Monday, January 31, 2005

Attn Jeremy: Those Wacky Terrorists

In a post a few days old, NZPundit mentions the behaviour of the 9/11 plane hijackers the last few days before they made their attacks, when they visited casinos and strip clubs. He's talking about the cases in Gauntanamo Bay where fundamentalist Muslims are tortured by being molested by prostitutes. (I'd be happy if there that was the only torture they used, and there were no stories of electrodes on genitals and such like also coming out.)

I remember reading about this (the hijackers in Las Vegas) ages ago, and learning that a common motif in stories of Islamist conversion is the bit where the protagonist visits the seediest places in America (for example, a strip club in Vegas) and is tempted by the sinful lifestyle, but ultimately rejects it for the life of a faithful Muslim (based, I believe, on the experiences of this guy, one of the founders of Islamism). This sounds pretty consistent with the story of the hijackers, they didn't sound like they enjoyed their lap dances that much.

Unfortunately, I can't find the place where I read this, dammit. But I did find this, the snopes page for the 'no plane crashed into the Pentagon' conspiracy theory. I wonder if Jeremy's read it?

Turns Out They Were Right

Miss Machine - Dillinger Escape Plan

I've heard these guys described as so many things, most memorably as a 'death metal Radiohead', so I had no idea what to expect when I put this CD on for the first time. I heard about these guys through their association with Mike Patton who, as regular readers will know, is my favorite guy on the planet. He filled in as a vocalist on a few of their earlier albums, but they've got a new guy for this one.

As it turned out, the 'death metal' description is definitely more appropriate than the 'Radiohead' one. The first track 'Panasonic Youth' opens abruptly with high volume screechy staccato guitars and some guy screaming his guts out, and pretty much continues in that vein. There's the occasional gently melodic relief section in about a third of the songs, but they're short and are mainly there to provide contrast to the full on noise fest of the rest of the album. And of course there's also the obligatory mellow song ('Unretrofied') near the end, which is only really mellow in comparison, it would still bury your average Feelers song.

But of course these guys aren't brainless meatheads, and once you get used to the ear melting barrage of noise you can see that they have a lot of talent, both in song craft and in technical skill. The rhythms and song structures are crazy and unpredictable, very reminiscent of Fantomas (but with much longer songs). The singer even has a very similar style to Mike Patton. And as you'd imagine, their drummer is a madman.

I'm very happy with this purchase, a new crazy art-metal album is exactly what I feel like listening to at the moment, and a quick perusal of their record label's mp3 downloads shows lots of other promising stuff for me to check out.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

February Album Writing Month

I missed out on NaNoWriMo last year, but fortunately FAWM is starting in a few days. The object is to write 14 songs in one month, and I've signed up, even though I will probably regret it.

So expect lots of blogging about that, and not much about anything else during February.

But Next Time Billy - I'm Bringing the PLIERS!

The Complete Far Side - Gary Larson

The complete collection of every Far Side cartoon comes in two huge cloth bound volumes, and took me almost a month to read. Mike Kozlowski's got a review of it on his booklog, and there's not much else I have to add to that, except to reiterate what a nicely put together package this is. I really like the extra artwork on the slipcase.

My Dad owns most of the previous collections, and as a kid I probably read each of them dozens of times, so I was surprised how many cartoons there were that I didn't recognise. I guess they only put a selection in the earlier collections, so while this compilation might not be worth the exorbitant price you might pay for it at Whitcoulls, it's well worth what it'll cost you to order it off Amazon.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Land of Two Halves

By Joe Bennett

Joe Bennett is a mildly ubiquitous newspaper columnist/TV presenter sort of guy. He's originally from England, but has lived in New Zealand for many years. At some point he decided to go on a huge country wide road trip in order to try and pin down just what it is he likes about this country (i.e. to go out and find the 'Real New Zealand'). And then he wrote a book about it.

This book seems to be aimed at foreigners. For the first few chapters I was worried that he was pretty much writing a tourism brochure, since there were continual informative asides on the country's demographics, climate and national holidays. This disappeared later on though, and the narrative eventually just becomes a long string of interesting characters met in pubs. Probably not a bad way to gauge the national character.

