Call Me Loyal

The winter months can be cruel for gigging musicians. Apart from carrying instrument and PA systems between overheated vans and bars in the frost and rain they have the annual problem of knowing that in winter they are probably competing with a Tri-nations rugby game on television. Bands are often asked to battle with televised rugby in bars, or are requested not to start playing till after the game has finished. The cold reality of the barroom is that sport trumps music. It’s disheartening for musicians. Kudos to my local pub, the Moutere Inn where there is not a television screen (or gaming machine) in sight and where live music is really valued.

Although music and sport seem worlds apart both realms create similar feelings for fans. We identify with the highs and lows of our sport teams and our most loved bands. We cheer Samoa when they trounce the Wallabies. Our collective consciousness shudders when we hear of the passing of Amy Winehouse.

It’s not that musicians don’t dig sport. Recently after a late night recording in the studio I found myself wandering in a pale sunrise down the driveway clutching a Crusaders flag determined to nail it to the gate post in the minus 5 fog and frost on the morning of the Crusaders versus Reds Super 15 final.  Call me Loyal.

I guess you could say at that moment I felt staunch. But it felt more noble than that. Thinking about that Super 15 final made me feel deeply about the Crusaders. Earthquake versus Floods, ANZAC rivalry, Red on Red, blood on the carpet.

We live in a world of fads and fashions -a flip-flop smorgasbord where friends like or un-like us with the click of a mouse, jobs change several times over a lifetime, where we change partners and power companies to get a better deal. We are cajoled by the media as to what music and movies are hot and what are not and we are badgered by self serving politicians. It’s hard to get a handle on what is rock solid. It’s hard to know what to believe in.

Occasionally though, as with the Crusaders game we are uplifted and reminded what it means  to be aspirational, to feel passion, to feel  unequivocal loyalty.

A few weeks ago I attended a music seminar in Auckland and heard an address by Fat Freddy’s Drop manager, Nicole Duckworth. The Drop’s inspiring story of creating, recording and promoting their own music in their own way, on their own terms, is the stuff of legends. The band is currently touring Europe for 10 weeks riding another international wave of success in the Northern summer. From their small beginnings in Wellington they have now set up their own company office in the UK and are set on conquering Europe. The Fat Freddy’s story inspires me as much as the Crusaders or the All Blacks.

That same feeling of loyalty and passion was evident amongst audiences at the recent highly successful Nelson Winter Music Festival.  Bouquets to festival director Frances McElhinney and her NSOM team.  In the midst of the first televised All Black hit-outs the festival attracted great winter audiences and put the performing arts right up on the platform where they belong.

We are heading into the madness of the Rugby World Cup. Certain parts of me are over it already. Hopefully the spinoff for musicians will be that sports fans will also take the opportunity to party with the musicians and attend the many concerts being organised alongside the rugby games.

Both sport and music take us out of ourselves and into a hallowed space, both have the capacity to ennoble us and lift us beyond the mundane. For just a moment they both give us something to believe in.