Sunday, June 17, 2012


*we've been on a road trip in the mountains of western sichuan for a week and a half--- yaks, misty mountains, tibetans galore, and no internet. So this is slightly belated. Pictures of the trip within a trip to be posted soon....

June 6th is a day that will go down in MATTEO history. If there is such a thing. Tonight was our debut performance in Chengdu China, and none of us had any idea how it would go. The posters for the event, made kindly for us by our hosts here at the university, were completely amazing. One massive pipa (the lute-like one) hovering over three small pictures of us with the title “CHINESE TRADITIONAL FOLK ORCHESTRA VS. INDIE BAND MATTEO”.  We are glad they included the folk orchestra, since we invited members of it to perform with us. We did not, however, know it was to be a battle. Or that the posters wouldn’t be finished until this afternoon.

About 6 we started our last rehearsal in our cramped dorm stuffed with recording equipment and spilling over with food and clothes and things evidencing our past weeks of life within those four walls. Matt came in to film. Then Zheng Han showed up to make sure things were “decorated well” in the performance room. And then a minute later Jean showed up with a huge box of waters and a nice man we’d never met who was to be our announcer for the evening. Our dorms are about as big as a walk in closet, but we continued playing in the now crowded room. And then Eric broke a string.

Zhenghan was immediately on the phone calling someone to come give us a ride to the likely already closed music stores. I went to go into our room to feed Anna and change her diaper, but the door wouldn’t open. We hadn’t locked it, but it was somehow now locked with both our keys inside. Not to mention diapers and the cd’s we needed in a few minutes. So we run down to the front desk and the maid comes up. Tries the door, yep. Locked. She uses her key, nothing. So we’re left standing in the hall with three women trying to make Anna smile by putting their faces all within four inches of hers. Another maid is called up. She tries the door. Locked. It must be broken. “Please rest in the other room,” she tells me, pointing to Luke and Jordan’s room that currently looks like a Chinese subway at rush hour.

The other performers are carrying instruments in, and we can hear them tuning and practicing their numbers.  So we do go back into Jordan and Luke’s room where they’re still practicing, trying to make sure we actually know and remember parts to these new songs we’ve recorded, but never really played with each other all together.

More and more people begin wandering down our hall and into the performance space. Looks like the chairs we set up were not enough. Luckily I’d grabbed both violin and erhu out of our locked room, so erhu on back and soggy bottomed babe in arms, I too made my way down the hall and across the crowded room to tune up.

“We’re having someone climb up the wall and through your window!” a maid tells me with a smile, then offers to hold Anna while I go watch. Sure enough, there is a man climbing up the bricks to the second story window. And then our door is open. Things get done in China.

The actual concert was without a doubt the best all-around concert we’ve ever had. I don't employ superlatives often. But it was simply fantastic.  Looking out on so many chinese faces so obviously thrilled to be listening to what you are playing, so surprisingly proud their instruments are being used in this way, so enthusiastic in their applause, it was sweet as candy (really good, not too-sweet-Asian candy). Every other number was a solo by members of the folk orchestra. And each was terrific.  They would finish, we’d look at each other with big smiles, then we’d take a turn. Everyone seemed so excited to hear what was coming next. Back and forth. Everything about the show felt right and good and happy. Synergy is the word that comes to mind. This is why. These moments of so many people feeling such joy all together and appreciating the beauty and fun of the instruments is the end goal of what we do.

When we finished the last song, people literally stood from their wooden chairs and shouted “Encore! Encore!” in chorus.

So China has met MATTEO now I guess. And they really get along well.

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