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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Living the full 200 percent

[For Chris F.]

My bandmates put their instruments on the back-backseat of my outrageous Renault Espace (3 kids…) and settled in my car. M. carried a plastic box, which, on opening, smelled quite strong. “Restmeat”, he explained – you buy a bag of it at the butcher, not knowing what it is precisely, but apparently it is useful enough to bake it with anything you’d like.

So there we were, “on the road”.  Jack Kerouac, driving from Groningen to Heerenveen to play ten songs for an audience of approximately eighty people, aged eighty as well on average. But nevertheless, I felt suddenly like what I am: a member of a Band. Four boys (age 28-46, but still) on their way together to a small adventure.

We were joking about the fact that C., our singer and frontman, was walking completely bent sideways due to some muscle trouble in his back. He looked like a tree on the seaside leaning away from the wind, and walked about as fast. Would we ask the home for the elderly where we were going to play for a wheelchair? Would C. get into a fight with some of the elderly because they would think he was mocking them? Or would C. win their hearts using “Since this afternoon I completely identify with you” as an opening sentence?

When we arrived, the local choir, which would also sing some ten songs for the residents, already had arrived. In their midst my Aunt A., who was addressed as just like that (“Aunt A.”) by my band members, although they had never met her before and she surely was not their aunt, but only and exclusively mine. However, during the evening it turned out that also some choir members had started calling her “Aunt A.” to celebrate the fact that, due to her auntness of me, she had been able to hire us to do a joint performance with the choir.

We sang our songs. The choir sang theirs. We did well, I believe, and they certainly did. I love choirs, and I love a repertoire consisting of operetta, Brahms, balkanish pieces and some Frisian language songs. We were a nice match, considering my band’s repertoire is entirely and exclusively Frisian.

In the break we had a chat outside (J. and M. and C. still smoke occasionally) with some of the locals/residents, a very old and very funny man and a less old and very nice woman. I said we would be playing Piter Wilkens’ “Dûnsje mei dy” (“Dancing with you”).The woman pulled on her cigarette, and said: “that’s beautiful.” Then she said: “I especially like the sentence ‘I lived for the full 200 percent’ [‘Ik libbe foar de folle 200 prosint’]”. She added: “Not all of the people here can say that”, and looked pensively at the bushes flanking the lawn.

When the performance was over and speeches were given by two or three different Presidents, of whom one mentioned that this had been the last performance of the eighty year old conductor of the choir, we received our payment (yes, yes; we were hired by the choir!). C. answered questions of some of the audience (“Are you a son of old B.?”, someone asked, inferring rightly so from one of our handmade lyrics to a fado song), then we put the instruments back in the car and drove home. At some point I mentioned the fact that to be a real band we now had to open the windows and throw empty whiskey bottles to passing cars, which led to some anecdotes of M. about postperformance band behaviour – he is the real pop star of the band.

We agreed this was one of our finest performances yet, of course together with the recent one at my wife’s birthday party and the one for a small but great audience of mentally handicapped people some two years earlier. With which I have also summed up about all the performances of the last two years – we play roughly twice a year in public.

When I was home, I thought about the remark of the woman in the break. No, maybe not everybody lives his or her life to “the full 200 percent”. But playing music on occasions like these at least makes me feel I occasionally hit my personal 100 percent target.

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