A year(ish) of music

Been a while since I’ve linked to pieces that I’ve written. I mean, admittedly, I’ve not done a huge amount of extra stuff this past year, but my usual glorious New Zealand Musician articles have kept on keeping on.

So here’s a wee round-up. (Excludes CD reviews.)

Anna CoddingtonMy favourite interviews are the rare occasions when I go to the subject’s house. Anna and I chatted while her little bub napped and giggled and had an occasional squawk. He’s delightful – so is she.

PrizegivingWellington gang who make good tunes! We had a good natter over Skype.

Huia. Another glorious home visit. We sat in her little lounge looking over the bush of the Waitakere Ranges and drank coffee and talked about music and communications and motherhood and cats.

Purple Pilgrims. Arguably my favourite musical discovery of the year. Dreamy electronica with all kinds of fascinating instruments to create their own unique sound. And both the sisters (Clementine and Valentine) are amazing beautiful fairy women.

Shunkan. Okay, so this was technically the end of 2015, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet. This was my first fully-fledged cover story, and I felt so goddamn proud. Plus their brand of up-tempo LA-meets-Invercargill rock is just perfection.

And coming soon on the website will be my interview with Paul Cathro and a piece on The Eversons. Keep your eyes peeled.

NZ Music Month – Day 1 – LADYHAWKE

Ladyhawke
Ladyhawke at Big Day Out 2010. Photo by yours truly.

I’ve been a combination of overworked, overwrought and overtired since I kicked off this site, so it has started to feel like a bit of a lost cause at times.

But projects with an end date sometimes feel more achievable, so how about this: my take on NZ Music month. My opinion doesn’t necessarily have any more weight than any other person’s, but I write about music on the reg for NZ Musician, so I have some sort of idea what I’m talking about.

Particularly, though, I’m a fan of the badass women of kiwi music.

So for my version of NZ Music Month, I’ll put up a song or two from a different female artist or female-fronted band each day. And talk a bit about my feelings around the musician and/or music. It’s only 31 days. What could go wrong?

Let’s kick it off with Ladyhawke.

I remember watching the My Delirium video on AltTV (RIP) in my dad’s lounge, back when he lived in a more accessible kind of middle of nowhere (the corner of Scenic Drive and West Coast Road, rather than the Solomon Islands). It wasn’t exactly the sort of genre that I was necessarily devoting myself to at the time – though I was in my first year of uni at the time, and starting to come to terms with allowing myself to like more than garage rock, riot grrrl and punk cabaret – but it was catch as hell. I realised that I’d also heard Paris is Burning not long before. It was such a perfect juxtaposition against the bush outside the window. I was hooked.

I still lived at my mum’s out in Botany at the time. When my friends and I went to town, and drove home together, we cranked Ladyhawke, and I can still remember one of my friends (drunk) attempting (so drunk) to sing along, but giving up except for each time that ‘HEY’ happened in My Delirium.

I bought the French language version of Paris is Burning on iTunes. ITUNES. It’s Paris s’enflamme, and it’s arguably even better than the original, accent aside.

I saw her at Big Day Out in 2010. Back when that existed. It was great. She is great.

I wasn’t as sold on the single from her second album, Anxiety, though given the name I really need to go back and give it another go. But album three is on the way, and my anticipation is back on top.

This is from Ladyhawke’s forthcoming album, Wild Things. It’s coming out the day after my birthday, which is excellent. I’m excited. You should be too.

Planet Earth is blue

 

One of my very closest friends in high school was – still is – the biggest David Bowie devotee I’ve ever known. I knew a little – I was already trying to broaden my musical horizons, the way that you do when you’re a teenager with deep feelings of nonconformity.

But Changes gave way to Looking for Satellites and Golden Years and it heralded the start of my investigating music from the past. Apart from my parents’ Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.

