Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Glastonbury memories - the Sugar Cube, Underworld, and not meeting Banco de Gaia

Here's my first Glastonbury memories post - The Cure, The Family Cat and Tom Jones.

The Sugar Cube

I remember when dance music first came to Glastonbury. I think it was before I'd really discovered dance music - although maybe I'd been to one of the first DIY raves in Nottingham by then - I'm not quite sure... anyway, before there was an official dance tent at Glasto there were a bunch of unofficial dance/rave things scattered throughout the camping areas, generally with a sound system set up by festival-goers from the back of a truck or van.

I was wandering back to my tent late one night when I stumbled upon one of these unofficial areas - and the organisers had really gone to town on it. I seem to recall a great big tent, decorated from top to bottom with glowing white sculptures, brightly (and glowingly) lit with black lights... and this crazy doof doof music incredibly loud filling up your soul... oh wow. Craaaazy! I hung around for a while but it was all a bit much for me back then. Was it called the Sugar Cube? Can anyone recall?

Underworld - 1998

My 9th and last Glastonbury was in 1998. My dad had just died, and I had to do the awful trek back across half a world from New Zealand to the UK to go to his funeral.

Seeing as I was in the UK for such a sad occasion I figured I'd do something fun while I was there - and the fun thing was Glastonbury with my favourite Glasto-buddies, Sandra and Sean (accompanied for the first time by their daughter Kerra, who was about 3 years old).

It was a very muddy Glasto, and it was pretty exhausting for all of us. Kerra needed to be carried a lot of the time, and it was too wet to sit down, so none of us saw quite the range of bands we usually aimed for.

One band I was absolutely determined to see was Underworld. I'd been idly thumbing through the programme soon after we arrived (I had no idea who was playing), thinking to myself "hmmm - who would I really really love to see at Glastonbury - yeah - Underworld!", turned the page - and there they were in the lineup! Kewl!

I think the others either went to bed early that night or went off to see someone else, because I experienced the wonder that is Underworld alone (albeit along with thousands of other people!) I made my way across the dark and muddy site and arrived with plenty of time to spare (I was an old Glasto hand - I knew how long it took to get across the site when it was muddy!)

I was very near the front - it was on one of the secondary stages (can't remember which one) - and while we were waiting for Underworld to come on stage the crowd was idly watching these three roadies setting up all their gear, testing the mikes and all the electronic stuff, doing all the things that roadies normally do.

After about half an hour of setup time the three "roadies" all turned around as one - and started playing! Eh? We'd been watching Underworld setting up their own gear for the past 30 minutes and no-one had realised...

My absolute all-time favourite Underworld track is, of course, Cowgirl, which I had first heard/seen on telly one day in NZ, accompanied by Tomato's ground-breaking video. I'd never seen (or heard) anything like it...

So Underworld are playing their set, doing their thing, and I'm thinking "Play Cowgirl! Please play Cowgirl!" and they move into a strange new song, which is incredibly sparse, and consists of more bits of silence than it does actual notes, and I'm thinking "this is cool - and strangely familiar..." and I suddenly realise that it's the intro to Cowgirl only with a whole bunch of notes taken out - and slowly everyone else realises it too, and as they add more and more of the melody into the spaces of silence we all go completely crazy and start leaping around in the mud, and I'm incredibly happy because it's the middle of the night, I'm up to my knees in mud in the middle of a field, and I'm watching Underworld doing Cowgirl...

Not meeting Banco de Gaia - 1998

In addition to catching Underworld, I was planning to catch up with Toby Marks, aka Banco de Gaia, somewhere behind the dance tent before his set on (I think) Saturday afternoon.

We'd "met" a year or so earlier, when I had almost booked him for Omnivore - one of my first dance parties in Wellington. Things had gone pear-shaped between me and my co-director a couple of weeks before the party (I fired him - he was a total nightmare) and I'd had to cancel Toby; so I was really excited about the possibility of meeting him for real, as well as seeing him play. Yaay!

