non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

It’s All Over[parts of] the World Tour

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…

Another typical story: a mosh pit in a Moroccan restaurant in Beijing

The sun touches the haberdashered suit hanging in the window. They are dry now. Last night they were sodden with sweet.

The sun touches eyelids sleeping on a Sunday floor. Warming them. The light projects redness to the retina and the brain responds. Waking.

The sky is blue. Good morning Beijing. The last morning. The next bed we wake on will be Italian. Ears singing tones of volume from the night before. There is a small presence of beer in the brain. Waking slowly, slowly.

Last night we saw stars in the skies above Beijing. Sparkles of ear rings for the Cheshire cat smile, that slender slip of a moon grinning down.

Sound resonates through the apartment walls, of hammering, of chairs being scrapped across floors, of small activities. The city sounds like wind. Maybe those are bird songs? Listen to industry,  maybe rubble being dumped, all the cars sound like one, the echoes of the petrol powered motorbikes throttle can be heard, the electric scooters are silent. Occasional car horns honk, so much less so than in other cities,  a lone call opens it throat and calls to others. There’s no ashvelt orchestra this morning. Waking more.

Flexing, feeling stiffness and muscular fatigue from days of lugging cases and playing shows. Arthritis says hi. The room is warmer. The last morning in China. Awake.

Last night was memorable. Someone commented on the spectacle we made; a mosh pit manifest in a Moroccan restaurant in Beijing. Is that not something spectacular?

Our show was held in a venue called Caravan, a Moroccan restaurant in Beijings embassy district. It is a regular restaurant by day. The owner, Badr, is a huge music fan and musician, and is committed to providing the space as a venue as well. He treats the performers excellently,  feeding all and providing a few drinks to boot. The show was opened by a local DJ Fido and followed by a three-piece called The Death Narcissist.

We arrived yesterday morning on the overnight train from Wuhan. The Beijing train terminals may be some of the busiest we’ve seen. We are being hosted by Susu and Dann from the local art/oddball group Guiguisuisui,  its unfortunate that we won’t get to see them play.

The accommodation could not be in a more perfect position,  centrally located to great eateries and Metro centres. We have the opportunity to wander around for the afternoon. Oddly down a back alley we find an english styled pub serving beer and chips with brown sauce, we partake.

But today is the last day of an exceptional ten day tour. There is one show to go and that will be at the artspace called Fruit Space. The show will be mid afternoon, and then from there we head to the airport and leave for Italy.

But first we go for a last lunch with Susu and Dann at a particularly flash vegetarian restaurant. An incredible array of tastes and textures finished with a spectacular ball made of white chocolate, surrounded by a moat of steaming liquid nitrogen. The ball is then shattered by one of the waitstaff to revel odd white chocolate breadlike sandwiches with a jam paste on the middle..we need to report that it looked better than it tasted. And then we leave our wonderful hosts and hitch a cab to Fruity Space.

The venue reminds of the venues back home such as Pyramid Club. Fruity is an underground facility which also supplies a bar and small zine and record store of local experimental items. Were are playing with two other acts. The first is a saxophone and noise collaboration,  the noise maker manipulates sounds made from two sheets of metal with contact microphones attached. Its less boisterous than we expected. Next is Wellington musician Dan Beban performing on a traditional local string instrument with another local on violin. Dan is currently on an artist in residence programme hosted at the Red Gate facility across town. We hoped to get out that way to explore but have run out of time. Then our turn. The set up is pleasing hut we are soon told then we need to turn down due to issues with volume. We take this in our stride and it doesn’t compromise the performance at all, in fact its quite fun playing with this enforced intimacy. There’s a lot of laughing and we enjoy the lighthearted end to our ninth and last show.

And thats it. Done. All thats left to do is pack our gear away in preparation for our impending longhaul flight. We have a couple of hours to kill so head for a last supper with our friends and beer.

We depart on our own by taxi, leaving behind new contacts and friends. We make our way the gargantuan Beijing airport. We have a long haul ahead of us. But behind us we have accumulated wonderful memories from and incredible eye-opening and challenging experience. It has been a truely immense pleasure to spend time in such fine company across this country. We feel this trip is a brilliant preparatory expedition in anticipation of returning sometime. It was that good!

Xie xie.

Nuts in Chongqing

wp-1478016656347.jpgIt’s a two hour train ride fron Chengdu to Chongqing. We go to grab a cab from the queue. We avoid the ‘dark taxis’, the independent operators. Kristin relays stories of passengers being ripped off, and of massive delays and unpredictable travel times. We’re get our cab and deftly load in gear, this game of physical tetris is impressive.

wp-1478016735140.jpgThe ride in the tide of surging taxis is like surfing with fish. Weaving and intersecting in a fluid motion that somehow makes sense, its seems incredible that it works without calamity.

That is until the front corner of our cab kisses the back end of another. Then our travel stops as a heated debate ensues on the main thoroughfare. Offers of cigarettes to offset the damage are handed through windows. The arguement is over a slight graze to the back of the front cab, which to be fair to our driver, is barely noticeable. Haggling escalates over money to pay for repairs. There’s no police but a gathering crowd watches the entertainment.

Face needs to be saved and we’re unsure whose going to win. Our driver gets back behind the wheel, drives half a block then ejects us onto the side of highway. It’s like being dropped in the middle of a motorway intersection. The two cabs then leave for a panel beaters and we’re left trying to hail another ride in a spaghetti of roads. We walk a bit, the god of taxis smiles and we hail a ride.

