Hard News by Russell Brown


All the cool kids were there

I haven't been out much lately, on account of an excess of work and a shortage of recovery time, but with two episodes of the TV show in the bag, it seemed safe enough to join my friends and head for the Friday night show at the King's Arms. Turned out to be a good call.

What made the gig a must was the fact that the first act up was a Mr David Saunders, who is remembered best as a member of the 3Ds; the one who sang 'Outer Space' and 'Hey Seuss'. No one could remember how long it was since Dave had got up on a stage and played music, but a decade is probably a good guess.

He's been writing songs again, and doing a little recording. And when someone asked him if he'd like to do the gig, he said yes. Seated at the front of the stage with his guitar, he was palpably nervous at first, but there was no artifice about it. It all began to fall into place, as he played 'I See A Darkness' ("this song is by my friend Will -- when I first met him I'd been awake for 48 hours"), 'Outer Space' and new songs.

Indeed, it clicked so well that he just kept on playing, and eventually finished with Neil Young's 'Powderfinger', with a mate of his on keyboards and Callum from The Checks volunteering himself mid-song on drums. The addition of the rhythm was nice, and I think Dave would go well with a restrained band around him. But only for half a set, mind: you still want him up there and vulnerable on his own.

I think Dave's got something going here.

By the time he'd finished, the pub was nearly full -- and so was the beer garden outside. This is young, groovy Auckland, where a gig isn't just a show but a social occasion. All the cool kids were there, dressed better than kids were when I was 20, plus my crew, and Mr Litterick, Camilla from Julian and Camilla's World Odyssey, an interesting geezer who's making documentaries for Maori Television, and Ben Howe from Arch Hill Records, who is preparing a live Clean album for release.

Being as how I don't get to gigs as often as I used to, I hadn't seen the Coshercot Honeys for a while. They've come on. They're pure Devonport: knowing pop that draws from everywhere, tricky arrangements, great choruses. They're quite sexy too. (The charging packs of 18 year-old girls, who formed running wedges to deflect unwary men from their paths, knew what they were there for.) The set concluded with their signature song, 'We're All Lions', worked up into a rocked-out epic -- false endings and all. I really liked it.

I'd never seen Collapsing Cities, and had no real idea what to expect. Indeed, I was still trying to triangulate what I was hearing three songs in. Paul McKessar sorted it for me: Headless Chickens, circa 1984, he said. And, at least some of the time, they were like that -- but with more smiles. They played a brilliant instrumental with a sequencer and chiming guitars, and they played some straight-up rock 'n' roll. They were stern and ('Astrology Disaster') very silly. And they were bloody happy.

"Thanks so much everybody for coming," said the singer. "We never expected this."

"This is the best gig ever," added the guitarist.

It was a feel-good end to a feel-good evening. And I can't recall the last time I felt like I'd had so much value out of a ten-buck cover charge. The town is in good health. Now all I need is for Blues to turn on a win for me at Eden Park tonight. I'm not holding my breath.

PS: It worries me how drunk a few people get in public spaces. Including people old enough to know better.

Late-breaking announcement:

The people at Portable Film Festival of Melbourne, Australia, have been kind enough to bring their latest guest to New Zealand. That's Ezra Cooperstein, "chief evangelist" for Current TV, the Al Gore-founded citizen journalism and user-generated content network. He's speaking at a free symposium at the Aucland Town Hall, 6pm on Monday.

The event is free, but I gather that it's a good idea to email rsvp@portablefilmfestival.com with "CURRENT NZ" in the subject line to let them know you're coming. I think this will be worth the effort.

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