It was quite a mission arranging to meet up with him. I still had his phone number from the Omnivore days, so getting hold of him was pretty easy, but the backstage pass for Glasto was something else... after much phoning of Glasto organisers I finally managed to swing the pass, which I had to pick up at the office once I was on-site. Got the pass, figured out where the backstage area for the dance tent was, wandered on over there at lunchtime on Saturday, planning to see if I could find Toby (no cell phone coverage in out-of-the-way places in those days so I had to just hope he'd be around) and then stick around to catch his set afterwards.

Except he wasn't there.

There was a bit of a drama going on in the dance tent that morning. The rain had got in in quite a major way the night before, so they decided to use the sewage truck to suck up the worst of the liquid mud before the first DJ of the day. Unfortunately someone pressed the "blow poo" button instead of the "suck poo (or mud)" button, and the floor of the dance tent rapidly filled with poos as well as liquid mud! Lovely!

Toby's set was cancelled (boo!) and he was nowhere to be found backstage, either.

I hung around for a while, feeling like a total dork. I had no idea who anyone was, so I randomly wandered about asking people if they had seen Toby/Banco de Gaia, but no-one seemed to know him. I found myself sitting with a bunch of people (DJs? Performers? Musicians? Famous people? Hangers-on? I have no idea) round a camp fire, hoping he'd show, and knowing in my heart he probably wouldn't. The guy sitting next to me pulled out a ziploc plastic bag filled with a white powder and started offering it round. I got freaked out and made a hasty exit.

I never did meet Banco de Gaia, and I never got to see him play, either. Wish I'd seen him in 1995, but there you go. You can't have everything. It was a great story about the poo, though...

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Glastonbury memories - The Cure, The Family Cat and Tom Jones

I was thinking about the Glastonbury Festival today - as you do when it's June and this year's event is only days away...

I've been to 9 Glastonburys in total. The first was in 1984 I think, and the last was 10 years ago this year, in 1998. I've got so many memories of Glasto - some good, some not so good, and some completely awesome.

Having started to write this, I realise there's much too much to include in just one post, so I'll do a bunch of these over the next few days. Here's part one...

The Cure in the rain - 1986 and/or 1990

I've loved The Cure ever since I first heard A Forest playing outside Rock City nightclub back when I was at university in 1980, and I'd pretty much worn out my vinyl copies of Three Imaginary Boys and Seventeen Seconds by the time I graduated.

To see The Cure at Glastonbury not once, but twice, was a HUGE thrill for me. I can't remember whether it was 1986 or 1990 when we had the thunderstorm and the laser beams, but anyway...

The Cure was headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday night, and I was pretty near the front, standing on a bit of a hillock (which was great because I'm not exactly the tallest person in the world). It was getting dark, and just as the band was due to come on, a great big raincloud came floating over the fields and stopped right above us. As The Cure stepped onstage the thunder began rolling over the hills and across the festival site, and a gentle rain began to fall. Dramatic!

I remember the green lasers on the top of the Pyramid shining through the raindrops, causing them to appear to hover in mid-air for a second before continuing on their downward journey. It was quite magical.

Funny what stays in your mind. I don't remember any of the songs they played, I don't remember singing along, or dancing, or anything to do with the music, really. I just remember the raincloud, the thunder, and those bright green raindrops hanging in suspended animation in front of my face.

Afterwards, as we made our way back to our tents further up the hill overlooking the Pyramid Stage, they played the song of the humpback whale over the loudspeakers. It was the strangest (and most awesome) sound - 100+ decibels-worth of whale eerily calling us, surrounding us, guiding us home. Bloody brilliant.

The Family Cat and Tom Jones back to back - 1992

Sandra and Sean have known the entire Family Cat for years and years, having spent a good many of their teenage years getting up to mischief in Cornwall, where most of them are from. I met them some time in the late 80s, when we used to go to their gigs all around the country, leaping around at the front and singing along with all their songs at the tops of our voices.

In 1992 they got their big break, when the NME decided that they were flavour of the month/year, and wrote some very glowing articles about them. That year they were invited to play at Glastonbury and we were all thrilled to bits. We'd never had someone we actually knew play at Glasto before.