Sometimes we played records, even though it was 2005. There were windows all along the lounge, and the sun shone and so did our hearts. We were fifteen and took on affections of traditions that weren’t our own. Mostly, though, the click wheel of an iPod mini, whirring, stopping, whirring again as we realised we’d overshot it because D is awfully near the start of the alphabet.

We were sixteen and at the beach, and we listened to enough that I started to agree that he was the superior part of Under Pressure. I bought Best of Bowie. I bought Hunky Dory. You had a LiveJournal username homage to a track from Low. We knew all the words – you already did, I learned them by immersion.

We were in our version of teenage love, an impermeable bubble of joy and eternal phone calls. We were learning what love and gender meant. Queer wasn’t a word I could use for myself yet, I was too cautious, too saturated by the surrounding world, but as we unpicked our existences and what they could mean, Bowie was a part of that. Performance of gender, stories of Jagger relations, when you’re a boy, other boys check you out, ‘trisexuality’.

Everything helps.

I’ve never been afraid to be a little off-the-wall – one of my sister’s classmates in primary school told his mum ‘I’d rather be weird than cool’ at a tender age, and we’ve taken that on as a family adage. But at the same time, that particularly package of music and poetry and glamour and fluidity was new, and simultaneously enriching and comforting.

I’ve always liked the idea of getting a lightning bolt tattoo – an homage to formative childhood and teenage influences – Harry Potter (I’m a child of the phenomenon) and David Bowie. It’s been cemented now, with a loss that has been felt far more acutely than I could have ever guessed.

Take your place back up in the stars, you magical man.

A change is as good as a rest

A change is as good as a rest, or so ‘they’ say. And sometimes it’s all you have to work with. So here we are.

Maybe you came here from my previous blog/website, maybe from Twitter, maybe from some strange Googling (god knows what your search terms were). Either way, here you are, here I am, I’ll write some words, you can read them if you like.

So that’s the online presence change. At the same time, I’m shifting cities (bit exciting, bit bittersweet, bit banal – heading home, after all) and starting a new job. The job’s the really wild thing. I’ve worked in bookshops since I was sixteen. Now – or in the last week of January, when I start – I’m a writer. Writing things for businesses and charities and people – writing. I’ve done a lot of writing within my bookshop work, and I’ve freelanced here and there, but now I am going to be doing it full time.

This, of course, is super exciting. But the side step from the book trade is also something strange to deal with. I’ll have to actively seek out what’s new and interesting, rather than stare at a sub sheet or NTI flyer. I’ll have to find books myself, whether through bookstores or libraries or friends – I won’t have reading copies at my beck and call. I’m going to have to put in effort, and I’m actually really excited about that. I’m going to have to think about my reading consumption, for my own benefit.

So I’m planning on writing more about books, in earnest. Since I’ll no longer have the ‘product knowledge’ reason to devour books, I want to be sure that I don’t let my reading slip by the wayside – and the same goes for reviewing. So here we are, first week of the new year, with my literary leanings taking a new shape. I’ve set a Goodreads goal of 100 books, but I really hope (and think) I can beat that. I’ll try to write at least in passing about most of the things that I take on – so stay tuned.

2009

how 2009 began. part i.

In honour of the release of Emilyn Brodsky’s new album, here is a bit of a recollection of the first time I saw her/heard of her. Which was also the first time I ever went to New York. And the first time that I saw Amanda Palmer.

It’s one of those nights that isn’t easily forgotten. This is the lead-up.

On the first night that I ever spent in New York, I went to a show.

It was January – only just. Patti Smith wrapped up her Bowery Ballroom gig to see in the new year, and then, at 2am, or thereabouts, Amanda Palmer was to perform.

I’d been in Montreal all of four days, but more than a month in advance, this show had been announced, and with the reckless abandon of an eighteen year old on their first adventure, I decided that I was going to take the train from Montreal to New York City to see this gig.

It could be the only chance I get to see Amanda while I’m in North America, I reasoned. It’ll be completely worth it.

