Tuesday, July 10, 2007

One Crowded Weekend

I still feel strange writing this, like it hasn't really happened. It seems a little too surreal to be true, although it's beginning to sink in a little bit.

Last Saturday was Live Earth, 'The concert for a climate in crisis' or some such thing. Kathryn and I got there about 8:30 to find a surprisingly large number of people already there (there was a rumour that people had been camping out). Luckily my friend Tabatha was already there so we went and joined her. About 9am everyone stood up and started lining up, which is the last time I sat down until after the gig (not including me crouching in the mosh pit for about a minute at one point during the day). With a man in a panda suit entertaining us, the time passed reasonably quickly until a little after 10:30am when the gates opened. Kat and I managed to score a barrier position at the left of the stage, with Tabatha and Kim right behind us. It was a pretty chilled out crowd, people behind us were sitting in the sun. I was chatting to the security guy, it turns out they're not allowed to look at the stage on the job, which must suck. Suddenly he looked at me and said 'Can you smell that?'
'...Yes, yes I can.'
'That's a bit early, don't you think?'
'I thought there were drug dogs outside!'
'Ah well, must be coming from backstage'.

Surprisingly enough, the concert started on time, I guess because they were broadcasting they had to stick to a tight schedule. First act Blue King Brown got the crowd into the mood to party, Oval A and B were filing up fast although the stands didn't look full until mid-afternoon when Paul Kelly came on, introduced by Jimmy Barnes which I thought was quite awesome. I was torn between wanting to go apeshit crazy for some acts, especially Sneaky Sound System who were surprisingly brilliant, and wanting to conserve energy for the Crowdies, it was a long freaking day and I consumed but one muesli bar and eight sips of water (2 panadol, 2 nurofen, 2 hours between the 2) for my lower back, which was packing it in from not being able to move. Missy Higgins was good, but I was getting so tired I could hardly enjoy her set, which bummed me as I was really looking forward to it. Eskimo Joe were quite good, they're a band I can take or leave but I liked them. John Butler Trio were my second favourite act of the day...Michael Barker's drum solo is something else. The man is amazing. They sound so good live as well...almost regretting not getting tickets to see them at Festival Hall. Wolfmother were disappointing, their sound guy ought to be shot because they sounded pretty shoddy, needed to be a whole lot louder and Andrew Stockdale's singing was a bit out of tune...I did like his shiny turquoise shirt though. Jack Johnson was the perfect prelude to Crowded House, very chilled out and relaxed, I didn't know he was so popular until everyone started singing along.

Finally...felt like a very long day, I was sore and tired and hungry, then Peter Garrett stepped onstage to introduce Crowded House...the cheer that went up was huge. It was amazing to see them live...ripped into a blinding rendition of Locked Out and I forgot how tired I was and just enjoyed myself immensely. The crowd was in fine form and singing beautifully, I could hardly hear Neil at times over us. He sneakily used us at the beginning of Four Seasons when I'm pretty sure he forgot the second line. Halfway through Something So Strong the stage lights flickered and then went out...we all held our breath as the band looked at each other, slightly surprised for the turn of events...They jammed on one chord while Neil said 'It's a message...but I think as long as the PA's working, we're alright,' and invited everyone onstage for Weather With You...'no one can see you anyway' he said. They were the only ones to come out for an encore, Neil picked up his acoustic for (of course) Better Be Home Soon, one for the journey home...we drowned out the band with our singing, then they bowed and it was all over. It was quite hard to walk after not moving my legs for so long, but completely worth it.

Monday was a very surreal day. I was woken up about 8am by the unmistakable whoop of a fire alarm. After realising that it was coming from our block of apartments and seeing two fire trucks pull up outside our window, we threw on our clothes and were all ready to evacuate when they turned off the alarm, turns out it was false, but it certainly got us out of bed early. Weather was a bit shite so we drove straight to the airport, roads flooded, hail hammering down on our car and lying in drifts along the pavement, so we expected some delays. Our plane was only delayed by 10 minutes as it turned out, but there was such a backlog of flights waiting to take off and land that we were stuck on the tarmac for nearly an hour...the longest sydney-melbourne flight I have experienced!

Dad thought I was crazy to go straight to the Corner from the airport at 1:30, but there were already people there...Some guy (Pat) was talking on his phone and when he mentioned Crowded House I couldn't help doing a little excited dance, so his group force fed me hot chips and we became friends. Steve turned up soon after and we actually had an enjoyable time waiting...took turns going to the pub for drinks, food and toilet breaks. Mark Hart walked past at one point and I tried to be cool but my hands were shaking afterwards with excitement. A film crew started setting up across the street, Mark Seymour (Nick's brother and singer from Hunters and Collectors) was involved, and he kept walking back and forth between the Crowdies soundcheck and the filming across the street. We couldn't work out what it was at first, then I spotted Miranda Otto so obviously it was something a little bit major...I commented that the guy in glasses and shirt was particularly lush, then we realised five minutes later that it was Guy Pearce...like I said, a very surreal day.