Chongqing is a major city located on a rolling landscape. It looks more liberal on a first impression, outwardly affluent with a very busy CBD of highrise and lightshows. It’s not a long walk from our taxi departure to NUTS Livehouse, tonight’s venue, located in the heart of a massive shopping complex.

wp-1478016716194.jpgNuts is a large space, a long established venue in the Chongqing music scene. Stickers adorn everywhere of local bands, punk and otherwise, and there’s a graffiti wall outside the venue which includes a large tag from Orchestra of Spheres.

wp-1478016667308.jpgIt’s a welcoming venue, supplying fruit and beer to the performers, super helpful sound techs and great gear. We’re playing with one other local band called You Come Twice, with a guitar/bass/drum/electronics arrangement. It’s an early in the week show, a big band from Japan played the night before, and elsewhere in town is a German punk band who we seem to be shadowing across China. Our turnout was decent though. We all felt warmly received and had plenty of great conversations afterwards.

We spent the night at a backpackers. Initially it looked like there was no room at the inn but the reception staff were brilliant at locating a second, and most welcome, option, when our booking got eaten by the booking system.

Shanghai arrival


Leaving Aotearoa NZ at midnight we get the typical sleep you get on long haul flights, broken and restless. But as far as they go this was one of the better ones, slightly more comfy, slightly better rest. The planning for this tour has been going on for months, the build-up intense – navigating tour planning with every-day to day life. That’s all over now, well and truly behind us.

We entered Shanghai airport at 7 am Friday morning. Friday for us was 29 hours long, most of those awake.

Our first mission was to make our way via Metro train and foot to the accommodation we’d arranged. It was just booked and confirmed the day of departure, after last minute changes were made to the schedule.

The contact in Shanghai who was organising the first show had encountered several challenges. The venue had recently relocated and our show was to be the first in this new space. Some equipment was difficult to get, and less than 48 hours before departure we heard there would be no drum kit,  only 1 microphone and no PA! Slightly problematic for a rock band.

Funnily enough, we had just done an interview for our Beijing show for AWEH. We discussed in one question about the last album’s process, a self imposed provocation of how can we make the most with the least equipment/instrumentation/collaboration. It seemed that this Shanghai show would really put the theory to the test. The show organiser is known for experimental music/noise so there was plenty of sonic latitude to play with.

We had also been in communication with another bloke from the Shanghai band Round Eye. On the night before we left he messaged saying we might be able to get a spot at a show his band was playing on the other side of town on the same night. The first shows starting time was 7,  the second at 9. It was a logistical mission to figure travel times while still at home. To us it seemed there could be a real risk we might not pull it off.

We accepted the second show and hoped like hell we could actually make it work.

We entered Shanghai on the Maglev, the only magnetic levitating train on the globe. Top speed 430kph. Then onto the Shanghai Metro train lines which are brilliantly intuitive to navigate. Exiting the Metro on West Yunan Road station we sited the 2nd venue, Yuyintang. The accommodation was another 15 minute walk from venue to the backpackers situated down a narrow lane. We checked in, had rice and beer and half slept for hour.

It was interesting to notice how quiet the back streets were, and even the main thoroughfares. There’s a remarkable number of electric scooters to contend with. They come up behind you swiftly like sparrows, the only alert a honk or chime of a bell. The scooters are a marvel of physics, modified in many ways to accommodate additional passengers or loaded to the gunnels with produce, bales of cardboard, or a myriad of other industrial supplies.

We passed the Shanghai museum of modern art and snapped a couple of quick pic of some of the wall art.

After rest we prepared for the first leg of the evening. Having gained some familiarity with the Metro we found it straightforward to meet our contact for the first show. The new residence of Space 631 was used as a photographic studio during the day.

The show was a noise show with four performers on the bill. We were billed first after discussions with the organiser as this was going to be the only way to logistically get across town in time was to play. We would play then go via taxi immediately.

The show was billed to start 7, it started 7.30. This ramped the anxiety a tad,  but we figured one way to manage this pressure was to get into costume at this venue and then taxi while kitted up. This idea was met with surprise,  maybe seen as as crazy thing to do. The organiser thought we might find it hard to get a cab as we looked like devils … us?

Our performance was as free-form exploration of one of our songs, using a lot of text, freeform bass guitar and rolling round the floor with one snare drum and a few cymbals. It seemed to work. We also invited one of the other performers to play guitar with us. A noisy affair of clatter and tone ending to the solo utterance of single words.

Then pack-up and split. Not a style we were that happy to use but it was the only way to meet this other commitment. Usually we think it respectful to remain till the end.

It took a few goes for him to hail a taxi. So we tried to turn make ourselves less conspicuous standing in the shadows!!! Eventually a driver wanted the fair and pulled over. We rolled into the cab then roared off across Shanghai to Yuyintang.

It was our first real view of the city from the street as mostly the Metro was underground. It blew our heads away. The city is gargantuan! Skyscraper after skyscraper after skyscraper.  Light shows of epic proportions. Everything of epic proportions.

It was as if we had fallen asleep in sleepy Wellington and woke to find ourselves on the set of Blade Runner.

Arriving at the second venue with 10 minutes to spare, creating a little stir walking the 200 meters to Yuyintang,  we entered, set up and played…boom…made it!

Doin the Yuyintang StrollYuyintang is reported to be one of the longest standing venues for alt. music in Shanghai, running for about 10 years. It was so worth the effort to make this work, we met some really wonderful people and played to a lively full house. A cranking start to the tour.

Knackered and content we headed to the hostel, absolutely exhausted, through the back streets of Shanghai. A long haul flight from NZ,  navigated an entirely new city, two shows and several beers later we dragged our gear up the four flights of stairs and collapsed satisfied.  A enormous first one, like three days in one. Not bad.

A Massive shout out to Junky & Chachy for being exceptionally good humans! thx

knackered on the day of 29 hours