It’s a bit of a bungle in the jungle going from listening to two Hooray Henrys in the gents at the Grand Hyatt natter on about how “bloody civilised Beijing” is to finding myself in the human mosh pit that’s Carnegie’s down Lockhart Street in Wanchai. But even with two bottles of Moët gurgling inside of me, one kinda knew that the taxi driver saying Agave is Carnegie’s is not right.
So you just keep walking past old Wanchai and even older bars wondering who frequents the joints these days before turning around and turning a deaf ear to someone offering you “the best blowjob in town”. and spying an elfin blonde and The Adobo Kid- Kat Coetzee and Guitarzan Jay.
Knowing I’ve found my bearings, I follow them into Carnegie’s taking care not to trip on that one step by the front that’s been the ruin of many an intoxicated lost soul.
There’s a girl saying Hello in a way that’s more than Hello, and tells me she’s going to another club, and then squeezes my arm and says she’ll be back. Nice, but who is this masked woman with a nice smile, but kinda awkward teeth? Have I been with her before? Anyway, Kat, bursting with energy, can’t help herself and gets onstage and sings Santana’s version of “Smooth”.
It’s good enough for this early in the night. Carnegie’s is filling up and two Nordic looking women in the table in front of me start slowly gyrating. I think of herring. Scandinavian women remind me of herring and cheese. It’s a long story.
Kat launches into Mustang Sally. She’s all sassy and Sally and the crowd loves it, but having played this song when even I had another band and seen The Wicked Mr Pickett perform his classic ‘live’ around ten times, it’s become one of my least favourite covers. My mind switches off and wanders and I come around again thinking how tough it is to be a covers band and how well the Filipino bands here do by constantly expanding their. And expanding one’s repertoire is absolutely essential even when performing at Carnegie’s where nothing is real and there’s nothing to get hung up about. Let’s never forget that the Beatles became what they became- original and great- because of their teen years cutting their teeth playing thousands of covers to drunks in the strip clubs of Hamburg. It was their best rehearsal room. It prepared them for what was to come.
Meanwhile, looking like Dorian Grey, my very pale friend Mort surprises me by gliding in. Mort doesn’t walk, he glides. He looks around like a stranger in a strange land. He’s been in Hong Kong for over thirty years and has never been to Carnegie’s. He’s not been anywhere much really since around 1988 because that’s how Mort rolls. Or glides. He prefers to stay home, smoke a cigarette, follow the rings and think or play guitar. He’s at Carnegie’s tonight just to prove me wrong- that he can actually come out at night. And rock albeit very gently.
The music is hitting its stride and Jay is in terrific form. He’s at the top of his game. As I tell Mort, who’s smiling and taking it all in, Jay is good enough to play for any top band in the world. The world. But tonight, it’s Carnegie’s in Wanchai.
Kat too hits her stride, and the very strange group of odds and sods are moving and grooving to the band playing that funky music, some better than others, like a French girl who’s inhabiting her own space. I wish I could inhabit that space, too, but her boyfriend might not buy into that.
Jay and Kat then do the whole ubiquitous Rock Chick/Guitar God thing and it’s all a bit like Spinal Tap to me- but the crowd loves it. This isn’t an audience looking for introspective love songs or listening to some over the hill singer squeezing out some pretentious jizz. It’s Friday night and all they want is to be pounded by the hammer of the rock gods. The moment is broken for a moment when, I think, the owner insists on singing a Country song in a voice that reminds me of Lee Marvin before Jay gets nostalgic and sings Desperado.
Things are starting to drag before there’s another adrenaline rush of Katatonics- old school Rock and Roll for everyone who wants to do the stroll.
Around 1am it’s all over. I pass on trying to force myself into the fleshpot that’s Amazonia, grab a cab and am happy to be home and wonder about the woman with the crooked teeth. I start to write a song about her, but there’s nothing much to say really. It’s not exactly Norwegian Wood.