I wanted to check out Jazzda again where I had seen the Cuban band on March 24th so I decided to play on Coffee Street for the first time by myself. I had played there once for Akiko’s going away sale, but this time I was alone. It was hard to find a good spot. By the way, a good spot for a street musician is one that is in front of a closed store or an area where there is some space. If you are too close to a cafe or restaurant with open windows they may ask you to stop or call the police. Also it’s important to find a street with not too many cars as that noise will destroy your sound. A pedestrian walkway is ideal but there are not too many of those in Korea. Coffee street has very little car traffic so its pretty good, however finding an open spot was difficult because as I mentioned before there are so many cafes and restaurants there thats its hard to imagine how they can all stay in business. I had seen a spot the other day and thats why I planned to come there. There were 3 metal type garage doors that were empty and would have been good. However, when I got there, the middle one was open. Inside were all the yogurt ladies from all over northern Seoul. I guess this was their distribution point. What’s a yogurt lady. I think its particular to Japan and Korea. This women walk around with these large partially motorized push carts and deliver sell this watery yogurt. Yes its yogurt home delivery, and its always women and they always wear this kind of orange uniform. Someone sold these people on the idea that a sugary drink with a little yogurt in it is essential for good health. Believe me its not good and its not good for you. Anyway, it was rather surrelaistic to see all these yogurt ladies in one place. I think they were having a surrealistic experience too seeing me, a street musician. I decided not to play right there, as I didnt want to get in their faces. I moved about 20 meters down the road and saw a little dead end alley that had some garbage cans at the back end about 5 meters down. It was a garbage alley. Not ideal, but under the circumstances, the best I could do. I unpacked. What does that mean. Actually a lot, Take out my sax, take out my amp, take out the mp3 player, hook them up, turn on the mp3 (it takes a minute to warm up, take out my hat, my sign (optional….more about that later on), a pad and paper in case I have any great ideas or want to write someone’s information down, my name cards (I just print them on a piece of paper. Thats a lot of stuff and it takes a few minutes to get it all there and ready. Then I can focus on the music. Lately I’ve been recording everything too. Later I can listen. So if i have a great idea, I can just say it and the iphone will pick it up. Must look a little strange though. I could solve that by putting an earphone in my ear but that might affect my sound. So now I’m ready to play.
I started playing and nothing happened. I mean literally. Thats because I left the swab inside the sax. Its a huge brush that fills up the horn completely. I sure feel stupid when I do that and people are watching. Luckily no one was watching. Unluckily, no one was listening. I played for about 45 minutes and people just walked on by. Thats funny because on sunday people couldnt do enough for me, giving me lots of money and attention. Its hard to figure why sometimes. I am not playing well, is it them , me , the situation. Some countries are never good, like Japan. They never stop for street musicians at all. I decided it was either me or the time. After all. it was about 630 pm. People were going to dinner. Maybe they were too hungry to listen to music, or they wanted a seat in the restaurant. Or maybe I just sucked.
It went on like that until my date called to say she would be an hour late. Oh boy…what a night not a bite (quote from a jamacain folk song). I walked about 35 meters to the Jazzda club to see if maybe the Cuban band was back. The place looked different than it had the 2 previous times I had been there. Maybe it was all a hallucination. I went back to the street, unpacked and started playing and about 15 minutes later my date called. She was early (from being an hour late, still 30 minutes from being actually on time).
We went out to dinner and well thats another story. But I wanted to play for her so we went out looking for a place. There was a corner couple of steps that was just sitting there. It was a reality office, one of the few actual non-food businesses on the street. We say down and I started to play. Suddenly people gathered. Soon there were about 15-20 of them. And they were really listening too. I was getting those goofy looks that I love that show you are really moving someone. Unfortunately my date had picked up my hat. I felt sad about putting it down after my song so I told her to just forget about it. Just then the owner of the shop arrived unlocked the door even though I was sitting in front of it. It was quite funny because i was in the middle of a song and the guy just acted like I wasnt there. I pretended to fall into the story. He came out a few seconds later and I thought we would have to leave, but he stood right next to me and started swaying his body to the music. He must have been 65 years old and looked like a cross between pee wee herman and joel grey in caberet. He was one of these Koreans who really like foreigners and want desperately to talk to them. Often their English if filled with outdated slang like “I havent seen live jazz for a month of Sundays.” I moved down to the side of steps to get out of the door and before I knew it, he brought out a chair. I gratefully accepted his offer. I played another song and then Pee Wee started talking to us. He asked me my name and my instrument and how long I had been playing. All the questions i hate to answer. Then he brought out some of the sickening coffee Koreans often drink because its cheap. It tastes a little bit like what I image motor oil would taste like before a 30,000 mile change. I drank it….
Then he was talking to my date and asking all about me like I was a big star or something. Every so often he would ask my the same questions. He kept asking us to go to his club, go to his club. I looked at my date and we decided it might be fun. We followed him throught the streets of back Hongdae. Back Hongdae was really different than the main part which was full on many discos and trendy ice cream shops. Here was quieter and classier.So we followed and followed and had a nice time looking at all the amazing cafes. In Hongdae, cafes are an art form by themselves. Finally we arrived. My date was worried because of course he would want us to drink and then we would be trapped for at least 30 minutes with this strange guy. I assured her that since he thought I was famous or an artist, I could act anyway I wanted. We followed him up to the 3rd floor of a nice old building.
Amazing the bar was really nice. All beautiful wood, hundreds of LP’s lined the walls. beautiful things in the bar, and …..empty except for one korea waitress. I looked around and said very nice very nice. we have to go….He looked crushed but then I told him I would come back tomorrow and I would play in front of his real estate agency tomorrow from 8 on, and I meant it. Wish me luck tonight.
about the sign (optional…the sign tells about me in the korea language. No I didnt write it. Someone helped me. It answers the questions people always ask me like; What instrument is that? How long have you been playing (I always lie in response to that one, not because I like lying but because I think the real question …the meta question if you will is this, “how long will it take before I can do what you are doing?” I always answer 2 years, because I think we can learn anything in 2 years if we apply ourselves; a language, an instrument, or any new habit. And other tidbits for my fans like where im from, what korean foods I like. Its fun because people often come up and read my sign but then dont look at me. Often they laugh because I really like some foods that are so Korean, that even most Koreans dont like them.