Viva Las Vegas

The past week, I had the absolute privilege of spending 7 nights in Las Vegas. It was incredible and bizarre, and I’m still dimly in shock that it’s even a real place.

💰🍸🎲

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The intense heat was the first thing I noticed. I understood that I was headed to the desert in summer, but I didn’t realise just how hot it could get. My idea of a hot day is 25°C, so trying to cope with 48°C was near impossible. There was a constant spray of water mist coming from most buildings (in an effort to stop people from keeling over, I imagine).

The week started with seeing “The Mentalist” Gerry McCambridge, who was truly astounding. Among other baffling acts, he asked my mother (by name) why she hadn’t got a new dog yet and successfully predicted numbers chosen by randomly selected audience members. After his show, we bought his autobiography where he discusses mentalism and his life. I’m cynical and sceptical, but I can totally believe his brand of magic (plus I have long adored Patrick Jane, so meeting the original Mentalist was wicked).

Later in the week, I saw David Copperfield – a type of magic I obviously don’t believe, but wow he does it well. I was that frustrated kind of mad after the show, because I knew he didn’t literally make a dinosaur appear out of thin air, but I could not fathom how on earth he made it seem like he did. I also saw “Jersey Boys” and “Rock of Ages” (both were wonderful; my secret love of musical theatre is not-so-secret anymore), met Siegfried of “Siegfried & Roy” fame, and managed to only gamble $2 the entire week, even though there were slot machines literally everywhere. I don’t know why Vegas thought that it was necessary to have slot machines at the airport, but I feel like Vegas doesn’t obey anyone else’s rules of what’s acceptable.

The absolute highlight of the week, though, was seeing Britney Spears. As I mentioned last post, the first album I ever bought was “Oops!.. I Did It Again”. I grew up listening to Britney’s music and idolising her. I haven’t really listened to her since I was a kid, but I’ll forever have a soft spot for her. Britney’s concert was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Other than Ellie Goulding, pop shows haven’t ever been in my life, so having dance numbers and costume changes is pretty new territory for me, concert-wise. I had to explain to my father that the point of seeing Britney isn’t to hear a great singing voice – it’s the spectacle she makes of her music. Plus I don’t think any of us ever expected that we would see Britney Spears straddle a giant guitar on a Wednesday night.

Vegas was filled with a lot of other bizarre things to a small-town kiwi like me: a cupcake ATM, a half-sized Eiffel Tower (the reason it’s not full size is purely due to the proximity of the airport), smoking permitted inside, replicas of cities inside casinos (because every location I went was also a casino). It was a beautiful week but as much fun as I had, I can’t say I’ll miss it. I’ll absolutely go back, but for now it’s a sweet relief to be back in Vancouver with its forgiving, moderate temperatures.

Ellie Goulding On My Mind

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been in Canada, and (other than a drunk man yelling at me at 10am) everything has been unnervingly wonderful. And when I found out that Ellie Goulding was playing a show in Vancouver, I thanked the stars for aligning and decided I needed to see her. My concert game has been pretty weak lately as I’ve been in constant saving mode (moving to the other side of the world is expensive!), so I was excited to finally see a show again. I was especially stoked to see that the kiwi band Broods was opening – back home I once very nearly went to one of their tiny shows, but uni work proved too much so I wasn’t able to go – so another reason why I needed to see this show. Despite some difficulties in buying tickets (can someone please replace Ticketmaster with something actually functional?), I managed to nab two seats for relatively cheap.

The tickets said 7pm and, unusually for a concert, the lights dimmed as soon as it hit 7 and Broods came on. I was really impressed with their set. I wouldn’t have thought that their sound translated well on stage, but they sounded fantastic, especially as they were the openers and opening acts have a history of slightly dodgy sound. I was sitting pretty far away so I couldn’t really see them (the screens were only used during Ellie’s set), but I could still tell that they had great energy. When I was looking up the music video, I saw Broods described as “dream pop” which is pretty accurate. They’ve got a very synth-based sound and a little Lorde-esque (probably because they have the same producer, Joel Little), so if you like music you can dance to, I totally recommend them. I feel second-hand pride whenever kiwis do well, and my bet is that Broods is soon going to blow up in popularity.

