29 Feb

Dear Clueless American

Things you should know for a Lunar New Year party in America.

Dear Clueless American,

I assume since you are reading this letter that you are going to be attending a Lunar New Year celebration, and that you are currently clueless and have no idea what to expect. Don’t worry, I also was once in the same position except I attended clueless and had to learn as I went. You, on the other hand, should not need to worry. I have made all the mistakes and taken all the unsure steps so you don’t have to. I experienced a Vietnamese New Year party, so there might be a few things that are different, but these basic tips should help you make the most you possibly can of your experience.

First off, don’t show up late. This sounds obvious, but seriously don’t. It doesn’t matter what you were doing that day, if you show up late you will probably miss out on some very cool shows like the Lion Dance, something I had never seen before, and still have never seen. They tend to start the night off with a bang, so it’s best to not miss it. If you have to be late, just hope that some people there are willing to record it for you while drive 5 miles over the speed limit to make up for your tardiness. Even if you are late, you shouldn’t worry too much because there is likely still a long night ahead. Just fix your outfit and walk in confidently. Speaking of your outfit…

Dress up nice. I don’t mean a v-neck with jeans, I mean you should probably wear a dress or skirt as a female and a button up with slacks for guys. It’s generally a much nicer event than we make our New Year parties. The one I attended was Vietnamese, so many of the people in attendance were wearing traditional clothing. I was not warned of this, so I was very underdressed in my jeans and t-shirt. I don’t think anyone judged me, but I think I would have been able to relax a little more if I had dressed classier.

Expect to clap and cheer a lot. With large Lunar New Year parties there will be a number of performances and there may even be a few by the people you know. They might not be top quality, super stellar performances, but they will very enjoyable. After each one you are going to want to cheer and clap loudly. Unless they ask you not to, give into temptation and cheer your heart out. This is even encouraged for shy people because it will raise your adrenaline and make the night more fun. But you will be filled up with more than just entertainment…

Prepare to eat a lot of food. There will be tables upon tables of cultural food with many ingredients that you may have never tried before. It is all delicious so gluttony will soon take over and you will become full quickly. To postpone the inevitable, just be as hungry as possible going in so you don’t pass up the chance to try all this amazing food. Which brings me to my next point…

Try all the food. Don’t be scared just because the cake looks green or the rice is bright orange. Those might actually end up being your favorite foods for the night (the green cake is sticky rice cake, and it is delicious). Some of the foods might even have names or ingredients that you can’t pronounce. How’s that for something new. They might have chicken strips and fries as part of the food option, but you are there to have new experiences, which includes food! Most importantly, try the spring rolls and the brown sauce that should be next to them. It’s called peanut sauce and it’s the most heavenly thing you will ever try (unless you are allergic to peanuts, in which case it might send you to heaven).

You will not know some of the songs. Unless you listen to their music all the time, chances are they will play a song where everyone seems to be singing along except you. Don’t worry when this happens. No one is judging you for now knowing the song, and it might be more offensive if you try to sing along badly. Unless someone tells you you should sing along, it is perfectly fine to simply smile while everyone else is singing. Don’t let this potentially uncomfortable moment ruin your night. It’s just another chance for you to have a cultural experience. And maybe you will find some really interesting, new music.

Hopefully all these tips are helpful to you as you approach your Lunar New Year celebration. It’s also possible that these won’t help at all. I am afterall still an American. In the end just remember to have fun and enjoy the night with your friends!

Sincerely,

Fellow Clueless American

3 Dec

Draft for A Time to Rest

Dear Reader,

I wrote this story to focus on a local band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers. I say that the gig is at a local coffee shop, but purposely don’t say the name so that you, the reader, doesn’t focus on the fact that it’s in a coffee shop. Instead you should focus on the averageness and closeness of the venue and how this enhances the music experience. It hopefully encourages you and others to slow down and go listen to a local band. It shows you the positive aspects of supporting local bands.