It’s ten hours on the Amtrak Adirondack line between Montreal and NYC. I was a fresh-faced wee gal, fed on police procedurals and gritty dramas. Convinced that carrying a bag through New York at night was unsafe, I decided that my best bet was to wear my tiny daypack underneath my coat. Which meant minimal items could be packed. I brought a map, my wallet and my phone, along with a Gossip Girl novel that I bought at a second-hand bookstore in Le Village.

It was probably an attempt at NYC wannabe-hipster irony. I read the whole thing before we got to Albany. I hadn’t thought to bring food, or to organise food, for that matter – apart from a Red Bull for the morning I left. I was terrified that I would miss my train. Anna gave me some sesame snaps with Polish writing on the label, which were the only thing I ate between the morning of the 31st and 8am at Penn Station the next morning.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

It’s a tricky thing, an ultra-late gig away from home. It seemed pointless to organise a hostel room, I told myself – I would only be there for an hour or two after the concert wrapped up. I had twelve hours in New York, all of them dark, and my only place to go was the Bowery Ballroom.

Manhattan can be overwhelming to the first time observer. While the streets may be numbered in places, there are pockets where they get more creative and criss-crossed and generally turn into a bit of a mystery. I had looked into tips regarding travel around New York (given my stance on bag-wearing, it will not surprise you to know that I was terrified of catching the subway). I knew that I was supposed to state the cross-streets, not the specific address. Bowery and Delancey, Bowery and Delancey. It was my mantra, a ballpoint scrawl on my hand.

My plan was as follows: Arrive in New York. Go to Times Square, because that’s where people go for midnight at New Years, right? Loiter around, watch the ball drop, then catch a cab down to the Bowery Ballroom and wait in anticipation.

Despite my taxi-etiquette research, I hadn’t thought to look into the whole Times Square situation. So I didn’t know that people queue up from three-ish to get into the square proper. And everyone else just crowds around barricades, hoping to catch a flash of pixelated fireworks on an electronic billboard.

So I found myself walking up and down Avenue of the Americas, trying to pass the time. I got caught in one of the peering crowds more than once, but wriggled my way out of them once moderate claustrophobia started to set in. I worried that the bare ground was going to wear away the soles on my new snow boots. When 0000h EST hit, I saw fake sparkles and heard the roar of the crowd around me. As the square started to clear, I wandered into it, to get a feel for what was going on, and saw my first Broadway signpost. The ground was covered with confetti and crushed cups, and police were trying to usher people out.

Satisfied that I had survived to tell the tale, I headed back to the streets that were still open to vehicle traffic. All cabs seemed to be occupied, but finally I could see one that was waiting for a desperate patron. His window was down. ‘Bowery and Delancey?’ I asked. I shouldn’t have phrased it as a question. He shook his head, and drove off.

Slightly shocked and shaken, I stepped back. Another cab was pulled up further along the road. ‘I’m going to Bowery and Delancey.’

‘Only do numbered streets.’ He wound up his window. I bit my lip, and started to have an internal meltdown. Cabs were out of the question here, clearly. Maybe if I headed towards the venue, got myself a little closer, I would be able to successfully convince one to take me the rest of the way.

I had in my head some sort of strange inverted perception of Manhattan. Maybe it was too much Ancient History, and the whole Lower Egypt in the North, Upper Egypt in the South thing, but I had convinced myself that the higher the street numbers went, the closer I was to downtown. Remember that my map was in my backpack, which was underneath my coat.

Given this lapse in geographical ability, it’s a goddamn miracle that I started walking the right way. I popped into a dairy (a corner store, really – what a few months later I would know was locally really a bodega) and asked if they had a map. I was told no. I willed myself not to cry as I went back out into the street, and kept walking in the direction that I hoped was the right way.

A few blocks later – and a few leering interactions with celebrating New Yorkers later – I went into another shop, this time planning to buy a drink in a glass bottle. So that I could rehydrate myself (after my sesame snap diet of the day) and have a potential weapon if I felt threatened. Fortunately, I never had to use my Orangina bottle of doom.

