'Hey, just so you know, you need to be 20 feet from a place of business in order to smoke. But normally it's okay if you're, like, walking along. So just keep in motion.'
Dan and Finn went to Heathrow in a different car to me. Raife was in LA already. I was first, and was looking forward to a nice freezing cold sit and smoke and pre-flight meditation on the ten days to come. Until Finn sent me a text reminding me about that thing where you have to apply online for a visa waiver in order to go to America, and I had to spend the next forty minutes finding a computer, going to Costa coffee and buying things I didn’t want in order to get change for the computer, typing furiously, texting everybody to find out the things I didn’t know, like our flight number and the address of Steve’s house in LA where we were staying, going back to Costa to buy more crap I didn’t want to get more change….
When I left New Zealand, they almost didn’t let me on the plane because my passport was too tatty. I got a massive lecture and all kinds of bad noise about ‘delamination’ and ‘water damage’ They essentially told me that even if they did let me on, America or England would take one look at me and send me back. This didn’t happen, and nobody has commented on it since. I am going to get a new passport, but there hasn’t been time so far, and it does add a little extra spice to check-in time.
'I hope the plane stays as empty as this.'
Finn and I were seated at opposite ends of an empty five seat row.
'He checked in super early so that he could get a better seat.'
'Isn't that him in that row full of children up ahead?'
I did have a nice sleep. United is a pretty shit airline, by the way. Making you pay for snacks on a twelve hour flight? And one of the airhostesses was wearing black nail polish. Not that I’m against black nail polish. I don’t know. It just seemed a bit out of the normal stewardess experience. And I like my flights to be routine. And the movies are VIDEOS! VIDEOS!
Steve Nice picked us up. He is our new american manager. He is extremely aptly named. You know that movie That Thing You Do? The manager in that? He’s like a nicer version of that. He took us straight to In-N-Out, and then to Pasadena where we’re staying with him and his wife and their son. It’s sort of like paradise. LA is always sort of like paradise. Right now I’m on a sofa in their back garden, looking at the mountains and a lemon tree that has more lemons on it than leaves. Basically, it is wicked, we love LA, and Steve Nice and his family are awesome.
Dan needed to buy a new bow for his guitar. He keeps chucking them into the crowd when he gets excited. Steve had sourced one in Pasadena. In a cutesy, village-style classical music shop.
'You want it for WHAT?'
A late middle aged woman did not look best pleased.
'For my guitar.'
'To do WHAT to your guitar?'
'Er….I bow it….with distortion.'
She looked like not only had this idea never occurred to her, the occurrence of it was genuinely painful. But she wanted to be polite about it.
'Well…..WELL. That is just…. something else.'
I wandered off to giggle at the ‘Bearly in Tune’ pajamas and ‘Treble Maker’ bumper stickers. Dan was finding a whole new world of information opening to him.
'You have to rough up the rosin first?'
'Of course you do!'
I think by the end he won her over a bit. Sometimes I forget what a wide, wide world ‘music’ truly is.
Dinner was mexican, natch. And afterwards…
'Are we actually going to do this?'
'I really want to do this.'
'I don't feel that laggy, right now.'
'It's probably the best thing we could do, given the circumstances. It'll keep us awake.'
'This' was a birthday party, at which Kate Crash was performing. It was amazing. I only have really blurry photos, but maybe really blurry photos are better for implying the vibe of the thing. Though it’s a shame you can’t see the costumes.
Punk Rock burlesque anime, the only way to spend a jet lagged thursday in LA. On the car ride home I fell asleep like a child. Crawled into Steve’s garage cum guest suite and fell asleep. It can only get madder from here on in.
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.
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.'
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.