Acoustics, Art & A Bloody Cold Sea

Hastings, 05/04/2019

We returned to the Common Room in Hastings to see some live music on the Friday. The headliner was called Graeme James. We pulled up at the venue to discover that it was "Sold out". "Sold out" in Kiwi terms means, if Jane asks, they'll let you in. We spoke to a lady on the door to ask what the music was like and if it was worth the $20 fee. She described it as "basically a folk act", before going onto say "he's alright, you might like it". The hard-sell convinced us and whilst watching the show a few hours later, it transpired that she was actually his wife as she joined him on stage for a couple of duets...

Common Room is a small and "quirky" venue, akin to pretty much everywhere in East London, and Graeme James is obviously very popular around these parts as it was about as full as the license would allow (plus a few extra). Support came from a singer-songwriter called Dan Sharp. He was playing a beautiful rosewood acoustic and had a fantastic voice with the classic singer-songwriter

style. We had a chat about guitars afterwards and he said that he normally plays with a blues band, which was a bit of a shock as the songs sound so natural without accompaniment. Strangely, he played the entire set surrounded by a plethora of unused instruments, ranging from a bass ukulele to a belt of harmonicas. When asked, he confirmed that these weren't a part of his act.

Next up, the main event - hopefully this would explain the array of obscure instrumentation available.

Sure enough, minutes into the set, we had some idea what was going on. This was a one-man-band-with-a-loop-pedal type scenario. Now, I'll put my cards on the table here and say that I don't generally enjoy that kind of thing. Sorry to every single guitarist I went to college with... Anyway, as it happens, this guy was great at doing that very thing as well as singing, playing violin, bass guitar, mandolin, tambourine, mouth trumpet (aren't all trumpets mouth trumpets?!) and the aforementioned bass ukulele and harmonicas. Some gentle crowd participation ensued, which I believe is the pinnacle for folk music (no crowd-surfing). We headed back to the beach in Clifton to sleep next to a ocean, rather than a freight train. An enjoyable night all round!

We woke up to glorious sunshine and decided to attempt to go for a swim. Bear in mind that we're in May which is the NZ equivalent of November, so everyone thought we were mad - well almost everyone. There is a big shelf at Clifton beach so the waves form what is essentially a wall of water. With our swimming gear on, we stood there, entirely out of ideas on how to pass the crashing tide into the serene blue beyond. Then came a sign! A slightly rotund kiwi man ran up to us and threw his shirt on the floor, dragging us into the ocean saying "I did this earlier, it'll be fine. You just have to take the hit of the first wave, and the rocks, then run into the water and you're sorted". This kind of divine intervention has been missing from my life thus far. Do I believe in God now?

The great thing about this methodology for entering the water is that you don't have any time at all to think about how cold it is as you battle the sliding sea floor, hidden stones and pounding waves. Once

we had dried off, we headed to the local art gallery to see what I will incorrectly (and forever) refer to as an exhibition called "86 terrible paintings of naked adults, that were painted by a child, for a joke then quite embarrassingly taken seriously". Basically, as Jane described it, it was "like a GCSE art project". There was another very obscure (and completely unrelated) exhibit about colonialism which had stylised Maori and Pakeha (European settlers) basketball jerseys set up on a half court. The idea was to imitate the two voices in any discussion surrounding the identity and well-being of Aoteoroa/New Zealand. It looked cool but needed a great deal of explaining. Jane's take on art is that if it needs explaining, then it isn't good. The jury's out.

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