Monday, January 23, 2006

I am just a modern guy, I've never had it in the ear before…
.. not til last Friday, anyway. I've got the day off work, ready for the Big Day Out, 'cept I've had a blocked ear all week and can't hear properly. So it's 8.15am, and I'm at the doctors getting my ear syringed. This procedure is slightly disturbing and rather unpleasant (warm water pushed into your ear via syringe), but will be worth it to be able to hear with two ears instead of one and a half.

This process goes on for half an hour, with no noticeable results. Then the nurse gives me a recipe to try at home, with bicarbonate of soda (the doctor gave me some drops earlier in the week, also ineffective). So, I go to the supermarket and buy some baking soda, give it a try (I'll give you the recipe if you like). And what do you know, I can hear again! That delightful home remedy cost a grand total of $1.67, which was a lot cheaper than that trip to the doctor. And then it's off to catch a bus to Ericcson Stadium.

First up, my friend and I (Hi, Ria!) check out the Greenhornes. All I know of their music is a few charming indie rock tunes on the Broken Flowers soundtrack, but they rock out in a sixties/Kink/Yardbirds kinda way, and we decide their bass player is the spitting image of Austin Powers, but nerdier.

We're strolling past the St Johns setup behind the grandstand, and they've got ear plugs there – overhear a young fellow walk past the St Johns then double back to grab some. But he sees they are charging a dollar a pop, and decides against it – "I don't care about my hearing THAT much".

Catch Pluto getting all arty on the main stage – they are a fine band but their songs don't seem to carry in that kind of space, unlike say, Shihad. Not stadium rock material, methinks. Could be proven wrong at a later date tho.

We venture into the Boiler Room, that hideous car park with a tent over it. US boho-hiphop MC Edan is getting into it, but he's battling technical problems, getting his gear to work, so he tells the crowd "We're gonna freeform, and I'm totally comfortable with that and I hope you are too".

He and fellow MC Daga went at it, swapping lyrics line for line acapella style, then Edan started up on the turntables, cutting between two copies of the same record with one hand, while holding the mic with the other hand and rapping over the top, which was a very impressive feat, and if the lighting had been better you could have seen it too. When Edan dropped a beat then wandered over to the other side of the stage, he disappeared into the shadows. This problem plagued his entire set, til the last few tunes when the lighting guy stopped texting on his cellphone and looked at the stage (or maybe he was asleep) and turned on a few lights that weren't wild-dance-party-trippy lights.

Never mind, Edan was battling to overcome these obstacles, and he did so brilliantly – his verbal skills are hugely impressive. Mid set he strapped on an acoustic guitar and wandered out front to sit on a chair and play for a bit - acompanying himself on kazoo. Then he went back to the turntables and dropped Femme Fatale by The Velvet Underground, and when it hit the chorus he bought in a hiphop beat under the Germanic tones of Nico, very entertaining.

He dropped a few more rhymes then picked up the guitar and played another tune, and said "We're gonna leave you with something mellow, we hope you enjoyed this, cos we don't give a f*ck, but we have a lotta love you too, at the same time…" and then he strummed away for a
few notes, then hit a distortion pedal, and blasted out the intro for his final tune, before the beat came in and he and his MC rapped to the close, when Edan pulls out a Theremin and uses it for a bit of crowd participation to finish. Brilliant, oddball-off-the-planet but brilliant. Next up, DJ Sirvere and his MCs jump in, with the cry "Auckland city, are you ready for some real hiphop?" And we've gone from oddball to predictable in 20 seconds.

Wandered off to see some of Sleater Kinney, who were throwing out shards of guitar heavy angst, which seemed at odds with the sunny day - I suspect they work a lot better indoors at night. Very energetic set tho.

Back to the Boiler Room to check out DJ James Murphy, and he was playing some gay-disco-house nonsense – I thought he might be playing something more interesting than that, from what I'd read about him. The Herald suggested that he should get the award for Best Sample with his snippet of the Bee Gees "You should be dancing", but that's still lame-ass disco. Sucked then, sucks now.

Spied a famous person – look, there goes Aja Rock, looking cool – she's wearing cowboy boots at the BDO. She walks past, heading for the wristband tent. Then a photographer walks by with his official fluro vest on, sees her across the crowd, and from 10 metres away points his camera at her and shoots, then walks off. She has no idea she's has been snapped. Mean.

