I got a call from my friend Brennen. He told me to come check out a punk show in Kathmandu. He gave me the address and told me it started at 3pm. Addresses in Kathmandu are weird. Even the locals have a hard time understanding them. I showed the taxi driver with some help from the front desk manager. (I think he knew how to get there.) The taxi driver was real old, and we chugged along over in third gear all the way there, which was really only a few blocks from the hotel anyway. I saw a couple of crust punks outside–this must be the place.
The club is called House of Music. I walk up and payed maybe 500 or 1000 rupees to enter. The place was nice compared to punk clubs in the States. It didn’t smell like beer and piss, and no one tried to stab me outside. The band had already started. The PA system sounded good and the sound guy had a good handle on the room. It was loud, but no too loud. The first band, Squirt Guns, was a good kind of Rancid-sounding band in more of the pop punk ska genre. Pretty sure they where all Nepali kids. The crowd liked them, dancing and skanking to the rhythms they pumped out of a thirty minute set. The next band really caught my attention–Social Nerve, a trio with a female guitar player. As soon as they started I noticed they where different. Billed as “psychedelic punk,” they had a mix of the old DC sound and Minutemen. They rattled off complex rhythms and very creative guitar riffs. The drummer played and sang and held it down. I was a fan immediately. After them the band And We Came was the third spot on the bill, a death core band from Nepal. The drummer was warming up his double kick chops before the set. I’m not a big metal fan, but these kids could play.
The last band, Youth Unite, was definitely the crowd favorite. They blasted out fast riffs and grinding vocals. The place erupted into full-on moshing. Very polite moshing–after all, it is Nepal. I sat by the side and drank my Gorka beer as the band played each song and in between preached their brand of anarchy and anti-establishment rhetoric. It felt like home.
Headed to Bhaktapur on Tuesday to go shopping and see the beautiful scenery. Bhaktapur history goes back as far as the early 8th century. It was a 40 minute ride from our hotel by taxi. The ticket to enter costs 15 bucks. Upon arrival everyone wants to be your tour guide. after being in Kathmandu for a week, you learn to put up a force field because everyone wants your money. We chose to tour ourselves.
There are lots of temples and merchants in Bhaktapur. Walking through the city, I stumbled into a music shop. Lots of drums where lined up along the walls. I grabbed a Madal off the wall and started playing. The merchant quickly gave me another one and said “this is the one you want.” It did sound better. A Madal is used for traditional Nepali folk music. It sounds like a cross between a Tabla drum and an African talking drum. I really started to gel with the instrument. As we where jamming, a few teen kids came into the shop, Dennis and his brother. They hung out with us the rest of our time in the music shop. Then carried our stuff around for the rest of our shopping spree. These kids reminded me of the Bowery boys in NYC in the 30′s with some punk rock mixed in there. I started referring to him as “Dennis the Menace,” feeling comfortable with him right away.
After finishing up in Bhaktapur we started our exit. Dennis the Menace asked if I could buy him a book. Didn’t take much–how could I not buy him a book? Books are good! I said no problem, and followed them to the “book store.” As we walked I started to get the feeling I was being hustled. When we get to the book store, the “uncle” wants 4000 rupees (about 40 bucks) for the two books. I say no way. I offer to buy one book for the kids. After I leave, they bring the book back and do it all over again to another tourist. The Nepalis are very proud people and tipping is not part of their culture. So the street hustle is a job these boy took on. As an old punker, I can respect that. It was only 20 bucks, and I liked these kids. So I handed over the money.
And after all, the photo I got of Dennis the Menace and his brother is priceless.
The Nepal Tattoo Convention was a success. Thanks to Mohan Gurung and Bijay Shrestha for putting on a great show.
Bryan and I stayed busy the whole time. Nicole worked the floor and set up appointments for us throughout the day. She was a huge help. We got to tattoo some of the locals, as well as tourists from all over. I did mostly small tattoos the whole weekend. It’s very difficult to tattoo here. It’s like tattooing in a kitchen as the power goes on and off. But we managed to pump out some cool stuff.
My favorite from the weekend was on the last day. I hand drew a nice mehndi style hand piece on Kelly from Australia. You had to freehand of hand trace stencils for everything because there was no thermo fax machine like at most conventions. It’s a challenge, but it usually makes a tattoo better when you draw it right on the skin.
Our tattoo gear is all packed up and we are ready to see the sights.
Three days into my trip here in Kathmandu, Nepal. It’s a very interesting place and very different from what I am used to. It’s dusty and there’s lots of pollution, but past that, it’s a bustling city with a rich culture and beautiful people. Sacred cows sunbathe in the street, while cars and motor bikes play a chaotic symphony of honking and beeping.
Walking around, everyone wants to sell you something. And there’s lots of “stuff” to buy. American money is strong here so you can really get carried away. A fun part is the bargaining game. They give you a high price with room for you to make a deal. Very much like American Pickers and Pawn Stars in the US. Apparently that’s how they get to know you, and it’s expected for you to play the game. It’s actually really fun!!
Tattooing here is challenging. The power goes out from time to time and it’s kind of warm on the convention floor. Once we got going, it felt like a typical convention. Tattoos are cheap here. A small one goes from 10$ to $50. For me, it’s really more about the adventure than making money. I’m just happy to be here. The tattoo scene here reminds me of what it was like in America in the 80s. It’s raw and still has a heartbeat. Not like the huge ego-fest, non-tattooer shit shows in the States now. I’m looking forward to the rest of the show.