Big Day Out 2002

There I was, 10.17 am on the morning of the Big Day Out, puking in the gutter on K’ Road (or something like that). I diagnosed that I was indeed ill, probably brought on by eating at that horrible cafe at the bus depot.

Of course this meant that I couldn’t go to the Big Day Out. No, I would have to curl up on a couch and feel miserable, especially since at that moment I was missing Blindspott and/or Augustino. I was getting ready to do this when I realised that I was feeling better and could probably handle nine hours of music festival madness.

So I showed up at Ericsson Stadium, was randomly abused by this lame-arse dude handing out flyers for some corporate rave, but once I got inside I caught the last few songs of Sommerset’s set. A few seconds into their punk-arse sonic assault, I realised that I had made the right decision in coming.

After Sommerset, I met up with the fellows who had peer-pressured me into buying a ticket in the first place, Mr Satan and Mr Titboy.

First stop was the booze area. DB Export Gold was the only beverage available, which I think is actually a good thing. It means all the 18 year olds who can legally drink won’t drink because they don’t like beer. But of course that didn’t stop the girls sitting near us from sneaking in a bottle of peach schnapps.

Teenage girl bum crack cleavage a go-go. (Sorry, I just wanted to write that.)

We drank through Tadpole and The Feelers. Tadpole were really nice. They made the grey, overcast sky feel a little bit sunny. The Feelers, however, have an almost terminal uncoolness about them. There’s a bit of good pop in there, but I could see that the crowd was getting a bit bored when the set when on too long. We sat around for a bit of System Of A Down, then trekked over to the green stage for the White Stripes.

Having listened to the White Stripes quite a bit lately, I realised that they kind of remind me of the late Darcy Clay. There are similarities between Jack White and Darcy Clay’s singing style and guitar playing, but it’s more like that if Darcy Clay was still around today maybe he’d be sounding a bit like the White Stripes. I wasn’t going to pay much more mind to my Darcy Stripes theory, but then the White Stripes launched into a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, a song that Mr Clay also covered. It was at this point I had to run away and throw up. This really annoyed me because I was really enjoying the White Stripes.

I emerged from the portaloo to some really heavy rain. I got soaked, but I didn’t care because I’d just thrown up so I was feeling pretty good. I met up with the boys and we discovered that Shihad had just finished playing and System Of A Down were starting again after previously being stopped because the crowd had gone wild.

It was still raining, but the mosh pit and the stands were packed with thousands of people who wanted to see System Of A Down. About halfway through the set the opening chords of “Chop Suey” were played and the crowd went mental with excitement. I’ve heard the lyrics many times before, but it was the first time that, “wake up! Grab a brush and put a little make up,” really made any sense. The crowd surged with energy.

(Y’know, there were these System Of A Down t-shirts for girls. They were white baby doll tees with “System Of A Down” in pink and silver. How cute.)

By then the schedule for the main stages was out of sync with the timetable. Silverchair were next on stage. We watched them for a bit then left and saw Jurassic 5. A week ago I vaguely remember seeing a Jurassic 5 video and declaring, “this isn’t rap. It’s pop.” But standing there on wet, muddy grass, I realised that no matter what genre it was, I was diggin’ it.

Next we headed over to the Lilypad to see Peaches. The rain had slowed the schedule down, so we had to wait until Bambi Slut’s Allstars had finished. We were just sitting around, waiting, when some police came over. One of them invoked section 18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1975) and insisted that Mr Titboy empty out his pockets and prove that he didn’t have anything on him. Mr Satan was also asked if he’d been smoking pot. They didn’t talk to me about anything, which was disappointing. I listen to gangsta rap, I try to cultivate this hardcore image, but it would appear that it’s just not working. The police found, surprise, surprise, nothing illegal on Mr Titboy, so we were free to continue loitering until it was time for Peaches.

The first time I heard of Peaches was when I was in New Caledonia. I was watching an interview with her on a German arts TV show. It was dubbed into German with French subtitles. Through all that I thought she seemed pretty interesting.

So on stage she comes with her big hair, aviator glasses, black pants and a pink jacket. By the end of the show she was wearing red stockings, red hotpants and a black bra. What happened in between was very entertaining.

There was a CD providing the backing music. Peaches would rap and/or sing the vocals. She was also joined by Mignon and the Cobrakillers, who also took turns at performing their own songs. There was bondage stuff, wobbly strap-ons, latex nurses uniforms, and I think she was the only performer I’ve seen who not only told the audience her bra size, but performed a song about it.

There were times when she finished a song and would need to leave the stage so the other girls could come on and do another song, and she’d just drop the mic on the ground and split. Thunk. That’s more punk than smashing a guitar.

