Hard News by Russell Brown

7

Friday (Thursday) Music: Heavens

The first year I went to Splore was the year Erykah Badu played. My memory is of arriving on the Friday afternoon to an idyll where everyone was smiling, the sun shone and children frolicked. I felt like the 5000th person to find paradise.

That evening, as the diva wound into her set, the heavens of paradise opened. I mean, really opened. It was a tropical cloudburst. Everyone who wasn't too wasted to move bolted for shelter and I wound up in the falafel stall, helping the owners tip gallons of water off their tarp every couple of minutes. In its way, it was quite a fulfilling community experience.

About half an hour later the rain stopped and everyone was happy – apart from the people at our campsite who'd decided it might be nice to air out their tent and toddled off down the hill leaving all the windows open.

The Auckland region's summer pluviality looks like being on show this year too. I went and bought some $20 gumboots at the No.1 Shoe Warehouse this morning, and discovered I was the fifth Splorer who'd been in for wellies in the half hour the shop had been open.

It'll be fine, even if the weather isn't. It's not like it's Glastonbury. Tapapakanga Regional Park is not Worthy Farm, there aren't a hundred thousand punters, the promoters are prepared and the sandy soil drains well. Most of all, it looks pretty sweet for Saturday night, when Dub Pistols bring the party to the main stage and a remarkable lineup – Tall Black Guy, Courtesy, John Morales and Frank Booker, in that order – commands the DJ stage.

So yes, that's where I'll be. You can check my Twitter for rain jokes and silly pictures.

–––

I was pleased yesterday when new vinyl from The Nudge turned up in the post.

"Oh," I thought, counting three tracks on it. "A new 12" single."

Turns out, Dark Arts is more of an album and all of side two is the 24-minute prog-funk epic 'Bring Me Your Love'.

There's a video for the title track, the shortest of the three:

––– 

It's a shame it had to happen over his dead body, but Prince's catalogue (or a fair chunk of it) is available for the first time on Spotify and Apple Music – and even better, it's remastered. FACT mag has a guide to the 10 greatest Prince albums.

–––

Over at Audioculture, David McLennan tells the story of almost-forgotten feature of the Wellington punk scene: the Cuba Mall Sesssions of 1979.

And Redmer Yska digs even deeper to find the totally forgotten weekly entertainment magazine published by the owners of the Truth newspaper in the 1950s: Joy.

–––

Because we live in strange times: Michigan Republicans have suggested Kid Rock for the US Senate.

And on the other side, Moby claims the inside word on what intelligence agencies have on Trump.

–––

The particular art of reggae music has a feeling all its own. And you can own some of that feeling via a new set of silk-screened prints from the Soul Jazz-aligned Sounds of the Universe store. I just love this Tubby one.

–––

Tunes!

Oh my, this is awesome. Wellington's Lord Echo has busted out this fluidly funky track from his forthcoming album Harmonies as a straight-up free download. More info and preorders here.

From Auckland's A Label Called Success, this electronic, ethereal taster for the Space Above album that's out tomorrow (ie: Friday).

And finally, Greg Wilson has mixed together 20 of the hard-to-find edits and reworks he played in his 2016 sets. Track listing and separate embeds here.

–––

The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:

Songbroker

Representing New Zealand music

23

I tried Sativex: it was no fun at all

Sativex, an oromucosal spray, is the only pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis product approved by Medsafe for use in New Zealand. It can't simply be prescribed by doctors – even after promised changes to regulations, prescriptions will have to be approved by an expert panel. The only use approved by Medsafe is in the treatment of pain associated with multiple sclerosis, but approval can be sought for other uses.

So there are hoops. But the main reason for the low uptake of Sativex in New Zealand is that it's not subsidised by Pharmac – and thus costs patients up to $1300 a month. One of the reasons that Sativex is not subsidised by Pharmac is the finding by the agency's Pharmacology Therapeutics Advisory Committee that:

 … the risk of diversion in the New Zealand setting, should Sativex be funded, is high due to the inherent nature of its active substances and the ease of administration.

