Last night Lori and I ventured out into the Cuenca nighttime with our friends Tracy and Donna to open mic (or open mike) at the Inca Bar & Lounge. Tracy, a musician well versed in the genres of country and blues, and who plays a variety of instruments, pre-arranged with the Inca management to showcase his talents at open mic.
Ben and Peter, the hosts for the evening, opened the show with music ranging from Counting Crows, to Foo Fighters, to U2. Ben payed the guitar. Peter sang.
After four songs (around 9:00 PM) they were done their set and announced a break, after which Tracy would “open his mic” and begin his set. However, Tracy, eager to begin, asked if he could start right away. No interlude, no intermission. Ben and Peter agreed that it would be alright, so Tracy got up on stage, picked up an acoustic guitar graciously provided by Inca, and proceeded strumming and singing a mellifluous selection of country, country-rock, and blues tunes, opening with a song by the great Van Morrison, all the while percussively accompanied by Ben on the cajón.
The cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front face (generally thin plywood) with the hands.
“Is this the very same Tracy that we have been hanging out with, on and off, since we got to Cuenca?” It did not seem possible. He was a man possessed!
Four songs later it was over. Or was it? It turned out that a young Ecuadorian blues electric guitar player in the audience, named John (or, probably, more correctly, Juan), expressed a specific interest to play some good old-fashioned American blues numbers with Tracy. Tracy mistakenly thought he meant before he left Cuenca, but John meant before he left the bar that night!
So now there were three, and what a trio they were! For three people that had never played together before, from different backgrounds, from different countries (OK, Tracy and Ben are both from the U.S., but not John!), from different generations, speaking different languages (OK, Tracy and Ben both speak English) … still, it was remarkable how infused they were in each other’s stylings, sensibilities, cadence, even breathing patterns, that the strings, percussion, vocals all fused into one hypnotic blend of feel-good American blues, a language that required no translation.
And then it really was over, or, at least, the mike closed on Tracy’s musical segment of the evening. However, the rest of the night Tracy vibrated, hovering inches, no feet, above the couch the corporeal part of his being sat on. After a 10-day withdrawal, Tracy revealed how good it felt to get back in the groove. In reality, we all felt like we were in some kind of groove, and one not made of vinyl that would be easily skipped over.