We head off to catch the Go! Team. What a demented bunch of Brighton nutters. They are totally endearing, lots of jumping up and down on stage, then when the songs finish, there's a mad flurry of activity, as the guitarist runs (not walks) to the second drum kit, the other
guitarist grabs a melodica, then a recorder, then the singer grabs a recorder too – dueling recorders, now there's something you don't rock out to every day.

Then the drummer comes out from behind her kit and makes her way to the front of stage, and after a minute finally manages to catch her breath and say in a lovely Japanese accent – " I have a confession to make – I keep dropping my drumsticks. I am very sorry, but hope you are enjoying our music anyway. We are very happy to be here on this beautiful day in your beautiful country" and everyone cheers. Then she sings a charming little number accompanied by two of the members playing the same keyboard. The rest of the band bound back on stage, and their singer, a pint sized dynamo by the name of Ninja brings proceedings to a close. It's not hard to see why these cats were the buzz band at last years SXSW Festival.

They're followed by the Brunettes – This is one of their legendary extended lineups, which on this occasion seems to draw in every single other band on the Brunettes label, Lil Chief Records. Twenty people on stage, playing all sorts of instruments, from vibrophone to sitar – it looks fantastic. Sounds pretty damn good too. TV reporter guy Garth Bray was standing nearby and he rightly observed that the Brunettes had managed to get more people onstage than Fat Freddys and Fly My Pretties combined, an impressive achievement. The Brunettes live are usually quite delicate, but this scenario, what you lost in the detail you made up for with pure spectacle.

Off for a bit to eat, we munch out to the sounds of Shihad doing Home Again. Jon Toogood gets the crowd going, singing the chorus for him… "I'll be home again…" which makes me think that Shihad are destined to become the Exponents if they carry on with the singalongs - that's their future right there. Odd.

Managed to see the last few songs by Mikey Dread (think Bankrobber by the Clash – he produced it) and Channel One Sound Sytem in Lilyworld (formerly the Lily Pond). This area of the BDO has previously been home to trivial nonsense, but a reggae sound system from England, that's well tasty.

Then it’s off to catch a bit of Franz Ferdinand getting all angular and poppy with it, and assess the best place to see Iggy and the Stooges. We find a spot and wait. Will they be any good? What if they suck? The anticipation …

Then the moment arrives, the band run on and plug in, Scott Asheton takes the drum seat, Ron Asheton stands in front of a handful of Marshall stacks, and ring-in Mike Watt (filling the shoes of the late Dave Alexander, who passed in the mid 1970s) hovers near his amp. Then Iggy bounds on as the band launch into Loose. It's blisteringly good for the first note. Then Iggy greets the audience in his own unique way - "We are the f**ken Stooges, and we know where we are, and we're very happy to be here". No "Hello Auckland!"BS, just straight talking from Mister Pop. I like that.

Next, Down On The Street, followed by I Wanna Be Your Dog, during which Iggy jumps off stage and climbs into the crowd and goes crowd surfing, all the while singing. He makes his way back to the stage, finishes the song and thanks the crowd for their applause – "Ah, f**ken bless you". Then we get blasted with TV Eye. Iggy introduces the next song. "When you're up, you're a genius. But when you're down, you're dirt." And into the cool slithering riff that is Dirt.

Watching the band play on the video screen at side of stage, you get to see the level of concentration these guys put into it. Ron Asheton works his guitar, throwing out riffs he knows like the back of his hand, Scott Asheton pounds the drums, and Mike Watt is constantly watching Iggy – he never takes his eye of his singer, focusing all his energy him, rather than the crowd, watching for every cue. And Iggy is all over the place, throwing his arms around, prowling the stage, dancing and leaping about. Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos noted on their site that "Iggy looked astounding, like a four thousand year old teenager." (his comments on the Auckland skyline... "I'm sitting 29 stories up, overlooking Auckland harbour. It's a great view and there's one of those needle communication tower things off to the left a bit. I love those. They're such an ostentatious flash of '60s technology...")

