Category Archives: Sam
Well folks, we’ve successfully completed our Rhythm Road tour and boy has it been a life-changing experience. We are just now sitting down in the hotel to have a beer and reflect on the last five weeks before we travel back home tomorrow. The past couple of days in Seoul have been so full of action that we’ve hardly had any time to write down our thoughts, but I’ll try to do my best to sum it all up.
Yesterday we had an amazing exchange with some phenomenal Korean traditional musicians on the lawn of the Ambassador’s residence here in Seoul. The residence is the oldest foreign owned property in the country, which is a testament to how strong the connection is between our two countries, and I am honored to say that we all feel like we are part of that relationship now. We got an opportunity to ask lots of questions about the Raga-esque forms of traditional Korean music and eventually we were able to join in and play with them. They were some of the most incredible musicians we came across on the tour and they quickly latched on to our music and played along with us as well. Afterward we all had an incredible lunch inside the Ambassador’s house and we left completely satisfied both musically and culinarily.
We then went down to the TBS radio station (the english-speaking channel here in seoul) and played some tunes and answered some questions on Steve and Sam’s show. Even though we were running late because we did not want our exchange with the Korean musicians to end, we got into the studio just in the nick of time and had a great time playing live on the radio.
After a few hours of freshening up, we went down to the Chonnyon Dongan Do (“For a Thousand Years”) one of the most famous jazz clubs in downtown Seoul to play a concert. Although we didn’t know what to expect from a jazz-loving audience, they were very lively and seemed to love the Earth-string sound. They especially enjoyed “You Are My Sunshine” and “The Tennessee Waltz” which are both very popular songs in Korea.
Today was another full day of music, and it started with a performance at the Korean National Folk Museum. After getting to check out some of the galleries, we played in the front hall of the museum for anyone who wanted to listen. We had a terrific audience and everyone seemed to really enjoy hearing bluegrass and old-time music for the first time.
This Evening we had our final performance at the Seoul Dream Forrest and it was truly a special one. We played for 90 minutes and really got to finish out the Rhythm Road with a bang! We dedicated our performance to Daniel Pearl and Eric gave a heart-wrenching rendition of his beautiful original gospel tune, “Take Me Under.” It was a great vibe getting to play our final show for lots of happy families picnicking under an almost full moon, and it was an experience I’m sure we’ll all remember for a long time. We appropriately played the oldtime tune “Goodbye Girls, I’m Goin’ to Boston” as well as the Wood Brothers’ “One More Day.” The audience response might have been the warmest of the whole tour and everybody was feeding off of their energy.
Although it is a little sad that we are finished with this epic journey, we are all ready to go home and be with our friends and family, and we are honored to have been a part of this incredible experience.
Thanks for reading!
We would like to give a very special thanks to Brian, Yoon, Maria, and Dae-Yun from the U.S embassy here in Seoul, and our amazing drivers Mr. Jeong and Mr. Che for making our experience here in Korea truly spectacular!
Hello Earth Stringband followers,
This is Sam checking in from Timor-Leste. Today was our second full day here in this beautiful, sunny country, and after a late wake up call we had a full day of music ahead of us. After all us boys went out for lunch at the Castaway (our favorite ex-pat-friendly restaurant here in Dili) we came across a local artist selling beautiful handcrafted wooden sculptures and each picked out something to bring back to Brighton. We then went back to the hotel and worked up some fresh new repertoire and geared up for our concert at Colegio Sao Jose, a high school here in Dili.
The energy that we felt from the kids at Sao Jose was absolutely incredible! Even though they were sitting down, the 200 or so highschoolers really got into the vibe once they heard some good ol’ stringband music. The entire time we played the kids were smiling, screaming, and throwing up devil horns and we all had a great time pickin’ and singin’ for everybody. Once we finished our performance some students presented us with traditional Timorese ties and we spent some time passing out Lincoln center swag, signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone before we had to rush off to the next gig, a concert at the International Stabilization Force compound.
Playing for the Aussie and Kiwi soldiers at the ISF was a great experience for everyone and also our way of saying thanks to all the men and women who sacrifice so much to serve their countries. We also had the privilege of eating with Glenn, a 32-year veteran of the Australian army. Not only was the food some of the best we’ve had in the country, we got to pick Glenn’s brain about the military history of Timor and life at the ISF. We played a concert on the back of a huge truck in a hanger on the base, and got to play Soldier’s Joy for an enthusiastic group of Australian and New Zealander soldiers. We had a great time getting to meet lots of the folks at the ISF after the gig and even though we couldn’t bring them any beer (most military bases are dry, and most military folks would love the occasional brew) we were glad to be able to bring some music and provide a little entertainment. Although we’ve only got one more day here in Timor, we’ve got another full day ahead of us tomorrow so I’d better get some shut-eye!
