Cracker by Damian Christie


Wired for Sound

Friday afternoon, I hang out a late load of washing, hoping it will dry in the last few hours of a gorgeous sunny Auckland day. Among the t-shirts, an old AC/DC tour shirt. I’ve hung it out to dry many times over the years, but never with as much reason as today.

Concerts are a funny thing. I’ve been waiting to see the Pixies for a couple of decades now. Of course they were broken up for most of that, but when they reformed and started touring again a few years ago now, I always swore I’d see them if they got as close as Australia. They did, I think, a couple of years ago, but I was overseas somewhere else at the time and couldn’t see them. So my excitement at beating the hordes to get a couple of hotly contested tickets to their upcoming Vector Arena gig was palpable. One of my favourite bands, playing one of my favourite albums, in my town.

So it’s weird then, isn’t it, that when they announced a second show at the much more intimate Powerstation (I assume by a factor of about ten?), and I again try to get tickets, but fail (the guy at Ticketmaster told me they sold out in 15 seconds – he sat down at 9am to answer calls, and they were all gone by the time he’d answered the first one), I feel ripped off, like I’ve missed out on something special, gutted even? I’m going to see the Pixies – something I’ve dreamed about for years now – but other people are going to see them somewhere better. Oh well, I'm sure I won't feel that way after I've seen then, whatever the venue.

When it comes to AC/DC however, no stadium can be too big. Fifty-odd containers, hundreds of crew, hundreds of kilometres of cabling, a giant locomotive, cannons, pyrotechnics and an inflatable tart measuring storeys high. (Oh, and my friend Vicki, who today prepared some flower arrangements for their private jet ride home.)
I wouldn’t want to see them at the Powerstation. They rocked Western Springs last night in true dirty rock and roll fashion. I’ve never been to a concert before where women in the audience actually flashed their breasts to be broadcast on the giant screens placed either side of the stage – I assumed this was something that went out of fashion in Motley Crue concerts in the eighties. But oh no.

AC/DC may only have three chords, but damn they play them well.

Earlier in the day, a friend* had gone to a local supplier of pipes and other paraphernalia to enable him to discretely indulge in his favourite poison at the concert. While he wasn’t wearing an AC/DC t-shirt, the old Westie woman behind the counter took his money and asked “So you’re going to AC/DC tonight? Yeah, we’ve been flat out today!”

Shihad played support; another great stadium band, and quoted almost word for swear-word what Midnight Youth had said of playing Big Day Out this year: “We’ve been listening to these guys for f***ing ages – it’s a f***ing privilege to play on the same stage as them tonight.” AC/DC don’t need to swear; we already know they’re cool.

One of Jon Toogood’s favourite tricks is to get everyone to wave their hands in the air from left to right, as they launch into the crunching intro to ‘Pacifier’. It never fails to raises the hairs on my neck, seeing thousands of people move like that in unison. I have a theory, that for almost everything there exists, somewhere someone has a sexual fetish about it. I often wonder if up on the perimeter overlooking the audience, some old man in a raincoat is indulging himself vigorously, growling “oh yeah... move as one... that’s right... yeahhhh....”. No-one else every thought that? Okay, just me then.

It’s been a great week for music, and while it was a few days ago now, I can’t write this blog without mentioning the inaugural Laneway festival. A concept that started in a lane in Melbourne, and spread across Australia, local lad Mark Kneebone brought it to Britomart for Auckland Anniversary Day last Monday. It sold out and was a great success despite a typical Auckland summer’s day – overcast, scattered showers.

For those of us who found this year’s Big Day Out line-up a little on the stale side, Laneway was the opposite – a number of hot new acts, most of which I only knew one or two of their tracks. A lot of people raved about the XX, although they were a little low-energy for my tastes. Seeing the Phoenix Foundation is always a good time, and this was no exception. I had been excited about Echo and the Bunnymen, although purely for nostalgic reasons, and while my buddy Simon sang enthusiastically to every track, they sounded like they were going through the motions. As I guess you do, quarter of a century after you were famous.

The highlight of the night for me? Florence and the Machine. As Florence practiced her hairography, joked with the crowd between songs and most of all impressed with her powerful vocals, a friend remarked – “it’s like everything before this was just a support act for her”, and he wasn’t far wrong. I need to go and buy that album.

As I said, Laneway was a sell-out, and it was great to have a big event in the centre of the CBD, something Auckland is sadly lacking compared to our other big cities. A few teething issues – massive queues for not just beer, but most food too – but I really appreciated the fact that the event hadn’t been oversold. Even at the end of the night, it was still easy to get a good view of the bands on the main stage, and walk around without having to barge through. Mark tells me (my report will be up on Monday that they’re already booking acts for next year, so I guess that means Laneway will be a fixture of the summer concert series from now on. Choice, thanks Mark.

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