It wasn’t long after Broods finished that Ellie’s set started. When I saw that she had backing singers and several dancers, I realised that I’d actually never been to an actual pop concert before. I’ve definitely seen pop artists play live, but seeing a whole show with costume changes and dance routines was really different and really cool.

She mainly played songs off her new album, but she did play a few older songs, including “Figure 8” and “Burn”, which are probably my favourite songs of hers. I’m definitely an Ellie fan and I like listening to her songs, but they were so much more fun live. I’m not that into some of her big songs, like “On My Mind” and “Anything Could Happen”, but seeing them live just made me want to dance and sing along. While most of it was pretty high energy, at one point she got her guitar and played a stripped down version of “Devotion”. It was a nice reminder that she is actually a really accomplished musician and, in my opinion, made the song feel so much more sincere and emotional than the album version.

A particular favourite moment of mine was when she was introducing the song “Army”. She said that her best friend is so important in her life and always there for her, so she wrote a song about their friendship. When she sang, pictures of the two of them played on the screen behind her and it seemed so genuine and lovely.

Throughout her set, she chatted with the audience and made unintentional jokes and she seemed to be a really sweet person. It was a fantastic show – her voice is great live and I applaud her fitness levels (it was very high energy). Having Broods as the opener was a great way to start the night, and Ellie killed it – she was truly amazing.

Studying in the UK (February)

(January post here!)

February in England was decidedly more noteworthy. Finally being settled in life in London (well, technically Egham), I started venturing out more and exploring more of the world that was suddenly so much closer to me.

Early February, some friends and I saw Phoenix performing at the 02 in Brixton. Tickets were SO cheap – in NZ, I’m used to paying upwards of $70 for a concert – this cost around £20. We were super early lining up so we befriended the people in line with us, and ended up being second from the front. It was incredible. Their music is so much more powerful live than it is recorded, and it was one of those shows where you don’t care about anything other than feeling the music wash over you. I’m absolutely not a dancer, so if a band can make me dance, I’m pretty impressed.

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Phoenix concert!

About a week later, I went to the Harry Potter studio tour. As a massive Harry Potter fangirl, this was my idea of paradise. I’m pretty sure I cried several times throughout the tour, so strong is my fangirlism. I also had the pleasure of meeting Trevor the toad, one of the owls who played Hedwig, and the daughter of the snake who played Nagini.

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I found myself strangely drawn to this wall in Glawgow

The following week, I also visited Platform 9 3/4 and concluded my HP fangirling for the month. I gave myself no time to breathe, and the next day went off to visit a friend who lived in Glasgow. She showed me the delights of Irn Bru, as well as the beauty of Scotland. It’d be easy to remember it as a lovely weekend away (which it was), but in reality it also involved a 10 hour bus ride there and back (only ÂŁ10!), both journeys in which I worked on a hasty report for my psychology class about how optical illusions work. I almost missed the train to the bus station in the first place (luckily it was 2 minutes late!), and nearly caught the wrong train on my way back home. Travelling alone and on the cheap is a great experience and I’m glad I did it, but I swore that I would never do a bus ride longer than 4 hours after that. Which of course I did not stick to at all, because I am easily persuaded. But that’s a story for April!

That time I met The Horrors

I’ve written a fair bit about The Horrors here. They’ve been my favourite band since I was 15 (I’m now 21) and I recall at that age daydreaming about meeting them. Pipe dreams, I thought. It’d never happen to me.

15 year old me would be so impressed with present-day me.

I was living in England (more posts on that later!*) when The Horrors released their fourth album, Luminous. At first I was stoked because it meant I could preorder a signed album without astronomical shipping fees. But then I saw a post from the band saying that they would be at the hmv on Oxford Street signing records. Which usually would result in a soft pang of sadness that I couldn’t go. It took me awhile to realise that I wasn’t in New Zealand – I was in London, which was where they would be!

