Month: October 2011


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.)

Arts & Rugby – co-existing

How many people would regularly attend both the Royal Albert Hall & the Walkabout?  Not many.  If any.

Okay – “regularly attend” is a bit of an exaggeration, but there has been a fair bit of juxtaposition over the last couple of weeks.  Although I’ve only been to the Royal Albert Hall once – that wasn’t enough so I did just today book two more evenings there, and have vague plans to attend some kind of classical music thing there in April or so.  And I have been to the Walkabout twice over the last month, I think – which was more than enough.

Since last time – I saw Snoop Doggy Dogg.  That was… , well, it was Snoop – live.  I went to the O2, had dinner at a french restaurant while waiting for the gig to start – and seriously thought that Snoop was in the restaurant as well.  But eventually I realised I was just being a racist – “all braided-hair tall lanky cool-as-can-be african americans look the same to me”.  But anyway, had myself some nice moules mariniere and wine, before entering the Arena.  Tried to buy myself some Snoop ‘merch’ – but ended up with a ladies t-shirt.  So ladies – if you wear a size “L” – and want a Snoop ‘skinny whitey’ – let me know.  I then discovered that the O2 serve full sized bottles of wine, even if they are plastic.  So got myself some red red wine to go with my gangsta rap, and proceeded to sip on that, while reading my ebook.  Then some drunk, and I suspect really rather drugged, couple came up and molested me.  Somehow at the end of that, I lost a rather large glass of wine – which gave me justification to buy another bottle.  And then Snoop D-O-double-G came on.  I had a pretty sweet seat – but of course as soon as the Doggfather came on stage, everybody stood up – so I had to as well.  Although I did retake my seat on a few occasions, usually to have a bit of a relax while he was playing one of his many tracks which were preceded with “this one is for the ladies”.  But yeah, overall – a pretty sweet gig, exactly what I expected/hoped for.  Snoop being Snoop, doing some classic hits, and a couple of covers.

And that brilliantly ridiculous night set the tone for the next week.  The next morning – I woke up at about 5am (so a total of 4 or 5 hours sleep since downing a couple of bottles of wine) – to head to the pub, to watch rugby.  I managed to watch both quarter-finals on that morning, although my memories of the actual games are a little blurry.  At one point, the barman did suggest I have a coffee or something instead of another beer.  And told me I wasn’t allowed to sleep there (I was just trying to get 10 minutes of rest between games).  But eventually – both games over, and I got in a taxi to head to work.  Yep – there was some kind of super-emergency brewing, with the CIO taking a personal interest, and the Vice-President of Operations in the office – and a guy who was brought in for the day because “he’s the guy who writes books on this stuff” – and me, after a night of Snoop, very little sleep, and a morning of rugby & beer.  But eventually I was more useful than the specialist brought in, which unfortunately meant he left at about 3pm, while I was stuck in the office until 8pm.  And eventually left, very very tired.  And as yet, unpaid for the day.

But I struggled to get a little sleep that night – before getting up the following morning at 5am, to again go watch some rugby.  This time though – heading to watch it with Dom in his living room, all civilised like.  But where does one get a taxi from at 5am?  Well – if you’re me – then you live around the corner from one of the most famous nightclubs – Fabric – so I figured that at 5am on Sunday morning, there is bound to be taxis there.  And yes – but also many drunk/? people – so I walked past, feeling unable to join any queue/group of such people.  And then down the road – a voice called out to me “taxi!?”  “Yes”, I thought – “taxi” is what I need, but “taxi” is not what you are.  For in a small private car, a dodgy guy was calling out to me.  But I figured, yeah – sure.  I got in, and quickly but subtly made it known that I was not actually a half-awake uncoordinated drunk/? idiot on his way home.  Although I was actually a half-awake uncoordinated blurry mess for reasons solely relating to waking up 5 minutes ago – I managed to insinuate that I was not an easy mark.  But it all turned out alright – the guy drove me to Dom’s, even put on the rugby game when it started, and we had a chit-chat regarding that – and he seemed alright.  So yeah – I fully recommend getting into an unlicensed-taxi/strangers-car in the wee hours of the morning.  And leading on, after that potentially disastrous situation dissipated, the two rugby games were also successfully negotiated – although again, the details are all a bit blurry.  I’m really rather happy that the semis & final are at much more civilised times.

Sunday morning out of the way, I headed home – had a nice nap, and then headed off to Hackney for some live music – Iron & Wine doing an acoustic gig.  Luckily – some very nice quiet acoustic folk.  In fact – for about half the gig, I stood at the back, next to the bar – for easy access to the wine, and enough light to read by.  And the other half – took my seat, and watched the nice man with the beard (which seems to accentuate rather than distract from his forehead” play his guitar and sing his nice songs.  All terribly civilised – in fact, too civilised for the nice man, who continuously complained about everybody being too quiet and polite.