 

A Time to Rest

The brisk wind whistles through my thin, black jacket as I rush into the local coffee house. The warm air washes over me as the small bell rings above the door, announcing my entrance. I’m not there for the warmth though, or even the coffee. It’s currently a Friday night, and on most Fridays, this small, corner cafe invites a band to come and play for the customers.

Tonight a local bluegrass band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers is playing in the back corner. With the twang of a banjo, the deep strum of the upright bass, and the soothing melody of guitar, they fill the coffee shop with a smooth and relaxing tune. I’ve walked in on a slow song, one where the instruments play softly and the lyrics are sad and sweet. It sets the tone of the shop as I walk up to the counter to give my order. In line I cast my gaze to the other customers in the shop. Some faces I recognize from previous visits, others bear the face of a stranger, but both kinds of faces hold a serene look, reflecting the mood of the song. Conversations are held in low whispers and chairs pulled and pushed silently. The song then came to a beautiful resolution as I ordered my drink and the customers end the song with spattering applause.

After ordering, I walk to a seat near some familiar faces. One is Anita, the mother of the lead singer, a good friend of mine. She greets me loudly as I approach, and the banjo strums the beginning of the next song, this time a more upbeat and rolling tune. I return her greeting as I drape my jacket over the wobbly chair.

I return to the counter to retrieve my drink carefully walking back to my seat to relax and enjoy the music. I tap my foot and absent mindedly stare into my drink while I allow my mind to wander and forget for a while.

Often in this busy world I can’t find time to slow down and relax like this. I’ve lived most of my life constantly going from one activity to the next while also trying to balance school and family. Music provides a means of escape from this, if just for a mere moment. But a blaring iPod, booming radio, or even a live concert in a large arena can’t quite match the serenity I find when I immerse myself in the live music in such a casual place, like a coffee shop. I can actually feel the hum of the instruments without having to worry about the hectic and stressful crowds of a large concert. I can sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy pleasant conversations with those around me.

I stay seated for another few songs before the band announces that they will be taking a short break before performing another set of songs. This is another thing that I love about a local bands because I’m able to directly talk and hang out with the performers instead of being separated by a screen or security detail.

We converse and laugh for a while before they make their way back to their corner and settle in to continue playing as I settle back into my chair. I clear my mind again as the banjo starts the next flood of songs. I hum to myself some of the more familiar tunes and occasionally glance up to observe the mood around me.

Inevitably, the last song begins during which the singer invites the audience to sing along. I sing the final chorus with the band before the cafe breaks into applause. I remember the feeling of the music, but reality comes back to me as I review all the things I need to accomplish for the weekend. I attempt to catch myself, but it’s too late. The music is done and I must again return to my responsibilities, but at least for that little while I was able to clear my mind. While responsibilities are important fundamental, it’s also important to stop and relax for a while by enjoying simple pleasures like a local band.

15 Mar

Bands at Duggan’s Pub

Last night I went to Duggan’s Pub to go see a friend’s band play.  It was a great little bar with a good sound system and a massive stage to play on.  There was plenty of room for their 6 piece band, which isn’t always the case at bars, and, though I didn’t have any food myself, I have heard their food is delicious.  Plus, they have an awesome pinball machine in the back that I spent way too much money on.

I would love to be able to tell you to go and visit Duggan’s Pub, but sadly it’s closing down after next Saturday.

What you can go and see though are the bands that played there that night.  The first band is called the Prairie Creek Ramblers, which is a bluegrass band from Lincoln Nebraska (pictured below). Last night they were down a member, but that didn’t stop them from sounding great.  Check out the Prairie Creek Ramblers FaceBook page to find out the next time they play!

The other band is called Cattywhompass, which is also a bluegrass band from Lincoln Nebraska.  They had a guest member last night that helped them out for a while on the fiddle and performed a great show overall. After their performance they had a jam session in which audience members could come up and play with them for a bit for fun.  Check out the Cattywhompass FaceBook page to find the times for their upcoming shows!

Duggan's