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Wild Last Night at the Melting Pot in Shanghai – And Joe Chou’s Secret Revealed

April 20, 2010

So I was supposed to be out of Shanghai on Monday, skipping my flight to Paris and catching one to Toronto on Air Canada. I was supposed to arrive there at near midnight and then take the first flight available to Paris from there. That was the plan the volcano forced me into – a plan as wacky as those of the hundreds of thousands of other travelers stuck in Shanghai and around the world.

I ran into a colleague at the airport who had a boarding pass for his flight to Zurich yesterday, that now has him leaving on 2 May! My problem was different: After 45 minutes wait in line at the check-in desk, I was bumped off the flight because my company’s travel agency had not issued the ticket so although the airline saw that I was booked, I was not allowed on the flight.

So I will try again today. But after an initial feeling of desolation, I returned to Shanghai, booked a room at the Hilton, called up Jeff of Bee Dees Music Bar and asked if he knew of anywhere to play on Mondays. He reminded me of what I had already been told by Paul of Oscar’s: Head over to the Melting Pot at 288 Tai Kang Lu and listen to a set by Joe Chou. After Joe’s set is finished, the evening turns into a jam session, and I’d be able to play.

“If you’re footloose,” said Jeff, “you can explore the neighborhood around the Melting Pot. It’s a really hip area with boutiques and restaurants, and you could eat there first since Joe’s set doesn’t start till 10 PM.”

I have to rush now because I have to get out of the hotel and back to the airport. So suffice it to say that I wish I could share every minute of the evening, because that area of Shanghai, full of small alleys all made up into cool boutiques and restaurants, with a lot of the old style buildings and windows and alleys still prevalent, is very, very cool indeed. Galleries, stores, clubs – and the restaurant I ate in was Thai food. First good Asian meal I had since arriving here.

And the Melting Pot, remember, – I think I mentioned this – was the place Tom & Jerry had invited me to listen to their band on Sunday night. I couldn’t make it because I was too late settling travel arrangements and finishing my race duties. But this is a fabulous room and I regret not seeing Tom & Jerry there. It is a large, chic room with a beautiful, comfortable sized stage with decent sound and spotlights, a full drum set and lots of other equipment.

First thing Joe saw me he asked to play with my Seagull S6 guitar. So he started his set with my Seagull, although the night was in fact predominantly electric, very fusion, rock. After he played with my guitar he did his set with his Stratocaster – with a sticker of Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love” album cover on it – and with a drummer and bassist, both Chinese.

After he finished, he invited me to do my music and I did a few songs and had someone record some of them with my Zoom Q3. Then Joe played another set, but this time with another member of the audience playing drums. That was Tony Hall, from Boston. Tony later joined Joe to sing a little too, when Joe again used my guitar. Another guest or two would later take to the stage, and I went up a second time and finished off the evening.

My second appearance was thanks to the enthusiasm for Joe Chou of one guest in the club who insisted Joe play again with my guitar. That’s when I learned Joe’s secret about how he got that sitar sound from his Martin at Oscar’s. Suddenly I saw that MY guitar was being set up by Joe in this odd manner. He was putting the two strings, 1st and 2d, together into the same slot up near the tuning pegs so they rattle together against each other. And of course he did an open tuning as well. I’ve never seen this before and don’t know how inventive it is, but it has a wonderful effect.

A very cool thing happened also in that I got to talking with the man who was so enthusiastic about Joe’s music, and it turned out he was a relatively major sponsor of a Formula One team! We’ve agreed to meet at the next race and talk shop. Isn’t it extraordinary how things come together in life when you get out there and live it!

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  1. Pingback: Cultural Evolution from Paris to Shanghai – and an Old Friend Rediscovered « Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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