Week of 7 February 2016:
What a rewarding week so far! Our first gig and one of the last for the current band was a ton of fun. That performance just happened to be at the "Brit bar" on this base, appropriately titled "Churchill's." The cool thing about having the band's home base on the deployment be at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, is that it is home to many of our colitition forces from around the world. Although we may appear to just be american musicians playing at their bar, we are actively strengthing our international relatationships with these guys. This tour, and being an Air Force musician is ALOT more than just rolling up to the gig.
I could go on and say the predictable "MUSIC IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE" stuff, but until you see first hand how it affects people from around the world , there are few feelings that come close to that! "Open Mic Night" is another cool regular gig that happens here at our "Fox Sports Bar." We host it as the house band, and open it up to people that want to sing a tune, play guitar, or even recite original poems or stories. It was alot of fun to see it all go down! This was the last gig for Afterburner, the USAF band from Hawaii that I mentioned, and it was great to hear them and for them to hear us. It just re-affirmed that the Air Force bands have some of the best talent and musicians in the world. I also got to use my new "cocktail kit" made by Tama drums, that is perfect for this plugged in, acoustic type of gig. (and it takes about 8 minutes to set up, 5 minutes to pack. I'm getting quicker at it though!)
The crowd in the packed little outside patio area where we had the gig was really appreciative and attentive! Especially when their collegues got up and recited poems or sing songs. It takes alot to get up in front of a crowd, especially if you don't do it often. These people are the ones working day in and day out for our freedom. They are the ones turning wrenches on the flightline, packing up cargo, and safeguarding the base. All the better for these folks if we are able to host a night out for them to get up and rock out with us or take a solo. One guy came up and played "Kiss" by Prince with myself and the bass player from the Hawaii band. Another girl came up and killed it singing a latin pop song with a karaoke track. A great night!
The opprotunity presented itself this week to go into downtown Doha for dinner and some sightseeing, and I wasn't passing that up! About 30 minutes east of Al Udeid Air Base is the huge metropolis of Doha, with a skyline that looks like it could be from the future or in a sci-fi movie. Also home to the 2022 World Cup, I believe...We were headed to a part of town called the "Souq," which from what I understood, is a sort of big open air market with plenty of restaurants, shops, and people selling FALCONS. That's right kids, FALCONS. Apparentely owning a MAJESTIC BIRD OF PREY is somewhat of a status symbol here, and can cost around 20,000 Riyals (or $7,000). Immediately what struck me as a interesting observation, was the Islamic culture, and the way people dressed. I saw everything from traditional wear, with the men in white robes, and women in the black burkas, and then you'd see men in Gucci suits, with the women carrying Michael Kors purses. Qatar is a very wealthy country, so I guess some people choose whether or not they want to flaunt that, much like America.
We ate dinner at a great middle eastern place. I had tea and a mixed shawarma plate with lamb, chicken and hummus. Many of us also had some Shisha, (or HOOKAH) while we ate. Unreal! Some gelato for dessert, exploring around some of the shops, then we head home...
I have to mention that I got to have breakfast with some people that aren't musicians, but work on the public affiars side of the Air Force. These particular folks handle all of the press for the entire fight that is going on in Syria. They are on the phone with CNN, FOX, CBS, etc, multiple hours a day, confirming or denying rumours of when and where we are attacking. While we were eating, Fox news was on the TV, and sure enough a story came on that they recently spoke to FOX about. So everytime you hear "The department of defense confirms that..." that is them! Really interesting talking them, and hearing what they do. And they like the band, so there's that!
All in all, a pretty light week as far as gigs are concerned. Rehearsals, and learning a bunch of new tunes is the priority. Alot of cool performances out of the country are on the horizon though! More next week...