Monday, December 03, 2007


Bill Direen and his merry men blew into Auckland on Friday full of stories about life on the road. They remembered the penguins which hopped about amongst the large crowd at the, you guessed it, Penguin Bar in Oamaru; the eighty year-old pogoing in front of the stage in Christchurch; an eight and a half hour detour along the narrow backroads of the Southern Alps to get to the hippy haven of Takaka, where Bill and Otis Mace delighted the crowd by taking turns singing songs at each other, in a sort of folk rock version of a hip hop challenge; the banshee howl of support act Will Christie in Wellington; the unspeakable odours in the van the band travelled in; Otis' uncanny ability to pick up women before, during, and after gigs; and the five hardcore fans who passed for the 'crowd' at a Hamilton bar.

The boys played to a packed upper bar at the Masonic Tavern on Friday night, and then wrapped up the Party for Your Right to Fight on Saturday night at the PR Bar. The party brought together politicos, poets, and musos, and was enjoyably chaotic. We had well over a hundred people at the PR bar, which is really a labyrinthine succession of bars, and an average of thirty or forty in the room on the end where where a succession of ranters, writers, and rockers banged out their stuff.

Richard Taylor astonished everybody by staying admirably sober, while Brett Cross kept disappearing to the bar for shots of Scottish whiskey. The schedule of performers kept changing, as faces appeared out of the depths of shadowy passageways. The promised donations tin never turned up, and yours truly had to dash across the road to the garage, buy a container of baking soda, empty the contents into a rubbish bin in front of baffled staff, and then convince partygoers that he really was taking money for the Civil Rights Defence Committee, and not my drinking fund.

Dave Bedggood read a message of solidarity that Bolivian workers had sent the Urewera 17; Jen Crawford read a poem called 'Tentacular Porn', and warned us not to google the phrase; Justin Taua took listeners on a boozy but eloquent tour through Maori history; Ted Jenner chanted a difficult but beautiful poem about his second home of Malawi; the much-maligned Jamie Lockett gave a last-minute guest lecture in a beguilingly gentle, reasonable voice; Michael Steven read three short, stark poems then disappeared into the night; Tourettes wowed the audience by bridging the gaps between freestyle hip-hop, poetry, and political rant; Bill Direen popped up with an acoustic guitar to sing Dylan's 'The Ballad of Hollis Brown' and a couple of other taut folk songs; Nathan MacGregor came down from hospital to read a short but moving poem in Maori; Richard Taylor proved he could read effectively without booze; Otis jumped on stage when we were supposed to be taking a break and belted out a short set which included his very disingenuous ditty 'You Can't Get Involved with Your Public'; and The Bilders played a set of classics that showed off the skills of their recently-recruited keyboardist Andrew McCully (they were even better, if that's possible, at the Masonic, where the PA was crystal clear).

One of the highlights of my night was bumping into that notorious terrorist Omar Hamed, whom I'd last seen in the gloomy confines of the Auckland District Court. Back in 2006 I lived in a house where Omar was a frequent guest, and I have fond memories of discoursing late into the night with him about such burning subjects as the crisis in international Trotskyism and the difference between platformist and syndicalist anarchism. Last Saturday we both seemed too sozzled to rise to such intellectual heights, but it was still very nice to say hello and burp.

I suppose I'm also obliged to mention that, after drinking even more booze, yours truly joined The Bilders on stage at the end of the night to sing the falsetto parts of Bill's '80s pop gem 'The Aligator Song'. Apparently there's a recording out there - whoever has it should know that I'm willing to pay good money to take it out of circulation...

Despite all the chaos, we did manage to raise a bit of dosh for the Civil Rights Defence Committee, which organised another good demo on Saturday. If you want to attend a rather more professional fundraising gig for victims of the October the 15th terror raids, then I recommend the event being held next Friday at the Kings Arms Tavern. Some of the folks organising the gig work with me, and they have some seriously good contacts in the music industry.


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