The band launch into Real Cool Time, then No Fun, with Iggy inviting the crowd onstage to join him, cos like the song says "No fun to be alone…". The song ends, the stage clears, and Iggy points at the folk exiting the stage, applauding their efforts… "Kiwi dancers, the f**ken Kiwi dancers, yeah…"

Next, 1970, then Fun House (they're joined onstage by Steve Mackay the original sax player from those sessions for a major avant-rock freakout ending), Skull Ring and they reprise I Wanna Be Your Dog to close, cue Iggy jumping off stage and going into the crowd a second time, Dude is most definitely interactive. Iggy Pop is may be 58 years old, but he is a total bad-ass on stage (witness him jumping on top of Mike Watts amp and giving the crowd the finger), and he wouldn't have it any other way. And you gotta respect that.

Next up, the White Stripes, who seem to take a while to fire. Current single My Doorbell sounded sweet. But can't stay - heading off to catch Common, and stop on the way for Che Fu at the Local Produce stage.

Che and his band are in fine form, and Che proves what a splendid showman he is, working the crowd. One song ends with him and fellow MC Hazarus doing silly phone voices, going "Hello, who is this?" "Are you there?" The Che tells us "If you think that's weird, wait for this", and the band launch into a mercifully brief chunk of elevator music, with Che intoning something that sounds like supermarket specials – "and in aisle three, check out detergent, on special this week..." or something freaky like that. But then it’s back to the familiar, Light Work off his latest album, and then Che starts in with his DJ vs the band battle.

It goes like this: his DJ plays a tune, then Che counts the band in, and they play a tune, and back and forth it goes. His DJ plays b-boy classic Apache, his band play Rockit. His DJ plays Snoop Dogg, his band play Gold Digger. The DJ plays Usher, then the band serve up their ace – Che Fu crooning Home Again by Shihad with the band rocking out. It was noted that Che sounded better than Shihad's rendition earlier in the day. One major problem tho, every time Che came to the front of the stage, he was in darkness. Hazadus, standing a few feet behind him, was under the lights, but not Che. The same thing happened on the main stage with Iggy and The Stooges – every time Iggy came and sang at the front of stage, he was in the shadows. You couldn't see him. It's astonishing that the lighting wasn't set up to allow for this, especially for one of the headline acts like Iggy and the Stooges. I don't know who was responsible for the lighting of the various stages, whether it's one company or a bunch of different ones, but there is one clear thought that springs to mind – you suck. My anecdotal research suggests that I'm not the only person who thought the lighting overall was poor. Please fix.

Finally make it over to catch Common, he's in full swing, his DJ playing some old school electro, while Common does a little breaking, eventually getting down and doing a few backspins. Very cool. Then he's back to rapping, backed by a percussionist and keyboard player too. He's very entertaining, telling the crowd to "sing along if you know the words, and if you don't, act like you do…" He invites a young lady onstage and sings to her – her name is Shaneece and she's from Auckland – "Where'd you say you're from – Brooklyn?" teases Common, and she corrects him. They slow dance, and then he thanks her politely and she departs, and he finishes with The Light. Classy.

As we try to leave, a huge crowd tries to pour into the narrow walkway to the Green stage to see Fat Freddy's Drop. The crowd starts pushing towards us and it gets a bit scary. There's several thousand people surging towards a walkway that's probably only 5 meters wide and already jammed full. I don't want to get crushed - all it will take is someone to trip and then its chaos. Starting to feel very nervous…Eventually escape the crush…

On reflection, I'm surprised and concerned that there were no security on hand to deal with this horrible bottle neck – I fail to see how the organisers couldn't have predicted this problem. 60,000 albums sold, sellout shows in Auckland... not hard to predict, really. I think that a local band that is that popular should probably be on a bigger stage with better crowd access.

We catch the bus home, lamenting missing the Kings of Leon (and wondering what happened to Jean Grae), then the driver gets slightly lost trying to find the right street to turn into to get to the stop outside the Civic and then we're home. Time for a nice cup of tea. Ahhh...

ADDED: Russell Brown blogged the BDO, plus put together a tasty assortment of related posts by other folk. Well worth a read.

1 comment:

Smacked Face said...

Christ laddie, you packed it all in! I confess I retreated, defeated by sun and stupid fencing, to the pussies' parlour... ;)