Friday, March 27, 2009


(I managed to string together four consecutive weekends of awesome music experiences. This one took place in Dunedin on February 27th.)

It started unassumingly enough, at our friend Heather's house in November, where either Karen said to me, or I said to Karen, you know what would be good? A Guided By Voices cover band. An instantly brilliant idea, that seemed predestined to join the heap of many other wonderful ideas I had that would never eventuate.

But this one did. Is there something in the water in Dunedin? Maybe there is. Dunedin is notorious in New Zealand for being the launching ground of hundreds of bands, including many that are uniformly considered to be in the upper tier of NZ's great bands, and others that are more contentious but no less beloved (at least by me). Karen plays in one of them, Onanon, with Donald, who I worked with at NHNZ, but apparently one band wasn't enough for her.

(I'd soon discover that it wasn't enough for me, either.)

And so a month or so later, in an Indian restaurant around the corner from NHNZ, she pulled up a spreadsheet and we worked out which songs we'd try to play, who we'd try to get aboard, and so on. And I realized that if I didn't stop this, this was actually going to happen, and I'd be back behind the drums live for the first time since October 2003.

I didn't stop it, and Donald was sucked into the GBV vortex, and so too was Rob, another Dunedin musician who was passionate enough about GBV that he'd had a custom hoodie made with their name on it, and had actually drunk beers with lead singer Robert Pollard when both were in Osaka. We needed a name, and modeling off the previous successful GBV tribute band I'd seen (Giant Bug Village; the story of the night of the dueling GBV tribute bands is a bit too much to get into at the moment), we decided to keep the acronym. Bouncing off variations on the name until we reached homeostasis of a sort, we arrived at Gelatinous Bleary Vampires, and arranged a tribute night, where like-minded fans could also cover GBV songs. To give us the greatest amount of prep time, we arranged it for my last night in town, February 27th.

But another story runs concurrent to this, where I'd met another NHNZ editor, Chris, and started playing music in the NHNZ basement with him, first in wide-open free jams, and then honing to a small group to try to get a focused sound. Chris enjoyed, as do I, the semi-improvisational song structure, where rhythmic journeys can be interrupted by seismic noise. Ears and sensibilities aligned, we decided we also could play a show; when the date was picked for GBV tribute night, it made sense that we could play as well. Even though we didn't play any GBV songs, somehow I was enough of a connection. As the date approached, our lineup solidified, and we had a second connection: Donald joined our band, which somehow picked up the name The New New Randoms (UK), an elaborate inside joke based on our attempt to name the group The Randoms, only to discover it was taken. Thanks to my trips to Auckland, Don's membership in about three other bands, and limited access to the NHNZ basement, our practices were severely restricted, but we worked out four song structures, mostly for acoustic drums, electric drums, and guitar, with some variation.

The location for the show was a matter of debate. There were a couple options floated, the leading two being a venue in town and Chicks' Hotel, out in Port Chalmers (a 10 km drive from the center of Dunedin; a negligible concern for people from larger places, but a major journey for Dunedinites). I posed a simple question: Which was more awesome?

Chicks' was more awesome, there was no question, and so the show was booked for there.

From my perspective, the show was a big success. Lots of people came, in the end, despite concerns that it would be too much trouble for our friends to get to Port Chalmers. Our co-worker/local singer-songwriter Bill Morris threw in a couple countrified versions of GBV songs, and another trio threw in their versions of "The Official Ironman Rally Song", "My Valuable Hunting Knife", and "Back To The Lake". The New New Randoms (UK) unleashed 20 minutes of smoke machines, strobe lights, audience participation, tongue clicking loops, and general anarchy mixed with enough rhythmic coherence that nobody got too frightened; and Gelatinous Bleary Vampires unleashed a 45-minute set that was full of the hits and lots of instrument swapping from our default line up of me on drums, Karen on bass, and Rob and Don on guitar, and lots of shared singing:

"A Salty Salute" (extended 3-minute version; me on bass, Karen on drums)
"Teenage FBI"
"Watch Me Jumpstart"
"I Am A Scientist"
"Game of Pricks"
"Back To The Lake"
"Alright" (Karen/Doug 2 person version)
"Tractor Rape Chain"
"Surgical Focus"
"Motor Away"
"Hold On Hope"
"Blimps Go 90"
"As We Go Up, We Go Down"
"Atom Eyes" (me on guitar and vocals; Rob on bass; Karen on drums)
"Awful Bliss" (me on guitar and vocals; Karen on bass; Rob on drums)

And then we said goodbye to most of the NHNZ crew, who were ready to tuck in, but we weren't really done playing music, not by a long shot, and decided to give another go at some of our favorites, jamming out extended versions, different tempos, what have you, and rolled on until we were done.

And then we said goodbye to each other, not just for the night but for the foreseeable future, and I went home, at a surprisingly reasonable hour, a small mercy given my journey to Christchurch the next day, and I decided I must never again go 5 1/2 years without playing music live.

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