Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going down south with Connan, and why you shouldn't play at Arc Cafe

We just got back from a really great trip down to the South Island to play a couple of shows with Connan Mockasin and his great band Ricky, Will and Dan. Plus Connan's good friend Joseph aka The Snat. We drove down in the van and ferry together, had lots of good times.

We had to get up at 5am on the first day to get down to the Ferry on time. The car was packed to the brim with Connan and Joseph squished into the back with a whole lot of equipment. Took the 7 hour trip down to Dunedin, lovely drive.

Turned up to the venue in Christchurch, The Dux, to find that our show hadn't been promoted at all and that it clashed with an overseas band. But the venue still gave us some really nice dinner, and we set up all our stuff and the what not. In the end we got about 30 people through the door which was enough to feel ok in the venue, but made for a very small and low key show. But the people that did come were into it, which was great. We stayed at Ricky's parents place, and it was niiiice. Got a great sleep, ready to leave early the next day for Dunedin.

By this time we could see no promo had been done for the South Island shows, so we called ahead to our friend Matt. Matt saved the day on this show, I'll tell you how. The venue we played at, Arc, is not set up properly for live music. Even though they say they are, they're not. When we turned up, all the gear from last night was still setup on stage with all the mics and leads still set up too. Bad start. The guy doing sound was a guy called Tim, who is apparently the resident sound guy. It was clear from the get go that he didn't know a whole lot about sound, and was possibly also a little bit slow. Connan and his band started setting up, using Arc's Dick Smith $15 mics. But the sound guy couldn't get the PA to sound ok. It was all distorted and awful. Half the speaker cabinets weren't even plugged in. Ricky asked Tim the sound guy whether maybe people from last night unplugged half the PA or something, and wanted to go ask the bar what had happened. But Tim the sound guy told us he did sound the night before and that he doesn't know whether stuff was plugged in or not... how could you not know?? He indicated multiple times that he didn't really know what he was talking about.

This is where it gets really bad/funny. We go to set up our stuff but there are no DIs. Lesson learned, travel with DIs. So we set up on the floor next to the mixing desk. This works really well actually. Also, there is only one mic stand in the whole venue, so our friend Matt comes through and brings some stuff in including a guitar amp, mixer, mic stand and mics. Thanks Matt!! So we're sound checking our gear and the PA is really quiet and super super distorted. You couldn't really hear any music. It was ridiculous. But eventually we get it sounding ok (read: still distorted and awful) and decide to start the set. There are like 100 people or something in the venue, thanks to Matt's last minute promotion efforts on student radio. We start playing but things are freaking out, all distorted, really full on unlistenable. But we struggle through, make the best, people are still into it. But Tim the soundguy just stands there drinking beer, not trying to fix it. So we get our friend Matt over to fix it up, and he does a good job. Tim the sound guy then tells our friend Matt to fuck off.

And then Tim the sound guy just walks out, in the middle of our set with poor sound. I've never seen anything like it. Ricky goes out to find him, and he's sitting out in a booth in the cafe part of the venue with his head in his hands. Ricky asks him if he's ok, but Tim the sound guy ignores Ricky. So we finish off our set, Matt helps out heaps and it ends up being workable. So Tim the sound guy comes back in to help set up for Connan Mockasin. But he seems incapable of patching a mic to the mixer and making it work. So Connan comes up to him and asks him what's happened. I mean, there are now more than 100 people there to watch the show. Tim the sound guy says he doesn't even want to be there. So Connan says that he can go. So off he walks into the night. Sound guy-less, I take up the role of sound guy and get the Mockasin's stuff going. The PA is so broken that only Connan's vocal mic can go through it, and even then it's distorting heaps.

Connan and the guys play a really great set, everyone's into it, it's an awesome show in the end after all the fiddling around. Everyone comes together to make it work out, especially our friend Matt. Awesome! Here are a few videos from it:

Also, here's a video of Matt, our friend who helped out so much. He was having a GREAT TIME:

On the same night in Dunedin the Little Bushman are playing over at a different venue. Connan and the guys are friends with them, so they call them up and Little Bushman offers Connan a slot playing after them. So we pack all the gear and drive across town to the other venue. There are lots of people there and Little Bushman are just finishing up. Connan sets up and they play a great set to a really appreciative crowd. Johanna and I get up on stage and have a play with them, and so does Warren from Little Bushman. Everyone has a really good time.

But that's not where the evening stops. Connan and his band decide to head off into the night to have a few drinks while Johanna and I go back to Matt's place to rest up for the 13 hour trip the next day. I text the address of where we're staying to Connan in case they need somewhere to sleep, but Connan says that they'll be able to sort it. Then we get this phone call at 5am from Connan. It turns out that they spent an hour wondering up and down the street looking for the place, and then when they found it they went into the upstairs flat. It was unlocked so they let themselves in. They crept through the house and found an empty room with a mattress and decided that was where they were meant to be. But then they had a look through the flat bills and couldn't find Matt's name. So they started getting worried. Then they heard someone stirring in the other room. Ricky peaks his head in to this stranger's bedroom to try and say hi, but at that exact moment Joseph aka The Snat lets a huge fart loose. The group explode into whispered laughter and have to run out of the flat in order to not wake anyone up. In the end they find the flat, get the keys off me, and decide the sleep in the van.

The last day was Connan's 26th Birthday. So we got him some pies and hotdogs. We spent 13 hours traveling home, talking crap in the car, debating the musical merits of backing tracks and all the rest. The ferry crossing on the way home was super intense, with huge swells. We all got a bit seasick so went up to the decks to pass the time. Here's what happened:

The trip ended up being a lot of fun. Will, Ricky, Dan, Joseph and Connan are all really great guys with lots of interesting things to say. Everyone pulled together and helped each other out in Dunedin, and turned a terrible show into an excellent show. Will even took us over to his friend's place to find a DI.

I was pretty nervous about playing in front of Connan and his band. These guys were all jazz school guys who were really into performing music really well on their instruments. While we use backing tracks and samples, a completely different logic of musical thingy thingy. But they all said nice things to us in the end, which was really great.

We've still to play a Wellington and Auckland show. I think Liam Finn will be joining us for these shows. Should be lots of fun. Will keep you posted!


EDIT: As an after thought, to Arc's credit they did make us dinner for free which was really nice of them. And they made us free coffees in the morning when we came to pick up the gear which was super nice. But they need to sort out their sound stuff if they want to be a viable option for live bands. The space at Arc is really nice, but the gear is all broken and poor quality. And that in house sound guy was a joke. Not in a mean way, just in a 'hey man why don't you walk out on us mid set' kind of way.