On the night we arrived at the Children's Festival, after sound check, we went to a reception for all of the performers. There we saw an old friend: Kurai, whom I know as Blessing.
When Kurai first moved to Canada, he didn't know that Blessing was not a normal kind of name, and he called himself that for a while. I liked the name Blessing because it suited his personality. Blessing used to play mbira and marimba in Grandview Park. Once I tried to jam with him, but he would stop and say, "You are not feeling my pulse." It was true! I wasn't.
The next time we saw each other was at the Komasket Music Festival about eight years ago. He was Kurai by then. We jammed again, and this time it went much better.
Kurai has always made such beautiful music. He is playing at this festival with Jackie Essombe's Singing Africa. We met his band mates at the reception and they gave us good advice about playing for children. I told them about our act, that we are basically a rock n' roll band, and that kids don't always know what to do at a rock show. "That's easy!" Kurai said. "Be silly! Be total goofballs! And give the kids permission to have fun." That didn't sound like too much of a stretch for us.
We are scheduled to play two shows a day for the next six days. Today was day one. On the same stage as us is Gustavo the Impossibilist, a hilariously acerbic clown and prankster who had our cheeks and bellies hurting from laughing too hard.
Our first show, following Gustavo, was not a disaster, but it was not great. There were technical difficulties, but the real problem was our energy. We just weren't feeling the music or connecting with the kids.
We regrouped over lunch. (The performer's kitchen had a delicious vegan spread with kale salad, rice, hummus, roasted potatoes, and carrot ginger soup. Yum!) After the meal we headed back to the stage. Ari, Gabe and Matthew had naps while Ruth and I checked out some other performers at the festival. We woke everyone up about a half hour before we were scheduled to start, and got everyone in a circle. We talked out a few kinks in the set and did some warmups and spirit building before hitting the stage. This time we connected! From the first song kids were on the dance floor cutting a crazy rug, and in between each song we talked and laughed with the crowd. Ari and Gabe were dancing like total goofballs, and I was digging into my guitar solos with a most passionate zaniness.
Halfway through our set, we invited the kids on stage for "I Like It Saucy" and taught them all our best rock moves. One boy asked to say something into the microphone, and when I gave it to him he said, "Let's give it up for the world's greatest captain!" And he bowed as he accepted his rapturous applause. Classic!
It was a wonderful feeling to connect with the audience like that, and to laugh and to dance together. Tomorrow we will do it again, and nine more times after that before this festival is over.