Archive for the ‘ozstraylia’ Category

tour down under

In bike, ozstraylia, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm

So I rode round Melbourne alot more than I did in Sydney maybe that’s why I saw more people on bikes, maybe it’s the flatness of the city. Sydney is a trial sometimes, the hills constant, if your not going up, your going down. Not really conducive to riding fixed but people manage it. But in Melbourne there were bikes everywhere, ridden from here to there, mostly commuting I concede but ridden none the less and the fixed thing seemed to have taken a much tighter hold than I perceived in Sydney – well until I hooked up with the sunday arvo ride boys and the polo crew and the robocog massive. Likewise in the bikeshops I saw there were more fixe specific/fixed leaning shops in Melbourne than in Sydney, you had the boutiquesque saint cloud up on gertrude st,  just opened and run by the amiable nick, and which had some lovely keirin frames in as well. Then you has the knog concept store down on chapel st which was a big supporter of the fixed scene in melbourne, giving out prizes for alleycats as well as having a couple of full bikes for sale inside. Then there was shifter bikes which had just moved above the knog store, a stalwart of the fixed scene in Melbourne, building bikes, giving advice,  from what i could see shifter dan was moving into tour de ville ( now sadly closed ) territory, high class European geared bike porn, whether the bikes would ever sell is up or debate but they were lovely to see nevertheless. I spied as well a couple of bikes in a supreme store down on flinders lane, as well as a couple for sale in the window of a interior design shop. When the “coolness” of fixed reaches the lifestyle shops you know it has taken hold.
Whereas in Sydney apart from sable and argent run by the lovely kat who’d moved down from melbourne to run what was more of a geared bike store than a fixed one. Lots of rapha, lots of assos, lots of geared bikes on the wall and for sale. With a smattering of fixed attitude and gear. But sable and argent like deus the other big fixed store I found in Sydney, it felt like bikes were an offshoot of motorbikes, especially in deus, a custom bike shop, where they recondition old bikes, respray add a little chrome, swap exhausts and retune the engine and then sell on for more than they bought it for, has a section of their shopfloor dedicated to fixed machinery, expensive keirin frames, overpriced custom builds, aerospokes in a multitude of colours, if you’ve got the cash it’s a fixed perverts wet dream. But motorbikes take up most of the space and the bikes are an adjunct to them. Then you’ve got robocog, the adhoc little weekend repair resource, run by house. Though they are starting to sell stuff, they had a load of purple and blue deep wheelsets just waiting to adorn somebody’s ride. But most of the time it is a space to hang out, to talk shit and to talk bikes whilst people get some help pulling bikes apart and putting them back together. I liked hanging out there, it reminded me bit of the stoop out front of shop14 or the walled in front of tour de ville (rip) it is chilled and friendly and it should be a shop. Sydney needs a place where the fixed cognoscenti can hang out and shoot the shit and buy what they need to buy. Otherwise it’s just another niche in the market which can be scratched by any bike shop putting up for sale a load of off the pegs.

Spotted Down Under

In bike, ozstraylia, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

If you don’t like photo’s of bikes you may want to skip this post. As below is pretty much all the bikes I saw in Australia, in the lovely cities of Melbourne and Sydney, which I felt the need to photograph because they were lovely, interesting, or just plain weird.

These are the gaudy and the shiny, the workhouses, and ratbikes, the Sunday best and the beaters. These are the bikes that caughtg my eye down under. The fixed thing is getting bigger here, as long as they can keep from getting lumped in with those lycra wearing weekend road warriors, riding fixed is an everyday thing, a way of life, not a lifestyle choice. And long may that attitude continue. All that is required is a few more fixed specific shops.

So I present for your viewing pleasure Spotted Down Under. There’s probably some reposts from previous posts, but as the man dem say, the bikes so nice, me haf to show it to you twice…

Partner in crime

In out and about, ozstraylia, travelling on April 14, 2010 at 2:42 am

This journey is taking me to places that I haven’t been, but always wanted to go to, warm places, iconic places. I’m filling my head with experiences and memories, trying to capture them on the camera (two and a half thousand photo’s and counting), but the experiences are diminished if you don’t get to share them, which is why travellers always seem to spend a lot of time regaling each other with what they’ve seen and what they’ve done. To keep the memory fresh and warm, to make it live again in the retelling.

