And then Sopó

When the music fades, you turn and look out the bank of windows behind the stage at Islamorada and this is what you see. Any questions?  The staggering beauty of the Colombian landscape melts the apprehension of the set you just played in the realization that nature's handiwork trumps the designs of man every time.

The drive to this popular club 20 miles north of Bogotá can be a bit tortuous, especially on Sunday mornings.  That's the day of family outtings and La Ciclovia, a remarkable city-wide event where lanes of major thoroughfares are closed to vehicular traffic so people can get out and walk or ride bikes for miles undisturbed. The main artery leading north from El Centro downtown is called Septima, or 7th Ave.  Up past Rosales, the community of upscale office buildings where most embassies are located and nestled into the side of the ridge of Andes to the east, is the right turn to La Calera.  La Calera is a town on the way to Sopó, our destination for last week's mid-afternoon gig.

Tortuous is putting it mildly.  The road over to La Calera is two-lanes and often rutted by cracked pavement.  During La Ciclovia, it's also a biker's world with the stalwart and intrepid cycling up with an almost craven disregard for cars heading in the same direction.  Many times you slow to a crawl as the two-wheelers bobble and swerve back and forth climbing to the toll station near a crest.  The rest of the way to Sopó winds and twists through some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet.

So, with a sound check scheduled for 10:00AM, our 9:30 departure initially seemed workable, well, until it ran into the reality of three players having worked the night before.  In Colombia, things go late, 3:30 AM... so when at 10:00 our bleary eyed group hit the highway and La Ciclovia, we had to adjust all expectations.  Our objective was to run our set, learn a new stage setup and sound system, and be ready to go at 2:30.  Alas, the best laid plans of musicians and clubs. No sound engneer, an in-ear monitoring system suddenly supplemented by a couple of brand new floor monitors, and a very "live" room.  When the engineer did arrive, we were an hour behind schedule, and in-ear monitors require hours of setup.  We had to go with the speakers on the floor.

For anyone who plays live, sound is essential.  Players need to hear their instruments in the context of the stage mix, and singers need to hear themselves, period.  Long story short, it was a bit dicey.  But we soldiered on, rehearsed the set for an hour and a half, I blew out my voice, and when we were two thirds of the way through the performance the 8000' altitude took its toll. Pitch became optional, and what started out with a great groove began to muddle into a less than sparkling rendition of a combination of CD cuts and some pretty cool arrangements of a few jazz standards.  The crowd was enthusiastic, but a sudden low frequency hum in the sound system began to drag on things.  It was tough.  But we rallied on an encore of Miles Davis' "All Blues" and finished on a reasonably high note.

Still, when you do this, you demand a lot of yourself, and when you can't deliver no matter how hard you try, you feel like you've let everyone down.  Sure, you're always harder on yourself than the situation deserves, but in your heart you know...  That's when you turn and look out the bank of windows at that stunning view.