Since the last ABBA Confusion blog update was over two months ago, and I wrote it
, I think it’s natural to assume that despite only just getting started in every meaningful sense, this project has bumped to a close. I therefore feel at liberty to independently release some of my New York experiences, and since we’re outside the project’s academic purview now I’m going to cater to the interest of the three people who are actually interested in ‘the band’ rather than ‘the idea’. Here, then, are some pictures and words from my winter experience with Oliver ‘The Flake’ Pyper…
An Internet Barber’s where we watched Spanish Survival Horror TV whilst waiting for an unlicensed cab to take us to a pizza place because we couldn’t find a gig venue in someone’s house. This is one of many tales I will not be telling you today.
The tenor of The ABBA Confusion was always ‘missed opportunities’. Opportunities missed so spectacularly that in a country less success-oriented than America it might have been genuinely impressive. Whilst in the States, we missed a range of opportunities – from simple eating options through to hollywood megabucks – on a daily basis. But anyone can miss opportunities. Our specialty was to miss them so very closely that to an untrained eye, it might seem as if we didn’t miss them at all.
I hasten to add that almost invariably, we missed the opportunities through no fault of our own (the memorable exception to that, for me, was when I elected to spend our last night in the USA at the world’s worst open mic instead of with these guys, but that’s another of many tales I won’t be telling you today). Where we were more obviously culpable, I defer the blame to the American inability to provide a decent cup of tea, which meant that Ollie and I were rarely mentally active before 1pm, and usually grumpy until about 6.
I’m genuinely convinced that the events depicted in this picture happened well over thirty times.
About halfway through the trip we were at our lowest ebb when the antifolk dudes at Sidewalk did a hilarious spontaneous join-in whilst we were playing ‘Not Subway Material’ (you can see bits of that performance cut into this video). There were two problems with their spontaneous join-in: Ollie’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to improvisation (he puts in half bars with no warning and doesn’t really write in a key unless you hold him down and rape him into it), and the people who were trying to join in (bless them) didn’t really ‘get it’. The only resoundingly good input was from somebody who was playing a trumpet out in the crowd (you can hear it on the video) which actually sounded quite nice, but everyone else was just making things worse.
After the performance, someone nodded at me politely in the corridor, but I was feeling pretty dreadful (if you watched that video in full you’ll know what I mean) so I just sort of smiled, walked past, and continued with my artistic crisis.
On our penultimate night in town, we found ourselves back on the Lower East Side and, through a delicious set of coincidences, in a very small venue with The New York Howl. I’ve supported The Howl in England and I’m a huge fan of their work – iTunes reports that they wrote five of my top twenty most played songs. A key member of The Howl is Brer Brian, who wrote ‘Harlem ’99’, an AFNY song which has become a jamming favourite in the Hectic Eclectic. So as you can imagine, I was pretty stoked to see them on their home turf – despite the fact that I’d sent them an e-mail asking for New York advice prior to coming out, and they hadn’t replied.
After the show (an excellent show, incidentally), I got chatting with Brian. “Good to see you out here”, he said. “You should have told me you were coming!” I explained that I had tried, that the e-mail must have gone missing. “That’s a shame”, he replied, nervously. “I wondered why you ignored me the other week. You must have thought I had deliberately not replied to you”.
I raised an eyebrow. When had I ignored Brian the other week? Why, he was the trumpet player, of course. And he was the guy who had nodded to me in the corridor, but who I had totally failed to recognise. After he explained this, I made grovelling apologies and then retreated to my table to mull over the facts – as part of the ABBA Confusion, I had managed to collaborate with somebody who it would be no exaggeration to describe as one of my musical heroes… without noticing. This is a small tale, but it entirely sums up the ABBA Confusion experience.
Ollie hangs five in the ‘wreck room’, see what I did there, of our first hostel.
Speaking of musical heroes, it occurs to me to tell you the story of Chris Butler’s thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t know about Chris Butler – as far as I was concerned, he was an authority on post-modernism – but it turns out that this is also the name of the songwriter from The Waitresses, a New Wave band which Ollie loves as much as I love the New York Howl. And like I did with the Howl, he sent off an e-mail before we embarked just to see what would happen. This time the results were much more encouraging – Chris came down to the Sidewalk gig mentioned above and ended up participating in one of our best videos, as well as supplying us with some really nice interview footage. He showed himself to be, in all respects, a thoroughly excellent man, and getting to meet him was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, despite my prior ignorance.
The poignant ABBA Confusion tale takes place on the morning after Thanksgiving, when we’d just finished editing our Thanksgiving Dinner video. This was a tour de force about how totally we were failing in New York, but in fact we didn’t know the half of it. Ollie isn’t very good at maintaining credit on his phone, and it turns out that a peculiarity of American pay-as-you-go is that you can’t recieve calls when you’re out of juice. So when Ollie topped up in the morning, he was finally able to recieve an answerphone message from Chris – one in which he warmly suggested we join him, his family, and a few of his music friends, for thanksgiving dinner. That’s right – whilst we’d been making our stupid videos in a closet on the upper west side, Chris Butler had been tucking in to a delicious meal with a large number of industry contacts, and we had been invited.
This was not Oliver’s reaction to the above.
Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss the ABBA Confusion as an ill-concieved, poorly-executed, pretentious failure. And that’
s because it was.
HERE IS A VIDEO WHICH YOUTUBE SAYS IS RELATED TO ALL OF THIS
HERE ARE MORE ABBA CONFUSION VIDEOS, WATCH THEM