But there is nothing better than sharing the experience with others, of them being there to see the delight/dismay ripple across tour face, and to remind you with the memory for as long as you know each other. There have been many times when I’ve seen something and wanted to turn and tell someone WTF, but there has been no one there, so I take a note on the iPhone, take a snap with the Ricoh and add it to things to blog about when I get to an Internet connection.

So I was delighted when Erin announced she’d be in oz during my travels and that we’d try to meet up one weekend, which eventually ended up being my last weekend in Sydney, actually my last weekend in ozstraylia.

Erin is the sister of Lori who is the girlfriend/other half/old lady of Joe, a senior member of south beers, one of the regulars and a man who I’m glad to call a friend, I’ve cadged many a rollie from him so we’ve been joined at the hip pretty much since south beers started two years ago. Joes also the architect of THE forum track days down at Herne hill velodrome, last remaining venue from the 1948 olympics which is still in use today.

So I’ve l known Erin for a year and seen the change from cycling ingenue to card carrying n+1 member, where n is the number of bikes you already own.


Erin flies in bike in tow, big hair tied up and after breakfast, needed on my part I’d had a big night the night before and needed the sustenance, bike built up it was off for a quick pootle round town, to show Erin what I’d seen and knew about Sydney. Joey of the brazilian drum band had invited us out to Manley to try kangaroo burger (gamey and tender) and hang by the beach and I hadn’t been on the ferry, so decided to head over, and we rode over and down, via a stop at the opera house, which I’d taken a tour through earlier that week. We passed the afternoon, rolling along the beach front of Manley, down the dedicated bike paths, enjoying the scenery, before riding back the way we’d come and sit on the beach to enjoy the weather, which though slightly overcast was still warm, well hot enough for Brisbane raised Erin. Rolling back through central Sydney we headed over to Robocog, to talk bikes with the boys over there. The geezers faces light up when they spy Erin’s Giro, NJS track porn is lusted after over here, and the bike gets looks wherever it goes, a bit like David’s Bridgestone, not for the first time I wish I had a better, sexier bike.

House and the boys at Robocog invite us out for drinks for the birthday of another guy in their group. It’s over in New Town, and it sounds like fun. So that fills  a hole for the Saturday night. The rain which has been coming down intermittently, since we returned to central Sydney stops long enough for us to make a run for it upto the Cricketers Arms, which I’d been taken to by Tui and Adam, friends of Gus’ from old London town, the night before.

I like the Cricketers arms it’s where the Wednesday Night rides start off from, and it feels like a Melbourne bar, quirky, with a nice music selection, and a décor which makes it feel like no place else that I’ve been to here. We swap stories, catch up and generally just bask in not doing anything, whilst beer is consumed, and then head back to the hostel. We get caught in the intermittent rain, but this time it thunders down just after we head uphill. We manage to duck into another bar and wait it out.  With another drink of course.

Later on that evening, we head over to Newtown, and I take Erin to my new favourite hang out in Sydney, Eating World. Where we have don kashiage, gorgeous, and hook up with William, a guy from Taiwan who makes little custom bits and bobs which remind me of Sam’s little furry animals. I’ve seen him at Robocog and he’ was out on the Sunday afternoon ride, that I was on last weekend. He’s going to the same party and takes us on a shorter route than I had planned. But as we ride, it starts to rain, lightly at first, then heavier and heavier, and heavier. I’m not dressed for rain, and neither is Erin and as the rain continues to fall, I’m convinced it won’t stop until its soaked me completely. So I head for an awning, as William keeps on riding through the rain.

The rain slows and after twenty or so minutes stops, enough time to change tops, and wipe the water off my face, and bitch and moan about the weather we’ve been having. I didn’t come to Australia to spend time in the rain.

