Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A few nights ago I was at a random birthday party for a person I don't know. Not uncommon in the relatively small China expat circle, though mostly I'd greeted and spaced out the birthday person as the night wore on.
Cut to a small cafe a few steps and a million cultural miles between the authentic Texas 'que spot where we'd been celebrating (lotsa worn Tejas cowboy boots, iconic Phillips 66, Lone Star, Route 66 signs nailed to the walls, plus great fajitas, burritos, margaritas etc) where I'm talking to a very young, small and stylish 20something Chinese guy who'd been with us who starts telling me how much he appreciates, Dylan, Hendrix, the Fabs, Stones, Doors and other prehistoric Western bands I've never heard a Chinese guy his age mention before.
"Jimi Hendrix wonderful," he said. "Play guitar with his tongue. I love to see Jimi Hendrix at Monterey California"
"His teeth," I corrected him. "Played with his teeth. Not tongue. But go on, please."
"Bob Dylan's voice, not so good, really. But his spirit very very good. 'How many times can a young man die...' Answering in wind, yes? Jim Morrison! Doors! 'The End'. 'Father, yes son, I want to kill you. Mother I want to fuuuuaaagh you'. Powerful. Too much. But good, I like. The Big Cat (Elvis) too. 'Love me tender..' "
As I urged him on - names like Pink Floyd, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, throwing them out like aged fading wrinkled confetti, I also noticed some waitresses eyeing him, pointing and tittering madly, hands reflexively across their mouths in traditional Asian style for females giggling. Then two women customers approached our table with paper and pens in hand.
They wanted his autograph which he signed quickly, politely and returned to our rock 'n roll seminar.
"Uh, are you famous or something?" I finally asked.
"I am in a band," he said simply. "We will be in the United States next month."
I know a small time promoter and publicist in LA and offered to hook him up.
"Thank you. No, we have okay."
Who is this guy, I thought? The answers in China were universal after only a few questions.
"You met HIM?" C screamed over the cell phone as if I'd met the Lord of the Universe. "Please, give me his phone number! I want to meet him when I come back to Beijing"
"You met HIM?" a coworker asked. "Congratulations! That is very good! Very, very good! Congratulations! We are proud of you!"
His English name is "Luke" - Chinese name Lu Gengxu - and he is one half of a duo popular with late 20s early 30s Chinese music fans. That's him on the left holding an award he and his singing partner received at a Chinese music award show. Kinda like I'd been shooting the shite with Justin Timberlake, perhaps, without knowing it. The duo is Shui Mu Nian Hua, or "Water & Wood" in rough translation.
Postscript: I was at a Chinese friend's home the next night and happened to mention I'd met half of Water & Wood and asked to hear any tunes she might have. She was thrilled and happily cranked up a song. I sighed inside as the middle of the road pap/pop Sino-syrup began flowing. I was about to go into diabetic collapse.
"Jimi, Jim, Mick, Bobs Dylan and Marley, and Floyd almighty forever forgive hin" I thought. "Luke, I have your number. But you need a career, not my stone age musical advice. I'll save my thoughts. Meanwhile, play on brother, play on."
Posted by Justin at 6:43 AM