I’m trying to recreate in words the awesomeness that was this weekend. I’m having a lot of trouble, probably because I’m not drunk enough.
If you could go out to the liquor store, buy yourself a large bottle of gin, and sort of pour it down the screen of your computer in a continuous stream of liquid death, that will kind of give you an accurate picture.
Alestorm came to town, after doing some shows in Australia, where they did filming for their first live DVD. We were the last leg on the tour before the boys headed back to frigidly cold Europe, so they decided to stick around and have a bit of a holiday.
Chris: Vocalist, Keytar extraordinaire. Chris is the frolicking king – he’s always dancing and I don’t think he slept since Thursday. He finds the way kiwis pronounce “Chips” unbelievably hilarious.
Elliot: Is never seen without his hat, and is the most versatile photo poser on THE PLANET.
Pete: Quiet, but he’s Northern Irish so that’s probably for the best. :) Also – hilarious. Lordy, someone in this band has to be quiet.
Stijn: Tour Manager. Vegan, (except when it comes to mead). Debates a lot when he’s drunk.
SamFace: Blonde and bubbly, Sam put the boys up for a few days and provided ample facilities for partying.
AmyFace: Elliot’s twin. Seriously, give them both a hat and you can’t tell them apart.
KelliFace: Always the ringleader when it comes to Shenanigans, and also finder of epic sunsets.
Steff: That’s me!
CDH: He also debates a lot, drunk or sober, and has a car, so of course we all love him.
First up on the agenda was a pre-party at Sam’s house before the gig. This was quite a fantastic event, as gatherings in our group always are. I brought a bit of mead to share, and we played a drinking verson of sume little kids game which provided hours of entertainment. At 7 we got an update from the boys, “Our show starts in 15 minutes, and we are still waiting at customs in the Auckland Airport.” Eeep. Someone must’ve had a banana.
At around 8ish we headed down to the show, and got there in time to catch 2 of the 3 opening acts – Rising Force, who had a really unique sound but, I thought, needed a bit of work before they were really polished, and Scurvy Dogs, who are a hilarious thrashy punk act from Hamilton who made a room filled with drunk bogans very cheery. We hung around chatting to people – friends old and new – and waited for the fun to start.
Alestorm took the stage. I started off in the pit, but after being dry-humped through two songs decided that was enough of that. Side-of-stage it was for me and the three faces. We danced and drank our way through the entire set – no thanks to Chris, who kept coming over to help us empty our glasses.
The show included mostly material from the new album, including crowd favorites “Rum” and “Midget Saw”, and some of the grand ole numbers from the first two albums. The encore of “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” was definitely a highlight for me, as well as “Wenches and Mead” where a whole bunch of us wenches got to clamber on stage and dance. I ended up right beside Chris and in front of Elliot, who both inform me that the keyboard-mounted camera has captured some epic footage of me bum, which will apparently make it into the video.
What can you say about these guys that hasn’t already been said? Basically, they are awesome live. Even if their studio albums haven’t impressed you, in a live setting they are absolutely in their element. They play real live music – no tracks, no tricks, no bollocks. You can see on their faces that they’re absolutely stoked to be here. The vibe is one of joyous revelry and rambunctious shenanigans, the way one might imagine a particularly rowdy night at a 19th century bawdy house. They write silly songs for silly people, but live their shows are just as intense and the atmosphere just as palpable as some of the best extreme black metal shows I’ve seen.
After the show we hung around the venue a bit and went back the hotel to continue the party – me thankfully being able to walk under my own power this time – but the huge group that followed the band meant that we couldn’t go upstairs. Since it was about 2 in the morning by this time, CDH and I went home, and left the rest to their shenanigans.
Friday was the day the boys officially knocked off tour and went on holiday mode. Which basically meant they slept till 2pm, then I came around with dinner (Pasticcio and garlic bread) and mead. Andy and Aaron came around as well, and brought salad. We drank, ate, talked shit for a few hours then headed into town to check out the Auckland busker’s festival, via a brief interlude in a playground. The festival was quite fun, although by the time we got there – via a quick jaunt in a playground – we only caught the last half hour.
