Friday, July 8, 2011

Slow Burn Winter Tour Part 4: Misty Mountain Hop

The first time I played at Vinnies Cafe in Raglan was early in the summer of last year, and I knew straight away that I'd found the right place.  It wasn't that complicated - as I walked in the door the guy behind the bar put 'Immigrant Song' on the stereo and after that it was all Led Zep, all night long.  In hindsight, this is an issue I probably should have covered with Billy Earl and Betty Grey when I asked them whether they wanted to be my tour buddies this New Zealand winter.  I didn't  say it up front, but the main reason that I wanted to make this tour happen was not to promote my new album, or to promote their new album, or to play in any new exciting parts of the country and meet new people, or even to hang out and crack wise.  What I didn't tell them was the main reason I booked these shows was so that I could drive on winding roads through snowy mountains in a van, preferably in mist, and definitely listening to Led Zeppelin.

Mountains, misty.

For some people, the Lewis Pass is just a good way to get from Nelson to Oamaru, if that's what you need to do on a given day.  For me, it's a sweet place to listen 'Misty Mountain Hop,' and I think the reasons for this will be obvious to the astute reader. For some people, the car deck of the ferry is quite a boring place to be while you wait for the boat to finish docking in Picton.  For me, it's a chance to put on 'Black Dog,' turn it up, and rock out a little with the truck drivers.  I think I have mentioned elsewhere that as far as I'm aware, the main reason we have the Homer Tunnel at all is so people can drive through it in vans full of amplifiers, listening to 'Kashmir' quite loud. Anyway, when we started talking about doing this tour together, it's possible that I may not have made all this clear to the Teacaddies.

'Is there anything other than Led Zeppelin on that ipod?'  This was only about ten minutes, or a song and a half, into the Lewis Pass.
'I might just pretend you didn't say that.'
'Please don't make me do something to you that I will regret in years to come.  I don't think we need any more Led Zeppelin right now.'
'But... the mountains!  The kick drum sound! Come on!'
'The mountains were there before Led Zeppelin and they will still be there once you have turned it off.  Also, where the hell has Oamaru got to? We've been driving for ages.'
'Because of the Led Zeppelin thing I'm not going to tell you how much further it is, except to say that it's still miles away.  I already said I was sorry for booking consecutive shows in Nelson and Oamaru, so stop your whining.'
'Near Nelson.'
'Greater Nelson, yeah. People still came out though.'

Privately and secretly I was as surprised as anybody that we'd played to a full house forty minutes out of Nelson on a Wednesday night, but I was trying to maintain that it was all down to my awesome tour manager skills in some unfathomable way.  I wasn't having much luck with this, since I'd spent the previous week attempting to manage expectations by carefully explaining that the Nelson show was probably going to be a bit shit, and I'd only booked it for the food and a place to sleep.  Now that it had actually turned out to be a decent show, I was trying to spin the situation to make it look like good judgment rather than dumb luck.  This is a trick that political PR people learn at university, and when they graduate they sell it to their clients to use on voters.  I learnt it second-hand when I was working as a political studies tutor, and I used to make my students discuss it earnestly and write essays about it.  It's quite a popular trick, but unfortunately I don't think it works on actual humans.

'You were as surprised as anybody.  And it's still a pig of a drive to Oamaru.'
'Yeah, alright, I was quite surprised. But you know what would make the drive way faster? If we were listening to 'No Quarter' right now.  I bet it would totally synch up with the road.'
'Trust me, it wouldn't.'
'Wouldn't be way faster, or wouldn't synch up with the road?'
'Christ, neither. And I don't even really want to know what you mean by 'synch up with the road.'  Is that some hippie Wizard of Oz thing?'
'You're thinking of Pink Floyd. Which I also have some of and we could definitely listen to instead if you want?'
'Yeah, or I could drive over this massive cliff and kill us all in a fireball.'
'So you'd pretty much prefer to listed to Led Zeppelin then?  That's cool with me.'
'I don't get it, it's like you won but you didn't win at the same time. Just for the love of God let's not have any more Led Zep for the next ages. Please.'

 Taking time out to find devil horns is important.

It's surprising how often variations of this scenario play out in my life.  It's good to know that I'm not alone though. Someone similar must have got to the barman at Vinnie's, because when we walked in a week or so later to set up for the Raglan show, with me hoping just quietly in my head that he was going to drop maybe 'Ramble On' or at least 'Celebration Day' as we came in the door, the guy was playing reggae.  To his credit, and because it was in Raglan, it wasn't the piss-weak dinner-party kind of reggae that they've been piping out of Wellington for the past few years, but it sure wasn't the Zep.  I like to think I might have not been the only person there who was a little bit disappointed.

Of course, and as expected, the show went swimmingly.

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