Monday, November 9, 2009

Oamaru – Lyttelton (of small town awesomeness, and burning the candle from every available end…)

22-25 October 2009
By Mikey


Left or Right’s Thursday show in Oamaru was always going to be a bit special - for the first time in ages Left or Right and Made in China, along with one of Dunedin’s slickest upcoming bands, The DuCat’s kit, were sharing a stage. The Penguin Club was a particularly cool place for this show, as five of the 11 musicians playing that night call Oamaru ‘home,’ and all of them cut their teeth on the Penguin Club stage.

Speaking of which, as a venue, the Penguin Club rules. There’s a nice (recently upgraded) p.a. system, with plenty of sub & a decent desk + outboard, and a pretty nice lighting rig, which put a smile on both mine & Logan’s faces from the get-go. Bugger the tech stuff though - on walking in to this venue you’re confronted with a wall of posters, featuring acts like Supergroove, the Exponents, Mike Nock, Nathan Haines, The Puffins, Degrees K, The Feelers (eeer..), and many a touring international blues / folk act. The location is awesome too, in the back of an alley in the old part of town, about 70m from the harbor, the place feels completely isolated. As we hauled the gear up the old wooden ramp and Metz lit the pot-belly stove, you could have been forgiven for thinking we were playing a show in the wilderness.

Set-up went well, with the usual wall of lights, drums and audio gadgets successfully installed, much to the amusement of Kathryn, the current club president, and just one of the truly amazing team of volunteers running this place. Dinner was a bit rushed, but the L.O.R. guys were ecstatic to be able to tune into the Stags / Canterbury Ranfurly shield challenge on ye olde wireless in the van, and it was pretty amusing watching the Southland contingent rush into the venue half an hour after doors opened cheering and celebrating the end of the Stags 50 year shield drought… little did we know, (perhaps rightfully), we were not to hear the end of this for several days…

The Ducats took the stage just after 10 - late enough for a Thursday, but they immediately impressed with some awesome musicianship, and some well placed on-stage banter. These guys sound like a sort of Living-End-meets-Johnny-Cash-for-a-fight-in-a-bar-owned-by-Bono-situation… or something. Awesome, in other words.

Left or Right’s set tonight was tight as all hell, though Hampo’s (actually Nick from the Ducat’s) amp was pretty loud, (our beloved Sovtek has been going through another rough patch - mother Russia produced a swathe of awesome sounding guitar gear, though none of it can ever be called reliable), though thankfully the Penguin Club rig could more than keep up. It’s always interesting seeing a band change over the course of a tour: following the release shows I was absent for the middle stretch due to M.I.C commitments (a huge chur to Andy Biff for stepping in - by all accounts you did one hell of a job - lets talk vocal sampling and other nerdy stuff soon!). Impossibly, this band just keeps getting tighter(!) - particularly vocal wise. Also cool to note the addition of some more noise-rock breakdowns to some of the tracks (Park Street has become somewhat epic, to say the least). Favorite track from this show was once again Sleep - the end of this tune absolutely rules live, particularly with Metz and Steve absolutely smashing the vocals - fine way to end a set, with Callum and I inadvertently having a bit of a “who’s-delay-is-longest-and-loudest” contest after the end of the song proper.

I can’t say much about how Made in China’s set looked or sounded from an audience perspective, but it was awesome to play to a crowd so amped from seeing L.O.R. for the first time. The smoke / lighting combo was pretty intense - I struggled to see some members of the band for the whole set, but we played pretty well, and it was an awesome feeling to end the Made in China tour in mine and Sam’s hometown - small town shows are always that much more intimate, and this was no different - a decent swag of locals singing along to the tracks, and some great bleary eyed yarns after the show. A huge thanks to Metz for a) making his behemoth of a drum kit a bit more “minimalist friendly,” and b) for mixing our set - cheers bro!

Having packed the lighting rig, backline and p.a. stuff down, we headed off to Liz & Les’s place for the night. Though we didn’t see much of them, they did provide us with an epic breakfast, and the guys were stoked to meet Dusky and Dumples, the resident felines - who also enjoyed our breakfast… Thanks guys! Your matching L.O.R grutz are in the mail, right(!?).


