Andrew London’s Column

Andrew London
Andrew London

Too Many Chiefs on Tour — 4 Days in the lives of Rob Joass, Wayne Mason, Laura Collins and Andrew London

By Andrew London

Rob turns up in Otaki early on Friday morning to pick me and my gear up. Wayne is here with his gear, so he helps us load the van and then takes his car home. He lives in the next block. Rob and I follow.

Wayne remembers he’s left his glasses on my lawn so we double back to pick them up, and set off. Just as we hit the highway I remember I’ve left my wallet behind so we go back again. Rob remembers he’s forgotten his guitar picks, and can I lend him some. ‘Chaps’ I say, ‘I’ve just had a vision of our future’.

We get coffee from Kerry in Levin, and talk politics as far as Hunterville. Whatever happened to Peter Garrett? Do politicians all compromise their principles irreversibly by the time they get a chance to actually do anything useful? I take over the driving and Rob kips in the back.

‘My girlfriend ran away with apathy’wayne mason

Wayne says ‘My girlfriend ran away with apathy’.

We pick Laura up in Rotorua and drive to Tauranga. It’s about 5.00’ish by now so we head straight to the venue at Te Puna , meet our local promoter Rosie and set up the PA and lights.

Big old country hall, high stage, kitchen at the side, toilets at the back, about 100 folding chairs and some school benches for the spillover at the side. Rosie takes us back to her place and feeds us rice and chilli con carne, salad and bread. We eat like ravenous wolves, get dressed and head back to the venue.

Eighty-odd people sit and listen to our first 45 minute set, where we alternate singing our own songs, and joining in on everyone else’s. Rob’s are gritty and self-deprecating,

Laura Collins
Laura Collins

Laura’s contemplative and soulful,

Wayne’s rhythmic and singalong, often geographic in origin, and mine mostly frivolous and jolly – the comic relief. At the break some have cups of tea and biscuits, some have wine. We have wine. A dog wanders amongst the crowd and an earnest chap offers to bring his accordion next time we are in town.

 Encore with ‘Nature’

The second set goes better than the first, and we encore with Wayne’s ‘Nature’, which of course everyone knows and sings along with. Pack up, back to Rosie’s for wine, cheese and crackers. Everyone has a room, and we sleep like the dead.

Rosie has gone next morning, leaving her daughter Jess to do bacon, eggs, sausages, toast and coffee for us. Wayne cooks the sausages.

‘They used to call me sausage-man after my strangely-shaped fingers’. he says.

Rosie’s orchard is raided for avocadoes and feijoas, and we make Auckland around 3.00.

]We are staying with Peter and Jo, who have turned their lives upside down for the weekend to accommodate us all. Laura in the spare room, and we three blokes in Jo’s two boys’ room.

The boys are shifted to the living room. They make us spagbol with parmesan cheese and garlic bread, and give us beer. Rob gives one of the boys a guitar lesson.

 ’75 fashionable Aucklanders’Uxbridge gallery

We make the Uxbridge Gallery in Howick about 6.00 and set up. Mr Corban’s shiraz is invited to a pre-show conference and gives a good account of himself. About 75 fashionable Aucklanders attend and appear enthusiastic. Peter and Jo bring their two boys and some friends. Wayne’s braces unclip from the back of his trousers half way through ‘Nature’, and hit him in the back of the head.

‘My morals slipped down around my ankles’ he says.

Home for wine and cake. We boys retire and giggle ourselves to sleep like schoolboys on camp, making up witty press review headlines such as ‘Chiefs Give a Patchy Performance.’

(Read review of this concert at: http://www.times.co.nz/arts-news/chiefs-have-the-wit-and-class-songs.html)

Auckland dawns annoyingly perfect. Peter cooks bacon, scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, hash browns, and there is coffee. Laura and Jo go shopping in Remmers. We boys take the new electric train into Britomart and walk through the Viaduct Basin to the new Wynyard Quarter. Lots of waterfront cafes, all bursting at the seams with attractive people. Lots and lots of big yachts from places like the Cayman Islands. We find a leaner, some stools, and order cider. We talk about quantum physics, religion and relativity. Possibly not very profoundly, certainly not very conclusively, and laugh a lot.

We take the train home again and Peter cooks two sides of rosemary-infused lamb over an outside fire in about 20 minutes. We eat ravenously again and set off for the gig in Devonport, at the Bunker on top of Mt Victoria.

 A 360-degree view of Auckland at night

Is this the most extraordinary venue in New Zealand? The 360 degree view of Auckland at night is spectacular. The bunker is like a hobbit-hole in the side of the hill. No windows – very cosy. Roger appears from nowhere, like Bilbo. He’s been running gigs there since 1970 for the Devonport Folk Club. ‘That’s a long time to listen to folk music’ I suggested. ‘I like jazz actually’ he confided, ‘but when I got here in 1970 no-one wanted to play it’.

About 70 wander in and we tee off at 8.00. There is Chateau Cardboard Red. There are tea and biscuits at half time, also cheese and crackers. There are a lot of beards. After the break we lift the tempo a bit. Roger covers the deceased patron’s portrait with a tea towel – apparently he disaproves of this sort of thing. Wayne does ‘Nature’ again at the end and the front three rows sing along very badly but with great spirit. It is cacophonous Nirvana.

We pack up and return to a quiet Sunday night house – it’s just gone 12.00 and everyone is asleep. We have tea and cake. No-one wants any more wine. We retire and sleep like the dead again. Auckland dawns stormy.

‘Ah, the breathtaking horror of returning consciousness’ says Wayne.

On the road by 7.30. We talk about venues, Youtube, record companies, musicians, studios, drummers, Peter and Jo’s hospitality, and more venues till Taupo at 11.30. Wonderful omelette and coffee at a cafe in Horomatangi St. Back on the road by 12.00. Change drivers, Otaki at 3.30. I am dropped off with my gear and the others are keen to get back to their families, homes and significant others. We go to shake hands but end up hugging.

‘Music’s like water’, says Wayne. ‘It seeps away into the gound’.