Thanks for reading,
Hello there Earth Stringband followers, Sam here reporting on our first full day in vibrant Cambodia.
We woke up this morning in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, a city that seems to embody the “anything-goes” nature of the Khmer people. It is not uncommon here to see 4 or 5 people crammed onto a motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic, and apparently it’s not illegal either, provided the driver is wearing a helmet. Our first and only official concert here in Cambodia was at a busy Café right along the mighty Mekong river called the Blue Pumpkin. The show was a blast and the audience, a healthy mixture of Khmer locals and American and European ex-pats, seemed to really enjoy the Stringband energy. The folks from the Blue Pumpkin treated us to a delicious lunch and some of the best coconut ice cream any of us will ever enjoy here on earth. It is safe to say that the boys will be back for some more before we leave the city!
After lunch and a brief respite back at the hotel we headed out with Craig Gerard, one of the Public Affairs officers from the embassy (and a pretty darn good guitar player, I should add), to do a workshop at the Music Arts School in Phnom Penh. Although at first the audience seemed a little reserved but once we raged a few quick Oldtime tunes they opened up and it became clear that we were going to have an amazing musical exchange. There were kids of all ages there ranging from babies to 25 years-olds and although not everyone had an instrument it was clear that everyone had a deep appreciation for music. The 7-month-old son of Drew the school director was mesmerized by the bass, and apparently for the first time in his young life he started clapping along with the music (what a special moment!). We taught about the history of Bluegrass music and its influences and also about the roles of the instruments within the band. It was a blast seeing 30 smiling Cambodians stomping along with the bass, clapping with the mandolin, and beating on their chests along with the fiddle. Toward the end of the workshop Drew and Andy the two ex-pat directors of the school invited a group of the more advanced musicians to perform some traditional tunes for us. The Khmer melodies were beautifully haunting and everyone was completely enthralled by the music. The second tune that they played for us was a traditional Khmer song that was so similar to “you are my sunshine” that all the boys simply had to join in. This opened the door to a really incredible impromptu jam with the Earth Stringband boys learning a few Khmer tunes and teaching a few American tunes (angeline the baker, and boil ‘em cabbage down) with everyone who didn’t have an instrument singing along and getting into the groove.
Although we love playing concerts, some of the most profound experiences we have had on this trip have been in workshop settings where we can really get to know people and share our music with them while also learning a lot ourselves. It is always amazing to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language on a purely musical level, and there is an immediate connection that is made that cannot be made with any other sort of dialect. I feel like I have made a lot of good friends here in Cambodia and I can’t even speak the language beyond sues dei (hello) and aw kuhn (thank you)! We are looking forward to the rest of our adventures here in Cambodia but for now I’ve got to catch some z’s for a long, music-filled day tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!
Hello dearest Earth Stringband followers, on Thursday we bid adieu to the beautiful city of Vientiane and the great people of Laos and hopped on a plane to Bangkok! So far we have been hitting the jackpot with the help we are receiving from U.S embassies (Pam, Saeng, Mike, Kaman, and Poung in Laos, and Izaak, Kelly, and Simon here in Thailand) and we were whisked through both airports by expeditors! Once we arrived in Thailand we crept slowly through the infamous Bangkok traffic towards our ludicrously luxurious hotel, the Bangkok four seasons. It is safe to say that all the boys felt pretty out of place in a five star hotel, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t make the most of it (I’ve got all the stationary tucked away somewhere in my bag, and I spent the better part of Thursday night in a bathrobe and slippers!). After we unloaded our gear we all went to the famous MBK mall for what have got to be some of the best food-court vittles known to man (both the green and red curries were to die for). The MBK was a complete sensory overload, we each had a few items on our list but it’s not so easy to decide where to shop when there’s an entire floor devoted to each thing you are looking for. We walked past what seemed like a quarter-mile of Camera shops before we found stash the right battery, and another quarter-mile of clothing stores before I could decide on some socks to buy!
