Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lola on stage 31/07/09

Last night Lola Montez performed with a trio of musicians on the terrace: classical guitarist, bass guitarist and longhaired drummer (who looks like the typical rock drummer but assures me he plays reggae and ska and jazz). We have been rehearsing for a few weeks, and tonight was the deadline. A lot of the rehearsal time was spent with the guitarist and the bass player disagreeing over which chords to go for, and we didn’t rehearse even once with the drummer. I was concerned he would play loudly and drown out my soft singing voice, but not at all, he just completed the group perfectly. It was his idea in the first place; he had heard me singing a few weeks ago and suggested if I wanted to sing bossanova that he would find me the right group. Rehearsals were always a breath of fresh air in the stifling summer air; the guitarist has travelled far and wide with his guitar and had plenty of stories about his experiences, while teh bass player would make funny asides if he thought he was being too self-indulgent. I was nervous about this first real performance, but the lighting on the terrace and the small but captive audience put me at my ease. I don’t know which were better, the more rousing Spanish songs or the smooth, soft bossanova. But in the middle of girl from Ipanema a trumpeter friend showed up and blew us all away with his beautiful sound; he just fitted right in with the song and his sonorous notes floated over the jasmine scented air. Punters came up from the bar downstairs and lingered behind me in the doorway, but mio marito said we’d have t perform next time downstairs, even though it was inside, even though the sandy fa├žade of the back of the building with the old balcony makes a perfect backdrop to the stage for outdoor summer concerts. The locals are too set in their ways and want to hang around drinking outside the bar where there is a street connecting our bar to other bars on either side, so it is a natural passageway or catwalk for them all to check each other out. Music is not the most important thing here anyway; it is seen more as background to their noisy chatting. The trumpeter was full of compliments for the Girl from Ipanema and the Piazzola’s tango ‘Vuelvo al sur’, and we wondered might we play again some time in the future.

After, a character I call Frank Zappa because of his flashy style, came up and had nice things to say. ‘You need something in your hand, a percussion instrument,’ he said. Probably right, maybe next time, last night it was just enough to get up there and sing! But his ex had sung these kind of songs too he said, in Messina, though now she was doing more commercial things. I had met her as it turns out, singing jokey duets with another girl at the bar up the road a few weeks ago. Zappa was a musician too and now they write their own songs; I said I had done that too, the other way around, but he was encouraging, that singing covers help to build up your voice and use it in different ways and connect with the audience. He asked what I was doing, was I on holiday or just working here for the summer, and his mate pointed out I was married to the man behind the bar. At which point Zappa withdrew for a smoke outside. This happens a lot, to my amusement and irritation at times too. Whether I am at the till or taking orders or just checking things are under control, men who strike up a conversation often ask if I am just working here to learn Italian or spend the summer here. They don’t even look that convinced when I say I manage the locale, but as soon as I say I am married to the other gestore a light of understanding comes on in their eyes; unfortunately it also kills the conversation and they cast furtive looks around to make sure my husband hasn’t been watching them.


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