I have made much music on this trip; mostly drunken sing-alongs with my slightly half-arsed guitar playing. I’ve got a good ear and I can play a huge amount of songs; I just play them badly. People are more impressed by someone who can play three songs really well. I keep thinking I should choose 3 songs and learn them really well, but I can’t for the life of me settle on what those songs would be. I end up playing so many different songs that I can’t remember them, and so I no longer try. Every time I play a song it’s like I’m playing it for the first time – I discover the changes in real time and am often surprised at what comes out.
5 days ago I arrived in Pai, a small and beautiful town in Northern Thailand. A girl Christina told me about a couple of Maltese guys who were playing guitar and drums in a bar called Edible Jazz (christ knows why, they don’t play Jazz OR serve food). We went down to check them out, there were only a few people there. The singer Matt has a BIG voice in the manner of Ray LeMontagne and I was quite impressed. Once I was suitably drunk I went off to fetch the melodica I had bought in Chiang Mai so I could jam. I arrived back in the restaurant during a cover of All Along the Watchtower, walked straight onto the stage area and played a screaming solo. I’ve had the story recounted back to me as a moment of perfect timing: it was the exact moment in the song where there was meant to be a solo and it took everyone in the bar by surprise. The thing is, I was oblivious to this, because I had just walked in: it wasn’t very surprising for me. When we finished the song Matt said ‘Cool, you’re in the band’ and I played for the rest of the night and agreed to come back the next day.
The next afternoon we played for a bit and I mentioned that it would be great to have a bit of bass, and that I’d always wanted an acoustic bass. 3 hours later I had bought the only acoustic bass in the only music shop in Pai (happy shop owner!) and we were playing a gig; with Matt shouting the chords at me before each song – although he often tests me by telling me the wrong chords. Since then, word of mouth has spread and we play every night with a great dedicated little crowd. It’s been lovely. I have heard maybe a quarter of the songs before, so I just make up the bass lines on the spot – working it out during the first verse and chorus with the volume turned down and joining in once I feel like I’m on top of it. As ever, I suffer from terrible performance nerves, but the process of working out songs on the spot is such an all encompassing one that it kind of takes my mind off of it. That and the Sangsom and Soda. It’s pretty lucky I came here at the end of the trip because I would have got precious little work done.
I must mention the guest house I’m in Pai Chan – it is absolutely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed. If it was 150 pounds a night it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s not. It costs 8 pounds a night. Very beautiful rooms, amazing views, swimming pool, hot water, lovely linen, proper pillows, I could go on… Check it out. Highly recommended.