Post Gig Ponder – Jazz in the Street Festival – Cluj

In just 48 hours, I accomplished a lot.  Two airplanes, flown.  Twenty beers drank.  Two ciorbe (soups) eaten.  Countless amounts of amazing musicians and artists, seen and met.  No, I didn’t actually fly a plane!  Jazz in the Street was such an amazing festival and it was the first time I was able to experience something like it from the artist side.  I’d like to say thank you to Adam, Denisa and their team for all the hard work they did to make this possible.  Oh, and Georgiana from the langa meteor stage, thanks for the photos and video!  The festival went very smooth and everyone had an amazing time.  Great job guys. 

It’s now 7 am on Tuesday October 18th.  I have finally fully recovered from all the Shenanigans I partook in.  I don’t handle hangovers like the champion college version of myself.  Am I getting old?  Maybe I am, but I am also becoming wise.  I don’t need multiple sunrise nights in a row to have fun.  One every seven days is good for me, I am so mature!  I appreciate a good night’s sleep and a nice natural wake up at 7am or earlier.  If you recall from my last post gig ponder from the Craft si Draft gig in Bucharest, I made some decisions that resulted in very little sleep, and an amazing slap happy version of myself.  Don’t worry.  That version of me comes back later in this segment.  Like I said, once a week is ok haha ?

I’ve landed in Cluj.  I’ve exited the plane and have made my way out the airport doors.  Oh Shit!  I did not get my guitar from baggage claim.  I am seriously a dumbass.  Airports are not usually a fan of people walking in the exit to baggage claim, but I weaseled my way through so I could pick up my six string Seagull acoustic and be on my way.  After a few moments of chasing my tail I found the bus stop, and was off towards the City Center.  The bus was completely empty when I got on, but it slowly filled up and I was selfishly taking up two seats with my guitar and backpack.  An elderly man got on the bus and after one stop I thought to myself “get your ass up and give this man your seat.”  He immediately took kind to my gesture and took a seat, while proceeding to tell me of his neck pains.  I didn’t understand much of what he said to me.  He was speaking so fast, and with an accent that was new to me, but we connected and shared a long smile when I got off the bus.  When we waived each other good bye, I was grinning from ear to ear.  It is moments like this one which remind me why I love humans so much.  He was just happy to see me thinking about him rater than myself, and I was happy to connect with a complete stranger without saying any words.

13 stops and 500 meters later, I am at Zen Hostel.  I’ll tell ya, the name is spot on; this place is pretty Zen ?.  Hostels always have a dusty old classical guitar stuffed in a corner somewhere waiting to be tuned n plucked a little bit.  I did just that after stepping into reception and having shared some words with Adalina, the lovely Zen receptionist with blue hair.  After a few laughs, I was on my way to explore Cluj.  I had intentions of going to the Hoia Baciu forest; A forest about one hour outside of the city which is supposedly haunted.  The forest was named after a shepherd who disappeared in the area with a flock of 200 sheep.  He was never seen again.  There is also a tale of a girl who entered the forest at age 5 and was not seen until she emerged five years later wearing the same clothes, and with no recollection of that time interval.  People have also reported UFO sightings in the 1970’s.  Lastly, some folks say they developed rashes and experienced other physical harm, paired with intense feelings of anxiety while in the forest.  On a different note which might explain all of this, magic mushrooms grow in this forest…Just going to leave that there.   I unfortunately did not make it to the forest this weekend.  Too little time, and I didn’t want to disappear and miss my first festival! 

As I roamed through Cluj, I experienceda feelings of my time when I visited Alba Iulia the year prior.   The center square just felt so similar to me.  Everyone told me it was a different world up here, and they were right.  Things were just much more chill in my opinion, more laid back.  I explored the city a bit in my wandering hangover state of mind, and tried some of the local cuisines before heading to the hostel to take a much-needed nap.  As I took my 2 hour nap, the steak with the Cherry sauce topping roamed through my belly.  I never thought I would eat a steak with cherry sauce, but that is how they serve it in Cluj, and it is damn good.  Two hours and some sweet dreams later, my my batteries were re-charged, I was ready to go.  I was still feeling out of it and hungover (man I am getting old!), but I got up and headed out for a free walking tour to take in some fun facts about Cluj. 

