Hunter S. Thompson Episode II – Attack of the Clones

“Ye gods..” is a phrase that I really like to use, although sparingly. You have to be careful when blatantly biting someone. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard Johnny Depp, poseur extraordinaire, use on occasion too. I imagine we both got it from the same guy.

It doesn’t sound quite as cool with a New Zealand accent either, which is another reason I’ve got to use it like it’s running out and we still need what we have left to last the summer. Sounds much better crawling its way out of a throat dry with whiskey and American cigarettes, barely said at all. Dark sunglasses might help, too. I first came upon it reading a bunch of Hunter S. Thompson’s stuff, probably some volume of the Gonzo Papers. It doesn’t really mean anything, it’s more of just an expression, exclamation. When talking about The Rum Diary he (HST) states, “Ye gods, this is me…”, for example.

Hunter S. Thompson is one of those writers, even just one of those ‘guys’, that it’s very cool to be ‘in’ to, apparently. If you don’t own a Fear and Loathing poster have you even tried mushrooms? Everything that fell out of his mouth sounded like prose. Sentences that I’d have to sit in a dark room for weeks on end just to birth, only to never be able to say naturally. He would be over the thought before it’s even left his mouth, very little thinking actually seemed to even go in to it. Most of us have to think before we speak, a sentiment drilled in to us since the very earliest of education. Hunter, on the other hand, could say the most vital, intelligent things apparently without having to have thought at all. Not to mention the weight of all the drugs and alcohol he’d likely be performing under. He was positively Dylan-esque – Dylan at his best, that is.

There are, however, throngs of people that don’t understand the madness that must torture a mind as intellectually superior as Hunter’s. A lot of very clever, highly regarded, artists have killed themselves. I don’t think that burden is nearly as glamorous as the literary and yes, even photographic snapshots would have us believe. But for many 16 year olds just discovering the Fear and Loathing movie (“Aw dude, you’ve never got high and watched Fear and Loathing!?”), this is the place to be. And thus springs the inspiration for the New Years’ journeys and festivals. Instead of Duke and his Attorney blasting through the California/Nevada desert in a red convertible with suitcases full of drugs, spawns of Auckland’s elite pack silver VW Golfs with a few bags of weed, some pills full of chalk and rat-poison, stock their iPods with music their source would have hated, and drive off to Gisborne thinking it’s the same thing. Well, it’s not the same thing. Cue the Snapchat stories filled with piss breaks, and the caption “We can’t stop here…” There’s a famous scene in which Duke and the Attorney get really messed up on some ether and go walkabout. Here’s a sad, sad, true story – I knew some people (seemingly intelligent Uni students) who spent a night huffing CRC because it CONTAINED ether. Contained! Lots of things contain ether. Lots of things contain lots of things, but such is the struggle to be like him.

Most of those guilty will immediately get defensive and claim they aren’t doing that. Watch their faces when you say, “Yeah you’re right, you don’t really read his stuff anyway,do you?”. It’s like asking a robot what happens when Pinocchio says “This is a lie.”, they just can’t compute and then explode. Where else do you get the idea to DO ether? It’s not exactly like South Auckland is dotted with ‘ether houses’ and cops come up with big loads of ether in all the gang raids. The main point is, if the praise that he seems to get on a real, day to day basis, was literary and legitimate, he’d be considered one of the greatest who ever lived.  Instead of inspiring people to read and write, he’s apparently inspiring dumb teenagers to live up to some impossible expectation that is the epitome of drug-decadence, and frankly isn’t even his best work. He’s definitely considered to be ‘up there’ on the literary ladder, but instead of just sharing drugged-out quotes of his over Facebook and pretending you understand, actually give it a go. If you think this one tiny quote is so cool, you are in for a treat because his books are full of them! I believe people simply can’t be bothered. Can’t be bothered with the challenge of anything non-linear, or slightly confronting, which is really sad.

It’s kind of a general issue and arguably stems from the same soil as ‘headline whoring.’ Sharing a story, or facts, simply based on a cheeky, click-baiting headline. It is so wrong and irresponsible and is greatly contributing to the dumbing down of our collective sub-conscious.

