outsider-punk noise experimental rock two-piece from Aotearoa New Zealand

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The It’s All Over [part’s of] the World Tour

We’re on the road again, a roadtrip of friends and adventures, a glimpse  of this mad, enthralling dynamic world in change. We hope to see you along the way, click beer glasses and wish each other well. Details to the shows below may be subject to change, however, if it’s here we are under the pretense that we are confirmed. We expect a few more to be added in the coming weeks. Already there are heaps to thank for the generous support in helping us to set this beast in motion – it will be a long list by the end.

Tour Diary:

Shanghai Arrival
Guangzhou a-gogo
Guiyang – a do-do run run
It’s a long way to Chengdu if you want a spicy box of tofu
Nuts in Chongqing
Fly through Wuhan
Another typical story: a mosh pit in a Moroccan restaurant in Beijing
Utopizza
Snow Shows – 4 days in Finland
From Czeching in to checking out
Calling London
Malaysia and Singapore: the last ports

Carbon Offsetting the tour

mr-sterile-tour-poster_chinatour

Tour dates:

  • OCTOBER 14 FRIDAY : China, Shanghai: Venue – Space-631 – 7pm: with Torturing Nurse, 反方向的钟, 白梦薇
  • OCTOBER 14 FRIDAY : China, Shanghai: Venue – Yuyintang – 9pm: with Round Eye, & South Acid Mimi, Bedstars , Dirty Fingers
  • OCTOBER 15 SATURDAY : China, Guangzhou : Venue-Loft345 w/Die!ChiwawaDie!
  • OCTOBER 16 SUNDAY : China, Guiyang : Venue – Power Livehouse Anniversary Party w/Lost Horse
  • OCTOBER 19 WEDNESDAY : China, Chengdu : Venue – Nu Space w/Don Trash
  • OCTOBER 20 THURSDAY : China, Chongqing : Venue – Nuts Livehouse w/You Come Twice
  • OCTOBER 21 FRIDAY : China , Wuhan : Venue – Coastline w/Panic Worm
  • OCTOBER 22 SATURDAY : China , Beijing: Venue – Caravan: with The Death Narcissist + DJ Fido
  • OCTOBER 23 SUNDAY : China , Beijing : Venue -Fruityspace w/Baba Rossa (Orchestra of Spheres星迹乐团)
  • OCTOBER 28 FRIDAY : Italy, Tornareccio : Venue – Invizin  1st Birthday: with Polemica, treis [TOR], DJ zi ‘orizi’e (roots-rock-reggae) & dj da’hil (eclettico)
  • NOVEMBER 1 TUESDAY : London : Venue – Vegbar : With Dreamherbs, Daij VHS and Danny Trash
  • NOVEMBER 3 THURSDAY : Finland, Helsinki : Venue – Henry’s Pub : w/Lazards & Sirja and Konfuusio
  • NOVEMBER 4 FRIDAY : Finland, Tampere : Venue – O’Hara’s ; with Xes
  • NOVEMBER 16 WEDNESDAY : Czech Republic, Loket : Venue – Hrad Loket : w/ Už jsme doma
  • NOVEMBER 17 THURSDAY : Czech Republic, Tabor : Venue – CESTA žije : w/ Už jsme doma
  • NOVEMBER 18 FRIDAY : Czech Republic, Lanškroun ; Venue – Apollo ; w/ Už jsme doma
  • NOVEMBER 19 SATURDAY : Czech Republic, Teplice n.M. Venue Dědov :Festival Webrocka
  • NOVEMBER 20 SUNDAY : Czech Republic, Prague: Venue Vagon : Opening for The Plastic People of the Universe
  • NOVEMBER 25 FRIDAY : London : Venue – The Others : with Knock Knock
  • NOVEMBER 26 SATURDAY : London : Venue – Iklectic Art Lab : with The Honey Hahs
  • DECEMBER 3 SATURDAY : Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur : Venue – Rumah Api
  • DECEMBER 4 SUNDAY : Singapore : Venue – Hellcube

Huge thanks to Kristan Ng at Kiwese! Rudy & Chachy, Junky, Howie and the crew at Loft 345, Die! Chiwawa Die!, Jinn, Tan Zhong, Nu Space, the crew at Nuts Livehouse, Panic Worm, the crew at Coastline, Badr at Caravan, Dan & Susu, Dan Beban, the crew at Fruity Space, Hilary [xxx] INVIZIN, and all the wonderful people in Tornareccio, Dream Herbs,  Assad and Annabel at Vegbar, Marina at Other rock show, Sean Worrall, Kaarle, Pietsu, Romek, Mirek, Adam, Pepa, Votja, Chris [xxx], CESTA, Club Integral, The Others, Joe, I-Lann, the crew at Rumah Api, Shaiful and the crew at L Cube, and Joe Butler[xxx]

Malaysia and Singapore: the last ports

received_10154779726936639.jpegThis is it. Awake on the last morning of this eight week tour. Sleep was hard to hold due to the heat, the mosquito bites and the impending departure. But we are here and this day is this day.

The sounds of a waking Bangsar street start with the continuous swishing of the overhead electric fans disturbing the still and close heat. Each motor sounds slightly different when you focus on them individually. Next is the increasing traffic sounds, so far it’s only bikes and cars. As the traffic jams gather nearby, our street becomes a quick relese valve for the congestion. But it’s not that busy yet. There are unrecognisable bird calls. Bird song of quick staccato, of single middle-ranged notes rising and twittering. There’s a dog next door that is silent for now. It found its’ voice earlier on in the night.

