I went out one night years ago, I think it was just after I first started playing bass, to a show in this pub down the road from my house which was the only place in Devonport where bands ever played. I think that pub is now being turned into apartments.
I wasn’t super familiar with Chris Knox’ music, I am sort of a shit New Zealander in the sense that a lot of really good NZ bands passed me by and it’s not until lately that I’ve started really listening to things. I did know who Chris Knox was, cos he drew those funny cartoons in The Listener. Anyway. This short, older gent turned up on stage, with a headset microphone, possibly wearing shorts and a singlet, and proceeded to destroy the entire room. I was astounded. I guess….at that point, I hadn’t seen that much music live and what I had seen was limited to a quite standard ‘young men in fashionable clothes play guitars and look sexy’ theme.
At one point, we were sitting at a table, he was prowling the room, getting into people’s drinks and faces. He came up next to our table, and looked at me and said something. I can’t even remember what it was, but there was something about it, an expression, or a feeling, some kind of terrifying power he emitted and I think it was quite helpful for me at that point, to see something like that. It pops into my head quite often. There was a mixture of humour and boiling rage and honest humanity in the whole thing that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen often since.
A while back, Chris Knox had a stroke. There’s an album out where an insanely luminous list of musical greats cover his songs. It’s really, really REALLY good. Like, my own magical little moment with Chris Knox aside, it’s really good. I listened to it a lot on our last little trip to Europe. The Jordan Luck one is stunning. Jordan Luck, in NZ, has a similar myth-set to Shane McGowan, but I never realised that the similarity extended to the ability to sing a word in a way that stabbed you in the chest.
is a link to the site where you can read about it, and Chris, and buy it.
6:24 am • 26 February 2010
We drove into town the day of the show and went for a squiz at the Colosseum. I’ve been told there are millions of cats in it, but I never see any. My cat desire was sated by Nina at Init. She’s tiny and stroppy and mostly all white and her paws are always stained pink from the dust.
There was a plan for the next morning to get up early and go and see everything. The Vatican, the Colosseum properly, every ancient piece of city we could find. By midnight the night of the show we were adjusting the plan.
‘So, I’m thinking maybe we’re being a little ambitious.’
‘Maybe we should just pick one thing. Then we’ll definitely get it done.’
‘Good plan. But which one?’
‘I really want to go and see Bernini’s state of St Theresa.’
I thoght lobby call was at eleven thirty. At eleven fifteen Raife called my room.
‘ARENT YOU COMING??’
‘Yeah, I thought it was eleven thirty.’
‘IT WAS ELEVEN.’
I got down to the lobby to find that there was a train strike. Thus there were no taxis. By twelve we were considering calling the whole thing off. We had to leave for Arezzo at two.
‘Well, trains start running again at half twelve anyway.’
‘I cant believe we’re not even going to do the ONE THING.’
‘I bet even if we do go it’ll be closed when we get there.’
‘That would be pretty perfect, wouldnt it.’
It went on for some time. Raife would sigh, mutter ‘I’m starving, I’m just going to get something to eat around here’ and begin to stalk off to his room, when Gianluca would come over from reception, phone glued to his ear, arms waving and say ‘THE TAXI IS COMING.’ Then we’d go back to sitting. Gianluca is our invaluable Italian promoter and guide. He shows us where to eat, handles directions, and prevents us getting into proper language trouble.
I’d say ‘maybe we should just….call it off….’ And we’d all start counting minutes on our fingers, timing how long it might take to get into town, see The Thing and get back.
‘Well, it is just a statue. I mean….we don’t need LONG to just SEE it.’
‘There’s a mosaic floor too.’
‘Four minutes, then.’
The cabs did come and it seemed like there was going to be time. To run in, be staggered, run out, down a coffee and run for Arezzo. Gianluca, Finn and I got in one taxi, Dan and Raife in the other.
When we came to a sudden stop I didnt think anything much of it. The car in front of us had also come to a sudden stop. It’s only natural.Then Finn said ‘Hey, wow, did they crash into the car in front?’
‘Hang on…..thats Dan and Raife.’
They’d ploughed straight into the back of another car. Men in tight tshirts emerged from all vehicles, gesticulating.
‘This is getting FUNNY.’
‘What do we do?’
What we did was get out of the car.
‘You guys okay?’
‘Yeah fine. Dan’s hat fell off.’
‘I’ve cut my head on the seat.’
‘He was reading a magazine.’