Peaches: “Licky, licky sucky, no one here can tell me they don’t want a fucky fucky.” Audience: “Yeah!”

Obviously after that wondrous performance nothing else was going to be as good. I noticed that walking in mud all over the place had turned my blue Vans into brown Vans. But I like swamps and I’m happy to hang out in one for a while. We returned to the stadium seats and were just in time for the Prodigy.

I’d forgotten how much fun and how rockin’ they could be. “Change my pitch up,” Keith Flint chanted. “Smack my bitch up,” the audience responded. That song and “Firestarter” were the ones that really got the huge crows moving. Steam from the pit was rising high, and there was love out there, man.

There were quite a few radio stations along for the ride. BFM is cool because they play music like Peaches and the White Stripes and it felt more like they were there for the music, not just to promote the station. It was really fun mocking the other radio stations there, especially the one that was playing Nsync as I walked past it. The ‘Sync has its place but the Big Day Out is not it.

We wandered around for a bit and Mr Satan revealed that he’d found some guy’s wallet. I was looking through it and as well as finding a selection of cards, some receipts and a little bit of cash, there, tucked away in a little pocket was something that looked not unlike an eighth of a tab of acid. We guessed the wallet’s owner probably wouldn’t be reporting it missing to the police.

It was getting late – a Big Day Out day gets late earlier. We considered squeezing into the big, hot, dripping tent to see Basement Jaxx, but we decided to call it a night and got a bus back to the city, then caught a taxi back to Mr Titboy’s place. The taxi fare was paid for out of the lost wallet.

Despite all the incidental annoyances it turned out to be a pretty good day. Hooray for live music.

Proper Top Ten

Recently the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) announced the top ten New Zealand songs of the past 75 years, as voted by its members and a group of 100 others. Not everyone agreed with the winners, and various publications have come up with their own “we was robbed” lists of people who they reckon should have been on the list.

I too have been thinking about worthy recipients who seem to have been inexplicably been left of the list. So here is my list of what I reckon truly are the top ten New Zealand songs of all time:

10. Zed – Daisy
People are always going on about Zed being a pretty boy band, but I’d never really given that much thought until I saw the “Renegade Fighter” video. And oh, yes, Zed’s bass player. He’s niiiice. But anyway, I think that “Daisy” is worthy of being on this because Zed cleverly rhyme “cow, yeah” with “go figure.” Also, their bass player is a spunk.

9. Supergroove – Can’t Get Enough
I was trying to decide between this one and “You got to know”. Even though the latter has plenty of dodgy lyrics, in the end I picked “Can’t get enough” because it’s funny when you change the chorus to “can’t get it up, can’t get it up, no!” Also of significance, they pronounce ‘can’t’ the New Zealand way, where as many lesser bands would put on a bad American accent.

8. Tex Pistol and Rikki Morris – Nobody Else
Remember the video for this one? It was more ironic than the Alanis’ “Ironic” video. The song was called “Nobody Else,” but the video featured the dude singing it, his brother, his wife, a choir of children, then a behind-the-scenes sequence showing the entire production crew. Well yeah, I don’t think there was anybody else left. So for a textbook example of irony, this song gets included.

7. Double J and Twice the T – Mod Rap
This song is actually officially known as “She’s a Mod/Mod Rap,” but we can’t count the “She’s a mod” part of it because that was not written by a New Zealander. Instead I’ve chosen to honour the rap from this song by these two lads. They skilfully transformed the song from a pop song about a mod chick, to an ode to their mother, a former mod chick who was bringing her modness to the dinner table. There was also a beat-boxing solo.

6. Fan Club – Sensation
Remember when laser light displays in nightclubs were really new? I don’t, but I like to think of “Sensation” as being the soundtrack to mid-late eighties night clubbing. The killer synth intro, the catchy chorus, and, of course, “bright lights, good times!” The Fan Club paved the way for other bands of guys with dodgy hair, fronted by a good looking chick. Without Fan Club there would be no Stella, no Fur Patrol, and certainly no Tadpole.

5. Delta – Slather
Exploding onto the Auckland rock scene with their bombastic single “Slather,” Delta sadly didn’t survive long enough to release an album. But “Slather” made its mark on the New Zealand music scene like a red hot branding iron on skin. Delta may have broken up, but the rockin’ scar tissue of their power remains.

4. Blackjack – I Don’t Have A Gun
Feeling shocked and betrayed by the death of grunge rock icon Kurt Cobain, Hamilton’s hardest working rock unit penned this tender ballad. Cleverly rhyming “pain” with “Cobain,” the song deals with the devastation that Cobain’s death caused to the world of hard working rock units. After all, Kurt said he didn’t have a gun, but he shot himself.