Slowly the light fades away the darkness and the trees outside the window take shape revealing their tropical forms. The mosquitos are silent until right in your ear. The four cats indoors have yet to stir. Where we sleep is surrounded by books, of art of the region and abroad, of politics and punk rock, of art history from Malaya, songs from Sabah, of inquiry and exploration. The education is rich when you find people who do not accept simple answers. Where we can contemplate a region that is so close to our home, but so unknown. These journeys are personally enhancing. We are aware of the privilege we carry, and value the opportunity to locate and erode our coastlines of ignorance. We wake into our last morning.


The way we leave England is extraordinary and absolutely unforeseen. It becomes the perfect distraction/transition to the final leg of the tour. We were given the opportunity to stay in the House for Essex, the Living Architecture building in Wrabness designed inside and out by the amazing english artist Grayson Perry. This option became available as Chrissie’s sister had entered a ballot to stay in the house, unbeknown to us, and we were the succesful recipients. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are both fans of Perry’s work. He became known to us when we heard the story of a transvestite potter wining the highly regarded Turner Award. It was the first time the award had been given to a potter, a crafts person, rather than a fine-arts practitioner. And it was also the first time the prize had been awarded to a flambouyant cross-dresser.

The House for Essex stands alone in a field at the end of a lane. The only access we have had to Perry’s work to date is via the print medium, never seen in the flesh, or clay, and here we were under his skirting boards. The house in total is the artwork, the entire conceptual work, from the shape and flow of the house, the details of clay tiles and colours, the installed artworks, and the collections of cds and books all are considered as part of the overarching narative of making a secular shrine to the ordinary life of an ordinary, and imagined, woman from Essex. It’s brilliant.

20161202_041127.jpgOn the last morning we rise at 3am. We need to make our way to Heathrow airport for check-in at 7am. Leaving the house and locking the door behind us, we make our way through the black, fogless dawn towards the city lights. We leave rural countryside, then megacity London, then the hemisphere as we make our way to Kuala Lumpur (KL),  Malaysia.

We left in the morning, and arrived in the morning. We effectively lost a night somewhere, and with that we lost a sleep as well. It was about 0 degrees when we left the UK. In KL we arrive to 26 degree, a dramatic difference.

We catch the express train from the airport to KL Sentral terminal. There we reconnect with our good friend Joe Kidd. We will be staying with him till we depart KL.

We catch a cab across town. We strip of our autumnal dress from the UK into something more appropriate to the heat, and start the regular process of rehydrating from equatorial perspiration. The heat is so close. The place smells of the humid environment. What this heat and humidity does to bodies, the soil, the bacteria all goes into the complex smell that becomes the smell of South east Asia. It’s welcoming.

We arrive home to Joe’s and go to eat straight away at one of the local Indian vegetarian cafes just across rhe road from the house. Amazing choices and extremely delicious. The food induces sleep.We grab a good nap to re-energize in preparation for the show tonight.

Waking we reorganise our luggage so we have less to cart across town. A friend of Joe’s arrives and supplies a large bag of homegrown Rambutan, a delicious fruit with a soft and spiney outer casing. The fruit is demolished, and we’re ready to go.

We taxi to the venue called Rumah Api (Rumah means house, Api means fire). The venue was named after it suffered an arson attack from far-right wing boneheads years ago. The venue stood strong and resilient. We played Rumah Api on our last tour here in 2011 as well. It is patently obvious from the outset that our costumes could not be more inappropriate for the conditions, woollen jackets, dark suits, tiny room,  high humidity and energetic activity.

The show is already cranking when we arrive, we are performing fourth in a line up of six bands, predominantly hardcore styles. The bands appear to be among friends, some audience sings along to some tunes inbetween the sporadic explosions of dancing that look like a gathering of windmills in attendence of a fight club. It’s all legs kicking and arms being swung wildly in wide circular motions. It’s really reminiscent of the old parade style dancing of the 50’s where an individual will take centre floor to show off a personal adaption of their dance move to the observations of others.

We prepare in the back room and the sweat is already dripping with zero exertion Activity will only make the flow torrential. This idea proves true as we set up on stage. It’s not usually a problem till the make up runs into your eyes. Then the stinging starts. The white paint produces a clouding effect as a film of white paint covers the eye ball.

We don’t play hardcore so those frantic dancemoves are absent during our set but they remain antentive trying to figure out what’s going on. Others have got it and can be spotted grinning away and dancing individually to our joyful awkwardness. It is a drenching event, and fighting back the jetlag, the show feels absolutely satisfying.

We finish then dismantle our set up, and get engaged in multiple conversations with locals  who have questions about what they’ve just seen. In our experience this is a practice particular to south east asian audiences. Elsewhere we are usually approached for the most part by individuals. Here it’s almost always by a group who want to talk or take photos.

We leave as the last band is completing it’s set. We make our way across KL to bed. There’s not many hours before we have to rise again to catch the early morning bus to Singapore.

Four hours sleep before the alarm goes off. Our costumes were hung up to dry after being sodden after the show. It’s a gross feeling if they are still damp like pulling on wet knickers. Fortunately they are bone dry. We leave the house and walk the fifteen minutes in the dawn to the bus stop and check in. Thankfully there’s time for roti chennai before departure. Today is Chrissie’s birthday.