He never seems to come to a conclusion as to what it is he likes about New Zealand (other than that he thinks he'll stay here), but reading between the lines, I think I have some idea. He doesn't like the bush (too dark, cold and dangerous) he doesn't like the cities (ugly and dirty) (you can tell he's lived in the South Island for a while, he drives right through Auckland without stopping) and he doesn't like the small towns (provincial and boring). The only place he does seem to like is the pub. I think his favorite people are those that exemplify the idea of the 'good kiwi bloke', Barry Crump, the All Blacks (the older the better) and your generic West Coast logger. That's all well and good, but it does mean that he comes off as a myopic conservative old man at times.

It's a breezy enjoyable read though. There are certainly lots of strange and bizarre characters out there that provide endless anecdotes for this kind of book.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

BDO 05 - What Those Other Dicks Are Saying

Well I thought I'd finished on this subject, but there's just one or two more things:

Most Popular Band T-Shirt:
A Perfect Circle (but replaced by Slipknot later on in the day, presumably lots of people bought shirts during the day).
Runner-up: Slayer

So I've read a few posts by other kiwi bloggers on the big day out, and man do they sound like a bunch of crotchety old geeks who've been stuck behind their computers for too long.

Russell Brown is cool and down with the kids when it comes to herbal highs, but is shocked and dismayed by how many people got sunburned?!?! When will they learn?!?!

Also on public address, Graham Reid is disgusted with having to rub shoulders with filthy Slipknot fans. At the end he even goes so far as to compare them with National supporters. Has he no shame?

I had a few other offenders in mind (as well as that guy from stuff who I mentioned yesterday), but a little more research finds some other people who were positive about it, including The Whig, (who normally gives me fits when I read him), even if his musical tastes cause me to wrinkle my nose in disdain.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

BDO 05 - Summary

Well there we go. It took a long time to write all that out! There better be a few people reading this!

All in all it was one of the best big day outs I've been to. I didn't get too sunburned, saw everything I really wanted to, and a few things I wasn't planning to see but really enjoyed. In summary:

Best band:
System of a Down
Runner-up – Pluto

Worst band:
Runner-up – Shihad

Biggest disappointment:
Runner-up – Slipknot

Feralest moshpit:

'Nine Inch Nails' Special Award for the Best Band No-one Liked Except Me:
The Have

BDO 05 - Dimmer, Hatebreed and the Rest

So I was quite knackered by the end of System, but my day wasn't over yet! My plan was to see Dimmer, Beastie Boys and Hatebreed, all in an hour and a half. (Richard managed to see six bands in the same time, so I figured it wasn't too tall an order.) By the time I'd got out of the moshpit, refilled my water bottle and bought some nice samosas from random people, I had time to see two of Dimmer's songs. The first one was 'Case', which was lucky as it's my favorite song of theirs, and another cool ambientish one. I was scared off by all the stoned hippies with their 'drunken aeroplane' dancing, so I decided it was time to dash up into the stands and meet my friends, and hopefully see a bit of the Beastie Boys.

Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. I found my friends at the first aid tent where they were having a mild medical emergency, and by the time we sorted that out it was after 10.30, so I decided to pike on the Beastie Boys and just see Hatebreed.

Well Hatebreed turned out to be very impressive. I've never been familiar with hardcore punk, and I have to say I was impressed. It's pretty much death metal without the bullshit and wankery. I was knackered, so it took me a while to get into the moshpit, and what did I see but the biggest, feralest circle pit you've ever seen. Up until then I'd only ever seen these things when they involved only a couple of teenage munters, and in comparison this was fucking impressive, stretching in front of two stages, and it looked like people in there were actually getting fucked up.

By the time that was over I really was exhausted, and I just sat down and watched a bit of Blues Explosion. They were very quirky, in an old school kind of way. They probably weren't the best way to end the night, definitely not a highlight like The Flaming Lips were last year.