Finally we head to Newtown, and see William on the way and after much toing and froing, and asking of directions we find the party.

Later we ride back to kings cross. The place is heaving, the streets clogged with people and cars, hands on horns, bodies in the roads, shouting, voices, raised, just mayhem. Imagine all of Soho lumped into one street, one long street, and everyone is trying to get into the same places, and the mixture of sleaze and sex shops, tourists and party goers, drunkards and exhibitionists is an overwhelming one. The  bars are big, and the overflow just gets in the way and I want to take Erin to the place I’ve found round the corner. Tonic. As I want to see what its like on a Saturday night.

It is better than I expected and we dance and drink into the small wee hours. Bikes locked up outside.


We wake late, but it doesn’t matter, today is a lazy day, lots of hanging out, plus the Sunday afternoon ride. We’ve made some friends yesterday and one of them Sophie has told us about the café she works at which we’re going to roll past before stopping in at Robocog, and then over to Polo, and then taking in the Sunday Arvo ride, wherever that decides to take us.

We ride down to the café, but I’ve got the name wrong in my head and as I find out later and am told by Erin, the address as well. Finally we find it. And sit down for coffee and breakfast, well more like lunch. As we sit and chat, Brad, Faz and a couple of other bods who went out on a long run early that morning to a national park, eventually end up at the café as well. Sweating and red faced after their exertions, the lunch turns lazy and extended and before you know it, we’re way behind schedule for our encounter with the polo bods. But its an enjoyable way to spend several hours, so its not something that I’m wanting to cut short.

After a quick drop in on House and the Robocog boys, we spin down to Polo which is out at a court in Redfearn. Find them, which is pretty easy, then it’s a run for beer, which proves to be surprisingly difficult, despite the directions I’ve been given, and a leisurely afternoon of watching polo for me, whilst drinking good cider, and playing polo for Erin.

The sun beats down, and I want to laze around in it forever, no desire to leave the warm embrace of the grass. I’ve got the floor and everything’s just peachy. I’m roused from my lethargy and say goodbye to the polo bods I’ve met as I won’t see them again before I leave, then we roll over to Martin Place for the start of the Sunday Arvo ride. The ride which was long the last time round is short this time, over the iconic harbour bridge to a trick spot on the other side, some lounging around before we’re heading back the way we came and over to Eating World, where the food is oh so good once again, and then its over to Mr B’s for an evening full of drinking, and chatting, and laughing.


We wake late, I make breakfast. We roll round to see Sophie, at her café, and as we head down towards Oxford St, we come across Kat a woman we met on Sunday whose managing a bike shop Sable and Argent which is just round the corner from the hostel and knows some of the bods I hung out with in Melbourne.

We drink coffee and chat with Kat and Sophie, before we drop by the skate store 99 degrees that Faz works at, House is there as well. And we shoot the breeze and say our goodbyes, I buy some stickers, and then we head off to the shop, Supply, where t-shirts are bought, for ourselves and friends.

It’s a quiet day, a soft, blurred at the edges day. We ride, we talk, we take things easy. Erin’s flight is in the early evening, and there’s no point in trying to stuff too much into the day.

We head down to Sable and Argent and marvel at the bikes on display, Kat is super excited because they has been a delivery of the latest issue of Cog magazine, and as we look around the pristineness of the shop floor, and the Rapha on display, some Volume Cutters are delivered as well. Which makes Kat very happy.

We say our goodbyes, grab some stickers and mooch back to the hostel. Erin is fiending for sushi, and I grab a burrito from next door and we break down the bike into its constituent components and bag it up.

And just like that the weekend’s over, and I’m getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

But the memory remains, and this one is not just held in my mind, but shared with Erin and that makes it all the sweeter.