There was a lot of kerfuffle in actually getting to hmv, but eventually we got into the room where the band was playing and had a short set. After the set, a table was set up and the crowd lined up to get their albums signed (there were less than 100 people, it’s astounding how few people went to an essentially free gig).

Rhys was first at the signing table. I was trying very hard to be normal and shook his hand (which probably wasn’t normal). He asked me my name, and then as he signed my record I actually made conversation with him. I told him that I was from NZ and that next time they go there they should go to Wellington instead of Auckland because Wellington is a lot better**. After hearing I was from NZ, he then invited me to Cave Club, a club night that he runs, because a kiwi band was playing.

I just want to reiterate that: a member of my favourite band personally invited me to his club.

Next up was Tom (who is my secret favourite) and I also awkwardly shook his hand and managed to have normal conversation with him. Unfortunately I kind of used up all of my coherent conversational skills on the first two and kind of word-vomited when I met Josh, Joe, and Faris. Faris ended up drawing a cat on my record and then said it was nice to meet me, so I can’t have seemed too insane.

Me & Rhys!

Me & Rhys!

So I went home with a personally signed LP of Luminous and felt like my life was almost complete. I finished completing it by actually attending Cave Club with Erin, a friend who is also super into the band. The club itself was fantastic, playing music we actually liked (a lot of 60s and 70s psychedelia). Around the middle of the night, we went outside for a quick breather, and happened upon Rhys. We ended up chatting with him and managed to take pictures with him. When we headed back in to keep dancing, Rhys would occasionally come out of the DJ area and dance with us.

After we decided to call it a night, we then also bumped into Tom, and had another chat with him. He recognised me from the signing which put me on cloud nine, and also agreed to take pictures with us***.

Me & Tom! He asked if he could shut his eyes during the photo. I didn't question it.

Me & Tom! He asked if he could shut his eyes during the photo. I didn’t question it.

This post was probably slightly rambly and incoherent, but I achieved a bucket list item five times over, and met the five people that have inspired me since I was an angsty teenager. Meeting my favourite band also succeeded in making me less of an obsessive fan. I obviously still love their music more than anything, but meeting them in person took them off the pedestal and made me properly realise that they’re just normal people. Normal people who make incredible music and made my life so much better.

*eventually they can be found under this tag.
**I’m slightly embarrassed I said that but I also stand by it: if you ever find yourself in NZ, Auckland is very overrated. Wellington is where it’s at.
***also I realise that this is the first time I’ve posted a picture of myself. This is what my face looks like.

Oh these times are hard: a lesson in post-concert depression

When I saw Mumford & Sons, I knew I had Coldplay to look forward to. After Coldplay, I had Band of Horses. Following that I had Ed Sheeran, and following Ed I had the Script. But now The Script concert has been and gone, there’s nothing. I’ve got nothing. I wanted words but all I heard was nothing.

The Script

The Script, incidentally, were amazing. I was not sold on the opener whose musical style was essentially the complete opposite of what I like. But when The Script came on, I forgot all about that and just lost myself in their songs. There’s no way I can pick a favourite moment* because they played all but one of the songs I was dying for: no “Glowing” but they did play “I’m Yours” which I wasn’t expecting so it totally made up for it. It left me with that indescribable high that only live music ignites.

But with the glory that was their concert came the realisation that I have nothing coming up. With summer truly over, the weather turning damp and bitter, the burst of musicians coming to my far corner of the world has dried up and all I have to look forward to is exams, southerlies and new seasons of questionable TV shows.

I have decided the cure is to embrace the lack of foreign musicians gracing New Zealand’s distant shores. I’ll go ice-skating when it’s freezing, drink more tea than is necessary, actually save my money instead of blowing it on overpriced shows, go to local bar gigs and fall in love with another band.

