Thursday, 24 April 2008

Where's Noah when you need him?

Bugger me with a blunt stick - what's with all the rain recently here in Sydney-town? I've given up all hope of mowing the lawn - the ground is so soggy, you'd need a hovercraft to move the lawnmower more than an inch across the grass. The skies are leaden grey from horizon to horizon, and according to one of the local fishwraps, the lack of sunshine is getting everyone down. Depression is the new black. Everyone will be on prozac before we know it.

If that's the case, why wasn't everyone so happy during the drought? Surely all that extra sunshine would have put a smile on all the dials? It didn't? What is it with people - too little sunshine, get depressed. Too much sunshine, get depressed. What is the perfect amount of sunshine? 7 hours and 21 minutes a day?

But it's not getting me down. After two days out of the saddle (due to a non-riding medical problem), I hit the pedals again today. Of course it started to bucket down around one minute after the first turn of the crank, and by the 2km mark, I had water running up my legs. I gotta tell you, having streams of water running up your calves is the wierdest feeling. I'm not sure what caused it - probably some sort of osmosis effect caused by my leggings and sodden shoes.

The thing about the rain is that it winnows the wheat from the chaff, and those that are left on the road are the happy or the mad. Or possibly both. At one red light, I swapped happy greetings with a similarly sodden woman who looked like she had just climbed out of the bath (except she was wearing clothes instead of bubbles, and sitting on a bike), and we both shook our heads at the dickwad who went rumbling past us through the red, then sailed down the wrong side of the road..... in the pissing rain and darkness without a headlight. Sometimes you really have to wonder how some people make it from one day to the next. The woman next to me got quite agro and expressed an opinion that I have used before - "He's making us all look bad - dickhead".

Exactly. I am going to have to practice a Ninja throw with my bike pump. See if I can toss it through the front spokes of knobduster bikes in order to throw the twits over the handlebars.

Anyway, if you're riding in the rain, you might as well enjoy it. I do. And when I get home, I climb into a nice hot bath and soak myself some more. What's there to not enjoy about that?

Many years ago, I went to a music festival out at Eastern Creek. Can't remember what it was called. It was supposed to take off as a competitor to things like the Big Day Out, but the weather in Sydney was so bad, ticket sales were awful and the promoters went bankrupt. Alternative Nation? Whatever it was, I remember that Lou Reed was just dreadful, the Violent Femmes had lost the plot, Tool blew me away and Nine Inch Nails were unbelievably good.... except that one of the guys I was with had a bad Acid trip in the middle of their set and started seeing flying rats and we had to carry him back to the car and leave the show. I am pretty sure we saw Faith No More, but I have no memory of seeing them. L7 are another band that I can't remember seeing at all. Apparently Powderfinger also played the gig - back when they were a bunch of nobodies - and I certainly can't remember them. I did go straight out and buy a Primus CD after this gig though. I mainly remember the rain, the mud and the steam. And the guy with the rat halucinations.

A more sober view of events than mine:

Another disaster was 1995's Alternative Nation, a series of concerts held in three cities during the Easter long weekend in which Gudinski's Frontier Touring teamed with rival Michael Coppel Presents. Everything went wrong although the bill was a strong one. Two major acts, headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots, pulled out. They were replaced by Nine Inch Nails and Lou Reed, who were paid a fortune to get them on board at short notice, but who added nothing to boosting extra ticket sales. A last minute change in venue in Sydney meant that the kids had to work out whether they wanted to make the trek way out to the boondocks. The Brisbane venue was right next to a church and the faithful were less than impressed with American rapper Ice T's copious and highly amplified use of the word "motherfucker" during his set. The kids thought the tour was a cash-in on the highly successful Big Day Out tour which shifted 250,000 tickets over six cities. Alternative Nation's broadcast partner Triple M playlist did not include most of the "alternative" acts to provide publicity. Finally torrential rains wiped out Alternative Nation. The talk was that the festival lost $500,000 each day.

Anyway, my point is that it rained and rained and rained and rained and Eastern Creek turned into a bog from one end to the other. At one spot, there was a slight hill, and people would trudge to the top of the hill, run down from the apex and then belly flop onto the grass and slide all the way to the bottom. Before long, the grass was gone and it was just one long sluice of mud. There were no clean people there. There were only mud people. Wet mud people.

At one point, a mud fight started in the mosh pit. The promoter, who was a really stupid bastard, came out mid-set and grabbed the mic and told the half dozen mudthrowers that if they didn't desist, he would shut the whole show down.

You could feel the mood shift in an instant. A ripple of savage indignation ran through the crowd like a shockwave. Before you knew it, thousands of happy music fans were ripping up all the turf and sod and mud underfoot and hurling it at the stage. I have never seen one person infuriate some many people in such a short time. He abandoned the stage, but the band kept on playing. Maybe it was L7? They had spirit. The mud was going absolutely everywhere - all of them, their instruments, their speakers, the stage - the whole thing - and they kept playing like proper troupers. They got a bit ragged as the mud built up on the drums and got into the guitar strings and mouths and eyes and ears and things, but they did their best.

Afterwards, roadies came out with shovels to clear the stage. It was a foot deep in what looked like churned up cricket pitch. I think that was the main reason why NIN started their set about an hour late. Which was probably why the bloke we were with started seeing flying rats, or bats, or cats, or whatever it was. Being a NIN show, he might not have been halucinating. But he was certainly freaked sufficiently for us to bug out.

The steam was the other thing. I have no idea who was playing - could have been Faith No More - but the mosh pit was going off. Absolutely heaving, and it stretched back from the stage for at least 50 metres. It was not a narrow strip say 20 people deep from the stage - it stretched back far and wide; possibly the largest moshing I have ever seen. This mosh pit was so frenetic, it generated its own weather. Even though it was still pissing down, enough heat was generated near the centre for all that wet clothing to start to steam, and before you knew it, we couldn't see the stage for the enormous clouds of steam that were rising up into the air. There are not many times when I have sweated in the rain, but that was one of them. It was so hot in that pit that although the air temp was probably about 14 degrees outside, it was warm enough for a lot of people to be jumping around without shirts on. Since then, I have never seen humans create their own outdoor sauna. I've seen it rain indoors at Selinas from a really sweaty mosh (Hunters and Collectors, Rollins Band), but not something like the outdoor spectacle at Alternative Nation.

The thing is, rain does not have to be miserable stuff. It all depends on your mental attitude.

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