Random Play by Graham Reid


Festive fare -- to middling

So the Auckland Festival AK07 has kicked off and . . . Well, ours got off to a bad start. Our neighbour MIke said he had six tickets for Balada which was billed as a Brazilian night out in the festival club behind Britomart and so we thought, why not?

Some Brazilian music isn’t much to my taste -- all that cooler than thou “bada-bada-badida” vocalising -- but this gig said it featured “some of Brazil’s best: Alda Rezende and Orquestra Brazilika, plus DJ Bobby Brazuka with his samba drummers and dancers“. That was followed by an exclamation mark for emphasis.

The show started at 7.30pm and promised a duration of three hours.

We arrived at 7.30pm and fortunately Mike had booked a table. There are maybe 20 such tables then half a dozen tiered rows of seats at the back. The raised stage was good because it meant we would be able to see the feet of the samba dancers. Hoorah.

We ordered drinks from the bar -- not one of the three staff had a pen so I couldn’t sign the credit card receipt -- and sat and waited. And waited.

I guess that was DJ Brazuka up there who just played one record after another -- doesn’t Kevin Black do that? -- but people began to get restless after about an hour. Some of us even started to applaud after tracks just so he or whomever might get the hint.

After an hour and 15 minutes of watching a DJ with his head cocked people were getting downright bloody angry. One guy was demanding his money back, others were saying they’d paid good money for tickets and wine and when was this show going to start, and others were getting up and walking around because those chairs in the tiers were pretty uncomfortable.

There was a group of young Asian girls who arrived ready to party and they had wilted. Older people were ropable. Some people had simply decided to fill the hour or so with alcohol and so were talking loudly.

Ninety minutes in -- that’s right, NINETY minutes after he first dropped a disc on a turntable -- the DJ wound things up (at the insistence of a put-upon AK07 staff member I think) and apologised saying things were running to Brazilian time.

Does that mean late? Or is it like island time? Dunno. His comment went down like a lead wonton, anyway.

While he had been playing the last few records a drummer had ambled on and pecked away at his kit, then the keyboard player appeared and set up his melodica (which of course he'd had all day to do) and the bassist also ambled out. Then they wandered away again.

I said to Mike, “Nice to see they’ve put a bit of effort in and got dressed up.” They looked like they’d been reluctantly dragged from a beach.

Anyway at 9pm the show started: the singer was okay but I’m inclined to think she was what I call a genre-singer and there are many just as good. “Brazil’s best” looks like it comes from Wellington because the keyboard player was the dishevelled Jonathan Crayford -- who does an eerily good impression of Billy Bibbit from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, all sudden freezes and mad staring eyes.

And so the set ambled on, pleasant but hardly elevating. After that long wait it might have been wise to open with something upbeat to win people over a bit, but no. And there was one too many downbeat songs after another. At one point the singer said she was sorry about the “misunderstanding” over the 9pm start.

There was no misunderstanding. No one had been told of a 9pm start, the programme clearly says 7.30pm.

By about 10pm we had had enough and, along with a number of others, we left. Samba dancers? Wouldn’t know. We’d been there two and half hours by that time and didn’t feel inclined to wait much longer.

This was a very poor and, I think, unprofessional opening act, and there was embarrassment on the part of the AK07 people. And Mike who had bought he tickets was apologetic to us too, not that he needed to be.

We went off to see Camera Obscura at the Kings Arms (who were lovely).

None of this will put us off going to all the other festival acts we are keen to see, but there is something unendearing and amateurish about the way some performers and promoters treat their paying audience. No act should have to introduce themselves for a kick-off, can‘t someone just get up and say, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming tonight, and now here‘s . . .”.

Seems simple to me. Gives a sense of ocassion and so on.

Anyway today it is Pasifika, tonight the free pyrotechnics in the Domain with Groupe F and music from Don McGlashan and The Mamaku Project. Tomorrow it’s high tide at lunchtime again in Auckland, we’re going to Penumbra in the evening, and maybe we’ll try to fit in George Gittoes’ doco Soundtrack to War . . .

Lots to do, it’s good to be alive.

And speaking of Gittoes who has Soundtrack to War as part of the Triennial and his latest film Rampage opening for selected screening at the Academy next weekend . . . it was my pleasure to interview him this week and what a fascinating guy.

I wrote a short version of the interview which appears in today’s Herald but the on-line version is the real oil, very long and detailed. It is supposed to be up there on-line now but . . .

Anyway, check it out when it is posted -- and his docos. The man is courageous and his docos utterly compelling. “Baghdad in Miami”, he says of the hip-hop gangbanger streets in suburban Florida where he filmed Rampage.

And he should know, he’s been to Baghdad four times.

[UPDATE: the link to the long version of the George Gittoes interview has now been added at the Herald website here ).

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