The journey takes about five hours. The passport control is swift as we cross into Singaporean teritory around midday. From the terminal we catch a taxi into the Indian quarter where L Cube, the venue, is located. However the advertised name for tonight’s show is the Hellcube. L cube is a local rehersal space that also hosts occasional small shows. We meet Rei on reception. She’s super helpful at helping us settle, directing us to good food, and sorting a space for us to nap while we wait for our organiser and friend,  Shaiful, to arrive.

It’s been nine years since we last saw Shaiful, we missed him on our last trip to Singapore. While we’re waiting a bloke called Stevphen from the UK arrives for the show. We met him a few days ago at our last show in the UK and an odd set of circumstances means he also happens to be in Singapore at the same time. He also knows Shaiful, but only via the internet. This will be their first face to face. And then Shaiful’s face walks through the door. We reconnect with a short walk to a nearby food court before returning back to L Cube in preparation for the show.

Shaiful is performing in the first band, and this is their debut show. They also have the best band name  – Frog and Potato Warfare. The set is swift, rawkus punk rock but with an major intention to create fun and lift the life of the show from the outset. Band members change instruments, activities are organized as part of the show like a ballon and ball war, where soft projectiles are dispensed and everyone is a target. There is no barrier between the band and the audience. It is a delightful riot.

The next group is Indecixive, a tight, confident Singapore thrash band. Again, we only hear them as we are away getting changed, but their sound is robust and unrelenting, and the aftermath of their performance leaves a sweaty crowd who appeared to have behaved quite energetically.

Our turn. Our last show. The gear is solid, the drums are at the front of the stage, and we let rip. There will be no other opportunity for a night like this. The audience is close, but we egg them on to get closer, entice them onto the stage with us. And it’s great. Warm environmentally and receptively, goony dancing, and a room full of grinning. A conga line forms on stage and dives into the bodies of the front row. It’s a perfect ending. Shaiful comes on stage to wrap things up but first sings, and gets the audience to sing with him, a happy birthday tune to Chrissie, ala Singapore punk rock style. Perfect.

The crowds leave slowly, conversations are had, people linger and follow as we leave L Cube in search of a late night feed and beer, more good byes at traffic lights, and then we find a place to drink in an area where prohibition is not enforced. An alcohol ban is in place in the Indian quarter after the riot that happened about 3 years ago. It seems that rather than admit that there’s an issue that needs addressing, that there’s a dissatisfaction among some members of some populations, the authorities simply enforced this race-based liquor ban. However, the liquor ban doesn’t extend to across the road so it’s an easy regulation to get around. We go and find sleep. Waking the next day, we retrace our steps back to KL for a few days hanging out before flying back to Aotearoa.

20161208_193303.jpgFor all intents and purposes, the tour has officially ended. It has been a truly remarkable time-out-of-time experience. Spanning eight countries, playing 22 shows, meeting many new people and having the opportunity to talk and learn and discover.

We have an immense gratitude to everyone that has helped us on this trip, in what ever capacity. We hope that appreciation has been conveyed wherever we have gone, and across all languages despite our ability to directly covey our thanks. It is remarkably inspiring to see so much activity, community building, community nurturing and developing, spaces being made for potentials to play, spaces being made for explorations despite whatever impositions authorities impose, connections across great distances being made and ongoing support offered to each others endeavours.

We have witnessed time and time again the belligerent optimism of creative making. We’re thankful for all the precious opportunities to touch and taste and be immersed in these things happening. Keep going.

But for now, for us, It’s all over.

20161204_220033.jpg

Calling London 

This post for London spans shows in the city across November.

We’ve just arrived in the UK from Italy. We land at Stansted and slip into London on the train. We wheel the gear across the park known as London Fields to Chrissie’s sisters. It’s a familiar route and feels a bit like coming home. We know a few folk here from previous visits and an invitation onto The Other Rock show, a weekly radio show hosted by Marina Organ on the independent station Resonance FM, is gratefully accepted. It’s a chance to promote the first London show in 2 days time.

Before that though, we squeeze in a quick trip to Brighton to catch an exhilarating Sleaford Mods show before heading back to London for our own.

This first show was booked by Metal Postcards. Metal Postcards is a USA based independent distro who has recently included our back catalogue to their collection. The booked venue is the Vegbar, in Brixton, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that also hosts noisy shows fairly frequently.

Also on the bill are two other groups promoted by Metal Postcards. The first is Dream Herbs, a young group that draws influences from psychedelic music, Syd Barrett, and a desire for volume. Daij VHS is the third representation from Metal Postcards. His songs against backing tracks seem dark and deeply personal. The fourth act is a solo performer called Danny Trash. A fifth group was advertised to play but simply didn’t arrive, no one seemed to know who they were.

It’s a night of organisational improvisation. There is some confusion around equipment. One act expect a laptop. When it isn’t there, they improv an accapella set. Though this could have been very stressful we’re impressed by the lack of fluster this seems to generate.

Dream Herbs kick off the night and they deliver on what they say they will do, a number of swirling entertaining tunes, the influence of Syd Barrett is obvious to discern. The group is a three piece with guitarist front and centre,  but the rhythm section flys between loose and free play to held, considered and solid sections.

Danny Trash set is second, performing unaccompanied and with guitar. Then Daij VHS plays a short set to preprogrammed backing beats. Both performers deliver lyric in a free rap-styled format in a very raw, personal, unmediated impression on their local world.

