Squirk's Overseas Experience

The tales of one Kiwi returning to Mother Britain and exploring the Big Wide World... without being eaten by a shark.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Annie Get Your Popcorn

On a whim, I saw Australian film Little Fish at the Curzon cinema in Soho. It's a cute cinema, with comfortably decadent décor and a lovely bar and restaurant arrangement. (New Zealanders, think Regent on Worcester or Academy Cinema.)

The movie itself was very much an off-Hollywood character drama, despite the big name actors. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill and, er, Martin Henderson(!) lead the cast in this sad tale of drugs in the suburbs.

Go if:
  • You've got nothing better to do.
  • You need an incentive to leave home before you're 30.
Don't go if:
  • You want compelling pace and a big finish.
  • You like your drug films graphic.

Three off-Hollywood stars out of five. Four Hollywood stars.

(Oh, the singer who looks like Bic Runga actually is Bic Runga.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back in the saddle

I went into the office today for the first time in about a month, and it was brilliant to be back. I love the environment I work in — it's a great mix of people, and always a laugh.

I'm telling myself to take it easy for the first few weeks, but old habits die hard.

Also, pirate party pictures.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Roskilde, day 7 - sick

In the real world of here and now, I've been steadily recovering. I've left the house three times this week; although each time has left me exhausted, I'm able to concentrate for longer periods without getting a headache. Mentally, I'm almost ready for work again (though the doctor advises against public transport and air conditioning).

Meanwhile, back in Roskilde, things were a lot more exciting...

This is part 7 of a series. If you haven't been following along, you could start from my problematic arrival in Denmark or when the gigs began.

I'm feeling pretty disgusting today. I think I have three diseases all stacked on top of one another, and they're fighting each other for control of my body. It hurts my chest to cough, and it seems I launch into a new coughing fit with each minute that ticks by. Still, I'm at a major European music festival; I can't let the fun be ruined by something as trifling as multiple organ failure.

I had heard about the famous naked race that Roskilde hosts each year. Sadly, we were misled by incorrigible Danes and showed up an hour after the whole thing was over. Mostly over, anyway. Several racers evidently decided that putting their clothes back on afterwards would be a waste in such good weather, so throughout the day we saw a few nudies with big blue racing details painted on their backs.

After a three-hour recovery nap

Armed with some cough pills, ear plugs and a good selection of the walking pharmacy that is my camp mate Sunny, I managed to pull myself together enough to see Tool. I'd heard people back home gush for weeks after going to a Tool concert, so I was expecting an interesting performance.

Instead, I got a burned-out Maynard muttering incomprehensibly about computer faults and frankly dull visuals made from music videos and screen saver wobblies. There were certainly no spider-people walking about on tightropes!

The thousands of screaming fans vibe was missing, too.

On the upside, they chose the song list well. I was concerned that it would all be new material from their current album, and that I wouldn't recognize any of it. I needn't have worried — we heard a comfortable mix of old favourites and new experiments.

Two phallic bottle-openers out of five.

It takes all sorts

I also had words with a creepy Briton dressed in leather and chains with dirty heroin-addict teeth. He came up and started feeling my furry Scotland jacket and making weird comments like I like your garment; it has a zip and everything!.

He told me how a woman he'd once loved had given him the boot cuff he was wearing, and I noticed that his whole outfit seemed to be made of variously sized chunks of hard leather tied together with whatever was available at the time.

When I explained that I was waiting for a couple of my friends to show up, he angrily explained that I should value my family over my friends.

He told me all about when he used to play in a big-time punk band, and mentioned playing with Henry Rollins and a bunch of dirty names I'd never heard of. Apparently everyone called him Smee.

He asked me how much money I'd made today, and explained that he'd racked up £50 so far. I wasn't sure if he meant from dealing drugs or from collecting bottles, but I didn't ask. He hinted enigmatically at things he'd done to customers while they were indisposed.

He wasn't on the bill, but I rate Phil the Crazy Old Mad Max Junkie four mysterious chuckles out of five.

Missing in action

I would have liked to see the Deftones show, but resting in my tent was more important. Of course, trying to sleep that night was more difficult than usual because Kanye West was clearly audible over the whole campground (which is quite impressive, considering that there's around 80 hectares of it). I can't even pronounce that guy's name, but apparently the show was a hit.

Also, there's been no sign of my cellphone since Jack lost it the same night the security guards switched our phones. It's a pity to see it go. I'd only had it for a couple of weeks, but I've still got my regular one sitting safely at home so I'm not too ripped.

And tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

In fact, tomorrow was the last day of the actual festival, so tune in next time for tales of profane deck-chairs and vicious assault smooches. There'll be some music in there, too, from the likes of Placebo, Pink Floyd, the Strokes and maybe the Kaizer Chiefs.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Roskilde, day 6 - summer again

Today, I made my way out of the house for the first time since coming back from hospital. I tried registering with a local GP, and it seemed to go OK; I may be back at work this week after all! Meanwhile, back in Roskilde, I was only starting to think something was wrong...

This is part 6 of a series. If you haven't been following along, you could start from the beginning of the the whole trip or just the actual gigs.

Golly, the Danish weather seems to be going out of its way to be extreme. My Danish flatmates told me that it's customary for each Roskilde Festival to be a wash-out, and it was easy to believe after Monday night's veritable monsoon. But the sun has been pushing on through since then, and today it's more than hot enough to convince everyone (except the Danes) to go swimming.

This is the first year they've had a swimming lake on offer; apparently the locals took a lot of persuading that a lake could even be used for swimming, and that eels would not eat the punters.

