Gig: September 5, 2009
Here is the breakdown of our brief, but glorious, gig at the SCA Highland War, at March Air Force Base (closed) in Riverside, California. About a 95 minute drive for us, but well worth the time.
The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism: http://www.sca.org/links/about.html ) is an organization that meets at events they call “Wars”.
The Wars are where various groups meet to indulge in their shared hobbies, in most cases that include:
- Historical re-enactment of the medieval period.
- Various craft arts, including but not limited to cooking, brewing, tailoring and heraldry.
- Various performance arts, including but not limited to storytelling, signing, dancing and music.
- Various combat arts, including but not limited to full armored combat, archery, fencing, and actual unit versus unit assaults.
In short, they dress up, learn something, socialize and have a good time. Also, in the evenings they make their own entertainment. Enter the dancers and drummers.
We are very friendly with a few different SCA groups, and are often invited by them to attend the War, share in the good times during the day, and entertain at night.
We are usually paid in the greatest of coin, homemade food and artisan alcohol. (Seriously, there isn’t a whole lot I won’t do for homemade chili and strawberry clover honey mead.)
We knew going in that it was HOT there. I mean 102 degrees at 3:00 PM hot. HOT. So, we took our costumes, our tents, our drums, and plenty of snacks and water and off we went.
Our caravan was three vehicles, and our group comprised of ten people.
N, one of our fine drummers.
D, one of our fine drummers.
K, one of our fine drummers. Married to K.
Me, one of our fine drummers. Married to E.
E, the leader of the Twisted Gypsy ATS Dance Troupe. Married to Me. (*glee*)
T, one of their fine dancers. Married to J.
K, one of their fine dancers. Married to K.
N, the Troupe’s Tailor/Costumer.
J, the master of the mechanical stuff. Also, an Archer of some skill. Married to T.
E, a squire with an SCA group, and a sometime drummer.
R, our gracious host. A storyteller, and archer. Acts as our Master of Ceremonies.
I, our gracious host. An archer, and brewer.
R, our gracious host. Son of R.
Packing three vehicles full of the gear is always the first challenge, but I have the blood of the ancient stick mover in my veins, so I actually really enjoy the Tetris aspects of that part of the trip.
We drove to the site, and arrived just as the sun was setting behind the valley hills. False light was out, and we essentially exploded out of our cars and trucks and into action. We had all our tents up, gear unpacked, and costumes on in just about 30 minutes. We have some practice, and are not messing about.
Because, once those chores are finished we get to eat. We were gifted kindly with corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Hot and delicious! Famished from our drive, we descended like locusts on the meal, and were very pleased.
It was now nearing 7:30, and we were all settled in. The dancers found a nice flat spot to perform upon, and the drummers set up our chairs a bit off to the side and behind them. The evening air had cooled off wonderfully, there was a warm gentle breeze, and we were all vaguely drunk on good food, the long drive, and alcohol from a master brewer.
It was time.
We nodded to the dancers, they smiled back, and we began.
Performing outdoors, under the stars in the half dark, with the night breeze blowing around you and the rapt faces of the audience shining from just outside of the circle of the firelight is hard to really describe. It is the essence of Tribal drumming. It is just you and your tribe, joyously staving off the night and bringing a sense of community to your friends and chosen family. The audience feels it, and begins to smile, and laugh, and clap, and shout, and this huge sense of energy and belonging and contentment fills you up and you are DRUMMING.
People can hear you from literally miles away. People from all parts of the campgrounds (about a 4 square mile area) start to wander into your camp, drawn by the sound of those drums. They crest past the outer darkness, see the dancers, settle into the audience and are passed a drink, or some food, and just like that, are sharing your experience. Are swept up, and become part of your tribe.
It is magical. It really is.
And then the dancers start to pull people out of the audience to dance with them. And drummers we don’t know sit in with us, and are smiled to and nodded to in encouragement, and the party really gets going.
We played and danced and laughed and shared until just after midnight. Four hours of drumming and dancing, and it seemed like five minutes.
And then the party slowly dwindles down, and it is just you and the Troupe and the Twisted Gypsies, and your hosts again, and you are all smiling at each other. You can tell that not only did people, dozens of people, hundreds of people, have a great time, but they were also touched. Some of those women watching will suddenly find a longing to learn to dance like that. Some of those drummers who joined in will be practicing just a little more diligently. Some of those new friends will be telling others about that great night they had, sitting near a fire, drinking with their tribe, watching the dance, and feeling the drums.
The drums. The drums.
Life is good, isn’t it?