I made it out on Saturday night to watch the Gugun Blues Band jam at the Star Deli in Kemang. To be honest with you, it was quite an effort to get out there because the night before was pretty heavy and I had no booze in me to keep the fire burning. But my buddy Desmond had told me that these guys really tear it up so I HAD to make an appearance at least. And let me tell you, I am bloody glad I did.
The place was not too packed when I got there about 10.30 pm. It was filled with mostly middle aged buleh (expatriate) men and women at the bar and loitering around. There were a couple of local guys and girls as well. The mood was a little to clean for my liking, cause when it comes to the blues, I dig a gritty atmosphere, with thick smoky air and the stench of bourbon whisky floating around from the breath of all the wino’s hanging out in the joint. I want to see some old washed out bastards searching for a reason to go on living and finding the next drink to be the only one. I want to walk into the kind of place where the Devil slides into the seat next to you and offers to buy your soul in exchange for the abitlity to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, the kind of place where souls are exchanged over the roll of a dice like with Billy Markham. But what the surroundings lacked was made up for with some heart wrenching, soulful blues.
The Gugun Blues band consists of 3 members, Gugun the guitarist, Jon on bass, and Iskandar on Drums. They played a straight 2 hour set from when I walked in that consisted partially of BB King, Eric Clapton, Cream, SRV, and then they jumped straight into Hendrix and man can Gugun jam. This was by far some of the best Hendrix renditions I have ever heard. His licks were flawless and he moved up and down the neck of the guitar with such ease that after a while it seemed like the instrument was just another limb of his body. He donned an old trucker cap and a plaid shirt. If he was white, this could have been a band from down south USA. He harped out every word of the song with accuracy and deliberation, and there were none of those muffled words to cover up missed notes. Jon the bassist was very mellow and equally talented. He stood in the back ground wearing baggy camouflage pants and an old Billabong T-shirt. He came to Jakarta as an English teacher from Manchester but now finds his cause to be the band. His style to me seemed very calm and introspective. He seemed to be playing as much for the audience as he was for himself, which I think, is fukin great. On drums, at over 50 years of age, we had the man, the myth, the legend, ISKANDAR!! This guy is the shit!! What a soulful brother. His expressions were so emotional that he had a number of the people in the audience captivated, and at just the right time his eyes would squeeze shut, he would snap out a fast beat, and flip his stick into the air catching it perfectly in time to play along with Jon and Gugun. With his long curly hair, and thick bushy moustache, Iskandar looked the part of the drummer. Gad damn, in fact I think he defines it. He stepped aside every once in a while for a guy named Buddy (I think) to come up and jam and this guy was just awesome. In my opinion he did not have the same emotion that Iskandar had but the brother had raw talent. He could really belt out some solos like for Fire (Hendrix). There was also a guy in the audience who came up on stage a couple of times with his harmonica and that just totally added to the mood. I sat there sippin my whisky, closing my eyes every now and then and just enjoyed the ride.
There is nothing as inspirational to me as watching some one play music on an instrument that they have truly mastered. And when they can make the rhythm flow so effortlessly it just illustrates to me a total sense of dedication and passion without the sole purpose of reward. Hell yeah, rock stars do make a ton of cash when they make it, but only a small fraction of musicians ever really make it. And from what I have seen so far, the ones with only fame in mind can never possess the kind of talent this guys displayed last night. It was truly a pleasure to watch these guys play and if you are fan of the blues or just classic rock or even just music, then I hope to find you at Star Deli, next Saturday. One shot of Jack, on me.
I also must metion that the Gugun Blues Band does have their original tunes which are also awesome. I should get a CD next week and Ill let you know what I think in more detail.