Then it’s our turn to play. The audience, which seems to be predominantly the friends of the other three acts gets swept up in the energy of the event. Granted what we bring is quite different to the others, but it still feels like it has a real sense of collegiality and continuity. The night turns out to be a lot of fun despite the shaky organisational start. Vegbar is a sweet wee venue, and Assad who drives the sound desk was super helpful.


Fast forward to end of November. Our next two shows are back to back and organised by the Club Integral folk. They helped us out last time we were in London. They also host a regular radio show on Resonance FM.

The first show is at The Others in Stoke Newington. Remarkably easy to get to from the train, a short five minute walk past a tiny Caribbean fast food joint, some accommodation then turn right up the stairs above a snooker hall. The Others is one of those wonderful committed and dedicated venues that puts music front and foremost ahead of alcohol and profits. Spaces like these are essential to the nurturing and development of new music, skills of performers and provide opportunities for ideas to be explored. Venues such as these are well worth supporting and essential for keeping the parameters of music wide open.

There are two acts at The Others, ourselves and a trio called Knock Knock.

Knock Knock is a three piece – drums, saxophone, and mask/broken cup/cymbal. Reminiscent of a sped up Bhutto dance, Wayang puppetry with out puppets, a theatre show without a script, with some sounds, some music, and a bit of fisticuffs. Somewhere and somehow in this trio there are connections with the Tiger Lilies. Knock Knock is a frantic energy that is thoroughly entertaining.

Our spin on the floor and is a delightfully intimate affair. A lovely show that generates a load of conversations afterwards.

For the second show we head to Lambeth to play in a creative enclave, the venue in this space is called I’Klectik, another music-first space with a ear for invention. It’s a large room, with the feel of a small hall or a large wooden classroom. The space has a bar, zine display and music selection for sale focusing on what looks like experimental and improvisational music. Again tonight there are only two acts. We share the floor with a trio called the Honey Hahs, three sisters playing original music. The quirk is that they are aged between 9 and 15 maybe, they come with an entourage of family members. It is perhaps our most incongruous show to date. The trio perform with skill and it’s really very sweet.

We take our turn adding our our contrasting sounds to the innocent tones of the Honey Hahs. The show marks the end though of the northern hemisphere section of this tour. It’s a mixed sensation, a sense of completion of the bulk of the tour, there are only two shows after this, mixed with a sense of not wanting to be completed yet, it’s too fun to be finished yet…

But what unfolds unfolds and the night comes to the end. This time around there seemed to be more potential to do more here, there were several shows we had to decline when organizing. It would be nice to return and devote a decent amount of time to exploring and playing the UK, the north looks attractive. Till next time…

From Czeching in to checking out

20161116_174332.jpgHere we are, sitting in a hrad, Czech for castle, in the western town of Loket. This place has been hill-top and centre in this village since the 12th century. The actual location of our performance tonight is reported to be in the ancient royalty’s entertainment room, where the various monarchs entertained or administered other business. The throne room is backstage.

It’s been two and a half years since we were last in the Czech Republic, it’s so nice to be back.

We left London before dawn this morning, up around four-ish and back through the sleeping city to Stansted. We land at Praha (Prague) and have a small wait for our ride to arrive. It’s easy to remain occupied with pizza, beer and Czech-watching.

Mirek, frontman for Už Jsme Doma(UJD), arrives by bus first. The van with the rest of the band is not far behind. Once it arrives, loaded with equipment and bodies, out spill the rest of the band. It is always wonderful to reconnect with old friends, warm, enveloping and welcoming

There are also new introductions, firstly to Ruda the driver, and Votja the new drummer for UJD. Votja has been with UJD for the past year now, and comes with the experience of playing in punk bands for many years. We load our gear into the last space available and leave Praha for the town of Loket near the Western boarder.


The trip is all talking, story-telling, and Czech beers in the backseats. Evening falls and we enter Loket after the two hour journey in the drizzle. It is a winding route to access the castle shrouded by low cloud and poor visibility. You can imagine the ominous image cast in centuries past as one approached this fortress in the gloom. We enter Hrad Loket through large wooden gates. The town is dressed in mist and drizzle, there are radiations of orange from tungsten street lamps through the wet, the air is full of gems of orange as the light inhabits single falling raindrops.

We have a task to do though. We park in the central grounds of the castle and load guitar amps, drums, and PA gear up the stairs and into the festival hall. The equipment is assembled and soundchecked surrounded by ancient swords and crossbows. At the other end of the hall is the dining room. Long tables are set out and wait for the dozens of bodies to occupy. Someone is setting up the kegs. This castle happens to be the only venue in Loket and it has been functioning for the past four years in its current iteration. It appears it took some convincing to get the go-ahead to be able to run modern concerts but it has been a positive step for the town. Bands now come and play in this extraordinary venue, and subsequently more people visit the historic site as a important site of tourists interest.

People start to arrive early and in numbers. We are thankful we are up first, in the lineup of three acts, and can fully enjoy watching UJD. We make ourselves up into our costume, walk across the open courtyard, up the stairs and then enter the hall via the front main entrance. We are all ready to go, there’s a decent audience waiting, and boom! we’re off. It’s a great set, we look out and see people smiling, dancing and a party unfolding. Playing in Czech feels like coming home.


