End of the meet and start of the solo wandering.
Firstly, the photograph above is nothing to do with the text, it is just to show you one of the glorious sunsets on Boracay, they really are stunning. Don't you wish you were here?
I left you last time with us having had a great day on the paraws and on the beach and we had gone home to prepare for the last evening meet in the Astoria Hotel right on the beach, a lovely place.
We had a great meet up and said a lot of fond farewells but not before something happened that will probably have scarred several Philippino musicians for life. Allow me to explain.
A few of the VT members knew that I knocked out a few chords on a guitar and made a bit of a racket vocally, so you have probably guessed what is coming next. There was an excellent Philippino band playing. Actually, that is probably a bit of a tautology, as all Philippino musicians are excellent. I really cannot peak highly enough about the technical standard, indeed I know that many of the cabaret bands in the resorts of Thailand are Philippino.
Anyway, the inevitable happened and I was rather reluctantly propelled onstage. The first problem was musical communication. In UK we use the "key of A, B minor, G" or whatever system. I am not sure what they use here, possibly the do ray me system so beloved of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Still, no problem, there rarely is with these guys. Song title and a mime of the first couple of chords and the job was done.
Second problem was that the guitar I borrowed was an electric which I virtually never play and requires a slightly different technique but I took a deep breath and launched into "Knocking on Heaven's Door", which is a great song for audience participation. I know as I once had a bunch or drunken Polish students in Nowy Sacz singing it for about 40 minutes!
There is something rather magical about playing barefoot, well it was a beach bar after all. The rythmn section were watertight, the keysman took a great solo and it was a joy to play with them. Gratefully, I walked offstage to rather over-generous applause I thought. Job done. Not a chance. I was propelled back on for an encore and, I am glad to say, the band did not look as horrified as they should have done.
I swear I had no idea what I was going to play as I never do and never use a setlist, it is better like that. I do not know why my fingers started a D / C / G riff that is one of the most famous in rock music but it appeared that the Muses or more likely St. Jude (patron Saint of lost causes) had decreed Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Well, it went a bit mad then. All the VTer's were up dancing, as indeed were many of the other patrons, the band really went for it and there was lots of onstage interaction (nods, solos etc.). I must admit I did make a bit of a tit of myself, headbanging with the bass player, standing on the drum riser and chopping with the keysman etc. 52 years of age is too old for acting the Sammy Hagar but it was great fun. We jammed it for a good while with a big finish (always finish on a big 7th as Red Dave Lear taught me) and I left to more unwarranted applause, although it was probably for the band. Requests for another encore were politely refused. Always quit while you're ahead.
Obviously, I don't have photos myself as I was otherwise engaged but I have seen video footage online and it is toe-curlingly embarrassing, positively cringe making. For that reason, I don't intend to tell you where it is!
I had booked another couple of days in the hostel after the meet which I spent chilling, exploring the town (there isn't much of it) and the beach. I spent evenings in the Red Pirate and even slep there one night when I couldn't be bothered walking all the way back to Station 1 to my own place. It really is rather comfortable there and with less snoring than in the dorm. Because it is a beach bar, they cannot lock it up so two of the staff sleep there at night to prevent theft. Well, there are three cushioned bench seats so Jen was more than happy for another body guarding the place. I would be awoken in the morning when the day staff arrived and given a cup of coffee. Happy times indeed. I do rather like waking up in a place where the floor is made of sand.
There are other attractions too. Jen is a great catlover and I made a new friend. This little one is called Magic and he really is. He is a lucky kitten too as he was found by an expat as an infant, obviously abandoned and brought to Jen who bottle reared him on, of all things, mixed up coffee creamer. Fresh milk is almost impossible to find here, especially on Boracay.
If I stayed here, I would head off in the morning and have a shower, change and have breakfast before heading out for the day. The next image is interesting as it shows a fairly typical backpackers breakfast. They see no oddity in serving eggs, bacon and toast on the same plate as mango. I suppose it is the same as Americans having bacon and eggs with blueberry muffins which I found odd in L.A. Bloody delicious though.
Of course Jen had seen my attempts at music in the Astoria and so she persuaded me to come and join in the regular jam sessions with two superb guitarists called Randy and Lenver. Lenver is the one you see here. He is only about 22 or 23 and is such an accomplished lead guitarist you would not believe, just nod him a solo and he is away. Seriously, the guy would not be out of place in any top level cabaret band in Europe. I happen to know what he gets paid a night, and I am not going to relate it here obviously. It is commensurate with local wages, slightly better than a barman for example, but it is still a pittance. It was humbling to play with him. As for Randy, he was more than happy to lend me his box as he could go and chat to women! Note the advanced beach bum dress code, shoes never happened and shirts were an optional extra, depending on the heat. It was warm playing there.
Here we are getting it on in grand style. There was another strange thing. In the Phils, you have the PNP, the national police, and then you have the Borangay police. Borangay really means district and these guys have limited powers, they are more like Council wardens in the UK.
Have a look at the guy playing the drum, he is a Borangay policeman, and actually on duty at this point with a shedload of rum in him. Brilliant. Jen says he cuffs people on demand, so we decided to have a bit of a laugh.
Pretty cool cop, eh? He was a really nice guy.
And here we are , two hardened criminals. We did get released shortly afterwards though.
I need to jump slightly back here, though. These photos were taken on my last night on Boracay and I had a slight problem in that I had nowhere to stay. This was not because I had been kicked out or anything but merely because Reinhard, the wonderful owner of the Frendz hostel, was fully booked that night. I was now on a day to day basis for sleeping and travelling, just the way I like it. I was jumping off for my next destination early in the morning so I asked Jen if I could crash in the bar that night. The lovely lady agreed readily so that was my bed sorted.
Now Reinhard had told me that he had a guy coming in to play in the hostel that night and asked if I would play for a few beers, to which I readily agreed. The last night ran something like this. Played about an hour set in the hostel for a totally backpacker crowd which went down really well, it was a nice guitar which is unusual here. I did all the usual troubadour stuff which I thought might not have gone with a young audience but it was great.
After that, I gathered up my wordly goods and possessions and re-negotiated the building site, semi-lit lane and then jumped a trike. Off to the Pirates again and almost straight back into the chair. I really wish I could get two gigs a night in London, it is hard enough to get two a month in the current climate.
We played until nearly three for a good crowd, then Jen and I sat and chatted till about half four and so to bed, well bar seat. Just another nutty day in paradise, going with the breeze!
I'll let you know where I went in the next post, I have been deliberately not mentioning it.