Sunday Arvo Ride

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia on April 14, 2010 at 12:20 am

So its Sunday afternoon. I am bound and determined to go on this ride. Before I left Melbourne I signed upto the Australian fixed forum, and put my name down the three regular weekly rides that happened in Sydney, Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights, apprehensive, but you know why bring a bike if your not going to ride it.

after a massive fail on my part I missed the Saturday morning ride. The hostel I’m staying in has a large rear garden, with a lockable gate, which we the hostel occupants don’t have access to after 10pm, and it isn’t opened again until 9am, when the day shift start. I return from wherever I’ve been, lock up bike out back, set alarm and put my head down, and head off to the land of nod. Alarm goes, its six am, the ride starts at 7am, but want to make sure I get there on time. I wake up, start putting on my clothes. Then remember I can’t get to the bike to 9am. I take off clothes and go back to sleep.

So the Sunday edition rolls around and I’m not going to miss it.

The meet is at Martin’s Place and I don’t know what to expect, I’ve seen a couple of fixed riders around town, but not many so I’m unsure of the numbers that will be gathering, but when I arrive, there is a whirl of riders milling around waiting, sitting on steps, pulling tricks and generally hanging out until the off.

I introduce myself and take some photo’s.

Then we are off and riding, everyone is faster then me (what else is new) and I huff and puff, trying to jump on a wheel inbetween when the pace slows I talk to several of the boys. We ride out to the sight of an old velodrome, and as I swap out a flat front wheel, a splinter group of guys rides the old disused course.

We head back into town and into a headwind, the return is relatively flat, but I’ve not eaten and I’m flagging at this point. I lose the main group, and toil along alone, until I manage to flag down another rider who leads me to where the rest of the pack has finished up. Eating World, a food court on Dixon St round the back of Sydney’s Chinatown. Twelve to Thirteen eateries, Cantonese, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, and nothing more than ten Australian dollars. And just what my stomach needed after that ride. Each one, has an illuminated board behind the counter, with pictures of each dish that they serve. Its great, and I love it. It is my new favourite eaterie.

Then its off to Mr B’s a drinking place round the way, where we sit and drink, and its like I’m back in London, hanging out with the forum bods after a ride. Good times.

Find route map below, it should link to the interactive map, and photo’s below that.

Sydney nightlife

In ozstraylia, travelling on April 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Being out in kings cross in Sydney is like being out in soho, it’s a place where out of towners come to have a good time, because they’ve been told this is the place to come, but the strip is full of casualties and fisher price my first club night, colt like girls in short skirts and too tall heels they can’t quite walk in, dancing “sexy” but not sure why or how to handle the reaction it will create, even those with their wrinkled elbows and time marching against them.

Add mothers teaching their sons to dance to the list of things that parents need to teach their kids alongside, mothers knowing how to play football, teaching their daughters how to walk in heels, dads knowing how to comb and braid hair, and some other stuff which I’ve forgotten..

Bondi skate park

In ozstraylia, travelling on April 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

It’s close to five in the afternoon, sun beats down on the back of my neck, big clock on bondi pavillion says it’s 22 degrees it feels hotter, just huffed and puffed along the new south head over to bucolic watson’s bay, stephen king would have felt at home there, very new england quaker feel to it, then along the old south head to bondi.

The skate park is filled with boys of all ages 30-13, rolling the same line, attempting the same trick over and over till it’s nailed not once or twice but every time. Tattoos on forearms, headphones in ears, curly hair escaping caps and helmets, barefeet pushing across hot concrete, bailing out a leap too far, jumping out of the park, knees pumping as they ride the humps and dips, waiting their turn in line to roll down and in. Braces slurring speech, enthusiasm overcoming common sense, frustration rising as runs are spoiled and aborted, encouragement given to the little ones as they attempt the basics.

No music just the patter of trainer on concrete and then the grumble grind of the small wheels rolling,

Two girls finding space and time amongst the boys to drop in, knees padded, helmets on, concentrating hard on their movement, the board beneath their feet, learning the how’s and why’s and the dynamics of the park, fathers standing in the back with little brother offering words of support when required.