‘It was brilliant, because we saw that he was reading a magazine and I was telling Raife about one time when I was in Rome and had a cab driver who was watching a dashboard mounted television. Then….crunch.’
‘What do we do?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think we need to stay here though.’
‘I doubt the driver wants us to stay here and tell the guys in the other car he was READING A MAGAZINE while driving.’
What we did was leave poor Gianluca to sort out the mess, and all jump in the one cab. Our driver was more of an eyes-on-the-road type.
‘You in a band?’
‘Why do you want to go to this church? There are lots of churches.’
‘We like Bernini.’
‘Ah, you like Bernini.’
We got there. It was just before one. We had until half past.
‘It looks…..”It’s NOT.’
That sign, for those unsure, basically says closed for lunch.
Which was what we did. We cut our losses, and we went for lunch.
12:43 pm • 20 February 2010
My laptop is a bit broken. Or, the battery is. And the charger. Sort of. The charger seems to like being gently massaged with a toothbrush, or a makeup wipe, and then it’ll plug in and light up. The battery has no patience with my voodoo nonsense. But I’m managing.
I know I’m really late and behind and have become a crap blogger, but I want to start again, and besides that Big Day Out was Quite Fun and I think there are stories from it that are genuinely worth telling. And some of them are about people who are proper famous, and that’s apparently a good thing to write about. Or that’s what someone in the marketing department at a record label told me once. They’re very big on Maximising Your Connections With People In Bands More Famous Than You, marketing people at record labels. At the time I had no idea how to do such a thing, but clearly somewhere along the road I’ve picked up something other than partial deafness and a fondness for Jaeger, otherwise I suppose this would never have happened:
I like that his email address contains the word ‘indian’. Suggestions about what the other word is on a postcard. Also, I was indeed tempted not to black anything out and invite prank calling. But that seemed a bit mean. I’m already going far enough telling about the incident at all I think.
Barry picked Dan, Raife, Dan’s girlfriend Amber and myself up for the Big Day Out. We pestered him with requests.
‘Baz…..where’s Dizzee staying?’
‘Can’t tell you.’
‘Yes you goddamn can.’
‘Not telling that either.’
‘I’m not going to go…bother Dizzee… or anything. I just want to know.’
‘And I’m just not going to tell you.’
‘BARRY! Will there be snacks!!!’
‘No SNACKS???”WHY DO WE GET NO SNACKS???’
‘Well…..technically, because you’re not doing the Australian Big Day Out leg, you’re classed as a local band, and local bands don’t get access to catering.’
‘Will there be BEVERAGES???’
‘You’ll have beer.’
‘Baz….”The Jaeger’s in the trunk.’
‘I’m gonna ask Dizzee if I can have some of his snacks.’
‘You won’t see Dizzee. He’ll be at the main backstage. You don’t get to go there.’
‘WHAT? WE DON’T GET TO GO BACKSTAGE??’
‘We do, just only behind our own stage.’
‘Can I get a pass for Amber?’
‘Er, no. Local bands aren’t allowed girlfriends backstage either.’
But as is always the way in New Zealand, the rules and the reality never quite mesh. Nobody said anything about Amber sitting quietly at a picnic table all day, though I don’t know how it would’ve turned out if she’d attempted to leave and come back, as the dudes manning the exits were hard core. I saw Raife having some sort of altercation with one from a distance, before he steamed up to me holding a beer and muttering furiously, something about not being allowed to take his beer out into the field.
‘Soph have you got your bag with you?’
‘Put the drinks in it, and follow me outside.’
I made it about five metres outside the fence before a really angry guy in a headset appeared behind me.
‘OPEN YOUR BAG….WHOSE IS THIS?’
Would it all have gone differently if I’d said I was holding it for a friend and my friend was Gin Wigmore? I don’t know.
‘I’m taking this.’
‘You can’t take it. It’s mine.’
‘You shouldn’t have brought it outside the gate.’
He actually kind of ran away with it, and I had to scamper after and grab it back. It was childlike. I returned the drinks behind the fence and went and bought cinnamon mini-donuts.
Newsflash. The Horrors look like The Horrors. Like, I like the Horrors, but I’m not so familiar with them that I was sure that I’d recognise them when they arrived. But yeah. I don’t know what I was expecting - pre show anoraks and argos nikes? But.
Dan: ‘Guess that’s the Horrors.’
Me: ‘We should start dressing better.’
