Gig: October 9, 2009
The drummers and dancers performed this weekend at the SCA Great Western War, which was held at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, near Taft, California. Just about three hours north of Los Angeles, the park is essentially nice grass and trees to the side of a large, man made lake. Ducks, trout, some horse trails, and plenty of campgrounds make up the area, and it is a very nice place to hold an event.
The weather was about as good as you good ask for, partly cloudy, highs in the mid 70’s during the day, breezy, and with plenty of fresh air. Even the nights were fairly mild, no lower than the mid 40’s, which was great from inside a tent, snuggled next to a belly dancer. (Also a great gig if you can get it, but no way am I giving out pointers…)
We brought a full load this time, with almost our full compliment of performers.
N, one of our fine drummers.
D, one of our fine drummers.
K, one of our fine drummers.
C, one of our fine drummers.
Me, one of our fine drummers.
E, the leader of the Twisted.
C, one of their fine dancers.
K, one of their fine dancers.
T, one of their fine dancers.
S, one of their fine dancers.
N, our costumer.
E, hugely helpful in set ups and a sometime drummer.
J, hugely helpful in set ups, and a great cheerleader.
Q, C’s son, and also it so happens, a very good viola player.
E, our Little Twisted mascot, and a fine dancer.
With a skill and efficiency that is directly attributed to experience, we had camp and tents set up in less than an hour from arriving.
Our dancers wandered about the War, looking for trouble essentially, and also gigs for that night. We knew we were booked for Saturday, but figured we could find things to do Friday night as well. At worst, we would sit around our own fires at night, and bring folks to us with drumming and so on.
But, what actually happened was that we landed a formal dinner party that was celebrating a birthday and a party performance for a group of pirates known for their bawdy sense of humor and hospitality.
So, first, the Dinner Party.
(Let me just end the suspense, the party ended with the drummers all getting pieces of chocolate cake. We were awesome.)
We arrived at the camp, where they had set up a lovely canopy and service for about fifteen dinner guests. Plenty of candle light, a nice breeze on the top of the hill, just wonderful. The aromas that were still lingering proved to us that no effort had been spared, so we were determined to have our performance be up to par.
The drummers set up, the dancers lined up, nods and smiles were exchanged and we played and danced for a nice 12 minute set. The mood was just right, so we started a bit softly, with a slow and steady tempo.
Our hosts were entranced and nearly silent during the sensuous beginning. As we increased the tempo, they began to clap and finally to whoop and cheer and we finished with a great flourish and dismount.
The dancers, as always, were amazing. It sometimes seems like their dance is made for candlelight and firelight. They were absolutely, stunningly beautiful.
Our hosts enjoyed it so much that we were given cake. Actual chocolate birthday cake. Delicious, and also calorie free as all birthday cakes are.
From there we had about thirty minutes to rest our hands before heading to the…
Tucked away in the far corner of the War the pirate camp was dark, with only a single fire burning low, and four or five people sitting near it. It was very quiet. Too quiet. It was only 9:30 PM.
Where was the party?
So, we asked if we had somehow arrived too late? But the answer was that most of the pirates had wandered off to other camps looking for the party.
I smiled at our host and told him not to worry. We can bring a party.
And so the drummers set up.
Now is a good time to explain that we had it this weekend. We were on the groove, in the pocket, flowing from rhythm to rhythm and we were sweetly loud. Not strident, not obnoxious, just loud.
D was playing his dohola, C was on that big djimbe, and the rest of us were on doumbeks. N, K and I were playing call and answer, trading riffs, and generally sharing all of the top space with an almost Zen level of communication. All the practice is really paying off.
As if it were magic, even though it happens every time, we drew people to us from all over the campgrounds. Dozens. Scores. Hundreds. Within five minutes we had people three and four deep surrounding the fires. Five minutes after that and the dancers were performing, and we had people four and five deep all the way around the camp.
And we drummed and we drummed. We played for an hour. The crowd danced and danced. We stopped and the pirates sung a few bawdy sea shanties. A bard sang in a huge voice, wonderful stuff.
The Captain walked up and asked us to play another set. So we played another half an hour. Dancers flocked in from who knows where. Twenty or more dancers.
There was a perfect moment, with the drummers holding down a great groove, when there were six dancers silhouetted between us and the fire, slowly swaying to our hands on the drums, and then suddenly bouncing and jumping wildly when we picked up the pace.
I called out to the drummers “Make them sweat! Make them gasp! Make them DANCE!” and my guys went off like a bomb, playing a Kahleegi groove that was as good as anything we have ever played. When we wrapped it up with a solid crescendo finale the party cheered us with a huge enthusiasm.
Dancers and revelers alike came up to us and shook our hands, or hugged us, or just told us how great we sounded and how wonderful it was to dance to good live drums.
And the Captain walked up to us as we were packing and getting ready to head to our own tents and beds. He was grinning from ear to ear, and his obvious delight at this great party was wonderfully evident.
We had played until just after midnight.
Lots of people from that party fell asleep that night with smiles on their faces.
So did their drummers.