Without going into a lot of detail, our resort town of Hua Hin, as well as most of the rest of Thailand, has endured many months of pandemic lockdown restrictions. No gathering, no drinking alcoholic beverages, no billiards, no walking streets. It’s been a tad boring.
For the best part of the last 18 months, there has been little occasion for people to venture out in public to enjoy live music. Hence, no way for musicians to go out and perform, to connect with fans, to make a living. Sadly, this is happening all over the world.
The good news is, conditions are easing, and will lift even more 1 November. As the Kingdom’s vaccination rates increase, perhaps we may even see the day when masks are no longer mandatory <sigh>. I think most business people would settle for “no quarantine.”
So, when the opportunity arose to join a new “jam session” at a local restaurant (well, about eight kilometers away, so a bit of a car ride, with guitars and gear in tow), I agreed simply as a chance to play music with and for other people. Let’s face it, we all need the practice!
The host – a young man from Southampton, England, who also operates a muay thai boxing gym next to the restaurant – admittedly had “never done this kind of thing before,” so bearing on my experience with open mics, jams, song pulls, hootenannies, campfire sing-alongs, and whatnot, we dove into the inaugural session.
Jam sessions open to all musicians are, to quote Forrest Gump, “like a box of chocolates.” Here’s what we got when we opened up the box for the first time: four guitar players (including the host), one bass player, and two singers – Michael, who came prepared with an iPad full of song lyrics, and Tatiana, a young Russian woman whose repertoire included Pink Floyd and various “grunge” bands.
Some of the songs I can recall being played include “Twist and Shout,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Stand By Me,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Tatiana also exhibited an uncanny ability to improvise. At one point she asked for my fake book, just to have some songs in front of her. She then randomly, and very cleverly (I thought), vamped the lyrics to “One Hundred Years From Now,” a Gram Parsons song that appears on the legendary Byrds album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, over a jazzy guitar improvisation by her friend Jimmy, a Thai guitarist, and Ludwig, who I believe is from Germany.
Magic sometimes happens, even in the midst of chaos. Perhaps because of it.
I’m pretty sure that most of the musicians will return for another jam. Everybody seemed to have fun, even if finding common ground can often be frustrating in the moment.
But there is always reason to be curious about what you might miss if you don’t show up.