"What happens in _______ stays in ________."
Apparently I happened in Texas, because... well, I'm still here. And not by my own volition, I might add. As it turns out, the public transit system in Dallas is not nearly as efficient as that of New York City. Big surprise there, huh? So I'll be stuck here for one more night. I'll be staying with another couch surfer and she's offered to drive me to the airport at 4am. But more on that in a bit.
I apologize for not having updated sooner. Obviously much has happened since I last wrote. Indeed, my entire trip was scheduled to wrap up today as I made my way back home. So there is much to catch up on.
I was picked up in Dallas by a couch surfer named Jake. We shared lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant and proceeded on to Denton, having revelatory and edifying conversation all the while. Ordinarily the drive would be about an hour long; but wishing to avoid rush hour traffic on the interstate, Jake opted instead to take an alternative route which mysteriously took us two hours to traverse. It was not for nothing, however, as we took in the sight of a vibrant rainbow rising in the northeast behind us and shared our thoughts on Bob Dylan's career and poetry. Shortly after arriving at his home, which he shares with (at least?) three other room mates, Jake left for class. I chatted a bit with his room mates - musicians, the lot of them! - and settled in his room, where I would be spending the night. But first, I wanted to pick up my wrist band for the NX35 festival and check out the venue I would be playing at the following night.
The venue is called J&J's pizza. It's located right on the square, which is apparently where the hip college kids hang out. There are many college students in Denton, as it is the home of UNT (student population of approx 35,000) and a number of other colleges. By most reports, it is an otherwise sleepy town. One wouldn't get that impression, however, if it were based solely on this particular weekend. NX35 is among the biggest things to happen to Denton - ever? - including stellar national acts, a wide variety of local talent, and a FREE Flaming Lips concert which boasted somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand guests in attendance. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I ordered a vegan pizza, ate half, and saved the rest for later.
Along the walk home, I caught Backwater Opera busking, playing a "tree show", on the square (I befriended them and invited them to my show the following day, which they so graciously attended). When I arrived home I did some work on Jake's computer til I was tired and then hit the hay. The house was frigid, without any kind of central heating, and my sleep was not a little restless. But Jake's oatmeal helped warm me up the next morning as I geared up for my Friday performances.
I was scheduled to play the unofficial day show, where there was to be many bands, an art gallery, a chili cook-off, kegs of beer, vendors, and hundreds of people. I helped set up a bit, blowing up balloons and loading in some of the gear for Darcy, the band that was to play after me. When it came to about 1p, it was my time to take the stage, to be the opening number. At this point, there were not many people present. Not at all. But in the interest of time, I had no other choice but to start rockin'. I played a half-hour set and received a good response from the people who were there. Afterwards, I was told that I could take the stage later on, to play to a larger crowd. The party crew followed through with this promise, allowing me to play again between sets several hours later. Overall, this picnic/show had a great atmosphere and was a very good time. I met many wonderful people and was even invited to events - like homeless feedings - that would be happening in the following days. And I sold a CD! Sweeeet!
I left the party around 6p to check in at J&J's. I was to be the headliner, which was really amazing. I was so proud to see "GioSafari" in bold at the top of a list of bands scheduled to play here on this night. I picked up my complimentary meal - a perk of playing the fest - at the Mexican place down the road and brought it back to eat with my venue liaison, Sara. We hung out the rest of the night, checking wrist bands at the door as attendees made their way into the basement of the restaurant where shows often happen. Around 11:15 the last band before me wrapped up their set and I waited in the wings as they cleared the stage. Finally I took my place at the mic - a moment long awaited - playing the intro to Dylan's "Song to Woody," and singing "I'm out here a thousand miles from my home..."
Again, the crowd response was favorable. That is, until I unleashed one of my newer songs, prefaced with the warning, "this one's political..." I proceeded with Pax Americana, a critique on consumerism in the US and it's adverse global impacts on the poor. I probably sang the entire song with eyes closed (trying to remember the words), for when I finished the tune and opened my eyes, I observed out loud "wow, cleared the room with that one!" Jake assured me that it was only due to my playing so late in the day. My set did cap off a full day of festivities after all. I played a few more tunes, packed up, and rode with Jake back to his home. I showered and went back to bed, but not before having him show me how to use his electric-heated blanket!