I’m singing in a band? I’m singing in a band.
As I mentioned earlier this week, my blogging has become less frequent for a variety of reasons, but principally, because I’m just a bit busier living life here. The western community in Kaohsiung is fairly small (relative to, say, Taipei, or Cleveland). I know it’s not the case, but it seems like almost every Westerner here knows each other; throw in the fact that we all have the same basic schedule (teaching from 1-9 or thereabouts), and what you have is a community rife with opportunity for going out, hanging out, meeting even more people, thereby further enhancing the situation. I’m not gonna lie – it’s a pretty fun existence , honestly.
But yeah, so that’s been the main reason for the unannounced hiatus. But there were others, as well. I was taking Chinese classes four hours a week in January and February, with moderate success. I can now fight my way through ordering a tea. But put me in the passive chair and have someone start talking to me, and watch my eyes grow wide and the blinking start in earnest. I’m hopeless, really, unless I’m ordering tea or boasting that I’m from America or I’m calling someone retarded. It’s a work in progress, I suppose; but if you were going to rank fluency at 100, we’d be ranking me right around one.
Also, a dear friend of mine came and visited in the second half of March, thereby nullifying any chance of blogging then. We traveled up and down Taiwan’s east coast for a week, and it was fantastic. I’ll tell you about it one day.
But the most significant thing that’s happened in my life over the last few months is this: I was randomly recruited to sing with a cover band, and we’re now actually one of the more popular live bands in Kaohsiung. It’s amazingly fun, insanely ludicrous, completely unexpected, and wholly flattering.
Now, anyone who knows me well knows that my sister is the singer of the family. She’s got the chops. She was harmonizing with the radio when she was three years old. She attended the same performing arts high school as Norah Jones and Erykah Badu in Dallas. She’s the star. Me? I’ve always considered myself to have a decent enough voice, and that’s about it. I’ve always loved to sing, though, and used to dream up scenarios where I was the lead singer of a rock band. But these dreams, as well as the fact that I enjoyed belting out a note or two, never made it out of my own head. Even in the car, I sang like Michael Bolton raps in Office Space – I’d rock it out pretty hardcore until I stopped at a light and people might stop next to me and see. I was embarrassed to sing in the car, next to complete strangers.
But then a couple years ago, I completely embraced my inner-dork and joined a… wait for it… a karaoke league. Yeah. That’s not a misprint. A karaoke league. But it was fun, and I realized that was was ok at this singing thing – at least, I was ok at singing songs with ringtone music being piped in and the lyrics bouncing along in front of me. But that little league is where I got a bit of confidence to sing in front of people.
When I moved here to Taiwan, however, singing was the last thing in my mind. I’ve done KTV here a few times – KTV is the Taiwanese version of karaoke, where you basically just karaoke in a private room with your friends – but never did I once consider the possibility of a band, or anything of that nature.
Perhaps you remember me speaking of the Canadian couple, Mike and Chelsea, that I befriended immediately when I moved Kaohsiung and stayed at 202 (the hostel). They had gotten here the day before me; Mike accompanied us when we partook in the World Games. Well, Mike’s a pretty accomplished musician – he was in a band back home, and he wrote real original songs, and they did some actual tours and stuff. He’s also played some of his solo stuff around Kaohsiung.
(Ok, honestly, can I just say, I kind of feel like a tool posting this. “Hey look at me! I’m in a band! I’m so cool!” I waited awhile to write about the band, because it’s hard to write about yourself singing in a band without coming across as completely arrogant. I hope I don’t here. It’s completely random and unexpected and surreal; but at the same time, I’m really loving every second of it. So if you’ll indulge me…)
Here’s what happened:
It was Thursday night. Thursday’s my long day (teaching little kids straight from 1:30-9:30), and after going out on Wednesday night, I was completely exhausted. But, Joe asked if I wanted to go to gambei (greatest thing about Taiwan, which I will tell you about soon – outdoor restaurants with good food cheap, and very cheap beer) after work. It sounded like heaven to me, but I only planned on being out for an hour or so. But as we were finishing up, Mike called me, and I answered. He asked what I was doing, and I told him. Then our conversation went something like this:
Mike: “So, I’ve started jamming with a cover band, and we need a singer. Would you be interested?”
Me: “Um, yeah, I think so. What kind of music?”
Mike: “Pretty much just rock – Chili Peppers, Hendrix, Cream, …”
Me: “I’m in.
Mike: “Cool. We’re playing an open mic night at Brickyard in 20 minutes. Can you be there?”
Me: “Ummm… yes?”
How did it go? Can I sing or not? Were tomatoes thrown at our heads? Find out all that and more, after the jump! Also, Gallery Goodness!
I was exhausted, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. I told Joe, and he said, “Well, let’s get our asses to Brickyard.” So we did. I sang one song with Mike and his band – “Hey Joe,” by Jimi. I only remembered about half the words, but we got a decent enough reception, and afterward, Jon – the drummer and organizer of the band – asked if I wanted to sing full-time with them. I said sure. “Good,” he said. “Because we have a show here in a month, and we need to get working.” Good god, this all happened so fast.
In addition to Mike, I’d actually met Jon before, as well as one of the guitarists. So that made the whole indoctrination process easier. They’re all great guys, and so I felt comfortable immediately. We practiced our butts off a couple times a week for a month, until our first show arrived on Saturday, Feb. 27. The band’s name? Liger Attack. (Jon’s idea. It’s a Napoleon Dynamite tie-in.)
We were actually the first of two bands to play that night. The second act was an AC/DC cover band from another town about an hour north of here. But, as I said earlier, the Western community in Kaohsiung is strong and united. We actually had a big crowd come to see us play our first-ever show, and my first-ever show with a band, ever. And it was awesome. Our set included lots of different stuff, from Nirvana to Chuck Berry to Cream. I can’t honestly tell you how good we were – I think we were ok – but the crowd was stinkin’ into it. Everyone was dancing and headbanging and singing along, and every bit of that floored us. We kept looking at each other, our eyes wide with disbelief amidst the cheers after each song. The first show was a completely unexpected success. We were giddy.
We played again two weeks later, at another popular bar, the Mercury. Again, way more people showed up than expected, and again, the response was shocking. We basically played the same set list as the first show – except we took out some of the slower songs and introduced “Twist and Shout” into the mix. And yet at the end, people were chanting for an encore, and we tried to oblige them with a very shoddy rendition of “500 Miles.” And even after that abortion, they cheered louder and longer for another one. We didn’t really have any more songs that we knew, so we left the stage and hoped they wouldn’t be too upset.
Well somehow, over the course of two shows, we’ve made a name for ourselves. People are asking about Liger Attack and wondering when we’re gonna play again. And actually, that’s the coolest part. After our first show, the bar owners at Brickyard were impressed enough to ask us to open for one of the biggest bands in Taiwan next time they roll through town. So, on April 24, we’re playing an hour-long set, opening for the Money Shot Horns. We were floored. We’re still floored. And we just hope we can play well enough to earn another gig somewhere down the line. And we also hope that we totally kick ass.
And so there you have it. The story of how I started singing in a rock band. It’s fun. Thank you for obliging me.