2015 Highlights Reel
Friends and whanau,
Year-end roundups are everywhere at the moment, and it seems like everyone is either looking back at the year past or looking forward into the new one. 2015 has ended up being a year of dreams, so much so that my mind is a hazy blur of where I was and when I was. My humble attempts at journaling have always fallen by the wayside, despite my best intentions, and so upon reading my beautiful friend Dianne Tanner's highlights reel, I stumbled upon the fact that if I don't write it down somewhere, at least in short form, I never will, and I won't remember things, let alone be able to share them. So thanks to the wonders of Squarespace, here's a rubdown of 2015 in Ivy / Luckless-land.
As an Easter Egg, there are links scattered all over this letter, which may lead you to some of the best music, art and other endeavours that you've seen all year. Just sayin'.
January - I started the year on New Year's Eve by buying a one-way ticket to Europe. It seemed as good a way as any to ring in 2015. But quickly I was anchored back into the here-and-now by playing my first-ever council-endorsed festival, at the surreal neon haze that is the New Plymouth Festival of Lights New. It was all very exciting, because they gave me a real hotel room all to myself and I got to meet up with an old friend from my Auckland days, Amy Pollard, who seems to be doing everything right by living there. New Plymouth is a town that seems to know what's up - it's all about the arts and music, thanks to a very enlightened council. The rest of the month was spent in my adopted portside home-town of Lyttelton, and out on the Banks Peninsula, where I happily shared a gig with the lovely Daniel Madill.
February - Gigging picked up for me in February, as it seemed to have done for just about everyone else in my life. My beautiful friends Cy and Vanessa from alt-folk duo Tattletale Saints came to Port from their not-so-new home in Nashville, playing at my local The Wunderbar. My badass buddy Netta Egoz (lawyer, activist and community organizer, not to mention DIY-master) kindly invited me to play at a local Pecha Kucha night, set in the brand new refurbished town square in Lyttelton, which was a real honour. I also joined forces with ex-Dunedinite, now Berliner Freddy Fudd Pucker for some shows in Christchurch and Dunedin. In a less expected turn of events, I picked up my running game, and it took me to some unexpected and spectacular places, most notably a beautiful weekend in the central-South Island at Castle Hill with my friend Pete. The additional running might have had something to do with me picking up full-time work at one of the Christchurch City Council recreation centres, where I was surrounded by a chipper and friendly bunch of weightlifters, spin instructors and swimming enthusiasts.
March - My Melbourne-dwelling old-time-buddy Jono trusted me enough to let me help with the launch of his 'Volcanic Hazards of Auckland' album for his project Quail State, which went off in a spectacular fashion in a launch-listening-party and art-exhibition in Auckland. There were some hairy moments in actually hanging the art on the walls, but once that was achieved we had several hundred people through the event over the course of the evening. Personal hero Sharon Van Etten came to Port, and I perched myself on top of a piano in a corner to get the best view of her set. I talked to her and gave her an album of mine afterwards, and only made myself look slightly foolish. My flatmate and all-round-top-notch-gal Gemma Syme released her debut EP under the moniker Instant Fantasy, and we joined up with poet Tourettes to go on a quick three date tour in the South Island, hitting my favourite venue populated with some of the most colourful characters in the country, The Barrytown Hall, in Barrytown, on the West Coast. Still running, still at the Council, I even went to a yoga class or two.
April - Things started to speed up in a terrifying fashion once April rolled around. Since buying my ticket out of NZ, I'd been spending most evenings and weekends plugged into my laptop, emailing any venue I could find in Europe - pillaging friends' tour schedules, googling frenetically, becoming the self-proclaimed "Queen of the Follow Up". I finished up at the Council, which was strangely sad as it had been my best job in ages. I started feeling like I might be saying goodbye to my favourite places, especially as I headed out on the road with old acquaintance, but new friend Hannah Curwood from Hannah In The Wars, back in New Zealand to tour her latest album after a few years away in the UK. We also joined up with my old drummer Will Wood playing his own solo country stuff, to make a team of three out on the road; a somewhat tumultuous couple of weeks ensued. I wasn't quite sure when I'd get to go back to the places I was visiting, and now I'm still not sure when I'll be back. Highlights included: playing in a teenytiny cinema in Rotorua, the foyer of which came complete with a climbing wall; staying in a waterside bach in Picton and catching cormorants and a seal hanging out with us in the morning; a miscommunication leading to us ACCIDENTALLY stealing the contents of the minibar in our accom at one show.