They were playing on the NME stage early on the Sunday afternoon, so we all headed over there nice and early so we could get a good spot. They were brilliant. Full of energy, did all their best songs, and the sizeable crowd seemed to really like them. I remember we got to talk to them afterwards (through a wire mesh fence) and they were all buzzing and very happy.

Immediately after the Family Cat had finished playing on the NME stage, the weekend's "special guest" was due on the Pyramid Stage. I don't remember there being a special guest in previous years, so maybe this was the first time. No-one knew who it was in advance - it hadn't been announced - but by the Saturday night the rumour was flying around the festival site that it was going to be Tom Jones.

Tom Jones? At Glastonbury?? You have got to be kidding me!!!

Sandra, Sean, some of The Family Cat and I all decided it might be good for a laugh, so we headed around the corner to the Pyramid Stage to join the 70,000 other crusty folk ranged all the way up the hill on that beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. We approached the stage from behind the left-hand side, so we were able to push our way into the crowd right near the front, and gradually moved closer to the middle as time went on.

Imagine the scene. You've got 70,000 grubby hippies (for that was the Glasto crowd in those days) all standing there waiting to take the piss out of Tom Jones - a performer more used to entertaining our mothers - and we're all thinking how completely incongruous this is, and wondering what on earth was Michael Eavis was on when he chose Mr Jones...

And Tom comes on stage with his band, and starts up with the first song - and his band is so tight, and he's so bloody professional that they have the entire crowd in the palm of their hands before they've even finished the first verse.

It.was.amazing. Tom Jones was amazing!

He sang, he danced around the stage, he took the piss out of himself, he waved to his family watching from the backstage area, they played a whole heap of great covers, he did every one of his famous songs - and the crowd sang along with him for the entire set.

At one point early on he said something like "I gotta take my jacket off - it's so hot!", proceeded to take his jacket off with a wink and a smile and threw it aside with a flourish - and the whole crowd went completely nuts.

By the end of the gig there were crusty hippies sitting on each other's shoulders reaching towards the stage yelling "I love you, Tom!" and throwing their equally crusty knickers at him. It was completely insane. I'll never forget it.

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Tom Jones at Glastonbury is the best festival set I have ever seen anyone play. Ever.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thoughts on Clinton, Obama, polls, and who to vote for in the GE

I believe that the closeness of the race between Clinton and Obama has been due to the fact that they are both extremely strong candidates, which is a good thing, IMO.

Hillary Clinton is one tenacious woman, and I admire that about her. She never gives up, and in almost all situations that is a great attribute for anyone to have.

In the end I'm glad the race was allowed to run until the very end, and that all states got their chance to vote - even though at some points I was just wishing it was all over :)

The obvious benefit for the Democratic party is that they now have an enormous advantage going into the GE in terms of voters already registered and motivated (and more to come with Obama's voter registration drive), and many many names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to utilise in the coming months.

The obvious downside is the current polarisation of the party in terms of which candidate they supported, and the hurt feelings on both sides that come from such a hard-fought race. I have every hope that this will lessen over time, and that Democrats will be able to come together over the next few months in order to defeat the Republicans.

Gallup have come out with a new poll today - it's a big one - and very interesting - An Early Gallup Road Map to the McCain-Obama Matchup. It seems to me that this may be the best set of numbers that McCain can hope for - and that as the Democrats move into full GE mode, the only way for his numbers to go is down. (That's how it is in my happy world, anyway!)

Here are couple of interesting stats from the poll:

Perhaps one of the greatest divides in the 2008 election will be along age lines, with Obama demonstrating great appeal to younger voters, but not faring as well among senior citizens. Obama leads McCain by 23 points among voters aged 18 to 29, while trailing McCain by 12 points among those 65 and older. The two run about evenly among the two middle age groups.
Obama did not fare well against Hillary Clinton among Hispanics in the 2008 primaries, but the early indications are that he will do well among this increasingly Democratic group in the general election. The May data show Obama with a 62% to 29% advantage over McCain among Hispanics.
McCain -- like Republican candidates before him -- is the heavy favorite in the South. Obama leads McCain in the East and West. The Midwest may be the most competitive region this election, with Obama currently maintaining a slight advantage in his home region.
As is typically the case in U.S. presidential elections, the Republican candidate is running better among male voters, while the Democrat fares better among women. The data show McCain with a six-point advantage over Obama among men, and Obama leading McCain by the same margin among women.