Up to this point, I hadn’t been replying to anyone who spoke to me or wished me Happy New Year! as they passed me on the street. But this store was well-lit and there was a man behind the counter, so when another customer said ‘Happy new year!’ to me, I echoed it.

‘You heading home? We’re just going home from a party.’

‘I’m going to a gig, actually.’

‘Oh yeah? Where?’

‘The Bowery Ballroom?’

He nodded approvingly. ‘Have you got a ride outside waiting?’

I shrugged. ‘Uh, I’m walking.’

He waved a hand. ‘No way! Me and my boys’ll give you a lift! Just wait here – what was your name?’

‘Elizabeth,’ I told him, my go to alias in stressful situations.

‘I’ll just go check, man.’

He left the store and crossed the road, disappearing into the dark towards wherever his ‘boys’ were parked. I was pretty sure that this was not a situation I was game to get myself into. So I left, and saw a cab across the road. It looked as though the Hassidic Jewish man crossing the road was heading for it, so I dashed out quickly, telling myself that I was less safe than he was. ‘Bowery and Delancey?’

He nodded, though grumbled ‘but we’ll have to turn around,’ as I got in. ‘And my meter’s broken, so it’ll just have to be twenty bucks.’

That seemed like a fair sum in exchange for my getting to the gig without anything terrible happening to me. I agreed. He dropped me on The Bowery, right by Delancey, and I thanked him profusely as I handed over the required bill.

It took a moment to get my bearings, especially as a bunch of high-heeled girls tottered into the cab that I’d just vacated. But running down past one of the seedy-looking corners of the intersection was a queue. For something. And a beautiful hunch told me that that was where my people were.

‘Is this the queue for Amanda Palmer?’ I asked, shy and foreign. There was a guy and a girl at the back of the line.

They nodded.

I nodded, comprehension and relief.

The dark and the difficulty

On operations and depression and musical talent wasted.

Sorry, more angst before I get back into reviewing. It happens.

There is a Banksy poster on my wall – The Girl With The Balloon’. There is always hope. I bought it in a lighter time. Now, even though it is opposite it my bed, I rarely notice that it is there. Unconsciously ignoring the message?

Overworked and overwrought; life is catching up on me. Study and work and never saying no to requests for extra hours; trying to create my own things on the side. And on top of all of that, chronic illness and depression, and exhaustion.

It’s no wonder I’ve spent the last three mornings in bed, even if they have been tinged with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility. Like I haven’t earned the right to feel incapable of scooping myself out of bed in one piece without every fibre of my body – both physical and mental – screaming in protest. You need to REST.

Sleep is for the week, they say, and it may be true. Lately, sleep takes a long time to come and in the morning I can’t muster up anything that could be called energy. Yawning on nine hours of sleep. Waking up before alarms go off, but incapable of going back to sleep because the brain is laden down with feelings of guilt and fear and frustration.

I was going through some old word files recently, and found a bunch of ‘what I want to do with my life’ type documents from when I was sixteen/seventeen. Apart from using lyrics from ‘Girl Anachronism’ as my angsty version of Lorem Ipsum when I got off track, it’s so… hopeful. So upward gazing.

“what do i want with my life? what sort of a career do i want? i have no idea. i like the idea of too many things, i don’t love the idea of doing anything, right now. except for crazy impossible things, like tv presenter, radio presenter, scriptwriter, full-time author, actress, musician. artist of all trades. bette-type art gallery person. i don’t know. i will wind up being a teacher, probably. i don’t know what possibilities i have. i just know that i want creativity and recognition.”

I wrote the word ‘skinny’ six times in one document. Sorry, seventeen-year-old self, still not there. I wrote a hypothetical future in which I studied jazz at Victoria and modeled my wardrobe on Vita from The Tiggie Tompson Show and planned piercings at the top of my ear (well, that part I fulfilled).