May - May was all packing and leaving and arriving and traveling. I took lots of photos of my friends that I can't put in here because it makes me miss them too much. My buddy Pete packed me into a plane from Christchurch, and I tried not to cry too much. I played one last NZ show at my favourite venue The Wine Cellar, with my buddies Reb Fountain and Great North playing with me, and I tried not to cry too much. And then I got on a plane, and tried not to cry too much. Luckily I had my friend Dianne Tanner (photographer extraordinaire) ready to rescue me from uncertain accommodation arrangements in London, and I proceeded to set up shop in her's and her boyfriend Matt (blogger at Total Ales)'s front room for two weeks with the world's worst head cold, spending my time either developing a relationship with Netflix (as yet unavailable in NZ at that time), or struggling through the mucus to play a half a dozen shows in London and around the UK. I did a bit of sightseeing as well, and encountered amazing things, like ordering wine in different sizes (small, medium or large please?), lots of skeletons of dead things at Dianne's workplace, and a REAL CASTLE in Edinburgh, with an added bonus side of Morton hospitality. Mum and Dad came over from NZ to England and France for a few weeks, and I got to meet up with them in Birmingham with my Aunty for some real family time. Almost like being back home!
"While sailing over the wine dark sea to men of strange speech" - Homer
June - This is where my photo library pretty much explodes into a million pieces and memories. I played shows in Paris & Metz in France, The Hague in The Netherlands, Winterthur in Switzerland, and then Karlsruhe, Bielefeld, Berlin, Hannover, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Oldenburg, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Adorf, Nurnburg, Osnabruck, Künzelsau, and Stuttgart in Germany, with a show in Brno and a trip to Prague in there for good measure. I rode the Paris Metro, I saw the Metz Cathedral, played tiny house concerts and big venues, and even had my album artwork put on a cake by one of them! I met friends that I'll have for life and can't say there isn't anywhere I wouldn't love to go back to. I stumbled into a full orchestra and choir at the end of the Charles Bridge in Prague, playing a Christmas Mass. "In June?" I asked - "That's the joke" they replied. I sweated more than I thought was humanly possible, I truly realised what it means to not speak the language in the country of stern disapproval (Germany), and learned the importance of a good sleep mask on a continent where curtains are a rarity and the sun comes up at 4am. I met more friends than I can count, had more help than I can be meaningfully grateful for, and swore at my suitcase a lot. For reference: I travel with a wheelie suitcase that carries two amplifiers (one for voice, one for guitar), my guitar pedals (8 in all, all metal and heavy), my CDs or records and all my cables; my backpack holds my clothes, including a pair of running shoes for sanity; and my guitar case. How I've managed to get this far without growing muscles as big as my head I have no idea.
July - A moment of brief respite in 33 degree (celcius) weather in Berlin; I took a couple of weeks to stay with friends, do some HelpX work (work in exchange for food and board) and catch my breath a little. I walked around and dossed down in Berlin with a half a dozen other New Zealand expats, going to the Tiergarten and Mauerpark, Tempelhoferfeld which has been turned into a HUGE public use park, the Natural History museum and the hipster streets of Neukolln. The more time I spent in Berlin the more time I wanted to spend. After 3 weeks of relative stillness I was back in the UK, where after an 18 hour train & bus trip from Berlin, I got to meet Lizzie, one of the birds of prey that keeps Trafalgar Square relatively pigeon free.
August - As the UK tour spilled into August, being back in the UK was a bit of a rude awakening after the royal treatment musicians get in Germany, but I met some new friends in Jemima Surrender, a Bristol band that I instantly fell in love with, and who I subsequently have played 3 more shows with since. I played Bristol, Bath, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Eaglescliffe, London, Manchester again and Faringdon in Oxfordshire; by the end I was well and truly knackered. I made my way back to Berlin via a downtown London tour with the wonderful Di and her equally wonderful mother, and a blissed-out-teeny-tiny-festival in a place called Heidesee in the middle of Germany, invited by some of my expat buddies. I met a crew of people that have started to become my friends here - all musicians, all tremendously talented, and despite being in Berlin, only a couple of Germans among them. We all speak English together - go figure. My Lyttelton ladyfriend Netta came to visit for a few days and we sought out some swish Berlin haircuts, which came complete with bottomless glasses of Prosecco, which went straight to our heads. We also visited the Pergamon, on a different day though, the wine may not have mixed well with the antiquities.