3. Push Push – Trippin’
So imagine a school dance, circa 1991. There’s a crappy covers band playing crappy covers. The band takes a break and a mix tape with the current hits of the day comes on. Just as “Trippin'” starts, the band is ready to come pack on, so the tape is stopped. The crowd boos, and yells “put the tape back on!” The tape is put back on. The crowd rocks out. That is why “Trippin'” is worthy of inclusion on this list.

2. MSU – Bob
“Hi, my name is Bob. I have got no job. People call me a knob, and they smack me in the gob.” Allegedly called “Bob” because nothing rhymes with Rohan Marx, “Bob,” by Hamilton good time fun band Mobile Stud Unit has a special place in the hearts of many student radio listeners since the song first came to the public’s attention in 1993. For the sheer joy and drunken revelry that “Bob” evokes in the face of adversity, “Bob” had surely earned its place on this list.

1. MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave – Joined at the Hip Hop
The question wasn’t “should OJ/Slave be in the top ten,” or “should one of their songs be number one” but rather, “which song of theirs?” I think “Joined at the hip hop” is the obvious choice. It laid down the beats and laid down the law. It established the rappin’ duo in the New Zealand music scene and paved the way for all white boy rappers who came after them.

Government Funded Music Videos

One of the choice things about New Zealand is the fact that for the last ten years the government has been giving money to bands to make music videos.

Pre-1991, if a band wanted to make a music video it was up to them or their record company to fund it. As things were back then, most of the struggling bands were signed to small record labels without huge promotion budgets.

This resulted in the low budget music video standards: the live performance, the group of friends mucking around in someone’s backyard, and my personal favourite – jigging about in front of a blue screen. All shot on really cheap looking video.

The impressionable youth of the time looked at such music videos and thought to themselves, “man, New Zealand bands suck,” and went off to buy a Vanilla Ice tape, when they could have been buying Upper Hutt Posse. So someone, some good person, decided that one way to make New Zealand music more appealing would be to give struggling bands some cash to make better videos.

So every year NZ On Air gets truckloads of cash from the government. According to their website, in the 2001/2002 financial year, they had $79,000,000 to give to starving artists involved in the world of the broadcasting arts. Of that, $450,000 goes towards music video production. It’s split up into 90 grants of $5000 for bands that have choice tracks to offer the world of music.

Apart from the obvious criteria of having to be New Zealand music, the only other requirement is “airplay potential”. What this means is that it’s not just good songs from good bands that get funding. Popular, lowest-common-denominator type bands – ones who are little more than New Zealand version of American bands – get funding too.

The “airplay potential” criteria also means that the videos produced aren’t necessarily groundbreaking creative masterpieces. Girls in short skirts? Guys running around in funny costumes? It’s all there.

And just because a band gets five grand to make a video doesn’t mean they’re going to make a good video. Sure some bands have are fortunate enough to have a record company who will throw in some extra cash and get something good made, but I don’t think lack of cash is too much of an excuse. Back when I was at tech pretending to be a film student, there were people making no-budget music videos for their mates that looked really good.

But despite the occasional crap video for a crap song from a crap band that gets NZ on Air funding, for the most part the videos are OK. It’s caused the death of jigging about in front of a blue screen, and created good videos that aren’t embarrassing to watch.

The New Zealand government gives bands money to make music videos – that’s so cool.

Dirty Pop Saved My Soul

Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Nsync

When I was 16 years old, the age when most girls listen to music that they later regret, I had reasonably good taste. I was hip, I was cool, I was alternative. I listened to gangsta rap from groups like NWA, I’d wag school and go and hang out in the park with my friend listening to Sonic Youth on her Walkman. None of that teenage pop music for me, thank you very much.

Then ten years later I was in Sydney walking around Darling Harbour, doing a little bit of sight-seeing. I walked past the Imax theatre and something caught my eye. A large poster proclaimed “NSYNC: Bigger Than Live!”. Yes, that’s right. It was an Imax movie of an Nsync concert. This excited me, so the next day I went back and saw it and something changed in me.

I’d never really paid much attention to Nsync before. I’d had a passing interest in fellow boyband the Backstreet Boys, but the only thing about Nsync I knew was a few lines of choruses and that The Face magazine said they weren’t very charismatic.

But seeing that concert movie, seeing them singin’ and dancin’, I found myself liking them. Really, really liking them. This scared me. I tried to fight it, tried to deny it, but it was still there: Nsync excited me.

Back in Melbourne I was idly looking around in a record store. I found myself browsing in the “N” section. Somehow – and I don’t have any conscious recollection of doing this – I ended up buying “No Strings Attached”. That was going to be it, but a few hours later, in another record store, I found myself buying Nsync’s latest CD, “Celebrity”.

