The Annual Phong Nha Acoustic Night
So I got a gig playing music every night. About a week ago I was sitting on the couch here at Phong Nha Farmstay noodling around on the violin. Stewart, a fellow guest, walked past.
“Hey, I have a guitar upstairs.”
“Cool, bring it down, we’ll have a jam,” I answered.
Ben, the Australian owner of Phong Nha Farmstay was standing nearby. “You guys should play inside for everyone,” he piped up. These words had once meant terror, but time and practice have changed their meaning to fun.
We’d only just met, so we improvised. The equivalent of musical improvisation in, let’s say, the business world, would be if someone asked you to give a critical board presentation but refused to tell you the topic until you were actually standing between the screen and the board members. If you falter or fidget, members of the board will begin chatting, wander off to the drinks cabinet and generally just ignore you. So I have to give myself a pat on the back for giving it a shot.
Ben loved it. Ben’s the type of guy you’d like to have on your side in a fist-fight. A strapping, no-nonsense, congenial, jeep-driving khaki-wearing Australian man whose time in war-hardened North Vietnam seems to have sharpened his senses for opportunity, even if it means beating a path through the jungle to get there. Phong Nha Farmstay is brick-and-mortar proof of it. When the jam was over, he suggested that we do the same the next night, and we did. The next night, Stewart left to go back to Hue. So I just carried on alone the next evening. And the next.
Then it was my turn to leave Phong Nha and carry on with the plan of getting to Phnom Penh on my bicycle, Giant. But, as they say, life’s what happens when you’re making other plans. The night before, as I was doing the hardest thing about travel (saying goodbye to everyone), Ben took me aside and told me he’d like to make a deal on account of the fact that I’d provided some good times in his quiet, wet season.
So, here I am, until the end of September. We’ve got a great PA system overlooking fields where water buffalo roam. I’m playing a 90-minute set in the evenings, mostly covers (Oasis, Ben Harper, Beatles, etc). I’ve also managed to perform my violin dance show Pravda23 to a backing track. Along with local dude Hai, and German classical guitarist Joel, we played a wildlife awareness charity show to 120 people last Friday night in town. Technically, and joyfully, a professional.
I just feel really thankful that this opportunity has presented itself. My days involve sourcing new songs and lyrics, as well as practicing guitar and violin and teaching one of the local lads guitar. More than the time and the payment, I now have the confidence that one person in the world sees the value of what I’m doing, and the feeling of being professional, albeit if only for a few bars of the score.
So I’m not wasting a minute more of this fantastic time of my life, unexpectedly finding myself being a professional performing artist – on a farm in Vietnam!
I make and compile all sorts of music while on the trot. Have a looksee.