Sunday, March 27, 2016

Saturday Before Easter

I woke up for the final time around 3 PM, this Easter Sunday.
I See Tanya Huang
I saw Tanya last night, playing solo along with a backup track. She was dressed a lot more "street" than usual and almost looked more like a busker than like someone who has just returned from playing a wedding
I had set my alarm at around 7 AM in the morning for around 10:30 AM, thinking that I would get up after those 3 and a half hours of sleep and take the trolley into the Quarter, so that I would be at the Corner of St. Louis and Royal streets at the time of her arrival.
Last night, she was playing there, without Dorise Blackmon (again) and using a pre-recorded backup track.
One interesting thing about her playing along with the backup track, is the selection of songs that she is jamming over; not many Tanya And Dorise numbers; leading me to think that she was bending towards Dorise' repertoire when the two played together; heavy on R&B, but also to include songs such as Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters," and Stone Temple Pilots "Plush."
I haven't heard enough of her playing solo to know enough of her set of songs, but the times that I have hurried by, already "late" for the Lilly Pad, she has been playing more obscure stuff that are probably more "international" classics, rather than the stuff off of American radio.
Tanya has given me dirty looks the past couple of times that I have walked past and I have vacillated between searching my soul for some slight that I may have inflicted upon her; or, the next time she stares me down, just saying "F**k you, you loser," and then walking on.
Having lost Dorise is, I'm sure, a pretty life altering thing.
I couldn't help thinking about the very first time I spoke to Tanya, when I was new in New Orleans. I had actually told her: "You need a good guitarist."
I had walked past and Tanya was ripping up solo lines on the violin, while Dorise was playing a kind of simple rhythm.
I thought to myself that, if I were playing with her, I would have worked out arrangements between the guitar and violin where they are doubling the same melody in spots.
What I didn't know then was that the song was probably a request by a tourist, and Dorise was probably playing it for the first time, after bringing the chords up on her phone through a "fake book" application that she has on it. Neither one of them may have been too familiar with the song, and the performance that I saw was probably more impressive on that count than if they had been playing double melodies like the band "Boston," used to do in the late 70's.
Now I know that being able to play "anything" to a certain level is a skill in, and of, itself.
But, that being said, I had stood there, drunk, and listened, and in my vodka haze had concluded that I could have done better, and had made the comment.
To their credit, we still became friends.
Now that Dorise is sick, Tanya might have suspected that I was coming around with the notion that she now "needs" a rhythm guitarist, she may have been viewing me like someone who wanted to take Dorise' place, while her seat was still warm, as the expression goes, and that is disrespectful.
The truth is that I am probably blowing out of proportion my perception of her attitude towards me. It was "the grizzled guitarist" who once said: "You wouldn't care so much about what people thought of you, if you knew how little they thought of you."
She might just tell me that she had a headache at that time and was just giving me a "please don't try to talk to me now, I have a splitting headache" look.
But the truth of the matter is, since I just featured a story about Shawn Patterson, who was a bandmate of mine in the late 80's who has just been nominated for an Emmy Award (he was nominated for an Oscar last year because he wrote music for a movie. I guess he wrote something for television instead this time, and thus the change in the award).
He is someone who took a very practical approach towards music, by getting a college degree in it and then basically knocking on doors all around Los Angeles, where the "industry" is, and then working his way up, kind of "behind the scenes;" known only to those in the industry, but finding success which had been a more "realistic" goal than those of, say the busker in New Orleans that is hoping that a video shot of him is going to go viral.
The Patterson approach would be: "I would be at that spot on Royal Street every morning with an amp and a microphone that I had to beg for, steal or borrow, holding the spot for her, so that she would have a chance to hear me for about 10 minutes while she was setting up her equipment, and then, if she would jam on a few songs with me before I left, she might conclude that we could do maybe a whole set together, etc." I know that would be the way that Shawn Patterson would approach the "business" of street music in New Orleans.
One would think that Tanya has a whole black book of musicians begging her to give them a call, should she ever need someone to jam with; and they are probably at skill levels such that she could be jamming with world class musicians on different instruments each night.
I wanted to run into her while she was just setting up to A: ask her is I had done something to offend her (a heavy drinker like I was 3 months ago never knows) and B: ask her if she had any ideas about what direction she wants to go in, as far as being a street musician.
My guess is that her collaboration with Dorise was special to her on multiple levels, such as the appeal of them to audiences was. It was just cool seeing this black girl who is a local and steeped in the musical tradition, jamming with a Taiwanese girl who is like a note playing machine but is trying to "feel" the "soul" of the music.
The crowds around Tanya have been about half the size of the ones that the duo typically had gathered. That kind of works out in a way, since she is no longer dividing the tips in half.
My other guess is that she will tire of playing along with a machine, but she will find another female to play with; just a gut instinct.
As far as Johnny B. is concerned, I believe he has already gone the route of being there playing when she arrived in the morning, and has jammed with her and, the fact that she let him keep whatever tips they made is kind of a symbolic, implying that she didn't want to split the money, as partners would do.
And, that one time that I did play with Tanya at the now defunct Casey's In The Quarter, it was a disaster which would have to replaced by a more positive experience....the only difference being that I'm not drunk now....


alex carter said...

The difference is, Tanya's a street MUSICIAN and you're a STREET musician. It will hurt her image to have a smelly skeezer banging along on a guitar, so the recorded track is preferable.

Daniel McKenna said...

It's a mystery. She and Johnny B. made 120 bucks in an hour, but it was almost like she was buying him off the spot with it -and Johnny B. does 90% of my set list...and he IS "the clean guy"...changes his strings AND his underwear every day!
I'm not going to just back up a violinist; I think what I do is just as suitable for the spot where I play; I wouldn't do it unless she would enjoy playing along with The Carcass Song on violin...
Oh, I've had an apartment for the past year and a half, by the way, and I like to soak in the tub -to relax, mostly, but one of the side effects has been that it has kind of ruined the whole "smelly skeezer" image; that might have been more than a year ago; I don't "bang" so much on the guitar anymore, now that I have a neighbor