Before we went in a security guy came up to expressly forbid us from taking cameras in...I didn't want to take my chances so Steve and I hiked up to Burnley station and back to put my camera in his car. My phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera on it anyway so I wasn't too fussed.Doors finally opened a little after 7, and by some miracle, despite the fact that extra people had materialised in front of us in the queue while we were gone, we managed to score a spot right up front, in front of Mark Hart's microphone stand, although the stage is so small that we could see everyone quite well. The support act was Liam Finn, keeping it all in the family, and we has briliant as ever, playing the drums with so much energy that he snapped a drumstick at one point. He was a lot of fun...when he announced the song Wise Man a few of us cheered and after he ascertained that we actually knew the song, said 'trust a bunch of diehard Crowded House fans to know my songs...' Must have been an exhausting night for him as he was also playing acoustic guitar and doing backing vocals for Crowded House.

The boys themselves came onstage about 8:45 and everyone went nuts...first song they played was Recurring Dream, kind of an obscure B-side and the first song Crowded House wrote as a band, back in 1985 when they were the Mullanes, which was a rare treat. They've done it in gigs as kind of a half-arsed jam as a request, but this time they'd all learnt it properly and it sounded amazing. The sound from my position wasn't fantastic I guess, was too dominated by the sounds coming from Mark's amplifier (a very nice VOX), but it made the guitar geek in me very, very happy. As it turns out, I needn't have worried about my camera because heaps of people had brought theirs in, but I was close enough that my phone with its lack of zoom could still take good photos. It was a strange feeling....didn't really feel like a gig, it felt like they were playing in my living room, I wasn't even aware of the people around me and the packed crowd behind me.

Highlights...so many...being a smallish, fan gig, it was loose and relaxed and there were some pretty funny moments...Mark Hart had changed something on the setlist but not written is down correctly on some copies, so there was a bit of confusion about which song they would play at one point...finally it looked like they had decided what they were going to play, they started and Mark looked very confused...no one had told him what they'd agreed on...there was a reference I didn't entirely get, Neil talked about kissing Nick (he did it on Rove as it turns out) and Nick said it was very tender, Mark started playing Tenderly on the keys. He is a quiet guy, but with a sneaky, knowing sense of humour. I commented I had never heard him say 'fuck' before, then when Nick introduced Matt Sherrod, the new drummer, Mark said into his mic (possibly the only words he said into the mic all night) 'best fucking drummer...' Unfortunately I couldn't see him behind his crash cymbal, but he sounded damn good. There were of course a few mistakes, bass 'fluffs' and keyboards in the wrong voice...Neil decided to murder 'Don't Dream It's Over' so they did the first verse as a big cheesy power ballad...second one they went reggae, Neil is a huge Bob Marley fan after all. For the solo Neil wanted a really druggie, 'Junkie Crowdies' version, Mark called out for his lap steel and did this fantastically liquid, molten plastic solo, oozing all over the place. It says something about the strength of that song that it still sounded bloody fantastic. There were quite a few changes to the set list, especially for the encores...at one point they started a song and Liam came flying across the stage, taken by surprise, grabbed his guitar off its stand but it got tangled up, the stand flew off and hit Mark in the leg, Liam ripped off the capo then realised after playing a few very shonky sounding chords that he needed it after all. Neil forgot the words to a few songs, wouldn't be a proper Crowdies gig if he actually remembered what he'd written. I shouted out my request for Born On The Bayou, Neil grinned and rolled his eyes at me, 'pfft, Born On The Bayou' he replied, in a tone that said 'yeah, right!' Ah well, you can't have them all...he did however play Walking On The Spot, I couldn't believe it, I freaking love that song and they never play it live. I think I died and went to heaven at that moment. Four Seasons in One Day, big singalong as always, we got our own chorus at the end, then he went straight into Sister Madly and our collective jaws dropped. It seemed quite cathartic for them, lots of emotion behind it. The last time they played that song at the Corner, Paul was up front on his snare and cymbal with his brushes, dancing around like a madman. It was more of a jam than the full song, Neil letting us take a verse and joining in for the chorus, and when it ended they left the stage after a mammoth two-hour set without their customary bow.

I managed to score a setlist, so I headed out the back with the intention of getting it signed...Neil came out very quickly, I don't think he wanted to face a lot of fans. He understandably looked tired and emotional (in a tired and emotional way, not in a drunk way) and not in the mood to socialise, but he graciously signed things for the few people who had headed out quickly, then left straightaway. Matt came out next and hung around for quite a while, chatting to people, taking photos and signing things and generally being terribly obliging and friendly. I can see why they picked him, not only is he a great drummer but he's also got a great personality, he was talking to everyone. Mark, quietest man in rock, managed to magically materialise (or else he just walked out very quietly). 'That's my handwriting' and 'Thankyou' are about the only words he said to me when I got my setlist signed, but I did manage to take a photo with him. We had to wait a little while for Nick but he came out eventually, looking very stylish in a dark blue velvet blazer. He got asked if he wanted to leave but indicated all of us and said 'I think I should do this first!' which got a laugh.

So, Crowdie weekend is over. I thought I'd get major post-gig depression but funnily enough I haven't really. Maybe it hasn't registered yet. Roll on November!

Crowded House
Liam Finn and Mark Hart
Crowded House
The rest of the Live Earth photos can be found here.

Neil Finn and Nick Seymour
Mark Hart and Neil Finn
Me and Mark Hart
The rest of the Corner photos can be found here.



PS Guess who learnt how to do HTML tags!!!