Hard News by Russell Brown

Mission Accomplished

It really is not a great feeling sitting glumly watching webcams, wondering if the fog around Wellington airport is ever going to clear and trying to work out what you'll do if the guest star you've spent months building an event around can't fly to Auckland.

Eventually, after we got on the phone and shelled out for a whole new flight with a different airline, there seemed some hope that danah boyd would get to reach Auckland on time for The Great Blend. The last we heard, she was approaching an aircraft, and after that I just hopefully assumed that the aircraft had actually taken off. I was so relieved when she walked into the building at ten past seven.

Despite having spent hours in stressed-out and crowded Wellington airport, danah was brilliant, as she has been throughout. There's been a hell of a lot of media interest and she's been a real trooper about doing the interviews: Campbell Live (less than two hours after arriving in New Zealand), the Dom Post (twice), NZPA, Breakfast, National Radio, One News, The Big Idea, NBR.

It was nice to put on a good Great Blend for our Wellington crowd. The thing that really pleased me about Wellington was getting together Justin Zhang from SkyKiwi with Sam Morgan. Justin was, beneath the deadpan exterior, quite excited about meeting Sam, and I think Sam was impressed with Justin. Despite having 120,000 registered users and a million-dollar annual turnover, SkyKiwi has been a kind of secret to the rest of the New Zealand Internet, so it was nice to tell people something new. And Justin - again, beneath the deadpan exterior - may actually be one of the funniest men in New Zealand.

The Wellington venue, The Boatshed, is something of a secret in itself. A lot of people said they'd walked past it a million times but never been in. It's delightful - fairylights on the ceiling and picture windows all around. Samuel Flynn Scott and Bunnies on Ponies were great too; I don't think I could perform after as many drinks as they had.

Indeed, the Wellington punters themselves surely knocked back a few convivial bevvies. Mark Cubey was so happy that he gave my friend Kerry his business card. Three times! Kim (y'know, Kim) also turned up to conduct research for what I think was the most interesting interview anyone did with danah.

I left danah in the hands of the Webstock crew for Friday, and flew back to Auckland, fondly imagining that she'd join us in Auckland early afternoon. But she made it, and the do was, if anything, a little better even than Wellington. We had to overflow people up to the mezzanine at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, people loved Starlords and I made a last-minute executive decision to recruit Matt from Reality Compound (where's that picture, dude?) onto the panel. Justin killed again, with all-new material.

I officially signed off being A Responsible Adult about 10.30pm, and went clubbing with danah, Matt Gibbons, Tze Ming and her friend. We popped up to Kujah (where the first person I laid eyes on was John Gadsby - seized with delight at definitely not being the oldest person in the room, I bowled up and introduced myself; turned out he'd made a video with the Open Souls, who were playing there), then Coherent where Timmy Schumacher was playing (very quiet, on account of the football, but kinda fun). I left Matt and danah still shaking their booties (they met some interesting New Zealanders doing highly unusual things over the next few hours) and popped up to see Andy 'n' Daz, who were pulling an all-nighter to finish their skate doco (it's called No More Heroes and it's playing all centres in the Film Festival).

It was a highly satisfactory evening that could all have come to bits when, as I approached my taxi home, I literally slipped on a banana peel. Man. They're not joking when they make those banana peel jokes, let me tell you. Those buggers are slippery. I managed not to go crashing to the footpath, but I briefly thought I'd torn a muscle or something.

I got home in time to see the closing stage of the England-Portugal borefest. Please don't write to correct me, but I can't help feeling that there's something slightly wrong with the game when two teams can play for two hours without anything really happening, and then have to wrench an arbitrary result out of penalty kicks.

Sunday was, as you might expect, quiet. Apart from the latest episode of Doctor Who ('Army of Ghosts'), which was a riot.

Apres Wellington, Zippy Gonzales correctly noted that the most stimulating conversation was to be had outside with the smokers (even if it was alarmingly cold) and learned how to pronounce Keith Ng's name. Joanna from Hubris had a good time but didn't say hello because people who talk while bands are playing suck, and her Wellingtonista crewmates cracked some late-night funnies on the email afterwards. It was good to see Miraz and I'm glad she enjoyed the show. Webweaver has a nice summary of what was said during the evening.

Matthew Sew Hoy has some pics from Wellington online - including a rather special shot of Sam Flynn Scott playing guitar with his teeth.

From Auckland, Jen thought Sean James Donnelly was a bit of alright, Claire-a-Belle enjoyed the (live) social networking and Dave Underwood was pleased to have discovered MyDeathSpace. Me too. It's quite compelling.

So that's another round done. Although pretty much everyone who went to the events seems to have found them enjoyable and rewarding, there's some sense in which I'm doing this for myself. It's a kind of proof of concept every time. Plus, I get hundreds of people to listen to my killer back-to-mine playlist on my iPod. I already have some plans for another Great Blend at the end of the year, at a very interesting new venue. For now, I'm done, and I have a Listener cover story to write inside of a week. Yikes. So thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed themselves, all the people involved in the events and most especially danah, Kate Carthew from Pead, Cath and Steve at the Music Industry Commission and our brilliant sponsor, Karajoz Coffee Company. Peace out, as the kids probably don't say any more.