St. Michaels Church is in the main square near the city center of Cluj.  The church has two doors, and if you look at them they are off center.  I forget exactly what happened, but if I recall correctly, the builders were just drinking tuica on the job and read the blue prints wrong.  Tuica is Romanian booze which is made from plums.  It puts hair on your chest, and chases away the flu like the Moon chases the sun.  If a professional historian reads this, I am sure I will be hearing from them ? Another fun fact which makes me love Cluj even more is that in 2014, Cluj ranked high on the list for the cleanest air in Europe.  Now that is some clean air if you ask me.  One more before fact going back to the Shenanigans. The city of Cluj technically has had three names during its life.  If you take a look at the street signs on the way into the city, you will see the following;  Cluj, Kolozsvár, and Klausenburg.  Kolozsvár is the Hungarian version, while Klausenburg is the German rendition of Cluj, which before 1918 was a part of the Hungarian Kingdom and later, the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The walking tour is now over, and my belly is growling!  My new friend Wendy and I head out for some good ol’ fashion traditional Romanian food to cap off our nights.  After a hefty serving of Ciorba de burta, sarmale, and mamaliga, I was ready for bed.  I really wanted to see the night life of Cluj, but I knew if I’d gone out drinking, I would not perform well at my first festival due to the brown bottle flu.  I decided to be an adult.  I went home and found myself waking up at 7am feeling like a king.  I was so happy with my decision to be a grown up and listen to my body!

The day was mine.  I had one task.  Sing two sets at two different stages, and sing them as well as I could.  I needed food before I could do anything.  I headed out in search of eggs and coffee.  I found them quite quickly.  After feeding the beast known as the Blakey Belly, I found myself rehearsing all day throughout the city and just randomly walking around slap happy like a kid in the candy store as I saw the stages being built and marketing materials being placed.  I still couldn’t believe I was part of an event that took so many people to produce.  I was so nervous that my voice would be cold, so I kept drinking green tea from the same street vendor.  He eventually questioned the amount of green tea I was drinking.  I just said keep em’ coming Johnny, I gotta stay warm ? I pictured myself ordering whiskeys when I said that.   The man’s name was most likely not Johnny, but hey who knows.  A guy can dream.

My first set came and went faster than the blink of an eye.  I was a bit nervous during the first song, but once I finished and more people showed up, I got in the zone.  I broke my G-string near the end of the set.  Luckily this happened on the last song.  Some of my friends call me G-String plucker, so this moment was quite appropriate and made me chuckle a bit.  This was the first time I have played in front of a random crowd of people who had no idea who I was, it was a real cool feeling.  I gained a few more fans and connected with some new people on the mailing list.  I proved to myself that this is the life I want to live.  If I keep doing this, I will only get better.  Overall, the first set was a success!

I had 3 hours until I played next.  I decided to head back to the hostel to leave my guitar so I could roam freely and watch the other musicians and artists perform.  However, when I got back to my room, the door was open and they were cleaning up.   I was apparently being given the boot ? Luckily, the festival organizers had a backup plan for me.  I was eventually upgraded from hostel to hotel.  Winning!  I packed all my things and took to the streets.  The first act I saw was a guy named Lewis Floyd Henry.  The things this man did with a guitar, loop pedal, and mini drum kit completely blew my mind.  I felt like I was watching a full band, but in reality, there was only one guy.  Lewis Floyd Henry is the true definition of a one-man band.  I highly recommend you check him out. 

After a few more hours of roaming and watching great music, it was my time to play again.  I made my way to the next stage.  There was an acoustic duo called Andreea Secrieriu & Radu Leu playing wonderful covers.  They did a version of pumped up kicks which indeed pumped up my kicks.  There was about 50 people watching them.  My first thought was “Holy shit, I hope all these people stay for me.”  The good news is, most of them stayed, and I had the pleasure of playing to a very large crowd.  There was a real drunk guy who said “canti ceva in Romana frate.”  In English this means “sing something in Romanian brother.”  I answered his call with Joy.  Hearing him say that was like a gold miner striking gold after a long days work.  I responded to him with a “ask and you shall receive my good sir.”  He set me up perfectly to play a Romanian song titled “Amintire cu haiduci” which always flows nicely into my song “Juu ya mawingu” which has some Swahili in it.  The second set was great and I will finish it with a funny story.

 I had tinder installed and was doing some serious swiping.  Just kidding.  The swiping was not very serious, but Tinder did exist on my phone.  When I got back to Bucharest, I had a Cluj match.  She asked, “are you Nice Guy Mike?”  I could only imagine she had seen me play, and I was correct. Apparently, her and her friend thought I was cute and decided to find me on Tinder rather than say hello in real life ?. The mysteries of how the human mind functions this day and age with technology will always baffle me.  I am guilty of it too!  Why was I on there?  Who knows…It is gone and deleted now haha.  She who shall remain nameless will hopefully read this and laugh!   After a night out of partying with some of the boys from The Amsterdams, I was on my way back home.  I saw the Amsterdams once in Bucharest, at a festival in Herastrau park.  They put on a great show.  This time, I had the pleasure of standing inches from the drummer to see them perform.  It was a great set, and I am really glad I connected with them.  After two hours of sleep, and forty-five minutes on plane number two, I was back in Bucharest.  I went to work on three hours of sleep and managed to actually do my job somehow.  Jazz in the Street was an amazing success, and I can-not wait to return again to Cluj.  Hope you enjoyed this Post Gig Ponder.  Have a lovely rest of the day!

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