I listened to them both a lot. “No Strings Attached” has a few tracks which always get skipped, both ballads, one by Richard Marx, the other by Diane Warren. But other tracks delighted and even shocked me. One of my favourites is “Digital Get Down”. It’s a lame title, but the song is essentially about cybersex. The idea is that there’s this dude who lives away from his girlfriend and he watches her masturbating on her web cam. They also have phone sex. Try listening to that song in bed, in the dark, at night. It’s interesting.

I totally love “Celebrity”. There’s only one track I don’t like all that much, it’s a ballad with guest harmonica from Stevie Wonder (confirming that he’s never done anything good since the ’80s). But every other track is pure pop heaven. Even the big wedding ballad is ok. It’s dirty pop, a recently coined term to describe what I guess is pop music but with an edge (doesn’t that sound lame?).

On “Celebrity” Nsync have written or co-written over half the songs on the album and they don’t suck. One I really like is “Game Over,” which samples sounds from Pacman (how cool is that?). There’s also “Up Against The Wall” which is about seeing a fine young lady at a night club and humping her. There’s also “See Right Through You,” which includes the lyrics “These games they gotta stop/About to get pissed off”. Humping, moderately bad language, it’s all there.

Hey, I know all their names! There’s Justin (Britney’s boyfriend), JC (the really hot one), Lance (the serious one), Joey (the goofy one) and Chris (the funny one). Chris is my favourite. I think it’s important to have a favourite.

So it’s come to this. I’m 26 years old and I like Nsync. I sort of came out as an Nsync fan at Fray Day in Melbourne. I’m taking a further step here by again admitting my love for Nsync. I can not keep it a secret any longer.

It might be really uncool to admit this, but, hi, my name is Robyn and I am an Nsync fan.

MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave: “What Can We Say?”

This year, 2001, marks the 10th anniversary of the ground-breaking New Zealand hip hip album “What Can We Say?” by MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave.

Back in 1991 I had mixed feelings about the OJ/Slave experience. I thought the song “Positivity” and its video was pretty choice, but by the time I saw them open for De La Soul I thought they sucked and joined in with the audience in booing them.

But things change with time. Just look at the photo of them on the back of the CD liner. There’s OJ with a monobrow and kinda chubby-looking face. His right arm is stretched out. That arms is now covered in tattoos, and he’s made his name as a tattoo artist and mate of Robbie Williams. Slave, in the photo, looks young and fresh-faced. In some of the music videos he looks like he’s 12 years old. Ten years later he looks and sounds much older, like an old man from the swamp.

All sorts of rumours are flying around regarding the time around “What Can We Say?”. Is it true that they smoked so much of the substance espoused in track nine that they claim to have no recollection of the giant trousers in the “Joined at the Hip Hop” video? And does OJ really not remember the “Yo, Easy Shop!” ads? Ah, who cares? It’s all part of the OJ/Slave experience.

What was the charm of the duo? OJ didn’t sound like a rapper. He sounded like some guy you went to school with who wanted to be a rapper and/or a panelbeater. But then, maybe if it wasn’t for him the skinny white guy in Supergroove may never have picked up a microphone. Slave was the good-looking and good-sounding one. He’s got this cool drawl that sounds like it should come from someone older and more ethnic than him. Put the two fellows together and… I’m not sure what you get, but I don’t think it’s ever happened before.

So to celebrate ten years of “What Can We Say?,” here’s a track-by-track analysis of the album.

Joined at the Hip-Hop

The first track kicks off the album by introducing us to the family of MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave. There’s MC OJ, of course, and the Rhythm Slave. They give us a number of metaphors in which the close nature of their relationship is expressed. Just in case the title proves to be a little “uncomprehensible” OJ raps, “unlike Siamese twins who are joined at the hip, we’re joined at the hip-hop.” We are later introduced to the other two brothers in the “completely unrelated” family of four. They are the “people of straw”, that is Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly, otherwise known as the Strawpeople. Guest vocals from Bobbylon round out the track. A different version of this song was released as the single. It had funkier, bassier music and without Bobbylon’s vocals.

Positivity

Based on KC & The Sunshine Band’s disco classic “That’s the way I like it,” “Positivity” offers advice for dealing with the little things in life that can stress us out. The advice offered is to keep a positive attitude and express yourself. They urge us to remember that “that’s the way of the world, man”. The positive vibes flow throughout the song, and at one stage we are reminded that “there’s more to life than dollars and cents” – stark contrast to the later track “Money Worries.” Finally, the most important advice is given: “don’t listen to what they say, listen to the Rhythm Slave and MC OJ.”