And that was the end of the day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

BDO 05 - System of a Down

In the end it was System of a Down that was the highlight of the day for me. After the mildly displeasing Slipknot and having to sit through half of a crappy Shihad set, I was ready for another disappointing act, but from the first song these guys went absolutely nuts, and those of us in the moshpit went absolutely nuts with them. I don't remember the correct order of the songs they played, but this is definitely everything they played, in roughly the right order:

Prison Song
Chop Suey
Cigaro (New Song)
Highway Song
Kill Rock and Roll (New Song)
Deer Dance
New Song Whose Name I Didn't Catch

They've all gone a bit strange since they last played here in '02. Serj, Daron and John have all grown their hair long. Serj and John have big affs and beards, while Daron is going bald so he looks a bit like a vampire or something with a widows peak. Serj and Daron wore coats and tidy shirts and trousers and it made Serj looked kind of like that crazy old hippie school teacher you had in third form. Shavo looked the same, but his cool Egyptian style goatee is longer. They all looked very eccentric.

Daron was off his nut all night, ranting and raving with little coherency. I think he was probably on something, as his guitar playing contained more passion than technical aptitude this time around (i.e. he fucked up lots because he was playing like a madman).

The most memorable part of the concert happened just before they played Toxicity. Some guy collapsed in the middle of the moshpit, and Serj stopped the song, saying “We have a man down here...” It took the St. Johns guys ages to get through the crowd, and the whole time Daron was yelling out “Man down! Man down! Help me mama! Mama! Help Me!”
“Every time we play here something crazy happens.” says Serj, referring to the last time when the barrier got knocked down and some dude lost his prosthetic leg. Eventually Daron got bored and said “Fuck it, I'm playing the song.” The organisers then charged on stage to tell him he wasn't allowed to play it until they got this guy out of there. “Fine, I'll play another song.” he says, and then proceeds to play a few verses of 'Sultans of Swing' by Dire Straits! I was hoping they'd play something like their cover of Pink Floyd's 'Goodbye Blue Sky' last time, and this was that much cooler for being spontaneous. (The coolness was lost on this moron, who thought it was an 'impromptu acoustic anti-war song', complained that they didn't play enough new stuff (no one knows the songs because the albums not out yet genius) and named them the worst band of the day.)

I was expecting a lot of political stuff from them this time around, considering what's been going on in the world over the last year, but while it was there (Serj changed some of the lyrics to Deer Dance to refer to the war in Iraq) it was mostly very indirect and unfocused. Daron's little speech before playing 'War?' went along the lines of “Stupid humans! Stupid dirty humans!” repeated many times.

I very much liked the reinterpretation of some of the old songs. Serj had a synth and a keyboard, and used them to great effect in the extended breakdown for 'War?'. The new songs were really good too. Lots of Serj doing crazy voices (“My cock is much bigger than yours!”) and general heavy metal craziness.

All in all I absolutely loved it. My only complaint would be that they didn't play enough stuff from Steal this Album, but I'm hardly complaining, since it was the best chance I've had to go mental and scream my guts out since, well, the last time they came.

With Toxicity, these guys moved away from the quirkiness of their first album to a more mainstream (but still good) sound. The new stuff sounds like a return to the old style in some ways (but heavier). Combined with their eccentric outfits and general craziness, I'd say they're not too concerned with retaining the popularity they enjoyed a few years ago, and while the new album won't sell as well as Toxicity, I'm probably going to love it.

Whew! Three days of big day out updates and I'm still not done! Hopefully tomorrow I'll write about the bands I saw at the very end of the night, and write a general summary, and that will be the end of it.

BDO 05 - Slipknot, Shihad and Regurgitator

The two main draws for me at this years Big Day Out were System of a Down and Slipknot. I'd seen System back in '02, and even though they were really good I wasn't so excited about seeing them again, so Slipknot were the guys I was most looking forward to. The moshpit was pretty crowded and it took me a while to find a space. No sooner had I settled in than some drunken munter staggered up next to me. I kept a wary eye on him and sure enough he began convulsing almost immediately. Me and everyone else in his vicinity backed away as fast as we could and he was quickly surrounded by half a meter of empty space. Except towards the front, because those people there were facing away from him. Sure enough, one projectile vomit later, some poor bastard had his arm and backpack dripping with puke. Sometimes I wish I was into a different genre of music.