My final thought/question - which crystallised for me earlier this evening - is for those Democratic voters who are unhappy enough with the outcome of the race (for whatever reason) to consider either not voting at all this year, writing in another name, or voting Republican.

The candidate of your choice - whether it's Obama, Clinton, Edwards or any of the other people who ran - is still, at the end of all this, an active member of the Democratic party.

Hillary, for example, is still a Senator who (presumably) will wish to continue being a Senator in the short-term, with perhaps another role in the medium to long term.

Her continuing role in the Senate - the ability for her to introduce and pass legislation that she (and you, as a Democrat) deeply believes in - will be directly impacted by whether November brings a Democrat or a Republican to the White House, as well as the numbers of Democratic candidates selected in the down-ticket races.

By not voting Democrat at the GE, I would argue that you will be putting Hillary's effectiveness as a Senator at risk.

By not voting Democrat, you are not voting for your candidate's party! Hillary is a Democrat! Does it not make sense to vote for her party - and thereby improve the political environment which obviously means so much to her and in which she works so hard...

I'm sure there's a ton of legislation that Clinton and the rest of the Democratic party would absolutely love to be able to pass over the next four years, should they win the election. The ability for much of that legislation to pass, to a large extent depends upon a) a Democratic President and b) a large number of Democratic Senators and Congresspeople. Each and every person who votes Democrat in the fall will be a part of making that happen.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008


What a great day!

Sometimes I thought this day would never come. But it has!

I hope with all my being that all Democrats will now work together for unification - and move forwards to the real fight in November.

Barack Obama - you are an inspiration and a joy to watch. You are making history. This is your moment.


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Why Obama should not pick Clinton as VP

The suggestion has been around for ages - a dream ticket for some, a nightmare for others.

An Obama/Clinton ticket.

Recently I've been getting a wee bit worried that Obama might actually be considering it - and idea which absolutely horrifies me, because I think it will seriously damage his chances of beating McCain in November.

This is why:

Obama has run on the message of "change". This is a fundamental element of his campaign and of his presidency. Clinton, in contrast, has run on the "experience" ticket, and has even gone so far as to say that she believes that she and McCain both have a lifetime of experience which they will bring to the WH whereas Obama has "a speech he gave in 2002".

Clinton is a classic example of old-guard Washington, the very thing which Obama has been campaigning against so strongly. Having her on the ticket would undercut his message of change.

Obama has campaigned strongly to remove the influence of lobbyists in Washington. He refuses to take money from lobbyists - to the extent of returning their money to them if they contribute to his campaign. Clinton, on the other hand, has accepted plenty of money from lobbyists and has said she will continue to do so as they "represent real Americans".

Having Clinton (and her lobbyists) on the ticket would seriously undermine Obama's anti-lobbying message.

Whether a deliberate part of her campaign strategy, or simply mis-speaking by Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and her surrogates such as Geraldine Ferraro; the perception is certainly there amongst many people (both African Americans and whites alike) that her campaign has played the race card on more than one occasion.

Aside from the obvious irony that Obama is part African-American and that Clinton would be running alongside him as VP having been perceived as using the race card against him, I'm concerned that this might have a negative impact on some people who would otherwise vote for Obama. Put simply, I feel that some people who were offended by her perceived racism would be less likely to vote for Obama if Clinton were on the ticket, than if she were not.

This campaign has been undeniably negative in parts, with Clinton in particular having said a whole lot of negative things about Obama. I can see the Republicans using this as a major part of their strategy in the run-up to the General Election. I believe they would pull up every negative comment Clinton has made, and use it relentlessly against an Obama/Clinton ticket in the fall. I can see it now!

Obama is not a Muslim "as far as I know..."; Clinton and McCain offer a lifetime of experience blah blah (they'll have that one up on an endless loop!); the whole "Obama can't win the white vote" spin; denouncing and rejecting Farrakhan (because simply doing one of the other just isn't enough for Hillary); not to mention harping on about Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, the "bitter" comment and much, much more.