Body Rhymes (Protect Yourself)

Taking their duty as role models of young people seriously, OJ and the Slave take some time out for a musical public service announcement. Following in the footsteps of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Pubic Enemy,” the boys advise their listeners to play it safe and use a condom when having sex or having “a slice of yes”. The benefits of doing this, as OJ explains, means that “if you wear a hat you can play and spray and play all day.” The track also joins the large number of New Zealand songs that can boast guest vocals from Teremoana Rapley. Her sweet tones gently urge the listener to “make it safe to play.”

Sway Like This

Mixing reggae and hip-hop, and again featuring guest vocals from Bobbylon, “Sway Like This” is a very laid back, six-minute excursion into the rhythm of the streets, the rhythm of the dance floor. Slave’s deep dark vocals intertwine with the baseline, while Bobbylon’s singing wanders over the top. While Slave sounds real good on this track, OJ doesn’t really have the necessary darkness to his voice, leaving him coming across as some guy who’s trying to sound all dark and sexy, but sounds more like he’s got a sore throat.

Rhythm Business

In the chorus of this track, OJ and Slave try and sing like a soulful ’70s funkster, but as they can’t sing, let alone soulfully, those vocal stylings ought to be filed away in the same place as Supergroove’s second album. “Rhythm Business” is mostly a song about itself. Musically it sounds like the sort of track that’d get played in background of a cooking and lifestyle TV show. It has a few crazy samples (“Wanna live in my house? I’d like ya to.”), but the lyrics aren’t really about much else than the grooviness of the music and the need for world peace.

Money Worries

This is an utter classic. Positivity can only go so far to dealing with the woes of the world, when you ain’t got no money it can really suck, and “Money Worries” describes the frustration of being broke. The pain of having no cash is underscored by the searing guest vocals of Mikey Havoc who wails “Moneeeey! Moneeeey!” to which OJ and Slave rap, “I ain’t got none, I wanna get some.” But it’s not all bad. One thing that’s free is being able “to rap about money worries”. Ten years down the track we can only hope that money is no longer a worry for the boys.

10.55

A moody, slice-of-life portrait of life one night in Auckland or “the AK town”. Activities include observing the petrolheads (“that’s a nice Cortina”), getting money out of a cash machine (“a modern curse or a dream?”), checkin’ out the fly Gs, getting some junk food, watching a fight and the joy of finding a $50 note. Their social conscience is exercised with an observation of a glue-sniffer (“everybody’s got a vice and it’s cheaper than booze”). The second half of the song is jazzy, moody instrumental piece, accompanied by street sounds. Auckland, 1991, represent.

Doc Martens

A performance from bFM where OJ raps about his favourite footwear, Dr Martens boots. Run DMC had “My Adidas,” OJ has his Docs. Slave doesn’t appear to share the same enthusiasm about Docs, so he instead raps about how much of a bad arse he is, and “baby we was meant to be.” OJ then raps about how all the ladies love him and his boots. It should also be noted that this song was sort of covered by the Hallelujah Picassos as “MC OJ and His Boots”.

Marijuana

This may be the raddest song in the entire world. Predating Dr Dre’s cannabis concept album “The Chronic,” OJ and Slave’s “Marijuana” revels in the pleasures of toking on a fat-arse joint. Several, in fact. All aspects of smoking dope are examined, including getting the munchies and the dries and the appearance of a policeman. But it’s not just about smoking marijuana, the chorus (“Drugs, drugs drugs, drugs, drugs! Marijuana! Marijuana!”) shows that by calling it “drugs”, they are more into doing what their parents and teachers warned them against: MC and OJ and Rhythm Slave said yes to drugs.

The One About Girls

This is the song where OJ and Slave talk about how incredibly sexually frustrated they are. Establishing in the beginning that they “want a sexy butt to chew,” the boys start off on a mission to score some tasty booty. Trying to impress girls by asking if they’d seen them on the cover of More magazine (!), or commenting “my, you have a beautiful bust,” doesn’t seem to work. Rejection comes hard and fast, even with the killer line, “baby I think you’re pretty damn spunky.” Finally they manage to score with some hottie at a club, but – oh no – it turns it out it was a dream. Then they (he?) meet a real life 22-year-old babe, but her hotness turns them into a nervous mess, and it turns out she’s got a thing for Bobby Brown. Let’s hope that OJ and Slave are doing better with the ladies now.

“What can we say?” is an excellent album, and one of the finest examples of Aotearoa hip hop. Scour your local second hand record shop for this ‘cos it’s a gem.

Update – August 2015

It’s now 25 years since MC OJ and Rhythm Slave’s first single “Positivity” charted. When I first wrote this track-by-track, there were no OJ/Slave music videos online, but slowly videos have begun to appear. It’s now got to the point where there are seven clips – either proper music videos or live performances – of the album tracks. Not only that, but there are also videos of Joint Force, their later project with DLT. While OJ and Slave have gone on to thriving careers in the music and taco truck biz, it’s still nice to be able to look back at their moment as fresh faced young rappers.

