Busy days

Things have been real busy lately for the Portfolios. Here are a few random updates to keep our slowly growing list of readers in the loop:

  • We are still waiting for “the letter” from the US Consulate in Guangzhou that will inform us of our interview date. When it arrives, we will have about one month to prepare for the interview (which won’t involve much other than booking a flight and hotel; all the paperwork is prepared). I have learned that if we are approved, which is virtually guaranteed, she will be issued a visa the day after the interview. That visa is not actually a “Green Card” but an immigrant visa, most likely valid for one year. When we arrive in the States we will apply for a change of status, but the point is, once the Letter arrives, we’re going to have to start putting things in order to move. It will be a gradual process, but we will have to begin it immediately as the visa will have a limited time period of validity.
  • Xianyi is doing well in her new job. She is working for a large and famous American PR firm which I will allow her to name here if she wishes. The hours are a bit long, but they’re a bit long in all jobs, so that’s nothing new. But it is definitely the best company she’s ever worked for, and she’s getting used to it. The jury is still out on whether she likes it.
  • Chuck Norris Fan Club extended their winning streak to 10 and remained Undefeated for Life. We lost the first game of this week’s match but came back in stellar form to steamroll the opposition 4-1. Candice took some pictures which I will post here when I have them.
  • I have been really busy with work as we are coming to the end of the China Business Guide 2007 project. We should be done with it in another week. Long hours lately.
  • The band has been busy and November looks to be the busiest month since spring. We are going to Nanjing this weekend for a money-making sellout company gig, and next weekend we are playing the Five Dollar Shake at Yuyintang, which is supposed to be a real cool venue, so we’re looking forward to that. We’ve also been invited back to the GigLive event at Bonbon and are scheduled to do a show or two when Nate returns to Shanghai for a week. His hand is recovering from when he broke it playing basketball the last time he was here. For a good insight on what kind of stuff he’s made of, check out this video of him playing bass with a broken hand during our studio cut of “Fellow Man.”
  • Sandro is finally going to return to Shanghai, after a five-month absence. He has been working some miserable desk job in Italy and can’t wait to return. We can’t wait to have him back.

Let’s Play Catch-Up

Since we haven’t written in a week, I thought I’d just go over some of the stuff that’s been going on for the last few…

Ryan's farewell dinnerAt the end of July, my buddy Ryan Zhou retired from Sinomedia. Ryan was the main programmer for our site, China Economic Review, and he taught me a lot about HTML and programming, which has helped this blog enormously. So to see him off some of us at the office decided to take Ryan out to dinner at Yuxin, the nice Sichuan joint on Chongqing Lu. Here’s a picture from that night. Ryan is in the lower left. Also there are friends Nathan Green (left), a writer for the magazine, and Tim Burroughs (right), the editor.

Georgia Sam logoAs I mentioned earlier, Zooma gave the band a job at Tang Hui playing Monday nights. His idea was a “return to the 50s” kind of blues night. Well, I didn’t really agree with the whole 50s concentration, but I figured it would be our night to do our blues thing. So we had our first gig this week and it went pretty well. Chen Song, the house drummer, is filling in for Knut until the Viking returns from the North a few weeks hence. Also, our new friend Lukas, a Swede, has taken up the keys in Hot Carl’s absence.

I have to say, for only getting these guys together for one practice the day before the gig, we pulled it off superbly. We even introduced a new song that Nate and I had written the previous Friday, “Brand New Soul (Found in Frisco Gold)”. I taped the show but, in typical fashion, haven’t listened to it yet. As I had to play the lead guitar parts, I was a bit nervous that my lack of skill in that area would just destroy us. And certainly I had my awkward moments. But Nate is very good in helping me out here, when my solo is losing steam, he tends to say something like, “All right,” and that’s my cue to wrap it up. But our philosophy of “Play it Loud and Proud” definitely wins fans in the end. We got a big round of applause after the final songs, and I was truly surprised at the size of the Monday crowd. Looking forward to the next show, in which Eli will join us to turn it up a notch.

