I met up with Karen, Greg, Beth & Matt in NYC on Saturday the 17th. We festooned the rental minivan with DC or BUST!! signs and red, white & blue ribbon streamers and embarked upon our big trip in high spirits. Everyone got me up to speed on the events of Friday, including On Ensemble’s performance at DROM and the infamous karaoke tab. Kudos to the crew for a well-provisioned ride to Silver Spring, MD, home of our hostess, Victoria.
On Sunday we outfitted ourselves with cold-weather gear and percussive devices and went to the National Mall; once we began to play taiko, heads turned. It was interesting to observe passersby and note how much attention you can get from banging on drums & a cowbell – a Fox affiliate filmed us and briefly interviewed Greg! The concert at the Lincoln Memorial was spirited and fun to watch, even from one of the many Jumbotrons.
A noteworthy event the night before the Inauguration was a performance by a female Brazilian percussion group, Batala, which we’d only just heard about a few hours before. This group grooves mightily on samba, reggae and other rhythms. While their choreography didn’t have some of the assertive, sweeping features of a piece like Hachijo or Miyake, the group played with grace and power, non-stop, in a lengthy performance. Personally, I interpreted it as a kind of Brazilian kumidaiko. Most impressive.
Beth brought a bunch of white dishtowels we converted into hachimaki for Inauguration Day, inscribed with “TAIKO FOR OBAMA” in Sharpie. Karen, thinking ahead, had brought one of O.N.E.’s winter happi coats, which she wore outside her jacket and other layers. This, combined with her electric blue muffler, made for quite the unique Inaugural outfit. We boarded the red line Metro train at Silver Spring station….within minutes we were compressed into one big human sandwich. A TV cameraman even filmed our overstuffed train at one stop! We briefly debated changing to the yellow line when we disembarked at Gallery Place, but one look at the platform convinced us to abandon the notion. March onward, taiko foot soldiers!
After enduring a variety of false starts & seeking information/advice from various security personnel, we charted a zig-zagging, indirect course to the National Mall and chose a Jumbotron-viewing spot next to the reflecting pool – it could have doubled as a skating rink in the Arctic chill gripping the region. We arrived in time to see the House & Senate leaders take their places, as well as the living former Presidents Carter, Bush 41, and Clinton…..Aretha Franklin – and her hat ….Justice John Paul Stevens administering the Oath of Office of the Vice President to Joe Biden….Chief Justice Roberts administering (with a fumble) the Oath of Office of the President to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America….the stirring, powerful oratory of President Obama’s Inaugural Address.
We had one more percussion jam before heading back to Boston: we participated in a drum parade from Dupont Circle to the African American Civil War Memorial. Among the drummers playing a bewildering variety of instruments was a small group of percussionists playing drums attached to a peculiar apparatus….at first sight it looked like a bizarre Rube Goldberg contraption, a science project gone awry: it seemed to be a hybrid of wheelbarrow, bicycle and antenna. Truly, though, it was a clever construct: suspended from various arms were a variety of tom-toms & other drums plus a few percussion odds ‘n’ ends. Our fellow drummers were enthusiastic, and it was an enjoyable, fun parade. It provided a nice rhythmic capping-off to a truly momentous day in American History – and We Were There!!
(Note: for the full-length, four-part blog I wrote about our DC Trip, check out http://onetaikoadventures.blogspot.com/)