Traveller Tip: If there are a group of you travelling, it may be worthwhile investing in local SIMs. This way you can contact each other without incurring the cost of a message going via your home country. You will probably need the help of a local to understand and activate the SIMs.
Our biggest and best show to date last night at the Temple Bar, but we still haven’t moved any merch. This is the first time we’ve made a serious effort to sell CD’s and T-shirts, and so far it’s 0/3. Partly it’s because we are (mostly me, cos I’m on the mike) new at doing it in a way that doesn’t feel crass to us but still gets the message across. If any of you have had experience of this and have some tips, I’m all ears! What I’ll try at the next gig is to make a big deal of the one giveaway T-shirt and casually mention they are available after the show, and also mention when songs we play are on the CD we have (which, btw, is on sale after the show) or will be on the new one.
As to the show itself, Temple Bar is a fairly funky Live-House with the best sound system we’ve had so far. By the time we started, there was a sizable crowd who were already warmed up with a support band (The Rotten 5, I think) who did a creditable job with popular 90’s rock covers and some jazzy fusion jams. As we were having a support band, the management asked that we do 1×60 minute set instead of the 2×45’s we thought we were going to do. So I rewrote the set and refined it with some of the guys. A new staple in the set list is a song of mine, ‘I know a girl’, which goes over really well as a ballad. One other of our new songs, “Wake up call” has a great crowd participation moment; I put this second last after a couple of near-ska dance songs and by the time we got to it, the crowd was primed. I got them all singing along and having a great time. So the gig went down well, but we still didn’t move any merch.
After a late-ish night last night (home about 1:30am) we had an early start to catch a train to ShiJiazhuang. Well, ‘catch a train’ is a little simplified. It was a whole lot more involved and I’m learning a lesson about my packing skills, or lack thereof. Out of the entire band, I think I have the biggest and heaviest case; remembering that some of them have more musical accessories than me. I’m actually feeling a bit embarrassed about being a princess at the moment.
Anyway, the above was just to let you know we’re all carrying heavy cases. And it’s peak time on the subway (Sunday doesn’t seem to make a difference here). From Sanlitun we walked about a kilometre to Dong Shitao subway, down several flights of steps and caught the train one station, where we had to change lines. At this point we lost John, Heidi (John’s daughter), Patrick and Cameron. Heidi had gone with SouYi to collect the tickets, so we were fairly confident she knew where to go. SouYi gave her a call anyway to say not to wait for us and meet us at the train station. So now there were 6 of us.
So we changed lines at Yonghegong (Lama Temple) and caught line 5 for about 10 stations to the Military Museum station. Each time we got on a new subway train, it was already jam packed and on a different floor, so we had to lug the…
THAT’s why they call it luggage! OMG!
… lug the cases up or down two flights of stairs, spread ourselves along the platform and squeeze into the already shoulder to shoulder carriages with a variety of instruments and cases. I’m sure if I was paying attention I would have learned some Chinese swear words. Then again, the people here do seem to have a ‘me first’ attitude at the same time as being very tolerant of others with that same attitude.
We get to the Military Museum station and need to transfer to another line (more stairs, new train, more pushing) to travel for one station to Beijing West; the ‘real’ train station, not the subway). We negotiate 3 floors to get to the outside of the station and join the equivalent of a crowd at the footy wanting to do the same thing we were, though with less luggage and an ability to read the signs. Time for a quick bite to eat and we traverse the slightly more official process of getting on the train from Beijing.
Last time we travelled in China we were on the super fast trains, all sleek, quiet and very modern with lots of space. This one isn’t quite as plush, hard bench seats with overhead luggage racks. Did I mention what we were carrying? Now I’m a couple of hours down on this trip and my arse is starting to hurt. And there’s a baby across theseat from me – he must be about a year old but with no nappy. The front and the back are slits in the pants letting the breeze blow where it may. I’m justy waiting to see how the inevitable leakage is handled. We eventually arrived at Shijiazhuan and made our way to the pickup area. There was a light rain but no real wind and so we were able to stay reasonably dry under the high roof of the concourse. Someone from the first night’s gig was supposed to pick us up but we eventually found out (when we finally managed to get in contact with them) that they had the day wrong.
Band-mother-duck, SuoYi, came to the rescue once again and magicked up a mini bus to ferry us all to the hotel. I came up with the ‘Mother Duck’ tag because it’s exactly like a mother duck leading her brood around so they don’t get lost. We need to keep her, or at least the next duckling in line, in view. In fact, as we all proceed off trains to the correct exit, or cross subway lines, or out to the carpark, I’ve taken to doing little quacks. It’s hilarious when some of the other guys take it up – there’s this slightly built Chinese lady walking with 8 or 9 western men at varying stages of age and beefiness following her with subdued “quack, quack, quack”.
As soon as we arrived and checked in, some of the boys mentioned that they were really hungry. We saw this place across the road called “Little Sheep Hotpot Restaurant” [picture] and so agreed to meet in half an hour to give it a try.
I was a bit dubious about the cleanliness of this place at first, though so far no ill after-effects. And omigod, the food was awesome. As a result we all ate more than we should have and as the pace of consumption slowed down and our bodies started dealing with the food we’d just supplied it, our brains also reminded us that we had not had much sleep lately. Cast your mind back to those massive Christmas dinners you had as a kid where you stuffed yourself full of turkey etc., and then realised there was Christmas Pudding and Brandy Sauce to come. Of course, you couldn’t say no, so you ate it. And then you got veeeeeeeeerrrryyy sleeeeeeeeppy.
As it was still only about 6pm I decided to try and walk it off instead, and so set about giving Ingress a try near the hotel. I found two portals, captured them and then went and did some more exploring on my own.