“Did you see Company X is trying to get their employees to…”

“No, if you actually read the article it said they were ‘considering’ it, to ‘potentially’ be implemented by 2025.”

Same thing when people see a quote of his, or see the movie adaptation of one of his books, they take it in and share it like its their own. And this happens with many, many, other respected musicians, authors, and artists in general. Anyone that it is ‘cool’ to like is at great risk of being reduced to a slogan, or a t-shirt. It happened with The Ramones, Black Flag, Sex Pistols and even Che Guevara. Of all the people who use the quotes, the bat country, the ‘drugs always worked for me’, the breakfast routine – the percentage of those who have actually bothered to go further and read anything substantial by him would be very interesting on one hand, and embarrassing on the other. Interesting to me, because I believe it’d truly back up what I’m saying, and embarrassing for a lot of you.

 

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Music Memories – Going to California Pt. 1

So, this one time (at band camp) I saw Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, and Roger Waters live all in one week. Impossible, you say? Hah, merely difficult. And expensive. It began late April this year. Whispers started circulating, Chinese and standard, about a so-called ‘mega-fest’ to be held in the same venue as Coachella each year – Empire Polo Club in California’s Palm Desert. This mega fest was to feature just six acts, all of whom embody and represent a certain ‘lost era’ of music. Hilarious puns were quick to follow, namely “Oldchella”, geddit!? Mick Jagger even quipped from the stage that he tried to stay away from doing age-based gags, but that backstage resembled one big AA meeting, and welcome to the ‘catch-them-before-they-croak’ tour. Rumour had it that there would be only two acts each night and the six acts were apparently Dylan, the Stones, Neil Young, A damn Beatle, The Who, and Roger Waters. Come early May, my worst fears simultaneously collided with a dream come true. I’m going to have to go. Damn. I signed up to any and all pre-sale information and subscribed to online mailing lists supposed to keep me up to date with all the latest info and developments. Soon enough legitimate info began trickling out and we knew the price of tickets and we knew that they were planning on building a makeshift stadium in the middle of the polo grounds. Holy shit. Not only that, but behind the stadium would be the general admission area, my usual stomping ground. One that is also usually the foremost section of any gig. $400 to spend the weekend behind the stadium? Imagine paying ANY amount of money to stand outside Western Springs and watch Foo Fighters on a big screen.That being said, all 6 acts on their own fully eclipse bands like the Foo Fighters, not to mention when they’re all together playing the same gig.

If I was a semi-wealthy, or even semi-passionate Californian, it’d be a no brainer – Go dance with a few mates and a few drinks in the desert for a few days for a few hundred bucks. Easy. Decent weekend. However, coming from New Zealand, hypothetically, why pay all that money to be at the very back. I wondered, what would the other, seated, tickets be like? Too much of a gamble? Hang on..Yes, there is a general admission pit at the FRONT of everyone else!  Of course there is, no promoter worth their salt would waste the opportunity to charge people premium prices for the premium spot(s). $1600 to be in front of everyone else. Shit, it’s worth the bragging rights alone. A guaranteed spot within the first few rows for some of these acts individually would reach the $1000 range easy.  Even at the very back of this section you have a better view than 95% of the people there, you’re standing in front of 85,000 bodies. Hard to comprehend sitting at your computer analysing a bunch of not to scale lines pretending to be the ‘site map’ on the festival’s website, and in a strange way it’s almost harder to comprehend when you’re actually there experiencing it. It’s like the desert’s most awesome mirage. If it hadn’t been for some of the breathtaking aerial photography, I don’t think I would have ever fully realised the scale.14570760_646593188852332_6827367877076541211_o

Tickets for Desert Trip went on sale on Monday the 9th of May at 10.00am (their time), 5am our time. Before even going on sale a second weekend was announced due to interest/demand in the virtual waiting rooms. My goal was to buy one of the hotel packages that were being sold that included accommodation and the tickets for the weekend, so without so much as a wink of sleep I opened up pages to purchase (each counting as one ‘place’ in the waiting room), on my phone, my laptop, Abbey’s laptop, the PS3, the PS4, and Abbey’s phone. 5am ticked over, and we were immediately glued to our respective screens, switching between devices every few moments in the hope that at least one of our little men had walked his way across the screen (which meant you’re through, free to buy tickets). Eventually all around the same time we had multiple options so quickly snapped up our preferred hotel, sweating and with a captive heart beating its fist against my chest in anxiety,  we entered credit card details and clicked ‘submit’ with relief.

