A week of no gigs. That was a good time. Relaxing, a night of the old binge-drink, a weekend of rugby semi-finals, and just a good ol’ time. But that was then, now we’re in the dark days. Five weeks of no more respite than two days off at any time.
It started with Band of Skulls – some straight-talking no-nonsense garage rock. In a venue which is more commonly used as a gay nightclub. So yeah – walking into an underground cavern, with posters advertising all sorts of half-naked men oiled up, and the X-Factor rejects for some reason – to watch some strut-rock was kind of odd. And then standing in a mob trying to get to the bar – with people complaining about service, and trying to push in front of each other like some crazed junkies, was great. An annoying woman next to me constantly talking to me, assuring me that she’d make sure I was served straight after her (despite joining the mob after me) – and then haranguing the barman (while I tried as hard as I could to distance myself from her). Ahhh – my faith in humanity, if not completely lost a long time ago, died a little bit that night. Anyway – the gig. Firstly I thought the sound was crap – but then I walked out from under the mezzanine, into the main area – and everything sounded much much better. The band wasn’t particularly charismatic or anything – they just did the job. Stand there, play some songs, and make some clumsy efforts at showmanship.
And soon thereafter, the weekend. Which consisted of getting up very early on Saturday morning – walking to Kings Cross/St Pancras, and catching a train over to France. For if I can’t be in New Zealand for a NZ-vs-France Rugby World Cup Final – where better than in France? Got into Lille at about midday – perfect for a leisurely stroll into town, find my hotel to check-in and drop off my very small daypack, and then a wander around town. Had some mussels marmite – and soon discovered that “marmite” seems to refer to the pot, and that I wasn’t actually getting mussels cooked in malty tar. Wandered about some more – researching likely spots to watch the rugby the following morning, sightseeing, and shopping. I discovered a fashion label named “Eden Park” – complete with NZ flag, a rugby ball motif, and the number 10 emblazoned on most items. I was tempted to buy the shoes (the first items I saw) – but they were bad shoes. Eventually, when I discovered what seemed like the French Harrods – I discovered the whole Eden Park range – and bought some gloves. Refrained from the jeans, with their trademark back pocket detailing taking the form of half an oval – remiscent of a rugby ball perhaps. Crazy frenchies. Did my normal “wander around for an hour unable to decide on a restaurant” – before finally selecting an expensive seafood joint, and ordered the “little of everything the chef wants to give you” option, and a bottle of red wine – just to show them I can be unconventional too.
The next morning – I awoke, and ignored all my research of the previous day – instead walking for a while, into previously unexplored area – searching for “the bar district”. Which I quickly found, like a messenger pigeon returning home. And then, walking past several big showy bars – I spotted a television screen through a small grimy window, of a small grimy bar. Sold. I entered a small dark and dingy room, with a handful of barstaff looking at me in surprise, and one or two obvious ‘locals’. I took a pew at the bar, had a coffee, and waited for the game to start. One barmaid loved the All Blacks shirt – and decided to support the All Blacks then and there. Unfortunately, she seemed to only be there to set up for the day, and then left – leaving me alone in a slowly growing crowd of French. By the time the game started, the pub had laid out a free breakfast (french bread, coarse pate, brie, ham, etc – not bad fare), and the pub was full of Les Bleus supporters, with quite the festive atmosphere. I got a few curious glances, but nothing more. And I think any New Zealander knows how nervous I was at that moment – I was downing pints of beer at a furious rate, unable to help myself. The haka, the French counter to it (which I loved, and brought massive cheers from the locals) – and then the game itself. Well – we all know how that went. The head in hands when Cruden fell on the ground. A couple of stifled cheers from some of the less well-mannered Frenchies came with that, but then the majority of them applauded in the right spirit when he left the field. Overall, it was quite a good crowd – much like most crowds, generally a good bunch, with a couple of dicks who do things like cheering an injury, or booing when an opponent is lining up a kick. Half-time, and I sensed that mood of the crowd had changed from “let’s go watch the All Blacks win, festival-type atmosphere” – to, “hell, we’ve got a chance to win this, and win the World Cup”. And of course, my own feeling mirroring that, going from “yeah, let’s watch us win while in France, that’ll be a laugh” – to, “Oh no, not again, not again, no no no”. And the last ten minutes – with everybody white-knuckled, just willing somebody to drop the ball, or hold onto the ball, or anything, just don’t lose this bloody thing. The only way I can find to describe that whole hour – from the start of the 2nd half through to 20 minutes after the match – is through cliches. Relief. Monkey off the back. They may be cliches, but they are just so apt. Or to point you to a forum on The Silver Fern – which, along with the comments afterwards, I read yesterday – with something approaching a tear in the eye. And then I watched a video which a comment pointed to – and yeah, that tear became fully fledged. I don’t think anybody but a New Zealander will understand quite I mean – or why “just a game” could mean so much. More cliches are needed really – rugby’s embedded in the country’s psyche, it’s our national obsession, etc etc. I’d always thought of them as empty meaningless cliches, too simplistic to really be true. But, even though it’s depressing to admit, they’re true. But that’s not as important as it used to be. Because we did it – we knocked the bugger off. We can watch the All Blacks again, with the attitude of it being a pleasurable distraction, not with a desperate need to win a trophy. And soon, we can look forward to 2015, when we become the first team to defend the championship, the first team to win it 3 times, the true Champions. Or not – we can lose, and we’ll shrug, without that devastating heartbreak of 2003 & 2007. Maybe. And I think the average New Zealander will be a nicer person now, without all that angst. The only dark lining to this silver cup, is that the country is almost certain to be governed by the actual eye-gougers, the real dirty players, the actual Bleus Terribles with aspirations for nuclear power in New Zealand waters, for another three years.