Is that really the case? Would Sativex be diverted for recreational use if it was funded? Does a 50-50 mixture of the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD (which is typically found at far lower levels in recreational weed), even get you high? Trying some seemed one way to find out more, so I said yes when a patient friend offered me a day's worth of sprays. Given the nature of the ingredients, there was no real harm that could come to me and I would not be able to overdose.

The only time my patient friend and I could get together was Sunday morning. She dropped off the small bottle of spray with instructions to take 12 sprays altogether – seven and then a top-up of five sprays some hours later.

At 9am, I had five sprays, each containing 2.7 mg of THC and 2.5mg of CBD (yes, I got it the initial dose the wrong way around). The liquid in the spray is greenish and smells like weed, or maybe bongwater – but to make it more palatable it's strongly flavoured with peppermint. Effects started about 20 minutes after administration. It did not get me high. It did make me feel fuzzy-headed and tired, but I was able to go about my business.

I had the second dose of seven sprays at 12.30pm, so I could complete the experiment before handing the bottle back. This was a different matter.

The 12 sprays recommended by my friend turns out to be the maximum recommended daily dose (much higher doses have been administered in trials). Tolerance to THC builds quickly in users, but I'd dropped right in on the top. And because I'd taken the two doses only three and a half hours apart, my doses overlapped (the duration of the effect is comparable to eating cannabis).

I'm not sure if I'd call what happened next getting high, but there was certainly a psychoactive effect.

The two cannabinoids in Sativex have quite different impacts. THC produces the euphoric effect we associate with marijuana, while CBD, which is not psychoactive on its own, mitigates the effects of THC (this isn't why it's there in Sativex – it appears that CBD itself has a crucial role in easing MS symptoms and nerve pain).

Effectively, CBD seems to take the top off the THC high, especially at the concentration in which it's present in Sativex. So while I experienced perceptual effects and the odd short-term memory lapse, it was a weird feeling and I really did not like it. It wasn't any fun. The more so given that it took the top off my thinking in general. I felt dull-witted and couldn't send a text without wondering if I was saying the right thing.

I can only guess that had I consumed the same amount of THC alone – just over 32mg, or two or three times the recommended edible dose for casual recreational users – I'd have been high as a kite. And I think I would have preferred that.

Eventually, I figured I should do something and went for a ride down to the Big Gay Out. The bike-riding felt great – my legs were pumping and it was the highlight of the day – but I wasn't happy with the level of my attention to the road and felt the need to concentrate very hard. The scene down at Coyle Park was nice enough, but I didn't feel like staying long.

I got home and couch-lock set in while I watched the Brisbane Tens on TV. I felt not only tired, but anxious, a little nauseous and still oddly troubled by the absence of euphoria. I fretted about various things and felt frustrated at the slowness of my thinking. The blind pimple under my nose throbbed constantly.

I eventually felt better, but cancelled plans to go and see friends. I ordained takeaways for dinner, demolished a Cajun fish burger and chips, watched some TV with Fiona and had an early night. But when I got up to go to the toilet a couple of hours after going to bed, I noticed there was still a minor effect on my visual perception.

The comparison that occurred to me was to when someone gave me a tablet of epilepsy medication at a party 30-odd years ago, assuring me it was a great buzz – and I wound up feeling really awful and foggy-headed and having to find somewhere to lie down. Sativex wasn't nearly that bad, but it also wasn't my idea of fun.

There was one thing that potentially mucked up my experiment, and that was that on Sunday morning I was feeling pretty jaded on account of having vigorously celebrated a friend's Significant Birthday party the night before. THC is metabolised in the liver and it's possible my liver was a bit overworked and that that contributed to both the way I felt and the duration of the effects.

So … would anyone divert Sativex for recreational use? Well, I can tell you that I wouldn't. The dose of CBD that I'd been led to believe would make me feel relaxed paradoxically made me anxious. (The warning in the official Sativex FAQ that "Some people may also feel depressed or confused" seemed more on the money.) As Fiona pointed out, it seemed to have put me off my stride. "It's interrupting my flow," I agreed.

It's quite likely that other people in other circumstances would feel differently and clearly the impact would have been different had I spaced out my doses, or had the big dose before bed.