They kept us waiting a while (I guess they had nine sets of gear to set up) and they finished a little early, so they didn't play for long. The setlist was something along the lines of:

Song I Didn't Know
This Blister Exists
The Heretic Anthem
Pulse of the Maggots
Spit It Out
People = Shit

I'm probably forgetting a few songs, but those are the ones I remember. In the end I was a bit disappointed. I probably would have liked it a bit more if they'd played more new stuff, but on top of that, the crowd wasn't very into it (at least where I was standing), and the band just wasn't as crazy as I hoped. They certainly talked to the crowd a lot, but their banter seemed geared more towards the average empty headed teenage munter than towards me. The one really cool bit was when they got the whole moshpit to sit down and then jump up at the same time. I really wish I'd gotten a photo of everyone sitting down, cos it looked pretty cool.

As for the performance, it lacked something. The main drummer seemed to stuff up a few times on the new songs, the secondary drummers spent more time jumping on top of the drums than they did playing them and apart from Duality they didn't play any of the songs I really wanted to hear. It wasn't bad, but I was a little disappointed.

Once they were finished I decided to get the hell out of the moshpit, as Shihad was about to start. They opened with a new song, and it was over before I got out of the pit. I was just about to leave the main stadium, and the began playing 'My Minds Sedate'. For a second I turned around and thought “I used to love this song, maybe I should give these guys another chance.” But then I saw all the excited teenyboppers and their blank stares from being confronted with a five year old song, and I said “Nah, fuck it”. Then it was off to do the old drink/food/toilet dash, and catch ten minutes of Regurgitator.

Regurgitator was the first band I saw at the first Big Day Out I visited six years ago. I wish I'd thought of that when I was watching them. They weren't as crazy as they were back then. I saw about two songs, and it was OK, but I felt like I should get back to the main stage to get a good place for System. Shihad were still going and the four or five songs I heard made me glad I'd decided to miss most of their set. They closed with 'Comfort Me'! What's up with that?

Monday, January 24, 2005

BDO 05 - Late Afternoon

After another short break I was off to The Have. I didn't know much about these guys other than that I like that one single, but there was nothing else on (ugh, Powderfinger. Yick, Fast Crew) so I thought I'd go along and check them out. On the surface of it they seem like another 'The' band along the lines of The Hives, The Checks, or The D4, but I was quite impressed with their plain no-nonsense musicianship, from their unpretentious bogan dress to their energetic, old-school, almost countryish rock. Another one on the 'I'll buy their album when it comes out' list. Unfortunately I think I was one of the only people to feel that way, their audience was dwarfed by the line to see Slipknot at the signing tent. Which wasn't so bad, it was fun to check out some of the crazy goth outfits, I should have taken a few pictures. (Of course most of them were just along the lines of leather pants + slipknot mask, very original guys...)

By then I was really feeling the heat, but I just told myself that it was after four o'clock and I couldn't possibly be getting burned at that late hour, despite what my body was telling me. The plan was to see Evermore, who were on right after The Have, but at the last minute I decided that Evermore were just too twee and girly for me, and bailed off to Kid Koala. The idea was that since he was on the hip-hop stage, I would end up seeing something on every stage (except for the Lilypad, but you can safely ignore that one). In the end I didn't see anything on the blue stage, but there you go.

I'm very glad I went to Kid Koala. He was very good natured and cool, giving lots of free stuff away and chatting to the audience between every song. I'd only heard of him because he appeared on one or two songs on the Lovage album (with Mike Patton again...) but apparently he's one of the best decks guys in the world. I really liked his choice of songs to mix too: Bjork, The White Stripes, and a couple of Radiohead tracks (including 'Fitter Happier', an excellent choice for his medium). It was the perfect wind down after the big afternoon, and his set left me on a real high. Well worth getting sunburned for!