Anyway – that was a lot of words to describe a game of rugby, coming from somebody who has traditionally shunned such things. So onwards, with only a small (well, not really so small) portion of myself wallowing in the glory of 4.5 kilograms of gilded silver. I eventually left the pub, once I felt comfortable that I could walk without falling to my knees with relief. Walked back to the main plaza of Lille – taking congratulations from a couple of random passersby. And sat in the sun, my back to the central fountain, reading a book. Of course – I had partaken in quite a few pints during the game – and when I rejoined that book a couple of days later, I discovered that I had little to no memory of the majority of it. But I read my book, Silver Fern proudly displayed on my chests, sneaking into McDonalds to use the toilets every 20 minutes, daring somebody to even try and burst my bubble. Nobody did. I eventually made my way to a restaurant for some more mussels, a couple of leisurely wines – and decided it was time to make my way to the train station. I was kind of right, but very nearly wrong. As in, I got to the station, but they told me I was too late. Until a nice man spotted the All Blacks shirt – and told me to follow him. He then essentially led me through back passages, forced the customs guy to stamp my passport without filling out the necessary documentation, and led me straight onto the train. Sacre bleu – how gracious can somebody be in defeat? So – many many thanks to France, for making my visit as good as it could be, for really turning up to the final, for being – well – French, and for eventually letting us win. And don’t listen to the trash-talking cheap media – we all know they’re scum.
And then, sadly, I was back in Ingerlund – my head still spinning from the mornings events, and the beers/wine. Got a little lost finding my way home – but got there in enough time to drop my stuff off, send some drunken text messages trying to get people to join me at a gig that night – but eventually made my way to north London all alone. To watch Michael Franti & Spearhead. This was at Koko, which is only surpassed by Royal Albert Hall as being the most awesome venue. And of course, I can’t watch a gig without some red wine – so I slowly became even more intoxicated, making my memory of the gig rather hazy. But from what I do remember – it was fairly good. Michael Franti was barefoot, and walked into the crowd on multiple occasions, and maybe even invited the crowd onto the stage for the last song? Or maybe my brain made that up in a desperate attempt to please. I do remember him giving some good solid hippie speeches, and my drunken brain coming to the horrible realisation that there was no way good old fashioned hippies, and the current protests – would ever really change anything, and that what was actually needed was a worldwide catastrophe – natural, man-made, or even just social – so that society could be rebuilt from the ground-up. And even then, I’m sure that human (animal) nature would eventually result in the same self-centred society we have now. (Read the previous with emphasis on the self-pity and hypocrisy). Oh – and after checking youtube videos – there were also giant yellow balls.
Monday morning – I went to work. Apparently – because I haven’t been fired or reprimanded. But to be honest – my head was still in quite the daze, and I have little memory of Monday at all. But I had two days to recover, before the glut of gigs started again. Wednesday – it was a group of scots named Sons And Daughters. A gig which was originally scheduled for Heaven (the same venue as Band of Skulls) – but was moved to Dingwalls, where we saw Don McGlashan last year (or year before?). I suspect this was due to poor ticket sales – as Dingwalls is much much smaller – and even then, it was a very sparse crowd. But it was a good set, nice songs – played with just enough crowd banter, etc. Terrible bar service – really really terrible. And it reminded me that whenever I head to Camden, I think I would quite like to move there. Until I spend half an hour there, surrounded by the terribly pretentious twats, and realise that no – nice to visit, wouldn’t live there.
The following night – the only band (to my knowledge) named after MacGyver’s employers – the Phoenix Foundation. Again – a rather sparse crowd – which I thought strange. Kiwis usually love to flock out in droves to see any homegrown talent – and these guys are also doing rather well in their own right as an international act. But yeah – very limited crowd – which allowed Justin and myself to get much closer to the stage than our grumpy old man “bloody kids everywhere” mentality usually allows. I was already rather drinky after work drinks – and then the barmaid seemed to dislike how much wine a standard “large” pour actually was – so insisted on essentially doubling it – serving me red wine in pint glasses, nearly full. This was at the Garage – so if anybody is heading there, look for the short fairly pretty barmaid, and order a wine. In fact – I believe I have a gig scheduled for there next week. Sweet. Back to the music – yeah, really good. If you haven’t checked out the latest album – Buffalo – you should do. It is really good, an excellent maturation of these guys who have been “gestating” (a word I picked up from somebody else’s review of them) back in New Zealand for some time.
And that has been my week. With more of the same (minus the overnight jaunt to France) scheduled for this week. And next week. And the next. And the next. Oh, what a life.
(edit: I realise some of the above got a little over-emotional, and particularly over-political. Maybe one day I’ll give a full accounting of my political views. I hate people who say “right-wing are scum”, “hippies are stupid”, etc – without any reason to backup that view. That is just social-attitudal racism. So maybe, one day when I’m bored, I’ll attempt to justify my views. I still feel guilty after telling certain members of my family “If this country votes in John Key, I will leave – and not come back until New Zealand wakes it’s fucking ideas up”… and then realising that every single one of them was going to vote National. Yeah – um, sorry for that.)