But the main thing is that for my friend (and others like her), it makes the nerve pain associated with MS manageable and allows her to get by with a low or no dose of the more-readily-prescribed opioids that leave her too zonked to function. I'm also not certain Sativex would be as useful as a high-THC-ratio product for general pain (notwithstanding that the Ministry of Heath was very keen for the late Helen Kelly to apply for it for her cancer pain).

But what it came down to is this: at some point, I realised that this didn't feel like getting high. It felt like I'd taken somebody else's medicine.

5

Listening Lounge 2017: More good talk at Splore

Family, sustainability, drug safety and election-year politics: that's the scope of the 2017 Splore Listening Lounge talk programme. The "headline act" sees the Mount Albert by-election contest come to Splore, as Labour's Jacinda Ardern and the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter meet on stage to talk about competing and cooperating in election year.

The two candidates know the festival and they know each other and they took no convincing when I asked them to be part of the lineup.

It's not the first time we've aired Auckland issues and aspirations for the city as part of The Listening Lounge. Most Splorers come from Auckland and we've found that thinking about Auckland at a slight remove from the place works really well.

The Listening Lounge will also feature a talk about the "circular economy" with Air New Zealand board member Linda Jenkinson and her new business partner Ryan Everton, the provider of the reusable Globelet cups and water bottles being used at Splore. New Zealand Drug Foundation director Ross Bell and harm-reduction pioneer Wendy Allison will discuss drug safety, and members of Fat Freddy's Drop (and their kids) will talk about family in the context of the band whanau.

Listening Lounge 2017 timetable, Living Lounge stage, Saturday February 18.

10.30am: We Are Family

Warm fuzzies to start you off. Fat Freddy's Drop's Joe Lindsay, Joe's son Benny (DJ Bobo) and Benny's uncle Mark 'MC Slave' Williams (and his kids) talk about family culture in the context of the wider Freddy's whanau.

11am: The Circular Economy

Globelet inventor Ryan Everton and his new business partner (and Air New Zealand board member) Linda Jenkinson talk about reusable everything and why plastic is good.

11.30: How To take Drugs (Or Not)

New Zealand Drug Foundation director Ross Bell and drug-checking pioneer Wendy Allison on the controversial issue of harm reduction. Is accepting that people will sometimes take drugs okay if it saves lives? Come for the advice.

12:00: Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter

The Mt Albert by-election comes to Splore! They like each other, but they're opponents – how does that work? And is the by-election the perfect example to demonstrate how Labour and The Greens' cooperation pact can work in election year?

14

Friday Music: Why Soulfest was really cancelled – a moral lesson

When the second Soulfest concert at Western Springs was cancelled only two weeks before show day in 2015, fans who'd been looking forward to seeing Mary J Blige, Lauryn Hill and De la Soul were told a story. Ticket sales had been so poor that going ahead with the show would have caused a "devastating" financial loss for the promoters, a statement said. There was speculation that local sales hadn't been so bad and the real problem was with the Australian Soulfest dates.

An Australian federal court judgement last week made it clear the whole statement was a lie. Soulfest 2015 was cancelled not because of poor ticket sales, but because Apra won an injunction against the promoter John Dion (alias John Denison). Dion had not only failed to honour a licence agreement with Apra for Soulfest 2014, he had faked a receipt to falsely claim he had paid his licence fee in advance, as promised.

Apra had stll not received any payment for 2014 by the time the 2015 show rolled around. Nonetheless, Apra granted him a fresh licence on condition of advance payment. Again, the payment was not made. So Apra got its injunction and the shows could not go ahead.

The compensation awarded by the court, in reflection of Apra's unpaid public performance fees from 2014, was quite modest in the context of a multi-date festival budget: $A34,822. But the court awarded further damages of $400,000 because of Dion's "scandalous" dishonesty in providing the fake receipt to Apra and his subsequent conduct, including lying to the public about why his festival was cancelled.

Concert promotion is a risky gig, festival promotion more so. It's easy to lose a lot of money if things go wrong. But when an arsehole like Dion simply refuses to meet basic obligations – Apra fees apply to all such events and they go to the composers of the works performed – it makes it just that bit harder for all the good people.