I leave and go and lie in the sun


In bike, ozstraylia, travelling, tunnnneeeee! on April 2, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I love Brazilian music, it is happy music, it is summer music, it is lazing around with the sun on your face music. And I’ve always felt an affinity to brazil since ’82 when i decided i was brazilian because my favourite player was eder, a gangly left winger, who scored a thunderous volley in one of the opening group matches, flicking the ball up with his right foot to power home with so much swerve and bend from his left that the keeper never even moved,

who wore those friendship/surfer bands around his wrist. Which i emulated with my looped rubberbands because i was from south london and didn’t even know that they could be purchased, so I made do and adapted what was around me, even at that young age I was like a ranger, improvising, adapting, and overcoming. As with all things heart related there was crying and tragedy, brazil so obviously the best team in that years world cup, lost 3-2 to the eventual winners Italy, when all they needed to do was draw. It could and has been said that, the ’82 team was the last of the swashbuckling brazilian teams, the last to be true heirs to jairzinho, pele, tostao, and the attack, attack, attack, you score two we’ll score three, teams that had reached their zenith with the ’70 squad. Anyway I cried my heart out when they lost, one of the defining momets of my childhood, alongside the doomed six year olds love affair with my uncles girlfriend in Barbados, was their loss, cementing the knowledge that in footbal as in life those that were the best don’t always triumph.

So I’ve been a fan of brazil since way back when and it’s one of the reasons why I’ll be going there on this journey, from listening to the husky tones of tom jobim on aquas de Marcos,

to joyce’s five minute long scat on aleida de ogum,

to the iconic celebration suite by airto,

just cemented this love.

But enough back story, joey whose a friend of a friend of mine, had returned to Sydney a couple of years back and we’d arranged to meet up when I hit town. Now I’m pleasantly surprised to find joeys a member of a Brazilian drum school and he and the band will be playing at bronte beach for the birthday of a friend. It’s just another chance for the drummers to practice and I’m delighted when joey invites me down. I get to ride to one of the public beaches, bronte is inbetween bondi and coogee beaches, I get to see how vicious these hills are, and I get to listen to some batucada! What more could you want for an afternoon.

2 bottles of cider, towel, Birkenstocks, swimming trunks, suncream and sunglasses, and I’m off down the road.

I won’t bore you with the ride, suffice to say it wasn’t that long, about half an hour, maybe longer and the hills out weren’t too bad, long lugs up a steady incline. The exit on the otherhand was a torment of straining thighs, push pull, push pull. Hands cramping as I pulled hard on the bars, ascending barely faster than walking pace, standing/stamping on the pedals, it doesn’t get any easier no matter how much I concentrate on my technique, it just gets harder, each breath, each turn of the crank. I had to take a fucking run up to get enough speed to attempt the damn thing in the first place, sometimes riding fixed sucks, sucks hard. Just when I think I can slow to a snail like crawl and sit back down and just grind it out, the hill keeps going, back out of the saddle, grit the teeth and will not be defeated, wheezing, head hot, grips slick with my sweat I get to the top and pedal ever so slowly along the flat, well relatively flat.

But I’ve gone to the end, well the middle and I’ve spent all that time building up the whole Brazilian thing to punt past it to the cycle out.

So anyway joey and the band are really good, really really good, just like a batucada band should be, two big drums, three smaller ones, some strange tambourines, a drum with a straw and a sponge to make that strange, sqwauking, squeeking sound and someone on the shaker, who eventually becomes me. But they are loud and rhythmic and as they bang out the sounds, people around the BBQ area poke their heads out and come and see what the noise is about. They stand and tap their feet, nod their heads, swing their hips a little before edging forward and joining the circle that we have formed. Obviously my time on the shaker was the high point of the impromptu performance, jam session. My shaking of the shaker held that shit together. Have I told you about my desire to be in a band and just play the triangle for one song. The band tours the world and I’m required for just one song, one motherfucking song, where I hit that triangle really goddamned hard and that’s it! I tour the world say to groupies “yeah I hit the triangle in that song, you know the one, the one with the really big triangle bit at the end, yeah I killed it tonight…. You wanna come up to my room?” That’s the dream, that’s the dream, and playing the shaker which requires a little more concentration than at first seems necessary is a step towards it.