Yesterday was another travel day and then we had our first performance here in Thailand. We flew to Phitsanulok on a prop-plane painted like a bird, and were greeted with wonderfully fragrant garlands by Dang, one of the department heads at the Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University where our performance was. Dang took us to a wonderful little noodle house right on the river where we all dangled our feet off of the edge of a pagoda and scarfed down some of the best pork noodles we’ve ever encountered (this wasn’t the only incredible meal Dang would treat us to that day). After lunch we dropped off suitcases in the hotel and headed to the University for soundcheck and a concert. The concert was in honor of His Majesty’s 84th Birthday and I asked Dang to help me say “we would like to take this opportunity to wish His Majesty the King a happy birthday” in Thai. Stash deemed my little oration “the king’s speech” and it was received with an uproar and a few hundred smiling Thai faces.
Although we didn’t know what to expect as far as audience reaction, people really enjoyed the music and the energy of the band and by the end of the concert people were hootin’ and hollerin’ and the Vice president of the university got up out of his chair and started dancing (I think this thoroughly impressed all of the students). The show was followed by a meet a greet the likes of which none of us had ever experienced before. We rushed off stage to put our instruments in the green room and as soon as we stepped out we were met by a mob of ecstatic college kids and an out-pour of adoration that none of us knew exactly how to handle. We spent a half an hour surrounded by the students signing autographs and taking pictures until there were spasms in our cheek muscles but we loved every minute of it (stay tuned for pictures), it was our own mini-Beatlemania.
After the concert Dang took us out for the most incredible Thai meal any of us have ever had at one of the best restaurants in town. He did all of the ordering and all of us were thoroughly impressed not only by all the food but by all of the knowledge that the Thai people have of what goes into the food and also what to goes well with everything. I think we will delegate the rest of the ordering on the tour to Kelly Jitjang the Cultural Affairs specialist who is traveling with us and any other Thais who we meet along the way! The highlights of the meal for me were the bean salad with shrimp, the pork leg, and the green curry but I heard from the rest of the boys that the serpent-head fish and coconut soup with fish balls were also to die for. The Thai food here is so delicious and vibrant I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to eating it in the states but I’m sure life will go on. After dinner Eric and I went back to the hotel and each got a 2 hour Thai massage! We were both so relaxed after the meal and massage that we had no further recourse but to pass out (explaining the tardiness of this blog). We are all loving Thailand and the Thai people and we can’t wait to see a lot more of this incredible country this week! That’s all for now. Stay posted for more pictures. Thanks for reading!
Hey everyone, Sam here checking in after our first full day in beautiful, vibrant Vientiane. After the initial wave of homesickness and culture shock subsided, we woke up this morning excited to have the day off and eager to explore Laos. This morning we met Pam, the cultural affairs officer with the U.S Embassy and she took us to her favorite traditional Lao eatery, the Kulao Restaurant, just a few blocks from our hotel. We let Pam do most of the ordering and we enjoyed a smattering of Lao favorites including sour fish soup, papaya salad, purple sticky rice, pork stew with dill, and fried crickets (see andy’s post). Surprisingly the crickets were actually pretty tasty, and they weren’t even the most bizarre thing on the menu…a few lines down I noticed the had steamed baby wasps!
After lunch we all walked down to the most incredible market for the most enjoyable shopping experience any of us had ever had. We each took 350,000 Kip down to the market (about $50 USD) and left with a plethora of silks, sculptures, t-shirts, and other handicrafts. It seemed like forever walking past stall after stall overflowing with ornate textiles and all the while friendly Lao women would pop their heads out bow and greet us with “Sa bai dee” (“hello” in Lao). If I keep buying souveniers at my current clip, I’ll probably have to stuff the inside of my folding bass with clothes to make room for them all! After the market we said goodbye to Pam for the day and wandered around until we came to the quintessential little smoothie stand. We all indulged in different exotic fruit drinks, stash had a Dragonfruit smoothie that was the most purple concoction any of us had ever seen (see below), Eric had guava, Monak drank coconut water straight out of a freshly chopped coconut, and Andy and I each had a smoothie made from a fruit so exotic neither of us can remember it’s name…but rest assured it was delicious! After smoothies everyone headed back to the hotel to relax a bit, with the exception of Chroberson (my favorite nickname for Eric Robertson) who went for am hour-long massage around the corner…I believe it cost him a whopping 9 dollars and judging by the pep in Eric’s step it was fully worth it!
We all went back to the Kunlao restaurant for dinner but mostly to see a traditional Lao music and dance concert. We were all completely blown away by how beautiful the music was and impressed by the amount of costume changes the dancers went through in just an hour and a half! I’m glad we had a day off to acclimate and get acquainted with the city, but I am ready to begin the musical portion of the rhythm road tomorrow night at the Ambassadors residence! Signing off for now…Kawp jai lai lai (thank you very much) for reading!