“Card not valid. Please contact your bank”

No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s supposed to work, I even asked customer service specifically if my card would work and was told unequivocally ‘yes’. Banks aren’t the easiest places to get hold of in the best of times, not to mention when they weren’t even open. It’d be no use – this thing was going to sell out instantly. We’d missed out. For shits and gigs we tried each card multiple times but to no avail. We were even charged a few bucks for each attempt. I was deflated. Beyond angry. So angry that it was like a calm plateau somehow, numb almost. Abbey retreated back to bed, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Sitting on my floor jamming multiple screens, all featuring multiple options, it seemed it couldn’t just be over. Surely not. It was all going so well, I have the damn money all I want is to hand it over! Please take these thousands. I managed to borrow someone else’s credit card, but would have to wait until my transfer hit their account. By that time the festival would be sold out (Duh Max, you have no chance), but wouldn’t hurt to at least try, right?

Desert Trip posted on their Facebook page less than two hours after going on sale “Thank You, Desert Trip 2016 is now Sold Out”. 85,000 tickets times 6 days, that’s a lot of people, a lot of money. In my search for this elusive “other” option I happened upon what seemed perfect for people like me. ‘Like me’ in the sense that they were, inadvertently or otherwise, unprepared. What were Desert Trip Premium tickets?

Around 9am that morning, 4 hours after tickets went on sale and sold out, I sent a text to Abbey (who, remember, was under the impression we tried and failed. Did our best, not to be.) reading: Check your Facebook.

On her Facebook page I had posted a screenshot of the confirmation email I had just recieved featuring 2x 3 day Pit Standing passes, with a caption referencing the meme flavour of the week; Ha! Got ’em!

Books Are Cool

Books seemed to be really uncool, for a really long time there. I read heaps when I was younger, and pretty well until my age caught up, or until I stopped ‘pushing myself’ depending on who you ask, but I admit I fell in to the ‘books are lame’ category for a time there. Couldn’t say why. The last word was interchangeable, too. Books could be anything – boring, shit, for losers. That sort of thinking is almost baffling looking back.  I don’t know if there is any data on this, but I am highly confident that there is a direct correlation with intelligence and those who read frequently. Actually it’s not that I didn’t like books, it was just that I really, really did not ever think to read one for leisure. Fiction written for young people though truly is generally pretty stale, with a few exceptions.

But then it suddenly came back. Guys and girls all started wearing brown coats, and leather shoes, growing (and grooming!?) mustaches, and carrying around tattered anthologies of George Orwell essays, stopping only to drink coffee and proudly display to everyone that they were indeed part of the ‘intelligentsia’, did you not notice what they were reading?  Or that they were reading at all? I suppose some people felt left out, or stupid, and sought to read thin novels by obscure authors and wear it as a badge, or weapon. Can’t be all bad though, reading became the cool, trippy (for some reason?) thing to do.

The first book I remember really enjoying as anything more than a child was a Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier than Heaven. I didn’t even like Nirvana at the time,although I knew who they were. I would have been 12 years old, everyone in class had to check out a book from the school library and the only ones that really interested me at the time were about music or movies, not really novels, so the first thing I grabbed was Heavier than Heaven. I read the back and looked at the pictures, and had the “oh, it’s that guy” moment. For ages when I was younger I just thought that ‘Kurt Cobain’ was a serial killer. It seemed interesting enough and someone in class started talking to me about it so I held on to it and a few days later I went to the public library and borrowed a Nirvana greatest hits CD – the first time I even realised you could do that – and never returned it. Here was a book about a heroin-shooting, instrument-wrecking, rockstar-millionaire, who literally blew it all away, and I’m allowed to read it. School said so. Actually, my english teacher did give me a shifty look and demanded to know what I was reading when I asked her what ‘carnal knowledge’ meant, with regard to Dave Grohl’s time off on tour. Regardless, that’s a pretty interesting book to a 12 year old.