But this afternoon I am the shaker, the shaker with the most, letting those grains, slide around in their container, an accomplement to the rest of the layers of percussion, which make it so rhythmic and exciting. I can’t smiling, its like I’ve been given a sweet when all of mine have hit the floor and are unedible. I’m part of the band, and for a little while, I listen and ask questions, and try to figure out how the beat builds, and when I should drop out as they change from one rhythm to the next. Its the most fun I’ve had in ages, and it makes me hunger to get to the beaches and clubs of brazil.

bright lights big city…

In ozstraylia, travelling on April 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm

So Sydney! It’s hot here, feels hotter and cooler than Melbourne all at once.

It also feels very much like a big city, tall buildings, high density living, more people, more hustle and bustle. And whilst I was in Melbourne I yearned (under my breath) for this size of urban space, but now I’m here I’m not as enthused as I thought I would be. Melbourne for all it’s lack of size, I got to know quite well, I spent time there, bedded in for a little piece, I’m having to fly through Sydney as I’m adding a couple of days onto the new Zealand leg of the journey, so I can see more of it during my fly drive.

Sydney doesn’t seem to have the nooks and crannies, the off the side roads eccentricities of Melbourne, that wonderful capacity to surprise you at every other corner.

I’m staying down or up in kings cross, and it’s by turns, seedy, touristy and chi chi, big faced, high heel wearing hookers line William st, titty bars and nightclubs line Darlinghurst st, and fashionable shops and delis line Macleay st.  Went out drinking in Darlinghurst and connecting environs with an Irish doctor called Damian, who was off travelling and climbing for a couple or four months, before he headed back for another tour as doctor on a cruise ship out of southampton, so he could make some tax free cash and begin a new life in new Zealand. As I found out along the way he also had a taste for expensive single malts.

So we walked around I had a couple or three bars that had been recommended, they proved to be a bit of a disappointment, and most of the ones we passed were either full on Australian hotel/pubs, gay bars or slighty pretentious wine bar type places. Finally ended up in one of the latter where we discussed fine malts and gins with the bar staff who told me that the more ice there is in your drink, the less likely it is to melt rapidly and water it down, as it can maintain it’s temperature better. I told him I’d still like half the ice so at least I could taste the alcohol to begin with, rather than not at all. I’m not sure this went down well.

Where was I? Oh the bars, so it felt very Soho, very this is where people from out of town come to experience Sydney nightlife and have a good time and this is where I didn’t want to be.

Got back to a bar/club called Melt which had been recommended and paid my ten dollar cover charge and the place was not that full, about twenty to thirty bods, mostly male listening to the same rnb and hip hop that I’d heard in various bars in Tokyo, it’s like the dj’s have the same playlist to choose from. God it was soul destroying, just proving to me that I am getting old as I sweepingly dismiss the music that the young people love and label it, in my mind as only this (holds forefinger and thumb mm’s apart) far away from just being unintelligible noise.

Down here in Kings Cross, all things blur into one, and you can’t tell the hookers, from the tourists, short skirts, stiletto’s and cleavage on display, some you pay for, some you don’t. On the weekend it heaves with people, just so many pushed into it’s environs, but as soon as you turn the corner away from Darlinghurst st, it quiets, the sound drops off and your into a residential area, where there’s a whispered hush that covers everything. We foreigners step outside and smoke and drink opposite the hostel, the quiet surrounding us. Some residents don’t feel we’re quiet enough. A man comes close, kicks over a drink, squares upto one of the french boys. He’s angry, think we’re making too much noise, declaims he would respect the cultures of wherever he was, as we should. He is xenophobic, and looking for a ruck, eyes bulging, claiming randomly that we are loud, night after night, after night, and perhaps some are. But tonight we weren’t and I’m not so drunk that I can’t stand and discuss the issue with him. But he doesn’t want to discuss, he wants to argue and yell, and be IN THE RIGHT! He makes me want to tar all australians, with this belligerent ignorant brush.