On the other hand, maybe they weren’t so obviously the horrors. When they got there and krauted into the back of stage holding pen picnic arena, Eskimo Joe were playing. Eskimo Joe finished and the main dude sort of sauntered, shirtless, straight off the stage up to one of them and was all ‘So Hey! Hi! I’m blah-blah…what band are YOU in?’
Or maybe the dude from Eskimo Joe is a douche.
The Horrors are surprisingly nice. Not that I thought they’d be dicks. But you wouldn’t think they’d be winning friendliest band of the year prize. But they were super lovely, and chatty, and told us stories about playing in Mexico that made me really want to go to Mexico.
Our bonding moment was in full swing when our dear pal Elroy arrived. Elroy was carrying styrofoam food cartons.
‘So, how come you guys aren’t in your dressing room?’
‘Cos we don’t have one.’
‘Yeah you do.’
‘Behind the main stage. I know you do, I’m the one who iced your drinks. I even iced them EXTRA.”…?’
‘Yeah you’ve got loads of shit back there. Beers, pepsi…your name’s on the door and all that.’
A dressing room filled with beautifully iced beverages, our name on the door, in an area that we can’t get into.
‘Maybe you should see if you can get someone to bring it all over here.”I think we probably should.’
So some minion was dispatched on a golf cart to carry our icy drinks from our named dressing room in the AAA access area to our sunny picnic table behind the Converse Essential Stage.
The afternoon ambled on. I watched the Horrors play. I liked it the best of the things I saw. I like the bass player’s tippy toe dancing, and the unholy noise.
We played. That was fun.
‘How do you guys feel about that hat?’
”In this weather?’
‘I feel like a dick objecting to it, but yeah……in this weather??’
Fair enough, you’re Devendra Banhart. Some kooky is expected. But on a reasonably blistering Auckland day, to show up in a full russian winter hat made of some sort of grey fur (fake, possibly) seemed…..it just seemed a bit much.
Loitering on the stairs some time later was when it happened.
‘Hey! I like your boots.”Thanks. I……like your hat.’
Why did I say that. I didn’t like his hat at all. I thought his hat was ridiculous. But he was being friendly. And so was I.
‘Did you play already?”…yeah?’
At this point I thought he’d mistaken me for someone else. I was running many scenarios in my head, trying to answer the question ‘why is Devendra Banhart talking to me?’
‘so when are you next in LA?’
Okay, he clearly thinks I’m someone else.
‘I’m really not in LA very often.’
‘you must be, SOMETIMES.’
‘um, I guess….sometimes….’
‘you should call me!’
I still have no idea who he thinks I am, or if he even does think he knows me. Maybe he’s just…really friendly. Maybe he’s HIGH.
‘wait wait, oh do you have a pen and paper?’
He dashed off to a portacabin. I’m not great, socially. So I hadn’t even at this point twigged that it was irrelevant whether he knew me, or thought he did, or anything. Maybe that’s his schtick. Maybe that’s all you have to do to date Natalie Portman. Just pretend you already know her and go from there.
‘haha this is from our tour schedule, guess i don’t really need it! Give me a call!’
‘um thanks. well…..have a good show!’
At the Sydney big day out, someone who was there told me, there is a swimming pool back stage, and a free bar, and bumper cars. Afterwards, there is a huge afterparty with another free bar. I suppose this could be the case in auckland and we just never got to see it, but it seems unlikely. I think Elroy would’ve mentioned it.
What we did, in lieu of amusement park rides or cocktail options, was Chelsea and I spent the majority of the rest of the day inventing and then convincing other people to drink Jaegerinda. The creation was the result of a scientific series of taste tests involving pepsi, sprite and mirinda, and Jaegerinda was the surprise winner. Not everyone agreed. In fact, most people disagreed. But we knew we were right. We sat at our picnic table into the early evening, as bands played around us and we absorbed big day out news like sponges. The best item - a reported two hour standoff between Evil and Mountaineater over the ownership of a bose tuner. You’d think there would be some kind of distinguishing mark to give the rightful owner solid claim, but apparently not, and neither side were backing down. Whether it ended up coming to blows I don’t know, nor do I know where the tuner lives now.
It all finished at Ken’s Yakitori with deep fried camembert and Raife and I realising we were too knackered to carry on. We went back to our grey lynn chateau of paradise, spent about fifteen dollars in the candy machine, drank a black russian each, went on the internet and fell asleep. Perfect.