Then we went to the pub. There were skittles shots. That is probably the most genius invention in the entire history of the universe. I think we went home about 1-2am again.
Saturday the boys slept till 2pm again, while I had several baking disasters, eventually managing to turn out a serviceable vegan chocolate pear brownie. I caught a bus into town, met the others at the ferry terminal (this sounds much more complex than it should be – thank you Auckland public transport system for a joyless two hours), and we headed across to Devonport to explore North Head. In WWII New Zealand feared attack from the Japanese, so built a series of gun posts and fortifications on North Head to protect the harbour. The Japanese never did bother with us, and later the area was turned into a public park. You can explore the tunnels and climb all over the guns. I love being inside caves and tunnels – with my eyesight, being underground in the dark is where I feel most at home :) (Hence, my affinity with hobbits). It’s always been one of my favorite places to visit in Auckland (although I haven’t been there since my hen’s night 4 years ago) so it was great to go back and explore it again!
Sunday saw us board our bus for Matamata, (stopping at Tauranga, Poland, Alaska, and the lost city of Atlantis). You may laugh, but when the place you’re going is a two-hour drive, and your bus trip is six hours … yeah.
We amused ourselves with silly games (Guess my Receipt, 20 Questions, Horses, Graveyards, Zebras, How Many Pokemon Can Elliot Name, Let’s All Name Pokemon (And Steff And Sam Who Never Saw Pokemon Can Name Biblical People Instead). Kelli was one of 3 people on the bus who talked while the driver was giving his announcement, so the driver decided to have a bitch at everyone, not finish the announcement, not do anymore announcements, AND shut off the bus’ wi-fi so no one could use it. I get that the talking must be annoying, but his response seemed a little excessive. ANYWAY, then we stopped for a toilet break and Sam went to get food, took to long, so ran in front of the bus to make him stop for her. I think the dude was glad to see the end of us in Tauranga.
1 hour to get some dinner before we need to catch our connecting bus – so, of course everyone goes to the pub. Kelli spies a fish-market by the water, and she and I decide that fresh-caught fish and chips would make the perfect dinner. We even order some scallops – a real treat. However, 35 minutes later, our order still hasn’t arrived. Kelli goes inside and tells them, “we need chips, or our money back.” And they put our order on for us – which was fantastic, as they didn’t have to do this.
And these fish and chips were pretty much the BEST we have every tasted. EVER. They were something else. We had mouthgasms. It wasn’t pretty.
Our next bus driver was much nicer. We sat at the back of the bus – in the naughty kid seats – and chatted till we reached Matamata.
Once off the bus, I presented the group with our first mission – get to our campground. This was much more difficult than you’d suspect, because the campground was, in fact, 6km outside of Matamata, and the ONE taxi driver in the entire district wasn’t answering his phone. So we started to walk …
… and got waylaid with alcohol …
… and walked some more …
… until after about 2km, when a friendly driver pulled over and offered us all a ride to the camping ground on the back of her truck. Sweet as!
Once at the campground, we got settled into our cabins, and trudged down to the hot pools to wash away all that bus and walking sweat. it turns out that hot pools are not a European “thing” and none of the guys had ever been in pools heated by natural thermal springs. The pools were a little scungy-looking, but it’s simply because of the nutrients and heavy-metals in the water. We hope.
Sam and Kelli brought in their beer bottles to enjoy in the water, which I might have been able to tell them was a silly idea had I noticed. Sam got yelled at and someone went and told the manager about the bottles. It all seemed to work out OK in the end – she put the bottles outside of the pool – but I was getting worried we were making a horrible impression on this lovely family campground!
Speaking of strange situations, Chris was walking toward the showers when a guy tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, but are you the singer from Alestorm?” asked a polite voice in a Swiss accent.
“Yes,” said Chris.
“Um .. pardon me, but what are you doing here?”