My girl took some pictures that turned out rather psychedelic. There were some couples dancing 50s bopper style…

An update to the previous post: I tried to upload the movie “Child Killer” on to YouTube, but my computer went Berserk when I tried to play the DVD on it. I think it had something to do with the sweet label my dad put on it. It seems it’s a millimeter too thick or something, because it kept making this weird sound as it spun inside and then it just slowed to a stop and pretended there was no disk in there. The thing is messed up anyway, doesn’t burn CDs anymore, which is a real problem for my musical ambitions, so I’m thinking about investing in a separate unit. More to come…

Jam at Tang Hui

Open Mic

Wednesday night during the open-mic jamming at Tang Hui Zooma (left) asked me up on stage to sing our old favorite, “Red House”. Unfortunately, the bassist and drummer didn’t know Red House from a purple elephant and when they were supposed to come in they left Zooma and I hanging up there… and hanging and hanging. So we had to abandon it and try some random blues jamming. Which was ok for a while, but the rhythm section kept dropping the beat so much that it was just ridiculous. I was looking at Nate and Yam in the audience laughing their asses off every time the bassist and drummer went violently out of synch, and I just had to smile. And then they just wouldn’t pick up any signals from Zooma and I to end the song, so it dragged on and on and on… even when Zooma told them verbally, out loud, this is it, the drummer was totally clueless. It was the worst ending of any song, ever. I jumped down from the stage.

Luckily the others followed suit, and then I grabbed Nate and Yam and we hopped up there to make things right, launching into some jam tunes we know from some of our gigs together. Yam famously filled in for Knut when we played the AmCham Charity Ball last April and so he was spot on with all the tunes. Plus the guy is a total pro, and a “Hell of a Guy!” as we like to say. We received a generous round of applause at the end of our 15 minutes, and today Zooma called me to say he wants us to play every Monday at Tang Hui, in what he sees as a blues night, a “reviving of the 1950s, where people can dance and sing and shout, you know, Johhny B Goode and stuff.” The Blues are Back. Again.

Good gigs lately

Rindy playing guitar

The band has been doing well lately, and had a blowout show at the Live Bar last weekend. Before that, we had a couple of great gigs at Tang Hui, made even better by Eli and Sandro being in town to help us out. Now things will be slow for a while, as Carl is leaving tomorrow, and Nate is going next week. Both won’t be back until August or so. For more pictures and artwork, check out www.organeyes.org, the website of our artist friend Nathan Hall.

UPDATE July 2012: Nathan’s website is no longer active, and light Googling turns up nothing for him 🙁

The Blues are Back

My group, the Georgia Sam Blues Band, was back swinging it Wednesday night at a new club called Shuffle. It was the first time we had played since New Year’s Eve, and featured some new players. The core group remains Knut on drums, Nate on bass, and myself on guitar and singing. Eli used to be our lead guitarist but he moved to Beijing a few months ago, leaving us without a go-to guy during the solo spots. That post was filled by Giles, a keyboard man who can play like Stevie Wonder – he’s amazing. Unfortunately for us, he’s moving back to England next week. He joined us for the Shuffle jam and brought his friend Tony, who is a blazing guitarist. Since Tony will be sticking around indefinitely, we’re trying to recruit him to the cause.

Shuffle is a relatively new and undiscovered territory, down the street from the former Tang Hui pub, where Georgia Sam used to hold court every Wednesday night until it closed in November. The bar is big yet intimate, comfortable and low-key, and they have fantastic musical equipment and acoustics. But nobody knows about it. Last Saturday Nate and Knut were checking the place out and they said that, despite having a live band playing, there were barely five people in the bar. Hence the reason they agreed to give us a gig without even hearing us play. We got a few of our friends to come down and support us, and we all had a fun time rocking and dancing around all night. The manager asked us to come back every Wednesday. Could be a good time.