Hard News by Russell Brown


Monster Weekend

A post published yesterday on Kiwiblog asks The Standard hosted by the Labour Party? Well, no, as it happens, but it does look messy. And it has naturally been occasion for a torrent of thrashing, screaming and outright pants-pooing from the usual suspects.

The Standard became a victim of its own success last year when its traffic overwhelmed its small-time hosting set-up. Its keepers asked for help, which was forthcoming from Labour Party member Lynn Prentice, who operates a server cluster for a group of left-leaning websites. This kind of thing is very common on both sides of the political divide in the US. But the IP address range used by the cluster is registered to the Labour Party itself.

Prentice promptly explained the situation: that the block of addresses had been made available to the party and passed on to him. And then again explained that his service has been made available to various other groups, including Action Hobson and some vegans and greenies.

In itself, it's hardly a scandal, but The Standard has hammered David Farrar regularly for his National Party links, which often go undeclared when he's tapped as an "independent commentator" in the media. So even a technical connection (especially when it's the result of a donation in kind) is a poor look for them. Personally, I think The Standard's contributors could gain a lot from simply going out under their own names. And Prentice should either take registration of the address range or find a new one. In the EFA era, it's not appropriate to head into election year under this sort of arrangement.

Meanwhile, in similarly-themed news, it turns out that Tim Shadbolt's bold and independent stand for free speech is actually being bankrolled by Hollow Men stars the Talley brothers. Shadbolt claims he had no idea who they were, they just gave him a lot of money ...


Anyway, onto the more pleasurable business of the weekend: it was something of a monster theme. We heard The Police chugging through 'Roxanne' from a couple of kilometres away, while scarcely believing the evidence of our eyes that Roger Federer was being made repeatedly to serve to stay in the Australian Open by Janko Tipsarevic. The pair of them played insane tennis at each other and although you always felt that Federer had a little more, it was incredible to see the master put in a position where he could go out in the third round. Later (much later -- the match didn't finish until 4.30am local time!) Lleyton Hewitt overcame Marcos Baghdatis in another monumental clash. This seems to be the best Aussie Open in years.

Earlier on Saturday, our Wellington friends Alastair and Wendy came around, and then their friends, which allowed me to exercise the urge to feed people. I'd splashed out on some eye fillet for the Thai beef salad, and if I say so myself, I totally ruled on the Broil King. A glass of wine was never to far from hand, and it was all a very pleasant sequel to the Big Day Out.

Yesterday, we saw the monster movie du jour: Cloverfield. I really liked it. The idea of capturing the entire narrative via one consumer video camera was perfectly executed (although that thing had some battery life …) and it made for a visceral and convincing cinematic experience. The American reviewers who got all huffy about it being a cheap reference to 9/11 need to chill out. It's just a movie. My advice: see it and then have some fun exploring all the viral back and side stories scattered around the internet.

But, of course, the real monster was the Big Day Out itself. To be honest, by 6pm, four hours after we arrived, I was wondering if we were going to get a real hit. For me, Dr Octagon lost momentum, Dizzee Rascal was great but we had to bail when half the people on site charged in alongside us and the temperature shot up alarmingly (I was worried that one woman near us, her E clearly coming on, was going to get heatstroke). Billy Bragg seemed no better than okay, ditto for Pluto, etc …

But MD and I got ourselves over to Lilyworld, where the first thing that happened was that a happy woman in a hat bounded over and chirped "Hi! Remember me? Supermarket girl!" It was the Public Address punter I'd shared some tips with in the Foodtown queue that morning. Choice. I'd swap a hundred angry wingnut commenters for one Public Addresser who really knows who to enjoy herself.

And at Lilyworld, enjoying yerself was the name of the game. After some funky soul remixes from the hosts, Lady Saw took the stage with her crew and, man, she was firing. And any woman who can rock the crowd with a song about her own infertility has my respect, doubled.

We returned to the arena for Shihad. Shihad have played more Auckland Big Days Out than any other band, usually in the 7pm slot on one of the main stages, and I think I've seen most of those shows. This might just have been the best of them. They were absolutely majestic. I've posted a ropey mobile phone clip that captures some of the scale of what went on in the first comment for this post (the clips embed better in the discussion forums), along with a couple of others, but I did like MD's photograph:

After that, Bjork was intriguing and avant-garde, but not entirely what the Rage crowd wanted to hear. The gigantic and growling version of 'Army of Me' was my favourite part.

From there, it was LCD Soundsystem in the Boiler Room. They lived up to expectations and then some. What a brilliant, unlikely, propulsive, original and exciting outfit. 'All My Friends' was triumphant and the 10-minute techno-freakout of 'Yeah' was just plain mad. It was most exciting.

The organic rock of The Clean made a nice follow-up, before we headed back to a fairly cheesy, but amusing, set from Carl Cox in the tent. From there, with MD at the wheel, we got back home in pretty good time, and just sat silently on the back deck, taking in the warm, quiet night, tired, but happy.

Robyn Gallagher has this striking photograph of Samuel Flynn Scott that positively embodies the "It's lie!" refrain in Nest Egg, and the rest of her Flickr set is worth a look too, as is her blog roundup. Everyone has a favourite crowd moment. Mine was seeing a dude on crutches with his left leg in plaster from the knee playing hackey with his mates. For Robyn, it was this:

While I was sitting there, I saw a hilarious thing. Two dudes, both wearing different t-shirts with “GUNT” on each of them, saw each other and the t-shirt he was wearing. They got excited and did a manly hug, before wandering off into the crowd, perhaps never to meet again.

Peter M at Dub Dot Dash has an excellent roundup: he also loved LCD Soundsystem and Lady Saw, and, like me, enjoyed what he heard in passing of Arcade Fire. How odd that that we never saw each other.

My homie Andy Moore (note: not the Christchurch wingnut behind the pro-smacking and EFA protests) has a very nice photoblog in which he catches me in a minor state of undress. I was between shirts …

There's an enjoyable first-time-at-the-BDO-in-years journal on Spatula Forum. Plus some dude's travel blog.

Writing in the official Bjork tour blog, Jonas Sen from Bjork's band loved our green and pleasant land (the weather is pretty shabby in Iceland at present) but declared their BDO performance "OK, but not that great." The Gold Coast show was much better.

Making up for a shortfall in real BDO blogging (there seemed to be a lot less of it this year), the kids at TVNZ, the Herald, and Stuff were tasked with blogging for the man. Prize to Stuff's crew, I think, for actually making it to Lady Saw, and for Chris Schultz's observation that "Shihad haven't turned into the Feelers."

For Disturbed Kiwi, "Rage was worth the money" but he occasionally "wonder[s] about the mentality of most people who seem to enjoy the music I do".

In the course of a comprehensive review (he had the same feeling about Shihad as me), Shotbro also despaired of the stadium crowd:

Bjork was as pitch perfect and crazy as I thought she would be. She is a performer that never seems to deliver anything but her best and not all people at Mt Smart seemed to appreciate it - who would have thought Bjork would get boo’ed for doing an encore? That was more embarrassing for the crowd than it was for her. So many people spent too long standing in the sun, waiting for Rage Against The Machine, that they lost their minds.

Yamis will be getting back to us with his Rage review.

And, just to close things out, a consciously hip drug party ad from the authorities in Britain. Be careful out there, kids …

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