From there I mainly kept reading books about music, or biographies on musicians, preferably autobiographies. Around that same time I read one about Axl Rose that was similarly fascinating, and one about Jimi Hendrix called Room Full of Mirrors that was written by the same guy that wrote Heavier than Heaven, Charles R. Cross. Who knew, that just because it’s on paper and in between two slightly thicker pieces of card, it didn’t have to be lame/shit/boring, or any of those other words?

Art is kind of one big circle, in that they all compliment each other so when reading books about musicians that you love and respect and they talk about books and authors that they love and respect, you pretty much pay attention. You don’t have to like it, but you definitely want to find out about it. If Kurt Cobain likes Black Sabbath and The Beatles, and I like Black Sabbath and The Beatles, maybe I’ll like some William S. Burroughs stuff too, like he does. I think if you keep it organic you can’t really go wrong. Be open minded, but don’t pretend to like something just because it’s Lou Reed’s favourite. Being dishonest leads to the mustache grooming discussed earlier. At the end of the day, books are just stories, and some people like them on paper, some people like them spoken and filmed, some people like them in a video game. It’s content that really matters, not the medium. Books are honestly pretty cool though, in a similar way to albums, and I’m lucky I read because since I quit smoking I need all the coolness I can get.

Movie Memories – Stand By Me

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Release: August 22 1986

Director: Rob Reiner

My first recollection of Stand By Me was seeing it in a magazine – Top 100 Movies of All Time. It came in somewhere around the 20s, and the accompanying picture was the one above, of Vern (Jerry O’Connell) pointing out Ray Brower’s dead body. I wrongly assumed that the boys shown were ‘the bullies’, and that’s all the thought I ever gave it (having perused that list many, many times) until my older brother mentioned having to study it as part of a coming-of-age thing. I must have been 11, if my brother was in year 9. Dad was an avid Stephen King lover, he had all of his books and had read them each more than once, so was pleasantly surprised when my brother mentioned off the cuff that he was studying this movie called Stand By Me at school. “Stephen King wrote that,” Dad said, “it’s a short story, you would like it too, Max.” My brother agreed, “Yeah, it’s actually pretty cool, man.”

“Stand By Me? About a bunch of boys on an adventure? Sounds gay if you ask me.”

The very next weekend we were at Dads we went to Whitcoulls, and lo and behold, the Stand By Me DVD is sitting in a bargain bin. Dad and Jed immediately grab it and show it to me, while Dad slips it in to his other hand to meet the other movies we’d be adopting – the “I’m buying you” hand. I don’t know why, but the fact we had just bought it made me even stronger in my fight to ward off this “gay” movie. The slipcover gave me all sorts of material, while Dad smiled to himself and shook his head knowing somehow that I’d end up eating my words, “If you say so…”

“River Phoenix? River Phoenix?  That’s a person’s name? Should be Stand Bi Me they all love each other so much. Ugh, set in the ’50s? How boring. Oh look, a treehouse! Wank.”

I imagine at this age I was trying extremely hard to shed my ‘innocence’ because I can’t fathom how anyone who knows me, let alone me myself, could ever make a convincing argument that Stand By Me isn’t up my alley. I even found myself at that stage leaving Star Wars behind, an ever present source of wonder for me, no matter how hard the devil playing Eminem on my shoulder had tried to convince me otherwise. I even think part of it was pure bloody-mindedness. I didn’t want to like it partially because these people just assumed I would; how dare they!?

Dad and Jed put it on when we got home, to prove me wrong. Jed didn’t mind because he truly had enjoyed watching it in class – that was soon to change. And Dad didn’t mind because he hadn’t seen it in years (plus, he collected all the movies based on Stephen King’s work too). I remember the opening sequence with the older Narrator sitting in his car by himself and the score behind it thinking “Pfft, this so isn’t me”, but as soon as the cash register “chings” and we see Gordie’s face for the first time I was in 1959 Castle Rock, and I didn’t want to leave. I still tried to appear weary and not fully sold, but I wanted their lives and I felt honestly duped that I wasn’t able to experience it.  At the end of the 90 minutes, they both looked at me exaggerating their points. See!? See!?