September - And I turned 30. Strangely this was the catalyst for my even being in Europe. Last November when I sat with Mum and Dad and talked about what this year would hold, we talked about my going to Europe before I turned 30. "Yes, I did want to do that", I said, "but that's really an arbitrary number," to which they replied "an arbitrary 30 is better than an arbitrary 50". So here we are. I spent my birthday by myself - I went to a bookstore, I sat in a park and read Kafka's The Trial (not the most uplifiting, but it starts on Josef K.'s 30th birthday, so it was appropriate), and had a delicious Vietnamese meal. Sometimes after all this touring, quiet and solitude is the biggest treat I can give myself. It didn't last long though - I made a quick trip to Switzerland to see my friend Adam (swimming in Alpine lakes; extremely morbid statues and memorials), then to England to CatSit the world's most human cat Cricket (many cat photos, hanging with my NZ buddy Rose, a visit to the V&A), and over to Hamburg to play the Reeperbahn festival in the middle of it all (too many whiskeys, fuzzy memories, a bad hangover the next day but a lot of fun).
October - Kindly my friends Adam and Olivia offered me a place to stay at their house in Switzerland through October, while Adam was back in NZ on tour. This was supposed to give me some time and space to do some recording and writing while Olivia was at work - but unfortunately some technical difficulties led to me being unable to play music in their apartment! A solution was found though - we traveled for a weekend out to Olivia's old house, a farmhouse in the countryside on the other side of Bern, where I could set my gear up in a barn and record there. Cold temperatures notwithstanding (around 3 degrees celcius), I managed to get some tracks done, which led to my releasing the first new track I've put out since my album last year. (More on that later). I also traveled from Switzerland back to the UK, where I played A Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester and got some stunning reviews, and from Switzerland to Vienna on an overnight train both ways, to commemorate the passing of my friend Sam, from the band Bond Street Bridge, on the same date last year. The reason for the trip was to get two tattoos, both drawn by Sam's partner Emily, by a New Zealand tattoo artist now resident in Vienna - coincidentally, her name is Sam Rulz. They turned out beautifully and I couldn't have been happier with the trip - which happened to coincide with one of the 6 sunny days in Vienna, I'm told.
November - and as the song goes, I'm on the road again. Karlsruhe, Heidelburg, Frankfurt, Osnabruck, The Hague, Bochum, Amsterdam, Hannover, Bielefeld, Oldeburg, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Hamburg, Rostock, Berlin, Halle, Weimar, Plzen, Leipzig... More castles, beautiful weather for the most part, and my friend Tilman who I met in Bielefeld came along to do some driving for about a week along the way, so I didn't even have to catch public transport all the time! I met a strange GDR watercreature called a Coypus, which apparently escaped from a pre-Wall Eastern Europe and started proliferating along the edges of the Salle river. And it SNOWED. First in Weimar, then in Leipzig, but it didn't stick so I didn't have to figure out how to navigate my still-heavy luggage through it. This was lucky because I now have vinyl records - pressed by a lovely little record label in London. They add an extra 10 kgs or so to what I'm carrying, so the faster I sell them the better. They've been a little held up in arriving in NZ, but I promise that will happen eventually. The best thing about being on tour is absolutely all the wonderful people you meet, and I feel so grateful that I've now got friends all over Germany and further beyond.
December - I started December by releasing the new track that I recorded in Switzerland; called 'No Civil War', it's a reaction to what I have seen playing out politically here in Europe over the past few months. While the song didn't seem to travel very far on the internet, it was satisfying to do, as I did all the recording myself, both in Switzerland and also out on the road; something I haven't done in years. I saw out the year of touring with two more weeks in the UK, where I got to meet fellow NZers Joseph & Maia for the first time, in Brighton, which was a total delight. I also got to hang out with my buddies Jemima Surrender (and their inimitable Christmas fashion), and friends in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aunty Shirley in Birmingham. I'm not going to lie - by this stage I had definitely reached 'Peak-Tour' and was ready for the ground to stop moving under my feet for a little while. When I got on the train at 7am in the morning in Paris (still far from light outside) to arrive in Berlin at 5pm that day, I was well ready for a break.
So now I'm in a sublet apartment in Berlin for two months, while some acquaintances of mine go back to New Zealand for the holidays. I spent Christmas Eve with some other Christmas Orphans, ex-pats from NZ, France and America, and Christmas Day I took my new (or should I say, new-to-me) bicycle for a ride in the Tiergarten. I'm back running, with plans to do my first half-marathon in April, and I'm busking in the UBahn (underground) stations with a borrowed guitar to keep body and soul together. I haven't done a jot of work since I got back - no writing, no booking, no emails - and I'm just starting to get the itch to get back on my feet again. Next year I'm hoping to be a bit more considered in the way I do things, less haphazard and all-over-the-place; but that depends on me wading through the deep muck of German Bureaucracy first. I miss home, but I'm not ready to go home yet. It's a fine line to tread, but I think I'm doing okay.
Love, and a safe 2016 to everyone. x