“Going to be a French speaking, Classical and Artistic jazz musician who also writes. A writer who also plays jazz. I might even be in a rock band. I will have long black hair, with a Karen O fringe, then I will cut it short and dye it bright blue.”

I’ve never been in a band, and I’ve never really played jazz. It seems like my brief fascination with pursuing it was a sort of school leaver midlife crisis. My music has fallen through my fingers and the only instrument in this city is my ukulele. And in stress I chew my fingernails, making strumming more difficult. My flute and my voice have fallen on hard times, and they probably can never be revived to the standard that they were previously held to. Such standards that I held myself to.

That I still hold myself to – but now giving up is the option. If you can’t do it properly, don’t do it at all – and so with school behind me and the only musical options either community based or semi-professional I let it slide away through formerly nimble fingers. Not dedicated enough to my craft for the AYO or equivalent, but too proud to play for a non-auditioned ensemble. And now, so out of practice that one wonders who would have me anyway?

What a tangent.

I nearly ran out of anti-depressants. Yesterday I had one pill left, and I finally worked up the will power to call the GP’s office to ask for a new prescription. It cost me $16 for the piece of paper. I’m nearly at the end of my second bottle of mercaptopruine; I’ve done my fourth Humira injection at home. To think that I spent a couple of months of last year free of all medication (apart from industrial strength painkillers) – how strange and fancy-free.

Soon it will be a year since my surgery, and thinking about that makes break down even more. I was supposed to be fixed. I was supposed to have had the reversal operation by now – I wasn’t supposed to still be smiling and strong and telling people how totally great and normal life with an ostomy can be. Because it’s horrible. It’s better than constant Crohn’s-type hell-pain, but it’s horrendous none the less. Something as simple as wondering where the hell to stash your boxes of supplies – or the fact that going out without a handbag or backpack is out of the question because one needs to always be prepared for an emergency situation. Or the constant gurgles.

I may write positively about it at times, but that’s only because I want to be seen as normal and capable. I don’t want to be this broken girl who fell so low because her body and her mind let her down.

 

2014 in review. prematurely. sort of.

books gotta get read…

Well, it’s the first day in a year that I don’t have to post on here, and yet here I am! You haven’t gotten rid of me yet, internet.

I will at some stage compile a bit of a collection of my favourite picks from the 365 pieces project – though if any of you have any particular favourites from them, do let me know! I’m definitely interested to know what readers have to say, rather than just my highfalutin feelings.

On the subject of readers, though, that leads me onto my new ‘project’, though less official than my previous one, since I’m planning on giving myself a little more creative flexibility this year, in terms of specific output. However, I’m still a reader, a listener, a consumer of art and media and entertainment. And I feel like I have not paid proper attention to these areas on this blog, especially considering that was what I originally intended this to be.

So each week, for the most part, there will be at least one review posted here. The emphasis will be on books, but if I am in the middle of something and don’t wish to distract myself – or if something amazing comes into my ears and/or eyes , it may well be interposed with music and film and even TV reviews, because why limit myself, am I right?

As a bookseller/buyer/soon-to-be-publisher-in-training/writer/generally bibliophile, I always have a ridiculous number of books either on the go, or on my to-do list. One only need check out my GoodReads account for that – and that doesn’t even contain all of the madness, since I don’t keep it totally up-to-date with my Kobo readings too. And most of my books are still boxed up from my move, so the only ones I have around are more recent acquisitions/ones that were shelved in strange places.

But here’s a cursory list of what I’m in the middle of, or have at least started (excluding re-reads… Suzanne Collins and Tamora Pierce are like comfort food, okay?)