I saw. I skipped forward which took me straight back to the main menu of the DVD and again I clicked play. I watched it three times that day, back to back. And when my little brother joined us another weekend, we watched it multiple times then, too. And twice the next day, and the next day – hence Jed’s eternal sigh whenever it’s brought up.

Stand By Me quickly became, and still is, one of my favourite movies of all time. I don’t have an ordered top ten when it comes to movies or music because I feel like I’m being mean to any one who isn’t number one, they all deserve it. Stand By Me, the song, is also one of my favourite pieces of music of all time.tumblr_nir90zxpfz1r7a23yo1_1280

When I first saw Stand By Me it became an instant favourite based on its own merit. The writing, the acting (especially by such young boys), the soundtrack, everything comes together in a completely dynamic and perfectly subtle way to create a real, living, breathing world. You feel like you are experiencing this adventure as opposed to watching it, and it’s only at the end when we are reminded that the ‘narration’, and the story itself, is in fact just The Writer recalling it, and yes, it isn’t real – Richard Dreyfuss is an actor. Hearing Rob Reiner, or even Stephen King, discuss the film in interviews, or the special features which would often bridge the gap between viewings, it becomes clear that it not only epitomises their childhoods and their understanding of coming-of-age, and rites of passage, but once you step back like they are you realise it pretty much epitomises coming-of-age in general. Stephen King who is famously weary of people adapting his work (see: The Shining), has gone on record to say it is his favourite adaptation of any of his books, regardless of noticeable differences in content. People see themselves in the boys and can relate to at least one, or all, of them in a totally personal way. The characters created are so vivid and real that it’s hard not to relate – when you’re watching it you ‘choose’ a character and they’re you’re guy for the duration of the film, you feel like part of their gang.

Stephen King born in 1947 loved it, when it came out in 1986 people loved it, my little brother born in 1996 loved it, I loved it. Film itself does age, it is a physical thing that deteriorates in quality with time, but it also is something that has been in a constant state of improvement ever since it was invented. Stand By Me’s age doesn’t take away from the impact for even a second, which is something that can’t necessarily be said for all ‘classics.’ I would put its emotional impact, even just enjoy-ability, up against any movie, not to mention those that have access to all the state-of-the-art technical bells, whistles, and top talent.

Sure, Stand By Me isn’t like anything filmed today – those ways are mostly redundant – but the content is timeless and could hold its own against anything from ancient Greek poems, to 4k movies so life-like that any emotion less than a close-up of a quivering tear duct slaps the medium in the face.

Music Memories – 18 Jan 2008

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The all-encompassing aroma of marijuana and cigarettes wafted over the stadium gates and in to my nose like a heat seeking missile, or a pie cooling on Marge Simpson’s windowsill. Dave and I both made bug-eyed expressions of “We know what that smell is!”, subtly enough as to not get ‘caught’ and thus thrown out of our first festival – not taking in to account that you’re actually allowed to comment on drugs without being implicated in their smuggling. I readied my ticket to be scanned. The entrance was like a portal in to some kind of alternate reality where circus sideshows are 50,000 strong and they happen on the hottest day of the year. Foot-high mohawks adorned the leather-clad punks’ heads, and girls had piercings in places I didn’t even realise could be pierced. This was what I had come for, this was the Big Day Out; it was midday and Rage Against The Machine were due on at 9pm. As I wandered around the site in awe of my first ever festival experience, my pupils widened and my jaw unhinged itself and began swaying like an open door in the wind. It was hard for my newly 15 year old brain to deny a blonde in shorts so tight they seemed painted on willing to cut me a ‘deal’ on these little party pills that were supposedly soon being made illegal. Can’t go wrong, I thought.