I didn't see any wildlife (unless you count the floating lettuce-like weed that occasionally wandered into anyone foolish enough to swim forwards) but the Swedish girls accompanying us insisted there was a frog in the reeds. There was definitely a frog on Jack's belly (and one on his bum as well, I think) but that was some kind of kinky rite of passage which involved a novelty fly-swat and a grinning blonde man with no top on.

Actually, given the heat, I was suprised at the number of Scandinavians who were wearing clothes. I think I only saw a couple of naked Vikings in the hour or so I had by the lake, and not one was a lady.

Bob missed out on pretty much all of this, however, as he'd managed to cut himself on awesomeness (or something) and was in search of the first aid tent for most of our lake time.

Lunchtime concerts

I'd heard of Matisyahu before, but never heard his work. He's an Orthodox Jew (beard, hat and all the rest) who raps in Hebrew and English with reggae and roots music. His act attracted a huge crowd — big enough that I couldn't get close, so just bought a plate of greenish pasta instead. (No rating given, out of fairness)

The main stage then filled with fans of the quirky locals, the Kaizers Orchestra. Their mixed-up sound involves them hitting oil cans with crowbars, playing pipe organs, one wears a gas mask and they have names like Mr Kill-Master Kaizer. Very interesting indeed. If you like The Avalanches or the soundtrack to Ravenous, give these guys a shot. If you can see them live, all the better; they earned their place on the headline stage with their frantic stage presence. Four industrial steam-pipes out of five.

In the afternoon

Fat Freddy's Drop were fantastic. There was a small but strong NZ contingent with flags and everything, but the whole crowd was truly getting into the swing of things. Even the back row seats were waving their hands about to the music like windscreen wipers on power mode.

The band recovered beautifully from a couple of technical hiccups earlier in the set, and didn't even make a fuss when some nong from the crowd started draping his Australian flag over the brass section. Top class performers, each one of them. The vocalists even threw in a few altered lyrics to make mention of Roskilde and other acts like Bob Dylan. Five crayfish out of five.


I didn't see Bob Dylan. I'm sorry, but he just doesn't interest me. I did plan on listening to the start of his set anyway, but I was conked out in my tent feeling sorry for myself. I blamed the cough I caught from Jack and my singlet-shaped sunburn.

By the time I pulled myself together enough to go back to the festival area, I'd long missed Dylan — luckily, I did catch the end of German indie pop-rock act Wir Sind Helden. They had a brilliant crowd response and a very accessible sound even if you don't speak German. The front-woman speaks English with what sounds like an Irish accent. I'm ordering an album from these guys. Five tiny German eagles out of five (they're so very small because I only heard a tiny fraction of the show).

I'm sure I've heard of US emo whiners Death Cab for Cutie somewhere before, but I honestly don't know where. They seemed to be well-known here, with many people in the huge crowd singing along to the incomprehensible lyrics, but by the time I'd bought a milkshake it was all over. Two trendy blue sleeping pills out of five.

I looked in briefly at the Scissor Sisters who were famous for misbehaving at concerts. They were certainly playing up the crude American image with talk of tea-bagging and what-have-you, but I was suprised to see how much they also played up their country music image. I hadn't even realised that there were country influences in the singles until I caught it live.

I tried to stick around but I was still feeling generally yucky and I didn't really want to cough all over the crowd like I kept doing at Fat Freddy's Drop (I swear, I couldn't help it!).

These reports sure are getting large! The next installment will be a lot smaller, I promise. It's only going to talk about spider-people that aren't there and leatherbound Mad Max types who probably shouldn't be.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Roskilde, day 5 - the festival really begins

Although there's camping and entertainment for over a week, the actual music festival proper only starts about half-way through the eight-day party.

This is part 5 of a series. If you haven't been following along, you may want to know what I did with the first half of the festival.

Resurrected 80's glam rockers Guns N' Roses filled the main stage area with a crowd of something like 70 000 people. The whole festival only has about a hundred thousand guests, so they're obviously holding onto popularity! The only problem? The band didn't show up.

I gave them about twenty or thirty minutes before I left for another band, by which time the crowd had moved from excitment to uneasiness to agitation. There was a banner waving in the audience that read:

W. Axl Rose
You were my hero.

Of course, there were also people holding pirate flags and aliens doing naughty things to sheep.

Indie favourites Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were disappointing in a different way — I guess you just have to be familiar with the album material before the stage show is fun.

In strong contrast, the haunting peace of Icelandic soundscapists Sigur Rós was captivating even without being in the dark inner circle that served as a sort of anti-moshpit. I want to drive around the countryside at night listening to those angelic sounds.

In the next episode, we get burnt swimming with frogs and drop in on acts from across the world.

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There's no place like home

Boy, am I glad to be back. Even though there's nobody here to talk to, it's been two weeks since I slept in my own bed and I've been looking forward to it for about two most of that time.

As most of you know, I've spent the week in hospital. I would have told you more, but it was a huge effort simply posting the two single-sentence articles that you saw. That's not just because I was drained and delerious; I did have long periods of competence and lucidity. It was more of a technological hurdle.

Still, I did manage to catch up on a few chapters of Scary-go-round. That's a sexy and exciting comic for everyone (that is girls as well as dudes). It's a student-age comedy that's a little bit England, a little bit gothic horror, and a whole lot of sass. Adventurous ladies, consider the SGR archives next time you run out of television recaps to read but still need procrastination fuel.

I'm feeling much better every day that goes by; thanks for all your support, folks! Your comments, e-mail and phone calls have all been remarkably heartening.

So what happened?

I know that some of you are still wondering how I wound up in hospital. Well, stay tuned and I'll explain. I'm in the middle of a festival report that's been running chronologically so far; the story follows on quite naturally from that report since it's all been one epic holiday adventure.

See you all tomorrow!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


I'm feeling better, and they're sending me home. Woo!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I'm in hospital, being treated for pneumonia.