshly infused with life and proceeded to knock out both code and video editing progress like they were the best things in life.