I think it would be incredibly destructive for Obama to pick Clinton for VP after all the negativity she has thrown at him. I think it hands the Republicans their main anti-Democratic advertising on a plate, and brings no benefits to Obama in this regard.

Clinton came into this race with huge negatives. In a Harris Interactive poll in March 2007, 50% of voting-age adults said that they would not vote for her. In March 2008 a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll put her negatives at 48 percent - the highest in that poll since March 2001. Just 37 percent had a positive view of Clinton, whereas Obama's approval rating had remained virtually unchanged at 49 percent. Only 32 percent of Americans gave him a negative approval rating in this poll.

The early negatives are not necessarily Clinton's fault - years of vitriolic attacks on her by the Republicans ever since Bill first arrived in the White House have taken their toll - but certainly the more recent ones appear to be as a direct result of her negative attacks on Obama.

My fear, should she be selected to run as VP, is that a number of apathetic and/or disaffected Republicans would be motivated to come out and vote against her. I believe there's a large sub-group of Republicans who aren't that keen on McCain, but who really, really dislike Clinton. If she were on the ticket, I believe these people would come out for the pleasure of voting against her, whereas if she were not on the ticket, they wouldn't bother voting.

I also think there's another group of Republicans whom Obama would lose if he had Clinton on the ticket with him. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence to show that some Republicans will be voting Democratic this year because they're sick of Bush (and see McCain as continuing Bush's legacy) AND they have been inspired by Obama and specifically Obama to cross over and vote for him. If Clinton's part of the deal, I think we'd see a lot less of them coming over to vote for Obama. I just think that having to vote for Clinton as well would be too much of a stretch for some of them, given the history of Republican dislike for the Clintons.

And finally... the Iraq war. In a May 8-12 poll, 62% of Americans polled felt that war on Iraq was the wrong thing for the US to do, and 70% wanted to either withdraw now, or set a timetable for withdrawal.

There's a very big difference between Obama and Clinton on the war on Iraq. Clinton voted for the war (without reading the NIE Report) - and has since refused to apologise for that vote. She voted for Kyl-Lieberman. She threatened to "obliterate Iran" if they launched an attack on Israel (conveniently ignoring the fact that Iran has no nuclear weapons and Israel has a whole bunch, even if they won't admit to having them).

Obama, on the other hand (as Clinton loves to remind us), has a speech he gave in 2002. Here it is (re-created by Obama supporters):

Obama has opposed the war on Iraq from the beginning. He has continually spoken out against it, even at a time when it was extremely unpopular to do so.

This position against the Iraq war puts him in a very strong position against McCain in November, particularly in the light of McCain's comments about staying for 100 years (or more) in Iraq and his "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" song. The war is extremely unpopular. Most Americans want out, and now believe the US should never have been there in the first place.

With Clinton on the ticket with Obama, this strong point of difference between Democrats and Republicans is drastically blurred, and would severely limit Obama's ability to fight McCain on the issue of the war against Iraq - or the Republicans' continued threats against Iran.

I'm terribly concerned that Obama - being the uniter that he is - will include Clinton on his ticket as VP, aiming to show how much they have in common against a common enemy, etc etc blah blah blah. I'm hugely worried about the impact this would have on the voting in November.

I'm bloody angry at the fact that it feels to me as though those Clinton supporters (encouraged by Clinton) who threatened to hold their breath until they got their way might get their way and in the process destroy the Democrats' ability to win in November.

I'm bloody angry at Clinton for having spent the past 6 months attacking Obama instead of attacking McCain. I'm very worried right now that this is finally having an impact on Obama's numbers, and that somehow Clinton will either snatch the nomination from under his nose, or that she will continue to attack him until November, rendering him incapable of beating McCain.

And I'm now very worried that, because he's such a good guy who wants to work together with everyone and build bridges, he'll take that to its logical conclusion and pick Hillary as VP. And then they'll both lose.

I'm praying he proves me wrong.

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