Sunday, February 04, 2007

On a Mission

It New Zealand had a yuppie Woodstock, it would be the Mission. The annual Mission concert, held on a hillside next to the Mission Estate Winery (btw, the country's oldest winery and still owned by the church) attracts thousands from across NZ and even Oz. It's the one weekend of the year when all the hotels, motels, campgrounds, spare bedrooms and even basements are booked months in advance.

They come for the vibe, the weather and the wine, oh and maybe some music to drink by. The live act who actually plays seems to make little difference, judging by the fact that people buy tickets months in advance before the artist is even announced, and the artists have varied from Rod Stewart to Dion Warwick and Olivia Newton John to Eric Clapton, this year's guest. People queue up for hours before the gates open at 3pm (drinking as they wait as BYO chilly bins are de rigueur) and then make the mad dash for the best "pozzie" on the hill. Then they sit and wait and drink some more as the main attraction doesn't even step on the stage until 8:30pm. I say main attraction because people watching is a lively distraction with groups dressed up in different theme outfits, pink hatted ladies and orange jumpsuit clad Tui Beer Men to name a few.

This year's concert stirred up a bit of controversy as the drunken crowd was a bit upset that Eric failed to greet them with a "Hello Hawkes Bay" or "it's great to be here in New Zealand." He also didn't play his most famous song "Tears in Heaven" but I hear he never does for personal reasons. But perhaps he was a bit pissed himself for other reasons before he went on stage. It seems the lovely Mission Winery folk failed to tell him that every year they bottle a special wine with the concert artist's image. Clapton, himself a recovering alcoholic and staunch supporter of addiction support groups, was flabergasted to find some Clapton Chardonnay waiting for him in the green room and threatened to get back on his helicopter and skip the show. After a few lawyerly phone calls were exchanged, the Mission pulled the cork on the contraband and persuaded their guest to stay and sing a few songs. Like I said, the music is almost an after thought at this thing. But any excuse for a picnic is fine by me.


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