–––

Speaking of good people, I'm delighted to welcome our new Music Post sponsor: Songbroker. They have big plans.

–––

Splore has released its schedule for next weekend. The Morcheeba folks and Blackalicious headline the main stage on Friday, with Pitch Black playing deep, deep into the night. On Saturday, Dub Pistols return in the main stage party slot, but what I'm most excited about is Tall Black Guy and John Morales at the DJ Stage. That's more than a little bit of disco heaven. And, of course, Fat Freddy's Drop hold down the much-loved Sunday role on the main stage, from 1-3pm.

I'm there too. The Listening Lounge returns on the Saturday morning and the headline act is an onstage interview with Mt Albert by-election rivals Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter.

This is going to be fun.

–––

And as you've doubtless heard from everyone else, the new Auckland Laneway site in and around Albert Park was an absolute winner. Show day was a hot one this year and it would have been punishing at the old Silo Park site. But the park was full of shade.

There was also a bonus in the need to move away from twin stages: the relative quiet. It was nice to have parts of the site go silent between sets. People could move on to another stage as each set ended, or just sit still and hang out.

Here's a tune from one of the early sets, by Bob Moses. I had no idea they were as popular as they turned out to be ...

–––

If you haven't been through the Auckland Museum exhibition Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa, you oughta, and you have until May 21 to do so.

But there's more: I gather there have been preliminary talks about bringing Volume to Christchurch. Not this year, but maybe next year or 2019.

–––

At last year's WORD Christchurch Flying Nun event, David Pine revealed (from the front row of the audience) that he and his bandmates in Sneaky Feelings have been quietly getting together and recording new material for the past couple of years. And it now looks like it's going to get a Flying Nun release at some point. Stay tuned.

–––

Speaking of WORD: its creative director Rachael King was, 30-odd years ago, in a high school band balled The Battling Strings with David Saunders (later of the 3Ds) and my buddy Andrew Moore. Andrew has been digitising some ancient tapes – and they sound like this:

Meanwhile, Andrew's playing in Psychic Maps, along with the Fuzzies, George Hnderson and Blue Cheese at UFO in New Lynn tomorrow night.

–––

The new Lawrence Arabia video, for 'The Palest of Them All', is set in Christchurch's ironically iconic airport hotel, the Commodore:

Lawrence Arabia also performs at the Nostalgia Festival in Christchurch on March 4 and at the Leigh Sawmill Cafe on March 24.

–––

So who got the good memorabilia at the Sammy's closing down sale in Dunedin this week?

And on a very different musical tip, Dunedinites get a rare chance to hear the legendary NZ techno producer son.sine (aka Epsilon Blue and Leyton Glen) on March 18 as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival.

–––

Tunes!

The indie is strong this week, with a new tune from Kane Strang:

And one by Fazerdaze!

And not-quite-brand-new, this first taste of the new Nadia Reid album, Preservation, which is out on March 4. Bring it on, I say.

And on the kitchen-disco tip, allow me to recommend this beefed-up edit of Arthur Adams' 'You Got the Floor' (reasonably painless free download). Dance like the neighbours can see you through the window but you don't even care.

–––

The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:

Songbroker

Representing New Zealand music

115

Burning down the house to feel better

I've noted here before my bemusement at self-professed conservatives who don't seem to mind the way first Donald Trump the candidate and President of the US Donald Trump has been determined to throw onto a bonfire the institutions and principles they're supposed to treasure.

As it happens, The Guardian has given John Daniel Davidson, a senior correspondent for the Federalist, a chance to explain himself. The column he submitted does nothing more clearly than demonstrate the feeble, desperate place American conservative thought has got itself to.

Let's start in the middle, with the heroin. Like everything else, Davidson blames American's middle-class heroin crisis on Obama.

Except for the heroin. Like many suburban and rural communities across the country, Akron is in the grip of a deadly heroin epidemic. Last summer, a batch of heroin cut with a synthetic painkiller called carfentanil, an elephant tranquilliser, turned up in the city. Twenty-one people overdosed in a single day. Over the ensuing weeks, 300 more would overdose. Dozens would die.