The Great Gatsby – F. S. Fitzgerald (I know, I know, most people read this when they’re 15 in high school, but we didn’t, sorry ’bout it).
Allegiant – Veronica Roth (already finished Divergent and Insurgent, but will review them all together)
The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling (way overdue)
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood (I have started this book SO MANY times. I don’t know what it is about it. But I’m determined to persevere)
The Sandman – Preludes and Nocturnes – Neil Gaiman (also way overdue. I feel like a fake Gaiman-fiend, but I’m remedying it!)
The Gift Lewis Hyde (the only NF title on this list – Eleanor Catton referred to it in her Booker acceptance speech, and then I saw that Margaret Atwood wrote the introduction… sold!)
Snake Ropes – Jess Richards (a publisher rep or a review or something recommended this book as excellent for people who like Margaret Atwood. So I bought it, obviously.)
The Twelve – Justin Cronin (so far taking longer for me to power through than The Passage did, but still proving worthwhile, bit by bit)
Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley – Danyl McLauchlan (NZ author, really good so far, just need to push distractions aside!

And here’s the vague to-read list, as it stands (see the photo at the top for appearances of a fair few of these…) The links are becoming a bit draining, so I will leave you to do your own searches on them, should you wish to investigate further.
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt (actually, I should really review The Secret History, since I read that recently, hmm)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson (I was a 18 y.o. semi-hipster lit student working in a chain bookstore when this was at peak popularity, so naturally I avoided it at all costs. Having enjoyed both adaptations, I’m going to give it a go)
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (even though OSC’s a pretty awful person, I did really enjoy Ender’s Game, so I kind of want to pursue the series further)
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace (just because)
– Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (sounds a bit trippy and fairly good)
On The Road – Jack Kerouac (left my original Popular Penguin somewhere in Brooklyn, I think, so am starting from square one, only, err, four and a half years later?)
Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems – Allen Ginsberg (been on my to-do list for ages, thanks Book Depository sale!)
The Flood – Maggie Gee (#2 book acquired via the Book Depository 25 hour sale – looks cool, will expand later, naturally)
The Best of H.P. Lovecraft – um, H.P. Lovecraft (lucky last book purchased in the Book Depository sale. Never read any Lovecraft, thought I should fix it. This fairly weighty tome should do the trick!)
The String Diaries – Stephen Lloyd Jones (advanced reading copy from work that our gen. buyer thought I might like, and still haven’t gotten around to it, but it does sound interesting, so on the list before the move!)
Persuasion – Jane Austen (because I’m the worst English major ever and have never read any Austen. Several people have told be Persuasion is her best work, so I bought a lovely leather bound copy and hope that aesthetic allure will encourage me.)
The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales – Edgar Allan Poe (ridiculously, I’ve never really read any Poe, despite taking a ‘Theory and the Gothic’ course in my final undergrad semester – but then, I was pretty much in max-sickness situation then, so my reading list had more than a few holes in it.
– 1984 – George Orwell (another classic lit hole to fill)

Yeah. I’m a bit all over the place. Any recommendations are more than welcome – I love love love making new discoveries, so bring a little joy to my life!

BIG DAY OUT 2011

It’s still feeling peculiar writing ’11 for the year. I guess that tends to linger until the end of the summer. Which is creeping alarmingly close, actually. January’s really disappeared rather quickly.

But this blog is not to whine about my perception of time. Nay, this entry is about something far more exciting. For last Friday was the Auckland stop off the Big Day Out. And, unsurprisingly, I was there. It’s become my rule of thumb that if I’m in the country, I go to BDO, because there will always be some bands I love, even if I don’t know it yet. This year’s major drawcard for me was Ms Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, AKA the supergoddess M.I.A.

But that’s getting ahead of myself, really, if I want to describe the day in any kind of chronological fashion. I didn’t go for the queuing for the gates to open approach that I’ve taken a couple of times in the past, since the first band that came under the Need To See heading was The Greenhornes, who weren’t on until after midday. So I turned up around eleven, and caught a little bit of the Kids of ’88 (latest Big Thing in NZ techno-pop), enough to hear a song that I knew, anyway, and the second part of Luger Boa‘s set (although I thought I was listening to Die! Die! Die! – oops) – and then it was time for The Greenhornes. I managed to get a pretty decent front-and-centre type position, and they killed. I haven’t listened to much of them later, but circa ’07 I was pretty into them, what with their Jack White affiliations and the fact that they featured heavily on the soundtrack for Broken Flowers, and I was in my I WANNA BE INDIE SO BAD phase. I was suitably impressed, and intend to reintroduce myself to them.