10:49 am • 28 January 2010
New Zealand IV: A Hundred Days Off
Raife was hunched over the computer.
‘THERE MUST BE SOMEWHERE WE CAN GO!’
‘In theory, there is.’
‘LET’S GO THERE.’
‘I said, in THEORY.’
‘Well, WHERE DO WE GO?’
‘Raife, you’re in Auckland, and it’s Tuesday. If there was something really exciting happening, someone would’ve told us.’
‘WE JUST GO FIND SOME EXCITEMENT.’
‘WE’RE IN AUCKLAND. AND IT’S TUESDAY.’
‘Well this website says that a bar called Globe is open.’
‘Oh does it.’
‘It says it’s good!’
‘Ericka once punched someone in Globe bar I think.’
‘It sounds great!’
‘You can go. You can absolutely go. I will not stop you from going to Globe bar. Afterwards you can go to Margarita’s, and after that you can come home and tell me all about it.’
* * *
‘We could just have some people over here. This hotel room is bigger than my house.’
And so began what was meant to be a few days off and instead I spent it getting through the Jaeger reserves. On the last night I had to put myself to bed.
©Emily Raftery 09
Emily Raftery is my antipodean Ericka Duffy. Photo theft a-go-go. I didn’t do laundry, I didn’t really leave the house, I just sat around sewing, or on the internet, eating Raife’s cereal and going fifty metres up the road for katsu curry and seaweed salad at Bian.
And all of a sudden it was time to go to Hamilton.
Hamilton was…..it was lovely, and it was odd. There was a cockroach in the hotel shower, which is unusual for New Zealand and people talked to us like we were Actually Famous. I dunno. I get really nervy when people get nervy with me, which makes me come off all vapid and weird, and then they get more nervy, and I get more vapid, and more weird….
But the show was great, and I’m certainly not complaining that people were happy to see us. I’m just really not very good at it.
What WAS weird was the story the first guy we met in Hamilton told me when I asked him what the hell happened to his face.
‘Oh….ha, I keep forgetting I’m, like, covered in stitches.’
He was, too. About six in a vertical line down the forehead directly between his eyes, along with miscellaneous other well gauzed and taped scrapes.
‘Yeah, I mean, I don’t wanna be prying, but jesus, what happened?’
‘Um, I don’t really know. I was out last night, we had these, like, playboy girls in the club….and so I went out with them and some people I kinda know, and I wasn’t really drinking much, but then I woke up and my face hurt and I realised I was lying in a pool of blood.’
‘Last night?? Those are FRESH?’
‘Yeah, just this morning.’
‘You’re dealing very well.’
‘Oh it’s fine. So yeah, I’m kinda waiting for someone to text me and tell me what the hell happened. I’m thinking maybe I got spiked I guess….and maybe passed out….the bar was made of marble….’
Them playboy girls. Watch your beverage.
2:52 am • 8 December 2009
New Zealand III: Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab
‘Scuse me, who’s fighting?’
‘I know. Who do I want to win though?’
‘Red shorts. You’re not a boxing fan, obviously.’
Not into sports, per se, I have a tendency to become absorbed in sports events from time to time. Sometimes I think it’s just about exposure. Once Liam made me watch the entire Ashes series with him, and by the end of it I Really Cared.
And I do know I like boxing occasionally. If it’s…..I don’t know what the polite word is. If it’s bloody. And it was. For a fuzzy headed state, as well, watching two smallish, muscled-to-verging-on-exoskeletal men whale on eachother was pretty perfect.
Gradually everyone else appeared and we spent what was meant to be soundcheck in occasional quiet nudges, winces, and gasps. It helped that Manny, our hero, looked not unlike Dre.
‘Oh I don’t feel very good.’
‘Yeah that was brutal.’
‘Oh no that was GREAT. It HELPED. I just….don’t feel very good.’
‘Least you’re not Finn.’
‘Remember how he has to play TWICE tonight?’
Finn is currently playing guitar in James Duncan’s band. I’d been out to see James’ band a week or so prior, in a bar that people who knew me warned me about. I’m not massively into crowds. Cramped spaces. I like to find a quiet corner. This bar is one giant quiet corner, with the result that there are no quiet corners at all. I lasted long enough to know that James’ band was REALLY GOOD then sorta….oh fine I left. I’m a baby crossed with a nana and I couldn’t deal and I left. But it was okay cos I got to see it again at Juice - Emerald City couldn’t make it so James was supporting.
