The concert last night was quite the experience. I love looking at the audience of a gig beforehand to try and gauge what the atmosphere is going to be like. There was a mix of middle aged folky types (you know, the ones with patches stitched on the elbows of their jackets), a few pensioners, and a handful of the stereotypical Queenstown 20 something adventure seekers. I guess I fall into that bracket (yes, I know I’m 35 and therefore not in my 20s, but I still look 25, so it’s fine by me). The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra were quite the mix of folk. There were a couple of big beards, a skinny geeky looking guy, 2 large Kiwi women (with personalities that were even larger), a glamorous Kiwi woman who was sporting gigantic decorative ginger eye-lashes and a thigh slapping woman in hotpants. Oh, and the big burly gay guy wearing rainbow socks and big fluffy sweat bands (taking centre stage of course). I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a collection of eccentric social misfits in my life. Recipe for some fantastic live music I say.
I wasn’t disappointed either – the ukulele is an instrument which somehow I (and most of the audience last night) can’t take seriously, with outbursts of laughter from the crowd a frequent occurrence. This, combined with renditions some classic hits such as Africa by Toto, as well as Salt’n’Pepper’s Push it, made for an extraordinary experience. The next song would start, and out of the blue, the quiet guy in the corner with the big beard would burst into song, leaving the audience looking at each other wondering what just happened.
As well as the ‘Orchestra’ (more like collection of mates), there was also James Hill – known for being the best ukulele player in the world. And right enough – he had the crowd whooping and cheering within a couple of minutes of getting on stage. Quite simply remarkable stuff. I made a point of hanging about in Queenstown to see it, and I’m glad I did.
Today however, I was back on the bike, over the Crown Range to Wanaka which involved a 10km climb up to the top of the pass (the highest sealed road in NZ). I’m glad to be back on the road in a way, wheeling into new towns, seeing new sights and people. The hostel in Wanaka is another cracker, with fantastic views over the lake, and the hostel is fantastic. I’d stay longer, but I want to complete the west coast, so I’ll be off tomorrow.