The short hop to Timaru the next day was relatively stress free, and it was great to see the expression on Dave’s (the Royal Hotel Publican) face as we covered the entire pub floor in lights, backline and cables. Check was pretty uneventful - another pretty nice p.a., though we hauled in our monitor rig and tops tonight as some of the Royal’s stuff was away for repairs. After a decent break for dinner - Stevo, Petey Reid and I were treated to some fantastic service from “Munchies” burger bar, who’s waiter won quote of the day, with “I forgot your serviettes,” (in the campest, most panicked voice you can imagine), and I got incredibly lost trying to buy a phone card (a half hour hike later…).

About 11pm, local lads - Hell Comes to Frogtown took the stage. These guys are seriously cool. Imagine Kyuss on some kind of disco pills and you’re close - at times sludgy, but mostly pretty up-beat and bluesy, these guys are something of a surprise in a small pub in Timaru. Not too bad to mix, though it’s pretty full-on-all-the-time stuff - which is great, and their sizeable crowd of loyal followers lapped it up.

After another round of stunned faces at the “Mullins…!” intro, Left or Right were on stage again. Bit of a nicer on-stage sound with Hampo using Morgs’ (M.I.C.) Marshall head, though allegedly he didn’t have enough gain - probably a bit ACDC sounding at times, but I wasn’t complaining(!). It was great to watch the locals’ reactions to these guys. Many of the crowd seemed pretty keen on their metal, (spotted a bunch of guys in “support Timaru Metal” t-shirts - gold!), and there was a rush to the front of the room every time the band broke into a heavy riff - classic stuff, and a reversal of the usual reaction L.O.R. gets, which was pretty refreshing. Following the show, we stuck around with hosts Dave and Lisa, and enjoyed many a brew - certain members of the crew were pretty short on sleep come Saturday load out.

Speaking of which, whilst loading out on Sat, ‘band mother’ Seedy (Stevo) went on a key collection mission (we’d been staying in the ‘hotel’ bit of the building). At this stage, the Hampton brothers began discussing the location of the key to their room - those guys are to keys what the Bermuda triangle is to ships - however, with an early sound-check in Christchurch looming, we were unable to locate the said key before departure - cheers for being a good sport Dave - any luck with that key yet, guys!?


The journey to Christchurch passed with just a single incident - my realization, upon taking over driving duties from Callum in Rangitata, that the van had but the smell of an oily rag in the tank - no mind - we putted into Rolleston at 90kms, everyone holding their breath and thinking light thoughts; at least we know how much a whole tank costs now - ‘e’ means ‘enough’ right?

Set-up at the Dux was, well, set-up at the Dux. These guys have a bunch of “policies” for visiting bands and crew - check is strictly 3.00-5pm (due to residential zoning), and a good deal of the p.a. is off limits (locked in a cupboard) to visiting engineers - an idea that does preserve the p.a., but that is also pretty frustrating at times. Thankfully, both tonight’s bands - Left or Right and Soulsystem - had good onstage sounds, and didn’t require me to push anything weird through f.o.h., and I was happy to sit back and play around with a bunch of effects, and drink some pricey, but tasty beer. Also fun to note the Cantabrians’ deadpan reactions to Stevo’s on-stage Stags / Ranfurly Shield celebrations - cmon’ Christchurch, give the guys a break - it’s been 50 years, and you’re just not that cool(!).

After the set finished at 11.30pm on the schnoz (residential-zoning-induced-time-limitations again), we packed out in reasonable time - well, some of us took it pretty slowly; I had a Whisky to take care of first, and I overheard a certain L.O.R. member having a discussion in which he was told, forthright “you see, that’s the meaning of life, so, y’know…” - if only we could remember what the first bit of that sentence was(!)).