Next up is UJD, they deliver a solid set. It’s a delight to stand in the audience and hear everyone around singing along. There are new arrangements of songs and a host of other familiar tunes. Votja’s drumming seems harder than the previous drummers we’ve seen, more wirey, more punk, more attack. It adds a powerful lift to the music. The final act is a local group called Blahobeat, a local five-piece, sturdy old-school/post-punk rock band. A fantastic gesticulating frontman who is a dynamo and holds centre stage.

After the show we go to friends of Mireks’: they have offered to let us stay at their house for the night too. So we pack down our gear in preparation for leaving the next day, and then head out into the mist for a midnight stroll across bridge over the river to bed. Once at the house we’re offered nightcaps of Slivovice, a strong Czech alcohol, clear in appearance, made of plum and tastes like fire. If you inhale at the wrong time when consuming the burn is so much more intense! It takes a couple of goes to get it right. Sleep is welcome.


After waking, our plan is to meet the band at a restaurant but first it has been arranged that we have the opportunity to explore the castle in more depth. It’s a fascinating walk up the wooden stairs to the top of the towers. We see the geography of the land from every direction. On the way down the stairs continue to go further into the basement from our exit point from the building. Looking over the banister in the central well is a large sculpture of the local dragon, every castle needs one.

Another ‘key’ attraction of the castle is the ‘torture chamber’ display. This is definitely eye-catching with the ultra realist sculptures illustrating in graphic detail the interrogation techniques used in-house during the dark ages. It’s extremely graphic and brutal and quite unsettling after such a pleasant time meandering moments before. We didn’t take any photos. How is it possible to forgot the horrendous acts inflicted by one human onto another? Additional reminders do not seem necessary. There were tiny cramped cells, sensory deprivation chambers, chairs of deathly discomfort and devices of entombment and suffering. Directly upstairs from this basement of suffering was the palatial chambers for the monarchs. It was a graphic education.

We left and went looking for lunch and to reconnect with the others in a local restaurant.

Czech food is often limited for vegetarians, and harder for vegans. Today there’s a lot of deep-fried cheese in multiple varieties of presentation, onion soup or our tour staple, Bamborachy, a Czech savoury potato pancake. And a country that has a sweet fruit-filled dumpling on offer as a main cannot be all bad either.


Sated, we load up and leave. Our next destination is the town of Tabor, at the venue CESTA (previously mentioned in the Italian post). It will been ten years since we last set foot through the doors of CESTA. A lot has happened since then and we’re both deeply looking forward to being back there.

20161117_191312.jpgWe arrive Tabor in the dark, and the cold has set in. Warmth returns in bearhugs with our old friend Chris, it’s like time hasn’t passed and we seem to pick up where we left off. Pressing practical matters take precedent and we need to set up the show. Only our two acts are playing tonight. There’s some swift and skilful problem-solving required to manage several technical issues, and things feel tense as the approaching starting time looms. Technical issues are always a potential issue to navigate, sometimes a show can feel like a constant battle against the elements. But there’s a skill learned across time that it’s better to roll with the challenges that present, such as equipment faliure or sound issues, than to fight them. 


We play first and it is a gratifying personal milestone to be back here making music. CESTA holds a significant place of importance in our experience of developing and presenting our creative work. UJD follow us, and the room swells with locals. If we’re not mistaken this may be UJD’s first show in Tabor in their nearly 30 year duration. It is amazing how busy this band is and how many shows they are able to play in Czech Republic every year, a country that is not so different in landmass to Aotearoa. It’s impressive that there is such a wide number of welcoming venues available to this assertive Czech rock music on a regular basis.

The show ends and some head to the bars in town. We remain at CESTA and are able to catch up with Chris properly after his task of hosting the show is complete.

Bedtime arrives and we go to sleep to the sound of a potbell burner gifting heat to our room on this satisfying Autumn night.

Morning brings breakfast at CESTA, coffee, dark rye bread and jams. Chris returns from errands and we spend a bit more time talking before we need to return to the road. We appreciate being in close company again and to be able to hear and share the details of large life events. When you live at such distance from each other, settling for quality rather than quantity is essential.


In the back of the van and unsuccessully trying to sleep. Got to sleep at about 3-4am last night after a very late show in Lanškroun, our third show. It was a great show for us, assertive, solid and intentional. We didn’t take to the stage till about 01:30. UJD went first just after midnight delivering another powerful set. Great sound by Miloz who has been the band’s most regular sound person for many years. It is a loud venue. This show was part of a local arts/theatre festival, and the bar was flooded with folk who had attended or participated in theatre events. Our concert is the after party. And they partied.


We leave Už Jsme Doma in Lanškroun. Good byes are always emotive, and we hope it is only a see-you-later. We feel lucky that we have found a fraternity, a family, of like-minded music makers across the globe.

Now the GPS is giving directions in Czech. We are in Votja’s van moving towards the Webrocka festival where we play our fourth show. Low damp cloud is everywhere and there is very little to view. We are moving towards the Polish boarder.


This is the 15th year of the Webrocka festival,  a local festival that also acts as a fundraising event for a local group working with kids. There seems to be a large turnout for the festival. Two stages are programmed and music runs continuously. There are also breakaway rooms with smaller but very roudy acoustic performances. One stage starts as the other finishes and change-overs happen simultaneously. We are on the downstairs stage in a very cold cellar space and we play after Votja’s other group 100%. They are great, high energy punk/funk styled chaotic songs. The bass player Marco, an english bloke living in Czech, has a spectacular and aggressive bass technique, an assertive slapping style that treats his instrument as a true uninhibited extension of himself. The sets feels a combination of songs and improvisation and these two are rock solid with each other. It’s a delight to watch, a real highlight to see this committed performance.


