But when I do, it’s because they’re . . . . different.
This past Sunday I had a wedding to play (on bagpipes) in Dutchess County, NY. I had played another gig in Hartford the day before, so I was already up in CT. The drive was very nice, mostly back roads heading due west from home. When I arrived at the location in a rural area, I knew something was up.
The first indication was a few very large carcasses of enormous insects. I could hear an ominous, unrelenting hum from the side of the road. I steeled myself and unpacked my pipes, and proceeded up the driveway to get settled on a spot and begin playing. It was then that I began to notice that there were a LOT of VERY large bugs flying around all over the place. I looked into the trees, and they were CRAWLING with the things.
Yes, I had to play pipes in the middle of the massive cicada infestation that made the national news, but to which no one really paid a lot of attention, because the cicadas were not too widespread. Well, lucky me, I happened to be right in the middle of it, getting divebombed by the things. They were EVERYWHERE. And they are persistent. They don’t really pay much attention to getting swatted at, they just continue their trajectory toward your face.
Now, have I mentioned that this was an Egyptian wedding? Apparently it is tradition to have pipes at the wedding. I’m assuming that this is a holdover from the days of being a British colony. If anyone has a more accurate explanation for the pipes being part of Egyptian culture, please let me know! There were other traditions involved in the day as well. Perhaps the most immediately obvious to someone in the middle of performing is hand guns being shot into the air, something which I hadn’t expected. Very well, I figured that was done.
One of the men led me inside the house to play for the women. One of them was playing a darbuka, so I had to match tempos with her. It was difficult to know when to play and when not to play. Sometimes they would start singing, and when the singing died down and the darbuka continued, I would strike up again for a minute, only to stop again when it seemed like they were going to start singing again.
After about ten minutes of that, I make my way outside again. Now the bride comes out, and I am in front of the house playing. Unbeknownst to me, someone was behind me, setting up fireworks, then proceeding to light them. Still playing, I turn back rather startled, and see that at least they aren’t pointed at me. My safety no longer an immediate concern, I continued to play. About a minute later, the same man behind me starts firing a 9mm that I hadn’t noticed before into the air, just a few feet from me. This was the point where my fight-or-flight instincts kicked in and I stopped playing immediately so I could flinch and cover my ears. My nerves had already been rattled by the cicadas and the fireworks, and unexpected gunfire directly behind me (a pretty big no-no as far as firearm safety goes) was enough for my high-strung nature. In case you didn’t know, guns are LOUD. It was just as well, because that was the point when I needed to get in the car so I could beat the wedding party to the church, where I had to play again for a little while.
All in all, a rather memorable weekend.