We moved off from Arumbol the next morning, heading further back down the beach to Anjuna. Anjuna beach was certainly one of the more famous locations in Goa. Despite being the location where a British girl had recently gone missing, it was also the spot where the epicentre of the nu-school hippy scene had settled itself in recent years. After the glut of dreadlock workshops in Arumbol, we were prepared for the worst.
What awaited us when we arrived was rather stranger than we had expected. The entire town was closing down for the monsoon, whose imminent arrival would drive away the tourists that usually teemed across Goa; most would not return until the autumn. The place was empty. Up and down the beautiful beach there stood empty cafes and restaurants with no-one in them and boards over the windows. Even the market stalls that were laid out amongst the palm trees overlooking the beach looked as if they were the last remaining stragglers of the season.
As a result, we were treated to a somewhat harder sell from many of the stallholders than we were used to. One girl even offered some novelty with a mock-British accent that certainly caught my ear. It wasn’t enough to make me want to buy a braided necklace, but it was a good effort on her part.
That evening we finally discovered where all the remaining tourists were: A busy, bamboo-made beach bar at the edge of town where a gig was in full swing in front of an assembled throng of reclining drinkers. If the band looked like they had been in Goa for awhile, then the psychedelic funk that they were playing seemed to have been forged in the very atmosphere of the place. The rambling songs, drawled lyrics and endless solos merged one into another, so that the entire gig felt like one long mood. Against the deep orange glow from the stunning sunset behind us, heads of the crowd bobbed and rolled along with the band.
There was a compelling intimacy to the gig. An occasional guest appearance was made by one or two of the audience for a song or two or a quick solo before returning to their seat. The lead singer, who looked like Jesus on his gap year, drawled something about that being their last gig of the season before they were heading up into the Himalayas for the summer, to return after the monsoon. This made sense: there was a special atmosphere about the music and the crowd alike. There appeared to be similar long-timers amongst the audience as well and the unshakeable impression that everyone knew each other and would return again soon. It didn’t sound like a bad life.
The band was called The Essence. I brought a CD.