We got kinda ridiculously lucky this tour, with supports. Emerald City rule, James rules (I am particularly enamored with his co-vocalist) and then in Australia Oh Mercy and White Birds -if you’re frustrated with waiting for Melbourne tales, White Birds have described it, I intend to tell my side of it soon, but theirs is entertainingly accurate.
Anyway. Finn did indeed have to play twice. Everyone always thinks he’s so fragile, if you want proof otherwise, I don’t know that I physically could’ve done it. And I don’t even have to sing Jesus.
We left pretty quickly after the show. We had a few days off, in a building apparently voted ‘ugliest in auckland’ but in fact it’s lovely inside, if you don’t mind a vague safari-style decorating scheme.
‘I’m not going to do ANYTHING tomorrow.’
‘We could have a nice dinner.’
‘We’ve still got loads of Jaeger.’
‘I know. Let’s not think about it.’
4:19 am • 4 December 2009
New Zealand II: I’m So Happy
f you live in Auckland, no, if you live anywhere NEAR Auckland and have never been to Leigh Sawmill then you’re an idiot. Despite post-Dunedin fragility, we spent the drive cooing over scenery (Raife: ‘I’ve never seen anything so……foresty….’) before pulling up and being shown where we were sleeping.
It’s hard to describe a certain kind of New Zealand house, if you haven’t seen it. Corrugated iron roof is part of it. Weatherboard. I guess a little like old religious residences, but those seem to mostly be made of stone. It’s always a little dim, and cool, and the cold tap makes a dry hissing sound when you first turn it on, before it explodes with water. And outside there is always a table, and usually a path made of something that hurts bare feet, like gravel, or shells. Which again goes with the slightly religious vibe. Peace and hot coals. And there was a cat. I was so happy with it that I almost wasn’t going to nap, but then this brown furry bundle appeared, jumped on the bed, started washing and I realised how long it had been since I’d catnapped with a real live cat.
Sheep noises woke me up. The cat and I sat at the picnic table, and I gauged contentedness against all other episodes of pre-gig content, like the time in Rome, again cat related, with the little white cat with paws all pink from the Roman dust, or the time in Tucson involving a thunderstorm and an all in one lycra batman suit. Leigh came out WIN.
Dan appeared in the doorway of the bedroom.
‘This is nice.’
He vanished again and came back with a camera. He began stalking the sheep. The cat and I watched with interest. The sheep were no fools. They weren’t about to be herded by a midlander in a flatcap.
There was dinner. Pizza with fillet steak on it. That’s right. Pizza. With Fillet Steak. On it.
Everyone came to Leigh to party. By about nine our sheepfarm was a mess of people. I’m dreadful at being sociable before shows. Properly dreadful. After having the same coversation about three times in a row and being unable to focus on it every time, I decided it was perhaps time to make myself scarce to avoid having everyone think I was out of my mind. Opening the bedroom door, I discovered Raife sitting on the bed.
“What are you doing?’
‘I had to escape. I was talking to someone and suddenly realised I wasn’t making any sense.’
‘Shall we just sit here for a bit?’
Ten minutes later the door opened.
Dan: ‘So, I can’t seem to hold down a conversation…’
We sat in near silence for about half an hour.
‘This is better.’
‘Why can’t I act like a regular person before shows? I don’t even feel nervous.’
‘I never can. Dunno why.’
‘Finn seems to manage.’
‘Yeah but he’s scatty as hell in normal life.’
There was a lot of……good feeling…..in the room when we went on. There was a lot of it throughout the show. It was amazing. I’ve never had shots with my mates while playing before. It was amazing. Post show started with being thrown, wrestling style, by Finn’s sister Lia directly (accidentally) into a guy on crutches, who was good about it. It carried on through what felt like an evening-long forum on matching underwear. Eventual verdict: men dig it. Few woman can be assed with the effort. And doing it on special occasions just makes you feel awkward. ‘Yes, here I am on the bed in my matching underwear….what am I doing? Oh nothing, just reading this magazine…..matching away….’There was a second throw attempt that went equally wrong, though Lia suffered that time around, and suddenly it was daylight and time to go to sleep.
I woke up with mega party guilt. The cat and I collected smouldering logs from various locations on the lawn and replaced them in the fire pit. Then we did the dishes. Or, I did the dishes and the cat had another wash. Excellent cat.
6:37 pm • 2 December 2009