So then there was an hour of absolutely nothing I wanted to see. I did the now familiar food/drink/pee dash and spent some time looking for a bunch of my friends, and not finding them. In the process I was unfortunately subjected to a little bit of Scribe, and any satisfaction I gained from seeing how totally empty the stadium was for his act was whipped away when he bought Blindspot out on stage for a Linkin Park/Jay-Z style 'mashup' (in quotes because I don't think any of the marketing morons who made this shit up have ever heard a real mashup) that everyone involved should be embarrassed about. Including me for watching it. Eventually I gave up, and got ready for my big evening, which was to start out with Slipknot.

But that, my children, is a story for another time. Like tomorrow. Tune in and listen to the conclusion of my thrilling tale of hardcore metal gone bad, stoned hippies, vomit in the moshpit, and the biggest fucking circle pit I've ever seen.

BDO 05 - Early Afternoon

After Deja Voodoo I had about half an hour break – just enough time to get food, drink, visit the toilet and see about two minutes of The Donnas from the stands. It didn't look too exciting from up there. Lucy told me afterward that the crowd was pretty tepid and that kind of ruined it.

Then it was off to Pluto. I wasn't looking forward to them very much, but they put on an excellent show. Not many people were there at the start, but by the time they finished the crowd had grown significantly. They only had half an hour to play so it was a bit of a greatest hits setlist, which I think massively worked in their favour:

Hey Little
She's Jive
New Song
Perfectly Evil
New Single With The Title I Can't Remember
Dance Stamina

I'd gone off these guys a while ago, but as well as this they played a pretty good gig opening for Muse, so I think I'll buy their new album when it comes out. Even if they do still look like a bunch of dorky indie rock geeks.

Time to be anywhere except the main stage, where The Hives were playing. Fortunately Kid606, one of the international acts I was most looking forward too, was on at the dance tent. It was good to get out of the sun, but man was it packed in there. Shapeshifter were just finishing their set, and although it just seemed like generic boring trance to me, there were a lot of people there and they were really into it. As soon as they finished the place emptied out completely, so I was able to walk right up to the front row. You could still feel the heat up there left by Shapeshifter's audience.

Kid606 is associated with Mike Patton's label Ipecac, and are generally regarding as being a pretty fucking crazy act. So I was kind of expecting some crazy looking raver dude, and I was a little surprised when a chubby balding guy in neat clothes walked out with an Apple laptop. I actually thought he was a roadie for a little while. Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with his set, which seemed to me to be just average drum and bass for the most part. Even the teenyboppers were into it. He went nuts with the freaky squeally noises only once or twice, but when he did, it was awesome.

BDO 05 - Morning

Up bright and early at seven thirty ready to drive to Auckland! It's a yearly ritual for me and my sisters, and as usual our mum has to complicate things. “You drive me to the airport, and I'll pick up the other car...” (blah blah blah). So at 10.15, when Chuganaut, the first band (who I was interested in seeing) were playing, we were only just getting to the airport. By the time we found a car park and walked to the stadium almost an hour had passed. Fortunately the queue wasn't too bad. There were a lot of people (I ran into someone I knew before I even got in the gate), but the line (OK, mob) moved pretty quickly, so it was only 11.30 when we got inside.

Me and my sister had a brief argument over whether we'd missed the Bleeders, and then discovered that our timetables disagreed, and neither of them agreed with the one in the programme they handed out at the gate. Well gee, that's a good omen for the day. Anyway, we made it to the Bleeders, but we wouldn't have missed much, as it was a pretty lackluster set. Although that may not have been entirely their fault since the mosh was pretty tame. I felt like I was the only one there over 18. A few hardcore looking punks in front of me started a bit of a circle pit, but it was a bit sad watching the lanky, awkward 17 year old boys try to join in.

After that it was straight to the small stage to catch Deja Voodoo. On the way out (it took at least five minutes for everyone to file out of the moshpit even at that early hour) I was subjected to Steriogram's first song, and was surprised to see that they actually had an audience. I thought Steriogram were just one of those bands that get signed by a big label and have a huge promotion campaign behind them, so all the radio DJs have to pretend that they're really popular, when actually no one likes them.

