Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An Explosive Re-Opening

Friday was the grand re-opening of Xiao Ma's guitar shop after he renovated the place, not something to be done with subtlety in China. The extravaganza got started around 11 in the morning with the largest fireworks display I've yet seen in Zhangye. The Chinese like to announce things like store openings and weddings with a round of firecrackers in front of their store, and in this case they set out an excessive amount of fireworks in the shape of a guitar. Once it got going we had to run for cover, with shrapnel flying in every direction and the smoke making it hard to breath. Then a truck arrived with tables and they set about making what was obviously a stage in front of the store, and a few of them summoned me away for lunch. Lunch was in several private rooms on the third floor of a luxurious hotel, and became a three hour event with a revolving table of dishes. I was coerced into 10 shots of baijiu, the most suspicious being the three shots I had to do because the fish on the table was pointing at me. There was no one with a decent standard of English in my room so by the end of lunch I was as bored as I was drunk.

Around 4pm the music performances began, and didn't end until 10pm. I was under the impression a few of us would play a couple of songs at some point, and was surprised by the hours-long parade of mostly talented musicians I had never seen before. I was called to the stage four times, usually with little to no warning, including the time I was told "go up and play a song by yourself". Gary had also come down by that time and they also called him onstage and set him on the drumset, where he sat there looking bewildered until he finally got down. That may well be the extent of my concert-going experiences in China, so I enjoyed it while it lasted.

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