Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Observations from the Welsh Invasion of Washington DC - Hanging out with Gai Toms

I've been slow getting my stories from The Smithsonian Folklife Festival out, but this morning I've got a few minutes to tell my favorite moment from the whole festival - Hanging with Gai Toms. This was a simple and rather silly time.

We met on the first day, but during 4th day at the event I brought my guitar to the festival on the DC Mall. I was hoping at some point to jam with the musicians. Now Gai had a drum set (find info on the set here) he developed from recyclable materials. After he played for a bit, we pulled out our guitars and jammed. Sang a little Meic Stevens - "Y Brawd Houdini" I played his guitar, which I liked a lot. He played mine. He wanted to take it home - my Martin is a pretty sweet little guitar, and I have it strung with medium gauge John Peirce strings, and then to take advantage of the fuller sound of a heavier string, but also to regain some of the bendability and softness of a lighter gauge I tune the guitar down a full step. I tried to convince Gai to do the same thing with his guitar, because I thought it might add to the fullness of tone with a heavier string. We jammed a song of his, a song of mine. A few people stood around and listened intently. It was fun.

Then a little later in the day as the festival was closing for the afternoon Gai and I (which could be a title for song I guess) grabbed a beer at the little pub tent on the festival grounds. We stood by the counter under the edge of the tent talking with our guitar cases in hand ready to head off after a brew, and then it began to rain.

It rained. Then it rained harder. Then the wind started up, and we had to run to the other side of the tent with our guitar cases, and brew in hand, and crowd in with the other people who were there at the pub tent. The rain was now coming down hard and blowing sideways. We were all laughing huddled under the small edge of the tent, and against the counter.

Finally the time under the tent ended. Not because the rain stopped, but because the security from the Smithsonian came to the tent and yelled at us.

"You have to leave! The tents are not safe. A thunderstorm is coming! You have to leave now!"

So, we looked at each other, and decided to make for the subway, which was about 150 yards away on the edge of the DC Mall. Guitar cases in one hand, beer cups in the other, Gai Toms hat flying off every so often, and me wearing these silly flip flop sandals which I could not run in because they kept wanting to fall off. Off we went to the Underground. Hundreds of people were running for the subway, and we all arrived at the escalators at the same time and crowded on. Then the lightening started.

We made it down and were now safely out of the rain, but the wind was still howling through the opening to the underground, and Gai kept loosing his straw hat, and we would have to chase it.

So I decided to follow Gai to the hotel he was staying at. That night I was supposed to meet John the Pibgorn maker at the hotel anyway. So after finishing our brews in the subway station, off we went soaking wet to the hotel.

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