Balti Mare


It could happen to you. Seriously.

It happened to me at Bertha’s. I’m up in Baltimore with Big Bertha’s Rhythm Kings, and we’re just knocking down the trad jazz like always. We’re used to people drifting in and hanging out near the door, just to listen for a bit. One night, it’s this guy, he looks way cooler than the usual standers-by, and he’s got a guitar case and an amp with him. Clearly, he was coming from a gig, and decided to catch a few songs. We get to the break, and he wants to talk to me. There’s a first time for everything, and it just blew my mind when he said it.

“Dude. I gotta get you to come play in my band.”

First off, he’s younger than me. I’m not exactly radiating hipness anyway, and what little I’ve got is severely dampened by the 90-year-old tuba wrapped around me. The Corroded Sash of Dorkdom, +1 armor, -1 dexterity, -6 charisma. Next, he’s got a guitar and an amp. When he says “band” he’s not talking about Sousa or Jelly Roll Morton. Finally, he thinks the tuba with a mic shoved down the bell is a great idea. I’m basically babbling in response.

He starts telling me about this Romanian gypsy band he leads, Balti Mare, and how he’s always wanted a tuba player to play bass lines. His inspiration is Fanfare Ciocarlia, who I had to search on the internet when I got home. I found out that, even though it’s a fabulous play on the name of the city,  “Balti Mare” in Romanian translates into “large puddles.” Well, what the hell, my horn makes large puddles almost as often as I do, so I’m a perfect fit. I also found out that Fanfare Ciocarlia is amazing, and I was hooked.

Armani had my contact info immediately. I didn’t actually get to play with Balti Mare for several months, and it was pretty scary that first time out. That’s part of the job, though, and I’ve had a lot to learn along the way. I’m not used to club gigs at 1am, but I’ll get there. I’m just really glad that I didn’t sound like crap that night at Bertha’s. You never, ever know who all is listening to you play. Bring your A-game every time.