Flight of the Conchords – London 2018

Last weekend had all the makings of a disaster.

I’ll take you back to October 2017.  Flight of the Conchords had just announced a UK tour – their first since we saw them in 2010.  The day the tickets went on sale, Ticketmaster revealed itself to be the truly awful garbage company it is, and we very nearly didn’t get tickets but thank goodness for random internet clicking and an extra date being announced.  A gif party ensued in the group chat.

About two weeks before the gig, it was postponed – poor Bret McKenzie had fallen down some stairs and broken his hand.  They rescheduled to June, which unfortunately ruled out two people from our group of 5 – boo!

June came around, bones were still in tact, new people were added to our party – all seemed fine.  Well, except the fairly major crisis that happened at work which meant I couldn’t get the day off, I had a stressful train ride into London, an even more stressful tube ride over to the O2, and then a tense wait outside the venue for the 5th person to arrive (late).  I genuinely wasn’t looking forward to the gig.  At all.

Thank god I didn’t give up because the gig was AMAZING (sorry Ryan).

As I sat with Husband, Tim, and two of Husband’s people waiting for Bret and Jermaine to come on stage, I really couldn’t imagine how this gig would work in the objectively too big O2 Arena.  How could New Zealand’s fourth most popular duo possibly fill the stage without losing their down to earth, self-deprecating vibe?

Quite brilliantly as it turns out.  There were no flashy sets, no costume changes – just two guys with their instruments (sometimes with a third guy – Nigel, the “New Zealand Symphony Orchestra”), and fantastic camera work which picked up on every subtlety that happened between the two of them, like Jermaine’s blank face during the middle of Foux Du Fafa.

Terrible photo as my phone isn’t that great, but we had good seats.  Would have been nicer to have been closer, but we were lucky to get tickets at all so I can’t complain too much!

Surprisingly, there were a lot of new songs, including a song about Deana from HR and Ian from Accounting which made me howl with laughter.  Some people were disappointed that classics like Business Time were left out, but the new stuff was just as catchy.  One of the songs had a truly insane recorder solo and I would have hated to have missed out on that.  Even the old classics seemed better, like the mash-up of Mother Uckers and Hurt Feelings where I suddenly realised that Bret’s voice is phenomenal.

Towards the end of the show, Jermaine started to get frustrated with someone who kept yelling for them to play Jenny, a song I don’t really remember (and apparently, the band don’t remember it well either).  I don’t know if this was part of the act or if he genuinely was getting irritated, but I laughed so much as Bret chastised him for his anger.  The badinage between the two of them was as hilarious as ever, with conversations about how Jermaine is Captain Fun, the time they both got stuck in a lift, and how their cushions kept falling of their seats.  There was even a good old Brexit reference (Bret-xit and Jermainers) and a bit of sarcasm on the Millennium Dome which made me lol as that’s what I still call The O2.

I can’t say I’d be keen to go back to The O2 again, but I am so happy to have seen FOTC again.  I really need a live album now – I think a HBO special is on its way – and I’ve had the whole set list stuck in my head since the gig.  As we battled through the tube crowds to get to our hotel in the City of London, I realised with joy that I had captured my favourite song moment from The Humans Are dead on my phone:

Binary solo!

Maybe we’re just the regular people

WIWH2When I was 23, Garden State was my life.  I watched the films so many times, and knew that this was exactly the type of thing I wanted to write.  Zach Braff was a hero of mine.  Over the last ten years, my tastes have moved on a little, and I perhaps don’t hold the film in quite the same regard anymore (the recent Jezebel rewatch made me cringe) so this was partly why I was dreading our special UK backers screening of Wish I Was Here on Friday at the Cineworld in The O2.

For one thing, it started at 6pm which meant I had to call in some favours to leave work at 3.  I didn’t relish the idea of trekking up to North Greenwich for 6 (actually, it wasn’t bad at all) and as Husband, Rach, and I got to the cinema lobby, we were greeted by a huge queue.  It was shaping up to be a disaster of an evening.  Emails sent from the Wish I Was Here team earlier in the week had started to make us a little anxious as they asked people to switch to the last minute addition of a 9pm screening – I was convinced we’d get to the front of the queue and told they were out of seats.


