04.04.09 – We might as well have played “Enter Sandman” at the orphanage

PLAYING MUSIC ON A BOAT

Our first real show in a year and a half happened on a cruise ship last week, somewhere off the coast of Baja, California, and went swimmingly.  Everything felt fresh, even “Demons,” which was celebrating its 3,000th performance that night.  The songs came back to us, like riding a bike, and no one puked.  Overall our Mayercraft Carrier experience was a huge success, and I got to play a little cowbell during the encore of our lido deck set the last night:

PLAYING MUSIC OFF A BOAT

Usually the “destination” on these cruises is of no significance.  You go to some token tourist trap (this ship docked in Cabo, Mexico) and you have about 4 hours to shop in a Carnival Cruise Mall and sun yourself on a roped off Carnival Cruise Beach before its time to get back on the boat and head home.  (Scooter and Andy fell asleep on this beach at around noon, without any suntan lotion on, and have been shedding skin like lizards ever since).  There’s little opportunity to actually experience or discover anything at your destination that’s not generic.  Gordon stayed on the boat.

But Adam and the folks at Reverb set up a trip to a boys’ orphanage in Cabo for our day off.  (And he saved Latin… what’d YOU ever do?)

We brought a bunch of acoustic guitars, tambourines, shakers, and bongos to donate.  We brought the magician from the boat, Mark Mitton, who had a crowd of orphan boys watching him make impossible balloon animals within minutes of our arrival.  We brought our little daughters.

We spoke no Spanish and they spoke no English, so the obvious way to connect was through music.  Through completely inappropriate music.  Joe picked up a guitar and started playing “Folsom Prison Blues” and before we knew it a crowd of kids had formed around him.  We passed out shakers and tambourines and bongos.  Joe looked at us and shrugged while singing I shot a man in Reno  — just to watch him DIE!! — but it didn’t matter.  There was a language barrier, so we just tried to keep the melodies, chord progressions, and grooves as simple and catchy as possible to cater to little boy attention spans.  We tried playing “The Captain” and lost the crowd.  Too subtle!  Kick into Louis-Louis!  The set list that we stumbled upon looked like this:

Folsom Prison Blues
The Captain (abbreviated)
Louis Louis
Twist & Shout
Bad Moon Rising
Not Fade Away / Aiko Aiko / Desire
We Will Rock You
Pour Some Sugar On Me

“I see… a bad moon a-rising… I see… trouble on the way… don’t come around tonight, it’s bound to change your life… there’s a bad moon on the rise” — after singing a thoroughly dark Creedence song, I felt like we needed something more groove-oriented in the set.  The CHA-ka-CHA-ka-CHA… ka-CHA-CHA groove of “Not Fade Away,” worked for a while.  It went into AIko Aiko (seemless) and then U2’s Desire (utterly horrible) before petering out.  I kicked into the stadium bleacher groove of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and the orphans were right with me.  BOOM BOOM CHA!  BOOM BOOM CHA!  Everyone banging on tables, communicating through an earthy, universal groove that we could all understand, thank you Freddie Mercury.  It was awesome.  We were pretty grateful for the language barrier when we came around to Blood on your face, big disgrace, kicking your can all over the place. We might as well have just showed up and played “Enter Sandman” at the orphanage.

Before we closed the set out, the head of the orphanage, Mike, who was the nicest man I’ve ever met and the man that all 22 of these boys called “Dad,” started singing “La Bamba.”

Of course.  La Bamba.  What are we, stupid?  Our collective minds came up with “Pour Some Sugar on Me” for a bunch of Mexican kids but not La Bamba!?  It was a slam dunk.  Duh.

Here are a couple of photos.  Thanks to our friend Lucas from Pictures & Sound for joining us and leading some songs.  We ended with a group photo and high fives, and left there beaming.  Mike told us they hadn’t had a day like this in a year, and that more than anything they need the kind of love and attention that we brought.  It breaks your heart while it uplifts your spirit.  Here’s the website for the orphanage, if you ever find yourself in Cabo with a few hours to kill: http://www.casahogarcabo.com

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