The day progressed. CSS were adorable, and I’m madly in love with Lovefoxxx. The Silent Disco was fun, for ten minutes or so. What I heard of the Deftones was pretty decent, likewise Wolfmother. The Black Keys regrettably didn’t make it to BDO in the end, so they were off the menu, but Shihad‘s playing through of The General Electric was badASS. Pacifier is an amazing crowd song, it has to be said, and Jon Toogood has some serious flair.

Thennnn a little bit of Iggy and the Stooges was experienced, but we had migrated further up into the stands by this point as the heavens had decided to open. I’m not entirely devastated by this, as I saw them a few years back. C’est la vie. So instead of kind of experiencing them from a vague vantage point, I decided to bail and went to check out The Naked and Famous. I’d seen them open for Florence + The Machine back in August, at the time only knowing one song, and since then they’ve released an album and revealed themselves to be Thoroughly Excellent. Their cover of The Mint Chicks’ Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! was a little overlong, but cool nonetheless.

Post TNAF was Sia. Sia’s one of those musicians I know I should listen to and like, but to be honest, I haven’t really done so yet. I stayed for the first couple of songs, and she was adorable, but I had been informed by all and sundry that Rammstein was a set not to be missed. Pyrotechnics are always a good drawcard. So upon my return to the main stadium stages, I joined the crowd, and was blown away. They were beyond epic, even pyrotechnics aside. I’m currently doing some serious Rammstein investigation, and since many of my uni friends are of somewhat metal-oriented music taste, I’m in good company to learn more. Du Hast was the only song of theirs that I knew in advance, and when they played it the crowd at large went a little cray cray. It was awesome.

Tool were next, and I saw quite a bit of their set, both from ground level and up by the Summit Bar. And although big fans have said their performance this year wasn’t as good as concerts past, I was still impressed, and am also in the process of investigating them. New musics FTW! BUT. Viewing of Tool was cut short because starting at the same time they finished, but over in the Boiler Room, was the aforementioned M.I.A., and crowd permeation was all too necessary.

I had seen M.I.A. once before, at Coachella ’09, and she was spectacular, but I didn’t really know her music beyond Paper Planes, and since she was on the Coachella main stage, the experience was mostly had on the big screens from afar. This time around, with The Boyfriend’s skills and company, we were about two metres from the stage. Can I get a ‘HELL YEAH’?

She looked smoking hot – unfortunately I brought my new little Samsung camera with me which has proven absolutely shocking at managing unblurred concert photos, so I don’t have any of my own to share, and the internet is proving less than fruitful at this point in time. Alas alack. But she did. Let me tell you. She has a fine pair of legs, does Ms Maya. Aesthetics aside, she was in fine form, and the setlist was varied and awesome. She opened with The Message, appropriately, and it was excellent. Bamboo Banga was amazing, Galang filled me with glee and dancey dancey funtimes, Born Free was full-tilt  awesome, and Paper Planes was, of course, hugely crowd-pleasing. It would have been enhanced if she’d played Bucky Done Gun, Jimmy & XXXO, but still.

For the entirety of her set, I think, it was pouring down outside the tent – which kind of made me retract every feeling of malaise I’d had towards her being put in the Boiler Room. We were still damp from sweaty Boiler Roomness and the water spray, but not freezing like the rain had brought upon us all earlier in the day.

I’m not sure if it managed to top BDO ’08, because, I mean, Bjork. And Arcade Fire. But between Rammstein and M.I.A, and others too, there was some seriously amaaaaaze musical action occurring at Mt Smart this year. I’m still debating whether I’ll go to the Laneway festival on Monday – probably not – but either way, it’s been a stellar start to 2011’s musical offerings. Woo!