|Tunes & Travels|
by Jennifer Matthews
traveling: japan & korea
My first music road tour was to the far east. At the time I was living in Denver Colorado and was spotted by an agent while singing at a blues club in Boulder. The agent approached me and asked me if I would be interested in doing a DOD for the US Troops. At the time I was in the music school in Boulder and Denver so it was pretty easy for me to put a band together. We were assembled in a weeks time and we called ourselves Hearts on Fire. We auditioned for a rep out of Washington, who was scouting bands, and we got the audition. The next week we were offered the tour.
Some of my favorite places that I can recall in Korea were towns like Pusan, Taegu (city of neon lights), Seoul (the outdoor markets were really interesting), Itaewon (great shopping), Osan, etc. In Japan, Tokyo was pretty mind blowing as well as Mt. Fuji. The band was flown over the top of Mt. Fuji as the sun was setting delivering us to a gig for that night. I felt very grateful when they invited me into the cockpit to get the best clear view as we flew over the magical snow capped Mountain. Okinawa was a blast as the band played shows there for a two weeks stretch. A couple members of the band and myself hopped on our rented bikes every morning and rode down to the downtown area to ex marine Jim Boyd’s scuba diving shop and got our certificates. The first dive we did was from rocky beach shore where we walked out into the great pacific with our water tanks and flippers and descended down 15 feet. It was an incredible close up view of exotic jellyfish and lion fish. From there we did the big dive in open water 30 feet down and watched in awe as our teacher cut up a sausage. We became surrounded on all sides by colorful exotic fish. It was a mad eating frenzy as we watched on in the center of it all.
From the road I saw a lot of rice fields in Korea and from the air I saw a lot of blue water in Japan when we played their islands. One main point of interest was when the band was flown to Iwo Jima to play an early morning shows for the boys. The flight took off at 4:30 am. Of course the band was hurting but when we got on the plane and realized that the only seats available were net seats we realized that it was going to be a big adventure and we were all excited. To top it off there were only net seats on the plane and we were handed ear plugs to protect our eardrums due to no insulation in the aircraft. We performed for the boys at 7:30 in the morning before they had to hit their stations and after the show we were escorted around the island to see some of the old war relics, the sunken ships that were still sticking out of the water, the black sand, the sulphur pits and the Mount of Roses shrine.
Another island we flew to from Japan was a US atoll in the middle of the Pacific called Johnston Island. This was one of the last shows on our tour. The whole island was not more than one mile in length but it was a pretty interesting place. They had a huge outdoor movie screen and baseball field. They also had outstanding scuba diving. One of the shockers of this place was when we stepped off the plane we were escorted into a briefing room where they issued us gas masks and antidote needles. The reason for this is that the island is a place where they burn and store all kinds of weapons from the different wars that the US has partook in. They said that if the wind blew in a certain directions it could set off the alarms on the hey island which would alarm us to the fact that there is a danger of being contaminated and if that alarm went off we would have to respond immediately by injecting the antidote needle into our legs and putting on and securing the gas mask. A small portion of the island was contaminated with nerve gas. So they were careful never to drive us to that part of it. Once the band got over the initial shock of the reality of the situation there we took our antidote paraphernalia to our rooms and got prepared to put on the best shows we could for the working military there. We played two nights in a row and had a great time. They treated us like royalty and luckily we never had to use the gas mask and the antidote needles. After we completed our tour the government landed us in Hawaii and let us stay for two weeks at a place of our own choice and they would fly us back when we were ready. Myself and the guitar player flew from the main island over to Kauai where we hitchhiked the island, ate homemade coconut pineapple cake, did some interesting scuba diving (saw a few too many sharks) and laid on beautiful beaches.
Make sure if you travel to Korea to get the necessary inoculations. Saveroom in your suitcase because the shopping is great and cheap there. You can get name brand electronic musical equipment for really good prices. Same goes for sneakers and leather goods. In Japan write a prayer on a piece of paper and tie it to a tree. They treat it as sacred and won’t take it down.
I have been a professional singer for over
twenty years and teaching voice lessons for over ten years. I received
my vocal training at the University of Colorado School of Music at Boulder
and Denver and at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University
in NJ. Singers who influenced me greatly in my early years were Linda
Rondstadt, Anne Wilson from Heart, Robert Plant, Ian Anderson from Jethro
Tull, Judy Garland & Aretha Franklin.