I sleep, I wake, and I head out for a ride. As they say be careful what you wish for, I wanted big city life and sydney is providing it…

In it till the bitter end!

In ozstraylia, tunnnneeeee! on April 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Gilles is playing big tunes and Mannings bar where the people politely queue up to get served at the bar, none of this free for all of lunging, lounging, leaning we get in London, just orderly lines stretching away from the bar, is feeling it. The bands about to hit the stage and I’m wondering how many people will bail once the main act ends, and won’t listen to what Gilles has to offer afterwards.

As Sofia says I’ve paid my money and I’m in to the bitter end, till the lights go on and the beer goggles truly come down.

As I wait for the band to hit the stage I am realizing that I am strange fruit wherever I go. I got looks when I was in Japan, but got harder looks when I was in Melbourne. Not inquisitive or curious like in Japan, but more appraising and startled. In Japan it was Why are you here looks, in Australia it is What are YOU doing here looks. Not sure whether it’s because I’m black, obviously a cyclist, I do wear my cycling cap at all times pretty much, or both.

On a cap note my favourite cycling cap the green gatorade one, the plastic peak has snapped on me and now I’ve got to be especially careful otherwise I look like a bit of a gimp with a crooked bent peak. Upset to say the least! Hoping to get a sugar spokes cap to compensate and hopefully when I get to the states I can find someone to repair it, cut out new bit of plastic, unstitch peak take out old broken plastic, replace , stitch back up, piece of piss.

With the orchestra in full eleven man flow you get a sense of what Fela in his pomp would have been like, thick basslines, soaring Hammond organ solos and the horn section waiting to pounce, fierce and sharp. Two lines of musicians, rhythm section and horn section two stepping, side to side as they pump out funky riff after funky riff, riff sliding into riff, and everlasting jam session.

Antibalas are to afrobeat what the Breakestra are to funk, students who become philosophers and teachers and the prime exponents of a music which has fallen away, but which they reinvigorate and remake and sculpt into a modern form.

It is a sight to behold, and I am stepping forever and I am in love with their horn section, so emotive and passionate, slurring, bending, twisting notes as they solo, then pin point precision as they punch through in unison. Transitions between songs are seemless and untraceable, as the band are feeling the heat as well, shirts soaked with hard earned sweat, brows are mopped, water bottles gulped at, clung to, before their instrument is gripped tighter.

As I look at the stage to my right, the horn section three different sizes of saxophone plus a man on trumpet, drummer with a six piece kit, four drums, high hat and snare, in front of him, bass player, laconic, laid back fingers moving but nothing else, Congo player and singer, with some Cow bells attached, man shaking some rattling gourd, two guitarists, one of whom sings a couple of Latin numbers, and finally the organ player, double decker of Hammond and korg.

Audience participation is hackneyed and overrated most of the time, but the Antibalas make it a special and cohesive thing, pulling the audience in with their versions of call and response, it is a pretty thing to behold, the intensity of the band, and the eagerness of the audience to be a part of that, so easily turned into a meeting of the musical minds, and everyone keeps dancing, as the bright horn section, squeal and squawk and sharpen notes in the night air.

So the Antibalas are blazing, yet two thirds of the audience bail as soon as they exit stage left, leaving Gilles to play to the committed music cognoscenti, I’m classing myself as one of them by the way. It’s weird to see Gilles trying to hype a space because the lightweight massive of Sydney pulled the cord early. But those that stayed that are in till the bitter end are jigging for all they are worth and Gilles is playing Brazilian Jesus arms outstretched head looking skyward, music is all. At the end the dancefloor is filled with Brits abroad appreciating the big tunes being thrown, and those that dance, which is all of them, close their eyes and swing their heads, stepping into a brighter tomorrow, fueled by the bass that drives out of the speakers and punches them in the gut…

1st night in Sydney

In bike, ozstraylia, travelling on April 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

First things first, I miss my flight from Melbourne to Sydney. I’ve was upto four with David drinking gorgeous rum and cokes at Cookie and a watery capiroska at Toff at the Top when all I wanted was a caiphrinha, and beers at the rooftop bar until they kicked us out.

