. The Cherry Blossom Festival in Yeouido is one of the big events for me all year. Yeouido is technically an island in the Han River, the big river that cuts through Seoul, but it doesn’t really feel like an island. There sits many important buildings like the Congress building of Korea and some major companies skyscrapers like MNBC and LG. The roads are lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees. At this time of year, the close the streets so people are free to stroll along and take a look. It swarms with people. The only problem was that this year it had been so cold that there were no cherry blossoms yet. The festival opened on Friday but today Saturday you could only see the beginning of some buds on most of the trees. It’s actually not that far from my house so I decided to walk over. It was just over the bridge. However carrying the 2 amps that I use these days and my sax was harder than I thought. By the time I walked the 40 minutes, my arms were aching. I got ready for playing and then walked up the hill and looked for a spot. It was a little dense with other venues and street musicians, but I finally found a place about 100 meters from the main stage. I sat on the sidewalk and got my stuff out, my amp, my sign (see 4/14 blog), my pad and paper (in case I want to write down some brilliant thought or a phone number or email), my sax and of course, my hat. The hat is important. It was a dilemma for me whether or not to put it down, but Hareem convinced me I should put it down. Hareem is a rather famous singer songwriter in Korea who I happen to know because I am friends with his girlfriend. So I’ve met him from time to time and he’s very friendly to me and also speaks English quite well. Funny thing about Harem is that he loves to play street music. As he became more and more famous, it got harder for him to play street music because there would be too much of a crowd, so he started playing on the streets wearing a mask. Of course his real fans knew who he was anyway, but I guess it cut down on the crowds a little. Myself, I wouldn’t mind a crowd now and then, Anyway, Hareem told me to always put out the hat because it defines who you are to the people. Without a hat, you might just be some crazy guy on the street and the nature of your relationship with the people walking by isn’t clear. With the hat you are a street musician and people know whats going on.
Now that I was ready to go I set in and started up. I play along with a background track that sounds like a jazz band. It’s made by a guy named Jaemie Aebersold and I have a 50 songs that I play. They are all “standards” which means that any jazz musician would know them. Today was actually a bit warm so there were a lot of people and things were going pretty well. I was pulling some good crowds. For some reason I was feeling a little shy, as these people were different from the people I usually see at City Hall or in Hongdae. A lot of older folks and some country bumpkins who came to Seoul for the day to see the blossoms. Every so often there was a public service announcements that would go off loudly in the middle of one of my numbers. It would start with these musical bongs that were never in the same key as the song I was playing. I tried to make some comedy out of it by trying to match the tones and totally messing up my song. That got a laugh. Then when the announcement started I play acted like it was a voice from above, I looked startled , looked up, and pretended to be shocked at the voice. Then I cried out, “Yolja” (woman) in other words “God is a woman” then I looked shame and said ”cheosong Hamnida” (I’m sorry). It got a pretty good reaction so I did it a few times a day. Its pretty challenging to try to do any communication with the few words I have. It’s almost like doing mime. Things happen then you remember them and the reaction you got and then you do them again. Sometimes a few people will come over and start taking my picture. Then a few more will see and wonder what’s going on. Before I know it, there is a crowd. Sometimes there will be 10 cameras pointed at me. Then I can just say “Papparazzi!” and that will get a reaction, because they know that word. Sometimes people will point a camera at me without any interaction or acknowledgement. I don’t really care, but its nice to have some interaction so I can counter that by putting up my 2 fingers on my right hand while I play with the left. Usually that gets a smile. If not I can turn my hand sideways and play the f # key with my extended middle finger of the peace sign. Sometimes I will play 2 keys with the 2 fingers while still in a peace sign, which is a pretty good trick. Sometimes I will play games and put the peace sign up and then when they go to take the picture take it down. Its all fun. Sometimes I will let another person push that button.
Of course the best thing is to take pictures with the cute and beautiful women and I always extend my arm and they always take it. They usually want to pose and I will do that once and then I try to get them to look at me as I play and that can be very nice if I happen to be playing very well at the moment. Now I should remember to bring a piece of cardboard for the pretty women to sit on so that don’t get their dresses dirty if I am sitting on the curb. 160