So Swiss Alex, “officially-the-weirdest-alestorm-fanboy-moment” joined us for a few drinks. My husband arrived by car about 10pm (he’d been working on our land all day). We were all up for more drinking, but there was a total noise ban after 10. Luckily, CDH had the genius idea to go down the road. So we grabbed all our alcohol and traipsed off down the road, found a verge beside a golf course, and sat there and drank and got to be as loud as silly as we liked without disturbing the other campers.
Later that night, a police car pulled up.
“What are you guys doing?”
“We’re staying at the campground,” says Kelli. “We came here to drink because we didn’t want to disturb all the sleeping families.”
“Oh,” there was a pause. “OK then. Have a good night!”
I love New Zealand.
Next morning we packed up, paid up, and CDH ferried two carloads of excited metalheads back to Matamata for our Hobbiton tour. The story of Hobbiton is quite fascinating. The location scouts were looking for a location for the shire, and they needed something that met 3 criteria – rolling hills, lake, huge party tree. They found the perfect spot – on the Alexander’s farm. Apparently, the scout turned up on the doorstep of the farmhouse and said, “We’re from New Line cinema and we want to give you a buttload of money to film on your farm-” and they were told abruptly to come back later when the rugby was finished.
Eventually they must have relented, because the NZ army moved on to the farm to construct a road to the site – it took them three months. Constructing the original set took a further nine months.
As part of the agreement New Line had with the NZ government, all sets from Lord of the Rings were to be completely destroyed. However, Hobbiton was only partly torn down before the weather turned and the movie folk asked if they could leave the remainder intact and come back in six months time to finish the job. The Alexanders said, “OK”. Best thing they ever did.
Of course, all their neighbours wanted to pop over the fence and check out the site. They weren’t allowed to, because of the confidentiality agreement signed by the Alexanders, but this planted the idea in their minds – could their hobbiton become a tourist attraction? After a couple of years they won the legal rights to keep the set and started taking tourists to see the hobbit holes, which were then just the frames of the old set.
When filming for the Hobbit started, the entire set had to be rebuilt – with more features added – and this time the entire thing has been left intact. And that was what we were going to see. I booked the tour a few weeks ago and have been moaning ever since about the cost – $75 per adult is a bit high, even for a tourist thing. But the guys – especially Elliot – were hellbent on going.
Turns out it is worth every penny and even more. You should have SEEN our faces as we came over the hill in the bus and arrived on the set. CDH and I and the boys were huge JRR Tolkien fans – especially Elliot – and the girls have all worked in the movie industry and love the films. And this place is amazing – absolutely magical. Because there’s no roading or houses or anything nearby, you actually feel as though you are in the Shire.
The gardens and flowers are all real, so are the butterflies (not, as Stijn and Chris would have you believe, painted woodchips). Although most hobbit holes are roped off, there are some you can go up to, sit in the doorway, get your photo taken, and even one you can walk inside.
Bilbo’s house is of course a highlight. The tree about his house was destroyed in a storm after filming for LotR wrapped, so they had to create a fake tree using 250,000 faux leaves manufactured and painted in China. Of course, filming got delayed, some bad weather came, and the leaves got discoloured, so they had to be sent down to Vic University in Wellington to get repainted by some very eager students, before being individually re-attached to the tree.
And right at the end of the tour, you walk past the mill, go across the bridge and enter … The Green Dragon.
Yes, it’s a real pub, and included in your ticket price is a free drink of beer, cider, or non-alcoholic drinks. We hung out here for as long as we could, eating little hobbit pies (highly recommend!) and chilling by the fireplace (it was a boiling hot day, but you know Scots in January) before being taken back to the bus.
After we returned to Matamata, CDH and I said goodbye to everyone, and hopped in our car to drive back to Auckland. The rest of the group had 3 hours to kill before they had to catch their bus. Can you guess where they went?
… the pub.
So yeah – awesome weekend. It was an absolute honour and pleasure to show off our country and indulge in shenanigans with these guys – a finer bunch of blokes you couldn’t find in all the seven seas. I hope you all come back soon, and that I mkight catch you again next time we’re in Europe \m/