As we’d talked about David and the families adventures in Daintree, poor car choice to get to a Eco lodge in a rainforest during the rainy season, scuba diving off the great barrier reef, horse riding twitchy nervous steeds, and shopping in Tokyo, god I miss Tokyo.

There was also a certain amount of intellectual interrogation of the idea and structure of the novel that I’m still not writing even though I spent several days scanning in articles which I’d lugged across the world for research purposes. Good questions to which I didn’t have the answers to. I have the feeling that no matter how I write it the ending will be far too easy to see coming, and will be trite and banal. God I hope it isn’t though. I haven’t even finished writing it and already I’m doubting the quality of it.

So we stagger back to south Melbourne grabbing hungry jacks on the way (burger king in Australia) I have an ultimate burger, three beef patties and six rashers of bacon. Yum yum.

I wake up by the power of sleep cycle bright eyed at eight and proceed to break the bike down and pack it into the new bike bag I’ve purchased off Joel/Jol it’s a ground effect Tardis and it’s all I’ve ever wanted in a bike bag, if your traveling with a bike go and don’t need shit loads of padding or wheels get one it’s intelligently designed, packawayable, and robust enough (hopefully) to be with me for the rest of my worldwide tour.

(pictures below of the bike broken down, people always seem really surprised when I mention I’m travelling with a bike, and that all I do is take off the wheels, turn the bars round, take off the pedals, shove the seatpost down and away we go. It isn’t that difficult and only takes forty mins to an hour)

So the packing after the bike takes longer than expected and we don’t leave till like quarter to ten and my flight leaves at eleven. Get to the airport by half ten and when I try to get a boarding pass it directs me to a special desk. Not good. Wait in line for another ten mins and then am told I’ve missed my flight. Fuck, money I don’t have to purchase another flight to Sydney. But wait! I’ve got flexible tickets so Quantas girl, well woman really puts me on the one o’clock just an hour and forty min wait till I can board and no charge. Get in!

I surf the interweb, catch up on the England result, sorry Meriem. Laugh out loud from some postings on THE forum. I will be rolling round now yelling at the top of my lungs. I FUCKING LOVE CYCLING! Scan some emails and then make the long whistling walk to the gate.

Arrive in Sydney, catch train, lovely long silver double decker trains they’ve got over here. Make a promise to myself to do more touristy things in my time here. First up walk up the Sydney harbour bridge.

Get off train at Kings Cross where my hostel is located and the folding trolley I bought in Osaka gives up the ghost, not the base or the wheels but the retractable arms of the handle, they are bent beyond their capacity by the extra bag I’m lugging (reminder to self must lose more weight) and then have to relay the bags to the hostel, not fun! And by the time I get there I’m soaked through, and all I want is a shower and a power nap, because I’m out to shake what my momma gave me to the afrobeat stylings of Mr Gilles Peterson who is djing for Brooklyn’s own Antibalas Afrobeat orchestra.

But I don’t get the chance to power nap, the shower takes a long time as does shaving my head and putting the bike together.

I could roll down to Mannings bar in Sydney university later but I’m a cyclist in a strange city, I don’t know where I’m going, I’ve plotted a route on my map, but I have no idea how long it will take, so I’m getting out there early.

First impressions of Sydney are favourable, it immediately feels more city like and larger than Melbourne, the hills which I’d heard about aren’t on this ride that evident, it undulates and even I can see how it’s built on levels and there are height changes for all to see, but I’m more concerned with the heat and the amount of sweat that’s rolling off me, feels more humid here than Melbourne, and I’m getting bitten to fuck, mosquitoes love that thick northern hemisphere blood.

I spot my first fixed bikes as I roll towards the university, his and hers locked up outside a pub/hotel.

I’m liking Sydney already, working off four hours sleep and ready to get sweaty to the big beats.

Got to go Mr Peterson has just hit the decks…