Upon arrival, I still wasn’t sure what to expect about my visa, because I read that the immigration officials will most likely ask about all the requirements, one of them being either a plane ticket out or proof that you have a bankroll sufficient for a ticket and enough to live there for a year. I wondered how one would prove this. $4,000 in-pocket? Printout of internet banking statement? I didn’t have anything like this, but all the options I thought of as proof seemed impractical so I just let it go. It seemed okay, they were greeting me warmly already:
Almost at the desk, I heard the familiarity of an American accent from the guy ahead of me. He looked young from the back of his shaggy head
Some band that I never heard of and that wasn’t very good was playing on a smaller stage. Recalling the back of my Lonely Planet book that said New Zealand has a very high UV index, I knew I needed to head for sunscreen. The first aid tent had some but required a donation of any amount. I didn’t have any canned food, so I gave them a kiwi dollar coin and got a nice-sized squeeze of the white cream. I applied liberally and even put it all over my head since I had extra and I just cut my hair as short as it’s
I’m shocked that I can’t find a picture of one online right now. Anyway I thought they were very cool, and apparently so did everyone else who was wearing one. I sat and looked at the lineup for the day and drew up a plan in my book. I stuck to it like clockwork:
The Spoon show was very good, especially since I got close. It felt like being a Keepon for almost an hour. Billy Bragg was good, in a more rare classic rock kind of way. It was just him and a guitar on stage, but he made it work. The Nightwatchman was also just a man and a guitar on stage, but Tom had a vendetta. Billy Bragg watched approvingly from backstage as Tom belted out tales of mistreated union workers and even did a cover of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (originally by AC/DC) but replacing the lyrics to make it about the Bush administration. He even brought out Serj Tankian, who happened to be around because he moved to New Zealand, for a song that is going to be on the new Nightwatchman album, due out in coming months. Rushing to catch Arcade Fire, I ran smack into a wall of disappointment and equally disappointed sweaty people. The main stages were setup with a European festival style front pit area, that funnels people in from further away to keep crowding down to a reasonable level. At this point they closed entry to the front area because it was already full. People up front needed to leave before they let more in, and the mob was not happy about this. I watched Arcade Fire from further than I would have liked, but they were still excellent. The eleven-tet brought the full album sound, complete with french horns, pipe organs and all.
I had never heard of Shihad, but they were local favorites and before they even played I was impressed by their position in the lineup. I think their sound was deserving of this. They have an almost U2 grandeur about them, but in a harder rock format. If you are playing in the torrent world and like rock, they are definitely worth checking out: http://thepiratebay.org/tor/3652998/Shihad_-_compilation
Supergroove was on afterwards, I suppose to let the crowd depressurize so as to minimize the amount of cars to be flipped and set on fire. I went to some of that but remembered the shuttle pickup was at around 11:30 and I needed to get back for that. Attempting to get my camera back at the front gate, I pulled out a mash of paper that could not be read. My precious return ticket had all but dissolved in my pocket after being soaked in kiwi sweat. I told them I had a black camera bag and described the contents to the staff. As they gave it to me I was glad nobody else came to them with no ticket describing something similar. Like finding a needle in a haystack, I bumped into Derick on the way out and we headed for the van pickup together, comparing shows we had seen throughout the day. I wish I got to see some other bands that were playing at the same time as what I did see, but such is the downfall of a multi-stage concert festival. Oh well, I saw who I came for. On the ride back to the Kiwi International Airport Hotel I thought about what I was going to do the next day, since I had no plan. Maybe start the 50km walk to my first farmstay, maybe hang around Auckland. Who knows. Either way it was a good first day in New Zealand.