The first concert (Dallas Smith)

We woke up on this initial day of the tour to a gray sky and snow flurries. But the time we left around ten, a couple of inches had accumulated. We first drove to Christian’s parents’ house to pick up the PA system, mic stands, a small stage for Fazal to sit on, etc. loading everything into the trailer. We were facing a three to four hour drive to the city of Karlstad to the west. Our percussionist, Sebastian took the wheel so that Christian could make phone calls during our journey.

Sebastian is in his thirties, the youngest and newest member of the band. Perhaps his youthful reflexes saved us from injury or worse. As we drove along the four lane highway as snow fell, we were passed by many cars who could drive faster that we could since we were pulling the trailer. One car almost caused an accident due to excessive speed on the snow-covered road. As he passed us, he totally lost control of his car, doing a 270-degree spin in front of us. Sebastian was able to brake suddenly. Otherwise, we would have hit the car broadside as it slid down the road in front of us. The car continued to slide off to the right, until it was beside us on the right shoulder, facing back toward oncoming traffic. Miraculously, our vehicles did not touch. As far as we could tell, the spinning car did not hit anything either. We kept on driving. In retrospect, the whole episode took on the surreal quality of a slow motion event one might see in a James Bond movie. More seriously, it reminds us that we balance on the razor’s edge of life, with potential disaster always close at hand.

Arriving in Karlstad, after checking into our hotel, Christian and I went to a local studio for Swedish Radio to do an interview to publicize our evening concert. I carried my bamboo flute along with me to play a few notes. I also had my debut speaking Swedish on the radio, explaining a little about my Indian flute and Indian classical music in general, all within a five minute interview.

The concert took place in a great concert hall attached to the public library. Lights and sound were provided by the venue, so we didn’t have to unload our PA system. What a luxury! The concert was sponsored by Karlstad’s local Jazz Society. The audience knew how to encourage us, for example, by clapping between solos. Indeed, they were very receptive, which encouraged the band to play better than might have been expected for our very first concert this year. We received a standing ovation and played one encore. We are starting off this tour playing almost as well as we were playing at the end of last year’s tour. The process of recording our new CD certainly contributed to our “tightness” in performance. Indeed, I thought we played several of the pieces even better than the recorded studio versions. Everybody was in a good mood when we went out to dinner after the concert. It was a great way to start the tour, especially considering how we had narrowly avoided disaster on the road earlier in the day.

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