last week, along with a bunch of others, i got an email from my friend jeff. he'd been in bali for a few days, traveling, seeing the sights, taking a break from his time in australia. he'd sent a few emails before sending the one below. they were good, entertaing travel missives. but nothing struck me with the urge to travel and be a more friendly, interested person like the email i'm reprinting (with permission) below. i had an inkling it would be a crazy report from bali when his previous email ended with the lines: I had all the expereinces I told you about in the past 48 hours and I am EXHAUSTED from writing this. I'm gonna go to this drag show in a bar in the alley by my hotel and hit the sack. i had no idea how much fun the next few hours would be for jeff.
from: jeff s.
date: thursday, feb 19th, 2004
subj: killing time in the airport-cockroach just crawled across the screen
Last night, RIGHT after I wrote that massive email, I had a life-changing experience. Maybe not changing, but life-affirming. I was ambling down the street at like nine o clock, yawning and getting ready for an early bedtime.
I heard the most spazzed-out, funky LIVE version of "I Feel Good." I looked over, and saw this Balinese band, fronted by this ELECTRIFIED sweat-soaked guy, _cranking_ out the jams. This kid, the singer, was ON fire...he was soaked in sweat, shaking and grinding like a videotape of Mick Jagger and James Brown on fast forward. He had a cordless mike, and he was running up to hotel guests, mostly quiet English people who were just trying to politely eat. He'd shake sweat on them and howl into the mike right at their table, climb the empty chair and jump off.
There was drummer, bass, guitar, and this guy SMOKING the djembe, smiling massively the whole time. That guy's grandparents were headhunters in Java, I later learned. Then these insanely feral looking Greek people jumped on the stage and grabbed all the other djembes and bongos and just tore it up right along with the band, junglifyingf the Stones, Beatles, everything. This one guy who looked like Animal from the Muppets and Charles Manson did this shaking, terrifyingly sexual dance with these two undulating indonesian women. Sweat flew _everywhere_ It was the rawest, hottest, most primal rock and roll I have ever seen.
I'll tell you this: Ian Sevonius and the Make-Up need to fly over here just to wipe this band's ass. They're a great show, but these guys are the real deal.
I had to talk to them, and my god are they ever nice. The singer is named Alfan, from Denpasar. I told him I was American and a huge fan already...he smiled and had me to the table, introduced me to the band, and put me on the band's bar tab.
I started drinking Arak, a rice wine, and the realness commenced. I met the guys, we talked about the Stones and music. I told them I was from VA, and they said "What band is from there?" They're obsessed. It is our cultural duty to mail these guys cds, for real.
They learned I played the drums, and got REAL excited. They said, hopefully, "You play the drums with us?" I said, well, I gotta go tomorrow..." They all laughed and said no, right now.
They sweated out some more strange, sweaty island sweat-drenched rock classics, then Alfan said "Now, all the way from America our new friend and drummer...JEFF!" They all clapped and chanted and hooted, trilling and I took the stage.
We played a heavy heavy wandering version of Clapton's cocaine...I looked up, and they were all smiling so broadly, and so was I. My shirt was drenched with sweat, and the drummers, 2 djmbe, bongo, and dijerdoo player all looked at me. I scaled the beat back, and we all followed. Then the guitarist started playing the most amazingly ropically stretcy guitar solo for like ten minutes and then the jams got straight Secret Cave. It just devolved into this thudding orgy of rhythm, and I was part of it, holding the backbeat down while these 2 Javanese headhunters' grandchildren went positively apeshit. Alfan began crooning in Balinese, a traditional Hindu prayer and chant over everything. Every man and woman in the place was on the stage in between the musicians, dancing furiously. We kept gong, the jam must have been an hour long.
American neo-hippies all need to come wipe MY ass right now, because this drum circle was the real deal, holyfield. Finally it all thumped to a slow eventual halt. I said thanks and we all clapped for each other and hugged.
Then the birthday cakes came out. Turns out it was Animal Mansons' 34th. The band _rocked_ a version of happy birthday and the dancing resumed, people smearing their faces with/eating cake. It's easily the b
I stayed up till 3 am drinking Bintang and Arak with the band and their friend and the singer's mom. They, and most Indonesians, are the warmest and most genuinely friendly people you can meet. If you hang for ten minutes with an indonesian guy, you're friends for life. Money was no issue here, it was just all love, and fantastic.
The guitarist is Javanese and Muslim. We talked about religious intolerance, how Muslims get a lot of heat unfairly now after the bombing in Bali. They asked about playing rock music in America, Natasha in Perth, we just hung, man.
I'm in the airport now and excited to get home and clean up, see Natasha, but so sad to leave. This place is so wonderful--in four days I have felt every range of emotion I can about it, but it all falls under love.
Please send this along to everyone you like, and remember: when the man in the loincloth asks you to touch the Holy Snake, DO IT, and don't ask for change out the donation box.