Deja Voodoo were in good form as usual, with a very entertaining set (no one on fire this time though) and a reasonable mosh going on. During the new song 'Weed On Green Man' I was struck by the thought, 'This is what Led Zeppelin would've sounded like, if they had been really really shit'. I was also disappointed that I didn't see any one light up during that song. I remember (just going into old person mode here for a second) when Marylin Manson played 'I Don't Like the Drugs', and you could see the column of smoke from a mile off.

There was even a bit of a circle pit at the end when they played 'Beers'. No doubt pissing off the security guys, who told everyone off after the Bleeders for engaging in 'all this circle nonsense'. I don't understand why they thought anyone would pay attention to some old Aussie guy who talks to a moshpit full of drunken munters as if he were a teacher telling a bunch of five year olds to be quiet at the school assembly, but hey, I'm not a security expert. In my experience the moshpit is usually safer when there's a circle going on, because then the most violent behaviour is confined to one area, and everyone else can avoid it.

Well that was my morning, hopefully I'll have another post up before I go to bed tonight.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Big Day Out 2005 Photos

So these are the best of the photos I took on Friday. Start at the bottom and read up to get them in the right order. I think it was a better idea to take a digital camera and post the photos later rather than to try and live blog it.

It was actually a lot of fun! I felt like an entertainment journalist or something. I just wish I'd taken more photos of stuff other than the bands. There was also a bunch of stuff I missed out on photographing after Dimmer, because it was getting too dark. But never mind, I'll do it next year.

Things I really wish I'd photographed:
Examples of rampant female exhibitionism. Hot pants are in this summer, apparently.
Some of the crazy costumes.
The chick in the gigantic sombrero.
The guy who got vomited on in the Slipknot moshpit.
Stoned hippies dancing at Dimmer.
Kid606 (but I guess it would have been too dark in the dance tent anyway).
Slipknot getting the entire moshpit to sit down.

Check back tomorrow for a proper post with setlists, amusing anecdotes and mockery of Shihad.

Relaxing at Dimmer between System of a Down and Hatebreed. Posted by Hello

In the three years since I first saw them, System have all grown crazy haircuts and bought some eccentric clothes. They look kind of like the Doors just before Jim Morrison died. Posted by Hello

I would have taken more pictures of System, but I was too busy losing my shit. Posted by Hello

Shavo from System of a Down walks on stage. Posted by Hello

Kid606 watches Regurgitator from the wings. Posted by Hello

Regurgitator aren't as mental as they used to be, but they still have a Crazy Noise Box on stage with them. Posted by Hello

Slipknot earn their bachelors degree from Crazy Go Nuts University. Posted by Hello

More climbing on top of the drum kit. The guy who's supposed to be playing it is lurking around in the background. Notice also the rubbish tin stuck to the side of the kit. That's for beating with a baseball bat, or alternatively, one's head. Posted by Hello

This would have been a really good picture if all those arms weren't in the way. Posted by Hello

This guy spent more time sitting on top of his drums than actually playing them, but then again, with nine people in the band you can't expect them all to have something to do in every song. Posted by Hello

YEAH! ROADIE!!!! Posted by Hello

Gee, Scribe looks popular! Posted by Hello

Kid Koala. Scratchy decks guy. Also pretty good. Posted by Hello

The line to see Slipknot at the signing tent was bigger than the audience for The Have. Posted by Hello

Gee, who could all these people in black clothes be lining up to see at the signing tent? Posted by Hello

But they were pretty good. Posted by Hello

Not many people showed up for The Have either. Posted by Hello

With only a half hour set, Pluto only had time to play their good songs. Posted by Hello

Not many people showed up for Pluto, but they were fucking good. Posted by Hello

The audience for the Donnas was pretty tepid. Posted by Hello

"Is anyone here on P?" Posted by Hello

"This is a really scary song, and even though it's the middle of the afternoon, I reckon you guys are going to shit yourselves when you hear it." Posted by Hello

We are Deja Voodoo! And this is 'We Are Deja Voodoo!' Posted by Hello

Hey look, some people actually like Steriogram! Who knew? Posted by Hello

People are already using condoms as balloons. Posted by Hello