I hadn’t realised this snaked a few times…

The organisation was a bit lacklustre but we eventually exchanged our Eventbrite tickets for numbered seats (why we couldn’t have had numbered tickets in the first place, I don’t know).  There were three people handing out tickets, and as Rach had gone to a different person, she was five rows back from us.  We were in row A.  Row A in the Sky Superscreen.  ROW A.  We quickly realised that we would be in quite some significant pain during this film – don’t get me wrong, the seats were mega comfortable, but we had to scooch down and lean back in them in order to see any part of the film.  Truthfully, we only saw the middle third of the film.  I hope nothing major happened in the other two-thirds.  Mandy Patinkin’s beard was pretty much the size of my car.

The film needed this screen however, and was ram packed with 700 of the backers – I think 1000 turned up in the end for the two screenings.  I was sneakily eyeing up some seats further back but they all got filled.

But the third of the film that we saw was better than expectation.  Aiden is a struggling actor whose children are in an orthodox Jewish school – a detail I found fascinating and wanted to see more of.  His father, expertly played by Mandy Patinkin, has stopped paying the school bills which is how the film starts.  It’s clear from Mandy’s first scene that there are some father-son tensions at play, but this melts away as it’s revealed he is dying of cancer.  The film quickly changes from a self-centered “woe is me” piece to a look at how a family deals with death, and it’s sometimes hard to watch.

There are some sub-plots that were completely unnecessary, like the chubby sweaty nerd suddenly getting the hottest girl at Comic Con because he has a great costume (please), and a weird half-assed sexual harassment thing which just serves to make Aiden take control of his masculinity. Come on now, we don’t need this silly nonsense.  I didn’t like how Aiden’s wife Sarah, understatedly played by Kate Hudson, had her “dream job”, which actually turned out to be entering data into a spreadsheet.  Who does that in this day and age, really.  Even her name badge just had the word “Worker” on it.  Oh, how terrible it is to work in an office.

There were also quite a few contrived moments and it felt as though he had these great iconic shots planned that he had to somehow get the script to move towards.  A shot from above of Mandy Patinkin lying on a hospital bed wearing welding goggles whilst the pink-haired Manic Pixie Dream Daughter hugs him.  A shot of the MPD Daughter leaping into a pool overlooking LA.  A shot of the family driving along the PCH in an Aston Martin.  The film quickly became very crowded with these moments and I longed for a bit more story.

That said, I enjoyed the story.  Kate Hudson was very good, and one scene between her and Mandy was beautifully written.  It was incredibly heartfelt and real and tugged really hard on my heartstrings.  The film didn’t drag, didn’t feel like it was too long, and even the superfluous scenes didn’t bother me too much.  One thing I loved but Husband hated were the super hero scenes with the little CGI robot.  I loved that Aiden wanted so badly to be this super hero, for his children, for his wife, for his father, but everyday life was holding him back.  At the end of the film, he accepts that he isn’t and that he’s just a regular person – I wanted more of this analogy and it was very poignant for me.

Zach Braff has definitely been unfairly lambasted over the making of the film, and it does not deserve the critical response it’s received.  It was clear in the Q&A afterwards that the whole process has exhausted the poor man and it was telling that when someone asked him if he’d Kickstart again, he replied with a loud and resolute NO.


Terrible lighting in the cinema 😦

We had about 40 minutes afterwards for the Q&A, where Zach bounded around in front of us answering a good number of questions.  Terrible seats for watching the film, great seats for the Q&A.  At times, it felt like he was talking directly to us which was so weird and surreal – Zach Braff was stood so close to me that I could smell his aftershave (sorry, weird thing to say).  He gave us a background to the soundtrack, to his favourite films of the year, to the making of the film including the fact that he only had Mandy for four days which is astonishing.

What started out as a potentially worrying evening actually turned out really well, and I’m glad I made the effort to get to the screening.  And super glad that we stopped at the Byron Burger afterwards.