September 30, 2010

At Bar Fizz, each performance is more fun than the last. This is definitely one of the hippest stages I've ever performed on. Across the venue from the stage, the bartop is made of a material that looks like blocks of ice covered in glass....hence the clear glass-like piano to retain the "ice" theme. The floor of the stage also mimics this ice-block pattern, and the blocks at the bar as well as on the music stage, are lit from within. The lights rotate through colors ranging from snow white to teal blue, to grass green, to royal purple, to fuschia, to red. As the bar fades from one color to the next, the stage soon follows the same pattern. Behind me on the stage is a running water feature, in fact the entire venue feels almost as though it is suspended in water, as the tables and chairs butt right up against these pools of water, and the huge windows looking out onto Canal City show the viewer dancing water fountains and decorative pools. At the beginning of each of my sets, at the top of the hour, the water fountains begin their dance, and the dance lasts for about as long as it takes me to complete my first one or two songs. One can imagine why it is called Bar effervescent drop of color and movement in the midst of all this water.

I am looking forward to my day off on Sunday in order to explore more of the city. The only walking around I have done so far was to register at city hall, pop into a photo booth to get passport pics, and head to the convenience store for bottled water. Canal City is a little incubator of activity, where you can find all you need in one place, but I am anxious to move beyond its walls. First on the agenda is to find an English bookstore. I can survive without English television and movies, but I cannot thrive without books. I am struggling to remember some of the Japanese I learned years ago and to learn more, but my mind seems too tired to retain it right now. I am surprised to learn that fewer people speak English here than did in Korea and Vietnam, so the language barrier is a bit isolating. But I've already made some friends, especially with my co-workers, who have promised to show me around a bit. Hopefully my next installment will include more information about the city itself, and some photos of the area I am in!

September 26, 2010

I am sitting here in my room at the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka, Japan, which overlooks a similar but smaller version of the choreographed water fountain one can see at the Bellaggio in Vegas. Neon lights are everywhere, as well as impeccably manicured floral gardens and greenery exhibits. The Grand Hyatt is part of a place called Canal City, which is a conglomeration of the hotel, shopping, art, movie theaters, entertainment, and more all in one small "city within the city." Bar Fiz, my venue for the next few months, overlooks all of the activity. When I arrived late last night to be met by the Japanese agent, Hiro, I immediately went to meet the performer who left today, and check out the venue. The stage is beautiful, a lighted floor, a clear glass-like piano, bamboo and water features surrounding you as you play. The bar creates a "signature drink" for each performer, and I am waiting to see what mine will be made of, and what they will call it. I watched some of the drinks being carried out from the bar, and every detail is seen to, including lighted ice cubes inside the drinks that are different colors depending on what you ordered.

Saying goodbye (twice!) back in the states was very difficult. When I left St. Louis and my fiance AJ, I kept looking back over my shoulder as I headed to security, wishing I could turn around. I absolutely am going to love this job and the people here and the adventure, but leaving home and the people I love for months at a time has always been difficult for me, even more so now that I am trying to plan a wedding! Ater St. Louis, I visited family in Seattle for a couple of days and it was again difficult to leave my mom and stepdad and grandma and get on that long flight to the land of the rising sun. However, now that I am here, I am ready to begin performing and learning about this place and the culture, which so far, is beautiful and inviting.

I am thrilled to report my guitar made it through the two flights here, so I must give kudos to United Airlines and Asian Airlines. The only casualty was a broken high E string when I was trying to tune it after opening the case. And that isn't their fault; the nut seems to have a sharp spot that often causes the high E to break. So, even without a heavy-duty flight case, my guitar survived the trip! And I survived the trip, being pleasantly surprised that all the flight attendants were very kind and helpful, and everything in the Tokyo airport was easy and efficient. I've had some rough trips lately where attendants were more than rude, (or where EVERYTHING went wrong, like it did on my last trip to Italy) but this one gave me back a bit of hope for the airline industry. I heard on the news that they are doing really well for the first time in a long time - making a big profit again. So, now I guess they can start giving us free peanuts again on domestic flights? Or how about NOT charging one hundred dollars for an extra domestic-flight bag anymore? One can dream....

So, I've decided technology and I aren't the best of friends. My room here is great - but everything runs on automatic switches. You come near the bathroom, the fan kicks on in anticipation; you walk by the closet, a light switches on even if you weren't planning on opening the doors; and there are no light switches, just a multi-button "console" (for want of a better word) near the bed that controls all the lights in the room and which I still haven't fully figured out. I'm not even going to go into detail about the bidet that can give your bum a wash and blow-dry! OK, maybe that was more detail than was necessary, but I'm thinking I will steer clear of that!

I start performing tomorrow evening after registering and getting my ID card, and sound-checking at the venue. I'm always a little nervous before a new job begins, but this one seems like it will be great in every way. I get to perform a nice mix of my original music and my choice of covers ranging from standards to modern pop and everything in-between. It keeps it interesting. While putting together my song list the other day, I realized that through these jobs I've learned nearly 150 new songs I had never played before! I will also be selling CD's, and here you must sell them for $20 or more....they actually view a higher price as a sign of better value. So I guess I've been spoiled by the music prices in America, which so many of us think of as high, but which are quite low in comparison to here. Also, after meeting the F&B director here today, I learned I will be doing different types of performance while here, such as guitar/vocal, and performances outside of the regular venue.

I hope to write blogs often, as I don't have a movie channel on my TV - therefore lots of time on my hands, haha!