The entire event seems to be tightly stage managed and on schedule till the headline band before us takes the stage, then the schedule seems to stretch. Our first set was to start 1145 but didn’t start till 0030. We are rostered to play two sets, this first and then a second about an hour later. Time continued to stretch and we ended up completing our second set at 3am. Fortunately at the end of the night we have a much warmer space upstairs to put our heads down for a few hours sleep before heading of early to a town to catch a train to Prague.


Our final journey to Prague is through amazing country side of rock formations that feel like giant’s building blocks,  unusual and very old. We leave Votja at Pardubice train station, this line will take us the rest of the distance to Praha.


We exit the train at the terminal and are met by Romek Hanslík, the bloke who has helped us with our Czech bookings. Romek also runs a tour management service that includes UJD and the Plastic People of the Universe.


Our final show is at the Prague rock club Vagon. It has been arranged that for our final show we open for the Plastic People of the Universe,  a group that has obtained a legendary status through the history of being a long-haired, underground psychedelic group prior to the end of the communist regime. They were often in trouble with the authorities which resulted in prison time for some of the band members. They also moved in the same circle as Vaclav Havel who became the first prime minister after the Velvet Revolution. They have also achieved the status of iconic legends for also for being a group performing for almost 50 years. There is one remaining original member.

20161121_000406.jpgCoincidentally, in relation to Velvet Revolution, while we have been here there has been a national holiday to commemorate the events which sparked the  Revolution, the bloodless transition from a communinist state to something more open. A commemoration has been set up across the road, across from the venue, and people have come in their droves to lay and light candles at a sculpture to mark the place and the event.

Sunday night shows, like many places on the planet, are plagued by the pull of Monday morning work. People tend to remain home and tonight is no difference, our audience is compact. We open the evening with a sense of personal closure, this is our last show here and it’s been a whirlwind. It is gratifying being back and being able to access these opportunities. We are thankful to the people that have supported us to make this a reality.

It’s a tough audience, hard to know what they thought, but we gave it our best and what more can you do than that. The Plastic People take the stage, Jiri, the original member, the guitarist who has been with the band for years and a much youger trio of bass, guitar and drums. It’s obvious that this is who the audience have come to see. It is definitely cool to see the Plastic People, and a privilege to see them tackle three new songs tonight.

It’s done. We pack away our gear as all the equipment is dismantled and head for our backpackers for a few hours kip. We need to be up at early-doors and return to the airport and the UK.

Snow shows – 4 days in Finland

We leave London at sparrowsfart to catch our plane to Finland. It’s early early and its amazing to see the city asleep. It’s an interesting thing to contemplate – at this pre-dawn hour the majority of the population of London appear to consentually slip into sleep in their millions simultaneously. It’s as if at the end of the each day they all collectively go ‘good night’ and slide into slumberland. This major city feels truely dormant at this dark hour. It seems a bit odd. We catch our train then plane and leave.

mmexport1479940875953.jpgDescending through the blanket of cloud we start to see the outline of islands and water. At a distance these look like pebbles in a puddle but that is just a illusion of distance. As we go lower we can see roof tops and roads, signs of life appearing out of the beautiful snow covered landscape.

We land at Helsinki airport. Leaving the plane to walk across the tarmac to a bus to take us to the terminal in the whisper of falling snow. We learn swiftly to step with caution as the black ice makes itself known underfoot.

Finland, to date you win the prize for the most grumpy boarder guards at passport control. More chilly that the outdoor environment. Well done.

Once across the boarder we eventually decipher the metro line that will take us into the heart of Helsinki. There are two trains to choose from and they both go to the same place, but it took some moments to learn to interpret these new signs and directions in a completely unfamiliar dual language.

We arrive at the central terminal where we make our way to the front entrance of the train station. As we leave we look back at the remarkable facade of massive stone sculptural figures holding illuminating orbs to light the paths.

It is bitterly cold, zero degrees. It is a land of coats, hats, gloves and scarfs. Although there is still the random pedestrian seen strolling in shorts, t-shirt and jandels!.

We walk to the venue which is a short distance but maybe takes longer than usual to walk as we navigate snow drifts, traffic and ice. Mounds of fresh snow are piled up to the side to keep the paths open. These snow banks are over one metre in depth.

GPS is our friend and we find the venue, Henry’s Pub, easily. It is located on the perimeter of a central square. It’s a modest sized bar that warmly welcomes us with rest, food and brews while we wait for our contact and organiser, Kaarle, and the other bands, to arrive.

Slowly band members start to gather and introductions are made. The other groups are Sirja & Konfuusio and Lizards. The performance of Sirja and co seemed to be a collaborative project – Sirja being the main song writter and the trio Konfuusio adding the rock to her songs. There were some solid tunes and we also really enjoyed hearing that particularly finnish sound. Moments were reminiscent of Dunedin band Cloudboy. Next up, Lizards, a competent performance that reminded of a Jack Black musical project. Our performance was last, and seemed  very well received. There were a few responses that felt quite overwhelming and some seemed particular energised from what we had offered. One lovely comment we received was that we ‘played Finnish music’. Somehow what we played made a particular kind of sense that was unanticipated. A lot of very fine music has come from Finland so we happily received the compliment.

