9 Jul 2015

The closest thing to being a rockstar

11:09 am on 9 July 2015

Andrew Tidball used to review music behind his Geekboy moniker. Then he decided to make something out of it with Cheese On Toast.

Listen to the story as it was told at The Watercooler storytelling night or read on. 

I was once unceremoniously kicked out of my school choir at Torquay Boys Grammar in 1981 for being massively out of tune. Four or five years later I found myself living in South Auckland watching Radio With Pictures and fawning over NME magazines bought three-four months after their publication date. I was saving paper-round money to make weekly pilgrimages into the city to buy records that for many shouldn't have been in the same record collection. Look Blue Go Purple, Sonic Youth, The Pogues, Salt-n-Pepa and Madonna.

The first gig I ever went to was Run DMC at The Powerstation and I mainly went for the support act Derek B from the UK. I had a haircut halfway between Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran and one of the members of The Jesus and Mary Chain. I didn't fit into any musical tribe. And nor did I want to. I was quite happy with the weird diversity of taste I had acquired.

I enjoyed a brief foray into DJing in my early twenties and looked more like Rick Astley than Jim Reid. But even then, my tendency to want to throw things that were unexpected and, perhaps in hindsight, quite inappropriate into a mix was often frowned upon.

I didn't understand why I could clear a dancefloor just like that!  Why didn't you want to dance to The Residents? Also, despite a rudimentary understanding of beat matching and practicing on the 1200s I had saved up to purchase, I was never really that good.

Life carried on. I had a pretty good job working for the tax department and I pursued a career doing that. It was perhaps a life the furthest away from knowing what it's like to be a rock star.

I couldn't wait to get home and write verbosely about why everyone needed to see The Datsuns.

The internet started and I was an early adopter. The squeal of the dial-up modem connecting soon became something that happened every night after dinner. I found myself on a New Zealand music IRC chat room and a regular on a New Zealand music bulletin board.

Then I taught myself HTML and wanted to make a homepage. You used to get a whole free megabyte of webspace from the internet provider I used! After various rather pointless homepages of lists of music I liked, I realised that I could write about the gigs that my friends had started dragging me to.

It wasn't long before I was the one dragging them along, and if they couldn't be bothered, I'd just go by myself. Armed with a shitty Cybershot camera, I figured that I could add an extra element to my weekly weekend gig review.

I called myself Geekboy. A name that I thought was both self-deprecating, as being a geek wasn't yet considered cool, and edifying, because, let's be honest I was actually a grown man in his early thirties.

I remember two shows during this period as the genesis of things. One of my favorite local bands around the time were an act called The Rock'N'Roll Machine. They used to play them on 95bFM quite a bit and they'd play around town quite regularly. One such show was upstairs at Devonport's Masonic Tavern and due to my somewhat obsessive compulsion to review the entire show for my Geekboy website that not many people read, I was there early.

I was not sure what to expect from this young support act that were from Cambridge just outside of Hamilton. To be honest, I probably had a cynically low expectation of them. But within moments of their opening song, they were blowing my mind.

They were Rock'N'Roll MF'ers from the get-go. If anyone should be standing here telling you what it's like to be a rockstar it should be Dolf. I couldn't wait to get home and write verbosely about why everyone needed to see The Datsuns.

Of course, I wasn't alone. It wasn't long before the NME were saying the same thing and they were gracing their cover. I remember a weird sense of pride when that happened. In my own small little way, I felt that I was part of that; that somehow, by me writing about them with ridiculous hyperbole every time I saw them play helped get them to be signed to V2 in the UK.

I am, of course, fully aware that my ramblings probably had nothing to do with that, but it felt good to know that I was one of the first people talking about how great they were who wasn't one of their mates.

I still hid behind my Geekboy moniker though. I'd skulk around at shows, enjoying what I had assumed to be a degree of anonymity. Fuelled partly by that perceived anonymity, a probably over-inflated sense of my own personal taste and a carefree attitude that no-one really even read what I wrote anyway, I did write some pretty cutting reviews of some acts that I'd later regret.

I once suggested that if you had the opportunity to see The Demi Whores perform, an evening inserting match-sticks under your own toenails and setting them on fire might be a more pleasant experience.

I once suggested that if you had the opportunity to see The Demi Whores perform, an evening inserting match-sticks under your own toenails and setting them on fire might be a more pleasant experience.

One night at The Ambassador in Pt Chevalier, I found myself in the toilet queue next to Ed Gains from The Demi Whores. He is a veritable giant of a man.

He broke the silence. "Are you Geekboy?" he bellowed.

Shit. Shit. Shit. "Umm... yes," I muttered, panicking that perhaps I wasn't a) as anonymous as I stupidly thought I was (taking photos with my Cybershot all the time probably gave it away) and b) maybe someone does read the shit I wrote.

"You don't like my band!" he exclaimed, glaring at me.

I was terrified. I scrambled for words, unsuccessfully.

He watched me squirm and, in my imagination at least, he grew taller and taller over me.

He put his hand out and uttered "Good on ya, man, I like that webpage."

I saw them play a heaps of times after and became a big fan. Years later they were playing support for Interpol at the St James and Ed saw me down at the front and laughed. "Look there's Geekboy, he doesn't like our band!" he declared to the audience. "No I really do now!" I protested to nobody who heard me.

Another time at The Ambassador, I had dragged my mate Steve along to come check out this band from Wellington called Two Lane Black Top that I had heard good things about via nzmusic.com. The support band were someone we'd never heard of and they had what we thought was a pretty hilarious name. I guess we kind of thought they might be a bit of a novelty band.

It was another moment that within seconds of the four-piece taking the floor (the stage at the Ambassador was just carpet placed on the floor) my jaw was literally dropped. It was the best thing I had ever seen in such close proximity.

The energy and vitality and immediacy of The Mint Chicks was something I couldn't wait to get home and write about. I'd go and see them every time I could and write about them every single time.

The energy and vitality and immediacy of The Mint Chicks was something I couldn't wait to get home and write about.

When they released their debut EP, Octagon Octagon Octagon, I rushed out to buy a copy from Real Groovy. I was so excited to be able to finally hold a CD in my hands by this band who I had been championing to anyone who'd listen. I pawed over it and opened the case in the store to see the artwork. Ruban Nielson’s drawings in the booklet are wonderfully weird and fascinating.

I got to the last page of the booklet and scanned over the credits. Years of record collecting had got me into this habit and finding surprise connections was always part of the pleasure for me. And there it was, in the thank you notes among names who I recognised and many I didn’t, but just after Blink and Duncan Grieve and before Chris Hocqard and a list of bFM DJs... Geekboy.

Truly, my heart skipped a beat. I had to re-read it.

I had been thanked by this band who I truly worshipped - the members of which I had never spoken to. Obviously, some people were reading the weekly rants I'd write on my Geekboy homepage and The Mint Chicks were among them. It was the closest I felt to what it might feel like to be a rockstar.

Fuelled in part by this, my mate Steve told me that I should get a "proper" name for my website and try to make something out of it.

On December 5 of that year cheeseontoast.co.nz was launched.

This story was originally told at The Watercooler, a monthly storytelling night held at The Basement Theatre. If you have a story to tell email thewatercoolernz@gmail.com or hit them up on Twitter or Facebook.

Illustration: Lucy Zee

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