Looking over the two main stages at one end of the field I felt like a dictator, all the little freaks bobbing in unison before me to their favourite bands confirmed a love affair with live music that has continued through the present. It was easily the largest, most powerful mass of people I’d ever witnessed in my life. Before that day the only gigs I had been to were Tenacious D at the Logan Campbell Centre, and Guns n Roses about 6 months before at Vector Arena. Both venues paled in comparison to the expanse that was Mt Smart Stadium.  I had never before witnessed such a palpable feeling of togetherness; the electricity being stored by the crowd and then being released in seemingly random and sporadic successions of bouncing and cheers made me doublethink my ‘dictatorship’ and planted the first seeds of understanding when it comes to famous musicians and their infamous egos. By mid-afternoon the stadium was full – every space had been occupied like a fitted sheet and it became clear to me and everybody else there that this was to be something different. Nearly 50,000 ticket holders, over 100 acts, but it seemed that everyone was there for Rage. As Shihad were in the midst of belting out ‘Home Again’, (that song sounds cool, I thought to myself, have to look that one up.), I figured that would’ve been the last opportunity I’d have to get even remotely close to the band once they took the stage.

Readied in my proudly scummy uniform of a Sex Pistols shirt and frankensteined denim shorts, it became apparent that security had begun blocking off the entrances to the D barrier which leads to the pit – and if you can make it – right up front. The mood took an almost sinister undertone as everyone realised what was happening. A dreaded figure appeared from the mass of bodies, perhaps sprouting from an armpit, and asked me just how badly I wanted to be up front. In typical 15 year old manner I replied in a way that made me seem more keen than I probably was. We got to the front for Tenacious D, thanks to the kind crowd noticing I was with my little brother – amid cries of “Let the little dude through!”, could be heard me: “I have to go with him, he’s my brother”, and the seas parted. At Guns N Roses I had seated tickets (not by choice) and looked down enviously upon the crowd being welcomed to the jungle. So, a mosh pit of this magnitude was more or less going to be a brand new experience for me.

bdo-ticket-2008The hairy maniac beat me to the punch, I looked over barely having got my reply out and see him prying barricades from the security’s hands like a crazed prisoner. We had literally only met each other 10 seconds earlier and already a majority of the barricades security was attempting in vain to put up were successfully crowd-surfing further and further behind me while the rest of the crowd rushed through the gate despite the three guards’ feeble attempts to regain control of the situation. According to footage on the news later that night, a similar situation had eventuated just after Rage started their set, during ‘Bulls on Parade’.  What made it seem so easy, and everybody so confident, was the fact that at that point a few thousand people became one mass all with a common goal – which was achieved. It gets to a point where no matter what these people had all drunk, or taken, throughout the day, it’s all less effective at a certain point than the natural adrenaline that flows just when you need it. Almost on cue with the lights going down a giant red star illuminates the backdrop like the sun, its power similar as the crowd response suggested – it was unparalleled total ecstasy, you could feel this unconditional love for the band rising in you as the roars from the crowd grow in strength like a snowball. A militant silhouette sporting an afro strides on to the stage like a school principal, ready to scold the students for their behaviour on last week’s field trip. He casually walked up to the microphone.

“Good evening…”

I’m sure he said more, but the crowd made sure to drown out whatever that was. From those first words the entire field was in his grasps, spinning and bouncing like his own boiling cauldron, adding ingredients like fists in the air, “get the fuck ups”, whenever necessary in order for this rap-wizard to concoct his perfect gig. Judging by the faces of the band members when the house lights came on at the end illuminating us all, the ceremony had been a success and the audience successfully intoxicated and possessed by their chants and war-songs. Waiting on the corner of Beasley Ave for my ride home I heard two ladies probably in their 30s, veterans perhaps of past events featuring Nine Inch Nailses, Courtney Loves, and Marilyn Mansons, walking together on the footpath and one said to the other in perfect elementary simplicity “Well, that was a bundle of fun.” I laughed out loud, and again at home in bed ears ringing, feet thumping as I slowly regained feeling. Forgetting all the political agendas, tidal mosh pits, blood, and spilt beer, regardless of whether you’re 15 in a Sex Pistols shirt, or you’re 30 with a floppy hat and a nice Pinot, the Big Day Out is always a great, big, bundle of fun.