And then it was Monday – which would normally be a welcome rest.  And it nearly was, except my current client had started to go nuts, trying to get me to do as much as possible before they kicked me out the door.  And then that night – I was to see Iron & Wine again – this time the “full-band” performance.  Which he had promised to be a heap louder and more raucous.  Which I was curious about – because I don’t think having additional supporting musicians, and electric instruments, are going to transform quiet folk songs into stadium rock.  And sure enough… the full-band performance was still good, but kinda bizarre – with a lightshow, and Sam himself seeming to think he was playing some kind of loud rock show – while playing all these slow quiet (but nice) songs.  All in all – I probably could have skipped it, after seeing the acoustic one.

And then, Tuesday.  Another day of struggling through work, and then my first ever time at Royal Albert Hall – to see Spiritualized.  Which I wasn’t sure about – not having listened to the music for years.  But I think I grabbed the tickets just to get to see Royal Albert Hall.  And yeah – not disappointed.  Not the best seats for watching the show – right up the top – but good for just getting an overall view of the hall itself.  And the gig – started off slow – good enough that I wasn’t disappointed – and initially even quite impressed, but then not much else.  Jason ‘Spaceman’ sitting on a stool, playing the songs – with  a backing band and a full chorus or two supporting him – and some quite good lighting effects and what-not.  All quite good – but it become slightly ho-hum through the middle, with quite a few slow songs (I think he played the entirety of his new album?).  And then the encore – wow.  Pretty sweet.  Just song after song of good music, a great show, and just an incredible atmosphere.

After Tuesday, comes Wednesday.  Wednesday was a nice relaxing day of work, fencing, gig.  Work included (from memory it was this day) – a vendor coming in to do an installation, the day after having been accidentally forwarded an email (by my project manager) in which I referred to this guy having “wound me up”.  So yeah – that was a nice delicate situation.  Then fencing – where I had to protect myself from being stabbed by an epee.  And then quickly rushed home, and off to the local little gig venue to watch We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Who despite their terrible name, aren’t actually too bad.  They are one of the current glut of good indie-rock bands pouring out of Scotland.  The lead singer looks like a chubby petulant child – with a mouth that looks like you could drive a bus right into it when he yells.  By this time, I just stood at the back, watching all the pretty young things in their “twee” clothes with disdain.  But yeah – good gig.  I suspect the lead singer really is a petulant child – and I suspect he is going to get chubbier – with people raining critical acclaim upon him before he’s ready, and generally just turning him into a dick.  But decent gig anyway.

And that was the last gig for a while – which was actually quite the relief.  Until I remembered work drinks on the following night – which were substantial.  And then rugby on both Saturday & Sunday mornings.  But that all went off without too many hitches.

And now it’s this week – and a whole new exhausting chain of events has started – but that can wait until later.

Warm-up to Gig Season

Still trying to get back into a boring old routine, after all that disruption with Madrid/Paris – but not quite managing it, what with fencing lessions, getting sick, and assorted other excuses.  And there’s not much chance of that changing – with two months jam-packed with gigs scheduled.  Yep – starting Friday, I have currently got 23 scheduled gigs over a 60 day period.  Oh yeah.

But to warm up for all this – there was Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears.  I can’t remember how I discovered these guys – but it is amazing music.  I ended up taking a workmate to the gig – and normally I feel a whole heap of trepidation taking somebody along to a gig, when they haven’t heard of the band.  But with this – I had no fear, for I’m pretty sure it would be impossible for anybody not to find this music infectioushappy, and just as cool as all shit.  And I was right – she loved it.  It was a relatively small gig, at the Jazz Cafe – which I hadn’t been to before.  And now I really want to get a restaurant table for a gig there, that would be sweet.  Anyway – the gig.  These guys still aren’t as well-known as they will/should be – so can’t find any actual video footage, but I reckon you can tell just from the music what it would have been like.  Do it – listen to them.  If they aren’t being thrashed on Triple J already, they soon will be – and are a certainty to be in the top 100.  The first album – Tell ‘em What Your Name Is, a must-have.  The second – Scandalous – is quickly growing on me too – especially the title track.

So yeah – overall, an excellent gig, with excellent music – and has got me all excited for the remainder of the year.  And in between all those gigs, I’ve got to win the fencing tournament, get my motorbike licence, and start a new job if my boss can find something for me to do (current client is kicking out all contractors – finally figured out they were going broke by paying dozens and dozens of project managers, etc – so have fishtailed, and just cancelled all projects, contracts, all travel, etc.  Next year, they will try to start everything up again – and maybe realise that it’s cost them more to restart everything, then if they’d just continued – but just getting rid of the tonnes of dead-wood).