Post show we head for the trains again, our accommodation is at Kaarle’s place, located in the village Jokela, about an hour out of Helsinki. We first need to navigate those offers of post-show drinks and after parties. The last train to catch is at a quater to midnight and it’s a close-call, if we miss the train it’s a night in a Helsinki pub and the snow.

But we manage to extract ourselves and head for the train. We find out the snows only started yesterday. This marks the start of a long winter and it’s interesting to discuss the impact this has on the locals, how they cope during the long dark winters. We catch the train with minutes to spare, striking up random conversations with others on the train who are keen to teach us Finnish swear words … important stuff to learn.

Jokela is a small village, two supermarkets, a pub and a pizza shop. We investigate the town when we wake, the local lake has already started to freeze over. Bird prints can be traced in the fresh snow, small collections of the white dust gathers and balances on the last of autumn’s fruiting trees. There’s no wind, it is still and crisp and cool. The lake has started to freeze. We pass time with pizza and beer before we have to reconvene and hit the road for our next show in the city of Tampere two hours north of here.

It is an uneventful roadtrip. There’s a small opportunity to sleep as we cruise along the motorway, between forests, deer fences and snow.

In Tampere we are playing at the pub called O’Haras, it has a vague celtic feel but plays a broad and fascinating background music selection that swings between contemporary finnish pop to brutal nordic metal. The cross section of drinkers in the pub seem to not be bothered by whatever is blasted across the sound system. It’s quite wonderful.

The bar’s venue space is downstairs. We are playing with a local trio called Xes, guitar, drums and barritone saxophone. One of the downsides of wearing make-up is that it takes about 25 minutes to prepare, and during this preparation we often miss a lot of the preceeding performance before us. It’s a constant tension. Xes present entertaining show. They are currently recording their first album with the extrodinary finnish musician Pennti Dassum. Pennti has been involved in many, many awesome musical projects and we hope at some point to meet him. We have many mutual friends. It’s funny that we almost meet via Xes. Next time.

20161105_024428.jpgWe play well. And again it’s well received. This is confirmed in part by the regular plying of alcohol from audience members with offers of gin and other alcohol during our set. And then the enthusiastic responses after we finish. It seems our music has found a natural home among some of these Finnish ears. It is definitely encouraging when we contemplate future tours to know that it will go down well here.

We leave O’Hara’s and head to a local pub for an after gig tipple. Here we get to enter into some wonderful conversation while trying some local liquorice tasting liquors. Closing time arrives and we spill out on to the street to a nearby taxi stand. We travel across town and stay with one of Kaarle’s friends in a student university hostel. A very nice meeting and full of encouragement.

We are in Finland for three nights but have only managed to get two shows. Even though we started the organising earlier in the year confirming shows seemed a challenge. We discussed this at length while in Finland to understand what the Finnish context is like. It seems the Finnish independent music scene has been hit hard in the economic downturn. Several years ago it was possible to play many venues and many shows. Things have got tighter and the opportunities have significantly reduced. Venues are only hiring bigger bands that have some draw but are not creating opportunities for newer acts. It would seem that this is going to be a problem in years to come. New acts need places to cut their teeth, to develop innovative sounds and to hone skills outside of economic imperitives.

So we find ourselves with a Saturday night off in Finland. We decide to make our way back to Helsinki, that way it will be easy to get to the airport on  Sunday.

We find a reasonable priced hotel in the inner city. The snowing hasn’t really stopped. And we seek out heat. Given that one of the things Finland is famous for is the sauna, we make our way to one of the older saunas in Helsinki central. It is a sauna that has been functional for the best part of the last 70 years, gender segregated into male and female only. There’s no obvious clear instruction so it’s basically learning by observation. The pattern seems to be hang out in the heat for a bit, then out into the snow for a beer then repeat. Health-giving activities. It seems the traditional saunas are disappearing due to the modern apartments all having electric sauna instalment. Many of the classics saunas have gone, there are only three left.

And that’s it. A weekend in Finland, an excellent investigation to see how we go here and it will be totally worth returning, hopefully not too far into the future.

A massive massive thanks to Kaarle for all the work that went into setting up the shows, and for the hosting and transportation. Also big thanks to Pietsu, Kristian, Petri, Marge, and Jan.

Utopizza

wp-1479240343555.jpgRome, a city of small cars and scruffy green spaces. Hints of old artifacts visible from a bus window. Does it smell as it did three thousand years ago? A country of roundabouts in lieu of traffic lights,  a roading system with more curves than a sack of spiral pasta. Big blue skies framed by rising ranges in one direction,  and the halitosis of progress breathes its smoggy breath out the other way. A city adorned in street-art tattoos on almost every conceivable surface.

Italy is our next destination after China. We land after an exhausting 30 hour journey from Beijing, through Qatar, to Rome, to train,  to bus, to van to bed. We’re camping down at Invizin. We arrive on the Monday night and have a few days to recover from the jetlag before a show on Friday. The party is to mark the 1st birthday of this recently established cultural hothouse in San Giovani, located on the outskirts of the village of Tornareccino, East coast, South of the city of Pescara by an hour or so.

It’s warm when we land but the temperature drops as we head into the hills. On a clear day you can look down to the north and see the Adriatic coast. For the first couple of days jetlag dictates our patterns.