Johnny Marr

There have been two occasions when I have been really excited at the news of an upcoming tour by a musical group or artist.

The first was in 1991. I was in a hotel in Christchurch, watching the late news, probably “Nightline”. In the wacky zany bit, they announced that De La Soul were coming to New Zealand and would be playing a concert in Auckland. I was so excited that I started jumping on my bed, and my brother told me to stop acting like a dick and calm down. I saw De La Soul live at the Auckland Town Hall and it was a really fun concert.

The second time I got excited was ten years later. I’d heard that Neil Finn was going to be playing a series of concerts in Auckland with special guests Eddie Vedder, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway from Radiohead, Lisa Germano and Sebastian Steinberg. This did not excite me. Then I saw an article saying that one more person would be joining Mr Finn, Johnny Marr.

Johnny Marr.

John Martin Maher.

JOHNNY MARR!

I squealed aloud with delight, and I don’t often squeal. The next day I went out and bought a ticket for the Friday night performance.

I’m a Smiths fan, but as well as the miserabilistic warblings of Morrissey, I equally respect and adore the guitar work of Johnny Marr. I used to put on Smiths records and just listen to the guitar in each track. As The Smiths broke up when I was about 12 years old, and it doesn’t look like a reunion will be likely, this was pretty damn exciting. Hence the squealing.

So I showed up to the St James theatre and took my place to the front right of the stage. The lights dimmed, Neil came on and played a few songs, then his band came on. I looked up, and there, standing less than three meters in front of me, was Johnny Marr. Wow.

Various songs were played. It was all fairly Marr-centric for me. I spent a lot of time watching him playing his red Gibson guitars, and the black and white electric ukulele. I can also note that he wear wearing black trousers, a patterned ’70s-style shirt and a denim jacket. He had a slightly rude-arse hair cut, but that’s not what we came for.

Things got exciting when Johnny Marr did lead vocals on one song. I don’t know what it was – I didn’t recognise it – but it had a good beat and I could dance to it.

I knew from my flatmate’s report (she saw the Monday show), and the review in the Herald that a Smiths song was covered, and indeed “There’s a Light That Never Goes Out” was played, with Neil on vocals. Johnny introduced it by asking, “is anyone depressed?” That was good. It’s such a beautiful song.

Eddie Vedder fronted Betchadupa for a few high-energy covers of some Split Enz songs. Even though my foot was hurting I jumped up and down. I feel rock. I feel no pain. Also, Mr Vedder has nice muscle tone and looks good with eyeliner on.

There were many more songs, and approximately 3953 encores. During one of them Johnny took to the microphone. His hand brushed against his guitar and I heard some echoey, reverby effects had been added. It sparked a feeling of familiarity, surely not…

He said he was going to play a song that he wrote a long time ago, but didn’t play much anymore, only on special occasions. Then he started playing and coming at me from the speaker stack just metres away was the echoey, reverby guitar of “How Soon Is Now.”

Involuntarily my jaw dropped. Do you know how cool this is? It is cool beyond words. It’s a bit like if you were in church and the vicar had just delivered a sermon, then he introduces Jesus to read some stuff from the bible. Like that, but better.

I’m searching for words to describe how incredibly excellent it was, but I think only the experience of being there could do it. Johnny Marr, less than three metres away from me playing “How Soon Is Now”! Neil Finn on vocals, Eddie Vedder noodling away on guitar up the back with Lisa Germano on violin. Then he played a bit on a harmonica in the middle of it and do believe I was lifted to a higher plane of consciousness.

It was a wonderful night, it was a truly wonderful experience. All thoughts of the Backstreet Boys disappeared and I was left with pure sonic ecstasy.

The pleasure and privilege was mine.

Backstreet Boys

I was in a shopping mall and I walked past an appliance store. Something caught my eye. There were two walls with about three rows of different models of TVs and they were all playing the video to the Backstreet Boys hit single “I Want It That Way.”

I stopped in my tracks, turned around, went in and spent the next three minutes and thirty three seconds pretending to be checking out the TVs when instead I was checking out the Backstreet Boys.

I don’t take pride in this. I felt like an alcoholic chugging down cough syrup and pretending to have a really sore throat. Yeah, I was really interested in those TVs. So interested that the only thing I can remember is that most of them were silver and there were some really big ones and other ones were small.

So the Boys did that sensitive brooding in front of an aeroplane, singing that song about how they could never love the girl because they want her too much, or whatever it’s about.

Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better reveal who my favourite Backstreet Boy is! It’s pretty much a process of elimination. Howie D is out. He’s like the Tori Spelling of the Backstreet Boys (I fell over and scraped my knee when I was looking at a poster with Tori Spelling on it instead of the pothole in the footpath). Brian’s pretty cute, but he’s married, ditto for Kevin. So it comes down to AJ and Nick. It’s a tough decision. Nick’s got the whole pretty boy thing happening, but AJ has the bad-boy-finger-bang thing. Oh no! I can’t decide!

So, in conclusion, I really dig the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync (or however you spell their name) are a bunch of wussy girlie girls. And that makes me larger than life.

Ironic

“It’s like rain… on your wedding day
It’s a free ride… when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice… that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures”

Ah, my word yes. Ever since Ms Alanis Morrisette sang those words in her song “Ironic” of her 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” my mind has been wondering what others have wondered.

Why is a song that is supposedly about irony lacking in actual examples of irony?

I have two theories on this. The first is that Alanis doesn’t know what irony is. She kind of understands the concept, but can’t think of any examples that really fit. “Rain on your wedding day” isn’t irony. It’s misfortune. But she’s in good company. Winona Ryder’s character in the 1994 film “Reality Bites” missed out on getting a job because she couldn’t define irony.

My second theory is that Alanis knows damn well what irony is, and has deliberately not included any examples of irony in the song. Of course this would appear to be a rather ironic thing to do. More ironic than those 10,000 spoons.

So where does this leave us, in these post modern pre-millennium days?

I think we ought to turn to the dictionary. The English language is a living, evolving language. New words come into existence and old words are redefined.

I think there needs to be a new word: alanis. “Alanis” is there to describe those situations when things go wrong, and the situation may appear ironic, but is actually just bad luck. For example, “I had only had my brand new pants for a day, when they ripped – what an alanis thing to happen!”

I have found myself using this on a more frequent basis, and endeavour to to use once a day until it has been assimilated into the English language.

Make the effort to use “alanis” every day, and you too can experience that feeling of aloof gen-x coolness. Kind of alanis, really.

Hamilton Rock

Back in the day, when I lived in Hamilton, I used to go out and see bands play and drink beer. There was this exceptionally good month when I saw Captain Higiz play every weekend, four weeks in a row. There were so many excellent bands back then, MSU, The Hollow Grinders, Bwa Da Riddum, Trucker, Dean and a bunch of other ones that I can’t remember.

I then got into the Hamilton BBS scene and started writing reviews of the bands I saw shortly after I staggered home from the pub drunk, or sobering up. Yeah, I was pretty hard core back then, man. Here’s two.

Friday August 2, 1996, 1:32 am

“GUYS I HAVE FUCKED”

or

“RELAX, IT’S JUST A CONCERT REVIEW, DUDE”

Hi. Ok, heat deux of the Battle o’ the Bands was tonight at the Wailing Bongo I was there. I had three handles of Export and it was very nice.

First was Department of Correction. I didn’t see them, but they came second last year, so they might have been quite good, if you’re into industrial stuff.

Handle o’ Export Number 1: Trucker

Jamie, Paul, Stan and Paul II rocked very hard. They had the whole pop/rock thing worked out really well. Jamie’s guitar was chuggin’ along nicely, Stan provided little lead parts that sounded really good, Paul’s basslines were from the Planet of Sound and Paul II’s drumming was good too. They were so good that I symbolically had part of Jo’s beer to show that Trucker were worth more than just a handle.

Handle o’ Export Number 2: Disjecta Membra(ne)

Goth dude one, goth dude two and goth dude three and goth drum machine rocked the stage dressed in black. Goth dude three, the keyboardist apparently joined the band on Saturday, but more importantly, he is in my rock music class at uni. Goth dude one sang like the guy from Bauhaus and did some wheedly bits on his guitar, goth dude two played bass and goth drum machine kept a steady beat. A lot of their music was funeral stuff with scary organ music, but they did occasionally rock out, which caused The Goth Dude to get up and dance.

Handle o’ Export Number 3: Psyclops

Metaller 1, metaller 2, metaller 3 and Dylan the drummer had a big bad rock god thing going on. Every single guitar solo was wheedly wheedly weeeeee! At one stage one of the guitarists got so carried away with the sheer emotion of the wheedla that he jumped up on the speaker stack and let it rip. The thought occurred to me “Just because a person can type fast and accurately, doesn’t mean they can write well”. Oh yeah, Dylan the Drummer turned up at my 21st.

So the fascist judges went away and got pissed then came back and said the usual “it was a really hard decision, but in the end the best band won” which meant that they all suck so Department of Erection won. If the best band had actually one then Trucker would have won, so I don’t like the judges.

