Tuesday, September 14, 2010


"Frankie, I need directions to Mountain Park" is hardly the most reassuring group of words you want to hear from a cabbie, but with 8 passengers stuffed into a van, it can be the most hilarious.

I began my week with a class that focuses on the relationship between politicians and journalists. It is taught by an active congressman and that is an honour in itself. I don't mean to rag on the University of Wollongong or my education in Australia, but an opportunity like this one is something I would not be able to obtain on my home shores. Needless to say the workload for it is immense, but so is the opportunity.

That evening, myself and seven other international students all boarded a bus to Holyoke. After an hour we got off at the bus' final stop, Holyoke College. When a group of us began to wander around the campus looking for directions to Mountain Park a of us (the males) received some odd glances. Unbeknownst to most of us it is an all female campus, but that didn't stop us from almost crashing their dining hall.

After a half hour wait, a singular taxi pulled up. Due to our large number we requested two, but since Amherst and the surrounding areas seem to only have about 3 taxis (no joke) we all piled in. The 3 girls sat in the back, Alex sat in the front and Richard, John, Sam and myself - potbelly and all - managed to squeeze into two seats. The journey was punctuated throughout with the driver calling his colleague 'Frank' for directions. It would have been ominous had everybody (read: Sam) not been giggling the whole way.

Our detour through Holyoke's picturesque, typical New England streets took us past the type of houses you see in horror films. Large trees loomed over the lawns and seem destined to attract the tourists when 'Fall' actually arrives.

We finally made it to Mountain Park and they had set the area up like an outdoor festival, only this time there were no Australian Flag capes, blistering sun or excessive security. We found a nice spot at the base of the hill and settled in for the first two bands. It would have been perfect in the afternoon sun, but a New England Fall evening was nice in its own little way. We watched the rain clouds with anticipation, as they could have been a literal dampener on the evening. We began to get cold, and I soon realised my cardigan may not have been sufficient. I wasn't the only one with this problem as Sam eloquently stated to Richard "my shirt has pockets, your cardigan is just shit".

As Dum Dum Girls opened their set with a cover of 'Play With Fire' by the Rolling Stones the crazy guy behind us began partially involve himself in our conversation. They sang like the Sonic Youth songs by Kim Gordon but played their instruments like The Ramones. Beach House were up next and they were fairly ambient electonic music with a female singer who sounded just like the guy from Coheed & Cambria. Their stage show included some lit up pyramids, ala a discount store Pink Floyd, and though they were good, their set dragged on.
all professional photographers use 2mp Blackberry cameras.

We moved up front for Vampire Weekend. Though the park area was large, the crowd gathered was relatively small so there were plenty of good viewing vantages. I had heard from numerous sources that Vampire Weekend weren't that great live and that festivals/outdoor shows didn't suit them. Sam, who saw them at Glastonbury, even added "I could hear them, but I was taking a poo", demonstrating how high on the priorities list they were.

I will happily admit to being pleasantly surprised by them. It could have been the low expectations, the foggy New England night or my general appreciation for my American experience, but I thought the band was great. They didn't play Ottoman, but they more than made up for it with a Springsteen cover. The rest of their set was songs I'd heard on radio, but wasn't entirely familiar with. Still, it was nice to be surprised by how good they were. Indie/Reggae Paul Simon tributes are not for everyone, but last night I was more than happy to be involved.
A creepy old dude, and a guy behind him eating chips.

Our eight person taxi adventure was to remain a one-off, as getting back to Amherst was to prove a pain the arse. A trek down some streets led half of us to a taxi, while a few of us remained looking for another one. By chance we happened to stumble across one, and $40 later we were back in Amherst. The other lads opted for a late night dinner, with Sam offering more wisdom on pasta, "I always get the marinara, there's something wrong with the idea of 'meat sauce'". A similar crew of us are going to head to Amherst to catch Wavves on Friday. If it's half as good as Vampire Weekend, or even last Friday, it's bound to be an excellent night.

Ra Ra Riot - Run My Mouth
This band is playing in Northampton in two week and though I only discovered the album a matter of hours ago is going to make for an excellent evening. This is my favourite song from the album, which y'all should obtain.

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