Invizin is the new art/science/technology and sustainability project of Hilary Binder.

“Invizin is a not-for-profit international cultural laboratory focused on stimulating and supporting ideas that challenge the status quo of social tolerance and material and intellectual sustainability. We invite and form international collaborations to apply artistic practice, scientific research and analysis, technological advances, and radical thinking across multiple fields. Based in the Italian region of Abruzzo, Invizin develops and implements model solutions that build creative and sustainable common futures…”

We first met Hilary about ten years ago when SABOT, the duo she drummed with, toured Aotearoa New Zealand. Sabot had been based in the Czech town of Tabor where Hilary, and Sabot bass player Chris Rankin, established the cultural exchange station called CESTA. The CESTA project was an art/culture/activist/community development project. It was truly inspiring for us when we first encountered it,  and it still remains a key example of art and action in practice.

As well as catching up with Hilary on this tour, we are excited also that we have the opportunity to return to CESTA in a few weeks to perform at the house. Chris remains at CESTA and it’s been wonderful reconnecting in the setting up of our show there. More on that later.

We take refuge at Invizin, wrapped up in the presence of Autumn turning across the countryside. We sleep, then wake to a valley dressed in low cloud, go slow and charge up with food and coffee. We head into the village for a beer and visit local cheese shops and hardware stores. The population of the village is 1832.

The days roll past slowly as we recover from the jetlag. We spend the hours talking, eating, exploring the Invizin library, eating Gelato by the Adriatic and seeing flags of local successful protests to stop off-shore oil exploration.  In the evenings it’s back to more food and alcohol. It’s a holiday.

Much of the conversation centres on the working concept Hilary has for Invizin. The building is a multi-level space on the top of a rise on the outskirts of town. Hilary has one level as living space and library. The ground floor has a history of being a restaurant many years ago. This project of Hilary’s is a new iteration of her ongoing commitment to social justice and social change, based on anarchist philosophy and the power of creative expression. Invizin is continuing to grow into a regular space for local musicians to gather and discover musical improvisation, to gently and sonically push out boundaries of perception while establishing new patterns, friendships and opportunities. There have been other previous Italian projects as well, such as creating festivals to celebrate the women of the villages.

wp-1479239254374.jpgRecently though, the place was burgled. A whole collection of useful tools and other bits and pieces were taken. Hilary entered into conversation with the thieves in the form of posters around stating to not steal from poor artists, but the rich and the state.

Earlier in the year Hilary was approached by some local musos asking her to sing for a group they were establishing. Eventually Hilary said yes and the group Polemica burst into life. They have recently self-released their first album of original material on vinyl and are touring across Europe diy style. Many of these ways of working, in an independent self-determined way are new for the band members. It seems to us that Hilary has already helped to create new openings for some members of the community.

 

A huge focus of our stay though is that we get to perform at the first birthday of Invizin on our final night, playing alongside Polemica and a local reggae DJ for the locals.

The building Hilary uses for Invizin used to be a local restaurant years ago. Downstairs from the main living space is the actual restaurant and the large kitchen including a purpose built pizza oven. We spend a full day tidying up the space in preparation, and we get a fire going in the pizza oven in anticipation that it will be functioning perfectly on the day of the party. We are guided by text messages from a local pizza oven master on the best way to reignite the oven afters 18 years of sitting idle. And it works perfectly, there’s no fleeing of nesting birds or any other critters from the smoke and the heat. The heat radiates. We bank it up and close it down and hope that in the morning we have made a hearty bed of charcoals to facilitate perfect pizza production.

Our final day rolls around, the kitchen is prepared. We work on finishing setting up the space. There is constant communication back and forth of what other provisions will be brought, food, drink, sound equipments. We stoke the pizza oven and given it the first test run. Will it work? How long will it take? So many blind questions. The only way to find out is to put the theory to the test. A base is rolled, toppings applied, make-shift instruments made, and the tray is pushed into the centre of the oven, surrounded by a mound of brilliant orange embers. There’s no thermostat so we have no idea how hot the beast gets. It takes about 5-6 minutes, the pan is rotated, moved around and monitored. The Utopizza is born! And to our estimation, it was as perfect as it needed to be! As far as signs and portents go, this is a goodie.

The afternoon rolls, people start to arrive with food, drink, the DJ with a box of music, the sound system has a few bugs discovered and corrected. And the evening cranks into a party. The oven is in production, kids are in the kitchen making their own food, and the music starts. We are up first and we are warmly and generously welcomed. A few dance, people charge drinks, and we feel like we fit right in. It is a delightful thing. Wonderful conversations afterwards, people want to share there experience of us, sense is made across language divides, enthusiastic Italians with no english proclaim at length of the fun they had, alcohol is a good lubricant for language exchange. And then Polemica prepare to do their set. There’s an air of excitement for the lads of the local community and Hilary. They have just recently returned from a two week tour and are honed, great song writing, some really solid tunes, and a confident delivery. It is really very good. It is the first home show for some time and they are welcomed and the party ramps.

All finished. The community leave for home, the Dj plays the last reggae tune and powers down the system. We head off to bed for four hours sleep before we need to be up and off to catch the bus back to Rome’s airport.

Heading back towards the airport, sleep, snack, stare out the window listening to Leila Adu on headphones in this mist-lifting landscape, a fine musician and true internationalist, music for the world, skillful and hopeful. The warm weather undressed the night.

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