The whole gang was there. Sciflyer was there and so was David Hasslehoff, but most importantly, Biff Bangle was there and I was at one stage sitting a mere two metres from him.

And as for the title, there is some significance, somewhere out there. Just don’t start psychoanalysing it.

Party at Biff Bangles House, late ’96.

A thousand and one thoughts are buzzing in my head. They need to be written down.

Johnny Fist and the Horny Mormons were between songs. Someone in the audience yelled out “Play some Bryan Adams”. Another person yelled out “play some David Hasselhoff”. I was standing there thinking, “Hey, I can do that!”. May this whole rock thing isn’t as hard as it seems.

After seeing Biff Bangle drumming I am thinking of becoming a Buddhist, so that when I die I stand the chance of being reborn as the raw materials that might one day be made into a drum kit. I can only hope that Biff Bangle would somehow end up playing me.

I got to the party by following the cars and the music. I walked in and realised that I probably didn’t know anyone there. There were all these people with face paint, wigs and stuff walking around. There were sheets of silver stuff on the walls. I started to freak out. Like I was some really straight person stumbling into a dem of debauchery. Then I thought about it. If I’d known there was a wig thing happening I would have worn one. If I had ample supplies of silver stuff I’d stick that on the walls. No worries.

The party was throughout the whole house. The music people were in the front room with the bands, the happy people were in the lounge, the goths were in the kitchen, the stoners were beyond the kitchen. There seemed to be some action in the bathroom. I was considering going to the toilet, but I thought there would probably be a few people in there with drinks.

When Johnny Fist and the Horny Mormons were playing I caught myself air-guitarring. Not full-on wheedly shit, but my hands were just sort of in guitar-playing position.

And those rock songs were so good. Their version of “Smoke on the Water” was really evilly sexy. I’ve never felt compelled to describe a performance that way before.

What does it say about the youth of today that “Camel Walk” and “Miserlou” got everyone really excited?

Spice… Nice!

It’s quite fashionable to dislike the Spice Girls. I’ve had discussions with people who dislike the Spice Girls and I’ve asked them what’s wrong with the group. The response is usually along the lines of “They’re crap”, “They suck”. So I ask why the Spice Girls are “crap” or “suck” and the answer is “because they… because they just do”.

I was listening to bFM, the local student radio station, and the announcer had just played a remix of “Who do you think you are”. He said he’d give away tickets to an Everything But The Girl concert for the first caller who identified the group. It took about 15 or so calls guessing all sorts of bands, before someone called and correctly answered. I think the idea of a station like bFM playing the Spice Girls was a bit too much for some people to comprehend.

For the last five years popular music has been dominated by so-called “alternative” music. Guitar-based songs that came to replace the excessive monsters of rock that previously dominated music. “Alternative” music became a genre known for its no-nonsense approach to music. Bands like Nirvana performed songs with honest truthful lyrics, songs that made social comments or explored themes that were previously untapped.

But that’s all gone now. The music scene is changing. Electronic-based music is becoming more popular. Even the previously guitar-based Smashing Pumpkins are releasing very electronic songs.

So along come the Spice Girls. And it feels good. They’re not singing songs of woe and angst, they instead sing about subjects that are more real to the average person. The average teenager can’t really relate to a song about how the singer’s record company makes him feel like a whore, but a song about putting a boyfriend in place strikes more of a chord.

The Spice Girls’ debut album “Spice” reminds me of Madonna’s second album “Like a Virgin”. The songs aren’t heavy political issues, but life is not always heavy. They’re not manic depressives feeling suicidal, so singing about death would be silly.

The group also embraced some feminist politics, with their “girl power”. This might seem contradictory to their image as sexy babes, but what I think it signifies is that they can wear what they damn well please. In other words,”Girl power” does not have a dress code.

But it can not be denied that the Spice Girl’s physical appearance has won over a lot of males. Their appearance in bikinis on the cover of the March ’97 The Face might have made the magazine a little more popular than usual, but didn’t change their music. Back in the early 1980s the Go-Go’s appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in their underwear, but that didn’t make their music any worse or better.

The band, particularly Geri, is known for supporting the British conservative party. This is rare in rock. A lot of artists support popular, but decidedly liberal political causes. For a band like the Spice Girls to come out on favour of conservative politics is quite phenomenal.

Emma is undecided.
Geri is a supporter of the Conservative party.
Mel B is the anti-christ, oh I mean Anarchist.
Mel C is a Labour party supporter.
Victoria is a Conservative party supporter.

So I don’t think the Spice Girls suck, nor do I think they’re crap. Their music is great, not perfect, but they do what they do very well. There’s nothing wrong with their music. Leave the angst, pain and suffering to artists like Alanis Morrisette. The Spice Girls are going to have a good time.