Wait up. America's heroin crisis is a consequence of the way big drug companies were allowed (long before Obama) to market powerful, addictive synthetic painkillers for chronic pain conditions. By the time the tap was belatedly turned off, there were millions of addicts who became something new: middle-class heroin users.

But Trump was going to rein in the drug companies and directly negotiate prices. Right up until his first meeting as president with pharma lobbyists (he was going to have no truck with lobbyists), from which he emerged saying he wasn't going to do any of that. (The day after that meeting, it emerged that Kaleo, the maker of the only auto-injector for naloxone – a lifesaving antidote for opioid overdose – had jacked up the price of its product by 680%.)

Davidson then asks us to believe that Trump voters "want him to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial regulations for Wall Street". Do they really? The removal of Dodd-Frank's consumer protections would surely be against their interests – and, more to the point, at odd with his promise to rein in Wall Street. Indeed, when Glover Park Group polled the issue with self-identified Trump voters late last year, only 27% wanted Dodd-Frank scrapped or tempered and 47% wanted to keep it as is. Only 7% wanted to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau scrapped, yet Trump has announced that he will hobble that agency. (Given that he has stacked his administration with Goldman Sachs alumni – the very moneylenders he constantly promised to cast out of the temple – this isn't exactly a surprise.)

Davidson offers that ordinary Americans think the financial crisis was brought on by "the excesses of Wall Street bankers", yet insists that those same people want to see the end of any restraint on the excesses.

Davidson doesn't bother himself with the implications of a return to trade protectionism, except to note that many Republicans disagree. He manages to not make clear who would pay a 20% "border tax" – that is, consumers. He offers no argument that the wall with Mexico would actually achieve anything for its billions of dollars in costs (face it, it's going to be the boondoggle to end all boondoggles), because apparently all that matters is that its construction will make his ordinary American Trump voters feel better. And a reckless threat to invade Mexico on the hazy grounds of "bad hombres"? Better yet. Nothing has to make sense if it makes people feel better.

Similarly, Davidson invokes "recent polls" to argue that Americans are prepared to overlook the chaos and incompetence of the travel ban. Actually, polling by Gallup and CBS sharply showed the opposite and even in the Reuters poll, which found a plurality in favour, only 31% thought it would make Americans safer. What is it actually for, then?

It's telling that nowhere in his screed does Davidson acknowledge that people who might actually be hurt by some still-unspecified immigration clampdown include Americans, even though the small-town folks supposedly applauding the chaos will soon find themselves short of the migrant doctors who staff their clinics. The people who delivered Clinton her popular vote win than took to the streets last month live apparently not in cities, but in "enclaves". They are an "elite". Moreover, they are, by implication, not white.

He also argues that "millions turned to food stamps and welfare programmes just to get by" during the Obama years. Well, yes – the safety net was always going to be strained by the worst American financial crisis since the 1930s. But he somehow forgets to note that the number of Americans in the SNAP "food stamps" programme has actually been falling since 2013. Trump currently has a draft executive order on his desk that would ban first-generation immigrants (and their children) from the SNAP programme. Legal immigrants. The consequences of doing so would be horrifying in a number of ways. But if it makes Davidson's middle-of-the-country white folks feel better, it's all good, right?

As I've noted previously, the Gallup and Pew studies of Trump voters leading up to the election found that they were, by and large, economically secure – and that their considerable unease with immigrants was cultural rather than economic.

Well, okay. Cultural insecurity is a real feeling. But is it really a good basis for the pursuit of logically incoherent actions, and for the destruction of a post-war order – global as well as national – and its accompanying institutions? For what looks like nothing so much as an unending tantrum?  It's like validating an angry teenager's wish to burn the house down because it makes him happy.

Remarkably, as he lauds Trump's performance as a "champion for the forgotten millions", Davidson finds no space to look at what Trump's advisor, Steve Bannon, believes. The same Bannon appointed to the National Security Council – in place of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – in an executive order that Trump appears to have signed without actually reading.

As Jonathan Freedland notes in another column in the same paper, it ironically falls now to liberals to do what used to be the job of conservatives: to defend order.