Preferably local. Or at least, constantly on tour.

*although Mark getting a note reading “I heart the bald ginger” was rather spectacular.

Ed Sheeran was amazing

The title of this post is not really my best work, but it pretty well describes how the night was.

First opener was Gabrielle Aplin who was adorable and perfect. Sometimes with openers I want them to get on with it and leave the stage already so the main act can come on, but I was quite sad to see her leave. I’m always super impressed when musicians switch instruments in the middle of a set and are equally competent on both, so that gave her serious props in my book.

The next opener was Passenger, who I hadn’t heard of before. He was incredible. Seriously, words can’t describe how good he was. His cover of “Sounds of Silence” was so fabulous it felt spiritual, and if you like feeling good, watch this video of his song “I Hate” because it will make you smile:

I don’t even know how to describe Ed’s set. I’m not even the biggest Ed Sheeran fan – I enjoy his music but he’s not in my top ten favourite artists or anything. But his show made me appreciate him so much. His stage presence and the way he got the audience so involved with the music – it was magic. He didn’t play “Wake Me Up”, but that didn’t even bother me because the show itself was so perfect it didn’t need it. His energy throughout was absolutely fantastic. Like, so good that I think it was my favourite concert I’ve been to (and I’ve been to some pretty awesome concerts.)

After the show, my friends and I wandered the town feeling high on music. At one point, we found ourselves singing “The A Team” with a busker we just met and his broken guitar. Driving home, we sang along to “On Top of the World” and it was a perfect way to finish a perfect night perfectly.

A newfound appreciation for Mumford & Sons

I’ve liked Mumford & Sons since “Little Lion Man” was first released as a single. It’s not often I find a band I truly enjoy through the radio, so I was surprised that I liked all of their songs so much. “Dust Bowl Dance” has gone on to become one of my favourite all time songs. So naturally, when I found out they were going to be playing in New Zealand, I got tickets as soon asap and was pretty excited. Upon listening to the new album, I felt more excited. As the day of the concert loomed closer, I felt myself feeling ridiculously giddy with excitement.

My friend and I got to the venue about 45 minutes before the doors opened and there was already a crazy huge line. Luckily we got into it pretty quick and ended up only five people from the front. The openers were good but to be honest, I wasn’t really focusing on them that much. I just wanted to see Mumford. I was getting super impatient; we got to the venue at about 5.45 and were still waiting for Mumford at 9. But when they finally came on, it was so worth it. They were incredible. Marcus’ voice is identical live as it is recorded, which I really admire. All the band were crazy impressive with their multiple instrument swapping, showing just how talented they are. At one point, Ben announced they were going to do some acoustic songs so everyone hushed while the band unplugged all their instruments. “Timshel” live was beautiful; their harmonies were so spot on and just perfect.

I have this rule about concerts where I take just one photo of the band playing so I have a physical memento, but then make sure to spend the rest of the concert indulging in the music. So here is Mumford & Sons’ one picture:

Yeah, obviously I am no photographer. Whatever. Concert photos are all about the memories.

Anyway, they played fantastically and really showed what talented musicians they are. The whole show was such a good vibe, with everyone dancing and singing along. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I am a terrible dancer, but in this situation it felt so right and natural to be swaying along and letting the music wash over me. In the back of my mind through the whole show was the thought that there was no way they’d play “Dust Bowl”, but then they absolutely made my night when they played it well at the end of the set.

Afterwards my friend and I hung around the exit, hoping to catch a glimpse of them. We saw Ted and Ben but felt too awkward to actually say anything. Then Winston came out and I thought I should just go for it and called out, “Your set was amazing!” He turned around to face me, smiled and said, “Thanks so much for coming!” and went on his way. That made me super excited because I’ve never spoken to any well known musicians before and even though that conversational exchange was tiny, I’m still claiming that I talked to him.

TL;DR: Mumford & Sons were amazing and they have solidified themselves as one of my favourite bands. Also Winston and I are now friends.