The drive back to Cooper’s place (cheers for putting us up mate!) was basically hacka 101, lesson 1. Having already broken a window in the van due to some sort of mic-stand-meets-road-case-meets-glass scenario (I may or may not have contributed to this…eeer… nice tape job Crispy!!!), we proceeded to slowly stumble upon the long arm o’ the law. Whilst Hampo and I discussed the direction in which we were supposed to be going, (none of us had a clue), we reportedly sat at a green light for some time. Having finished said discussion, we moved through, as the light went orange. Unfortunately, Crispy and Logan, who were following us in his van, made a few terrible assumptions; a) they thought we knew where the hell we were going, (really? Us!?) and b) due to this, decided that they had to follow us, come hell or high water, through a red light. The policeman was nice, we are told, and he also spelt the driver’s name incorrectly on the ticket - here’s hoping we get off that one on the technicality, right?


Sunday eventually caught up with us, (following some of the crew staying awake for the Kiwi’s League match at 8 a.m.), and we were ecstatic to remember that we’d bought breakfast the night before. Metz set about some culinary wizardry, and before long smiles were restored to faces, and we were ready to head out to sunny Lyttleton. The Wunderbar website, which nearly conveys the buzziness of the actual place, directed us to toot at all oncoming traffic as we journeyed through the tunnel - and toot we did - incessantly - with Stevo leaning out the window like an enthusiastic puppy-dog filming bemused Lyttletonians’ reactions - at least we found it amusing…

Speaking of amusing, Wunderbar is an absolute trip. The gizzards of ancient computers, still somehow with lights flashing, surround enormous disco-balls on the ceiling - the toilets are impossible to find, until you realize that that iron stuck to the wall is actually door handle - but then there are masses of odd things stuck to the walls - the lamp shades are hair curlers, dolls’ heads, and all manner of other weird stuff. Just go there!

The only drawback for me on this particular afternoon was that one of the venue’s subs had decided to pass out on us (before we’d arrived, I should add). After an hour of would-be-heroic “repair” work, I gave up, and sat down for a beer while everyone else finished their set-up (Logan was having fun trying to find places to put lights, and power sources with enough juice to run them). Confidence in life restored, I set about running the one remaining sub on a grossly over-powered amp-channel - thankfully it lasted, and it provided just enough low-end, for all o’ the day and night (during most of which I watched the amp’s clip lights with bated breath). Having hacked our way through check, we headed out to Alaire’s place just around the bay, for a fantastic feed, thanks love! On arriving back at the venue, however, we began to wonder where Logan was - until Callum realized he had the keys to both vans in his back pocket - classic stuff.

Incident two of the night came in the form of the most buzzed out guy we’d ever seen, struggling to argue with Petey Reid over whether he was going to pay the door charge. He paid. No-one gets past the Reid-inator! Unfortunately, he then fell over several times, made a damn nuisance of himself, and irritated almost everyone in the room for most of the night. Learn to handle your substances son, or stay at home!

Being a Sunday, and with Jordan luck belting out a bunch of “kiwi classics” at a pub down the road, (hm…), this was a pretty quiet show turn-out wise. Nonetheless, Soulsystem were once again impressive, and Left or Right kept all entertained between (and during) tracks with some truly bemusing onstage banter, which encompassed some hilarious Graham Henry impersonations, (“ah, for sure!!!”) and a bunch of yelled “buzzwords” dreamt up over the last few months of touring - the crowd responded reasonably well to having such incomprehensibilities hurled at them, often smothered in delay, and all in all it was a pretty amusing night. Load out down the masses of stairs, however, was another thing entirely. Nevertheless, we got it done, and even made it back to Coop’s (in Belfast, on the other side of the city) with no broken windows, speeding tickets, or mass losses of direction. Success!

The drive back to Duns the next day was relatively uneventful - the road from ChCh to Oamaru is still suicidally boring, though I was stoked to discover my 20 year old car had passed its warrant in Oamaru, where we were once again treated to a feed and a Coffee @ ye olde Ballantyne ranch. Cheers again to everyone who helped, housed, fed and watered us over the long weekend, see you all again soon!


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