Turning 30 and Public Speaking... On Acid!
Anything on acid is nuts, right? Björk is like Duffy… on acid; Skateboarding is like running down the street and jumping over things... on acid; Rory Bremner is like a piece of shit that can talk... on LOADS of acid! Etc. Well we thought we’d do really scary things on acid, to see if that journalistic cliche had a point. This time around: Turning 30 and public speaking... on acid!
Turning 30 scares some people. It's a moment to reassess your dreams, to compartmentalize them into reality. A reality which is now populated by people younger, cooler and more beautiful than you.
Gavin Haynes spent his teens in a South African village full of sheep and racists dreaming of one day traveling the world as a rock journalist, which I guess he kind of fulfilled that time he got to hang out with The Twang in Blackpool. But it's amazing how the years fly by, eh Gavin? Now you're hitting the big three-oh you're starting to realize you didn't spend your twenties tea-bagging groupies on the private jet with Julian Casablancas like you'd imagined. In fact, your career has led you to a sombre music industry conference in a drab hotel in Montreal. How depressing. Maybe acid will soothe your soul?
This is Gavin, today he's turning 30. Happy Birthday Gavin, here's a large tab of San Francisco acid to commiserate.
Here's Gavin 20 minutes later on a ferociously cold morning in Montreal, primed for a day of music industry hobnobbing. He still looks relatively composed at the moment.
As a delegate from the United Kingdom at the M for Montreal Festival, the first thing Gavin was roped into was a "Speed Schmoozing" session, which is obviously just like speed dating except that instead of having a series of three-minute conversations with people desperate to have sex, you're having a series of three-minute conversations with people desperate to convince you they know Lana Del Rey.
Ostensibly, the actual point of speed schmoozing is for Canadian band managers and label people to try to convince Gavin to write something pithy about them in the British press.
By the time Gavin had filled in his name card and taken his seat, the drugs were beginning to kick in. Around him the bottom rung of showbizzz fiddled with their tote bags.
Despite claiming that this guy's handshake "was very tactile", at this point I think Gavin was still saying stupid, clichéd bullshit because he felt he had to. After the first few boring conversations with speed schmoozers about this being his first time in Montreal, and how cold it was there, etc, I worried this might all be a bit boring. Then he turned to me and muttered, "How am I doing? I'm having difficulty following what people are saying, I'm just smiling a lot."
Really? Even when that guy told you about the person in the band that died and looked really sad about it?
"Oh no, did someone die?"
Then this guy came along and really bummed everyone out with his nasty aura. Gavin mentioned that the band he managed had a name that sounded a lot like Adam And The Ants and the guy snapped really aggressively: "Yeah, we get people shitting on the name all the frickin' time!" Honestly, it was really weird.
"I really didn't like that guy, he was so closed. He was definitely on something, I could sense it. Everyone else here is so open and it's a really good feeling, but he was so, so closed."
Luckily things soon perked up. To you and I, what Gavin is holding is little more than a square of paper, but for Gavin this minimalist business card was a path to the doors of perception. "Yeah, things are really turning 3D now, this card... look at it... it's like when I saw Martin Creed's 'Lights Going On and Off' at the Tate Modern... I love it!"
When this gentleman introduced the artist he manages as "a mix of Supertramp and Queen that's really big in China" Gavin started laughing furiously. But when he was offered some headphones to give it a quick listen, he was entranced.
"We really need to reach out to the Chinese. Everyone's always going on about the human rights, what about the softly-softly approach? I'm all for the community of nations.”
I'm not sure what he's tweaking out about here, but frankly, it could have been anything in this room. It wasn't a good room.
Gavin definitely fancied this girl which is why, in his kaleidoscopic mental state, he decided to give her a hard time. Before she had a chance to speak he said; "Right, I'm here to make or break your band, what have you got for me?"
"Well, I manage a band called Plaster, they're a..."
"Let me stop you right there, I'm only interested in bands beginning with T. Have you got anything beginning with T? Or ending in a Y? Or am I going to have to tell you to get out?"
He laughed and she didn't, and when I bumped into her later that evening she admitted she'd made a complaint to the organizer after we left.
After making a hasty exit from the Speed Schmoozing, we headed across town to Gavin's next engagement. On the way, he tapped me on the shoulder and laughed without explanation until I worked out what it was that was holding us up.
Nice one, Gavin.
This photo also really over-labors the point of this whole exercise.
When I asked Gavin if seeing these kids made him feel old, he seemed indifferent. "Yes, but right now I'd like to just sit down with a big pile of documentaries and really learn something. Would they? No."
Next up, we headed to a media networking thing where we were supposed to form strategic allegiances with people to help each other out and save the music industry. But the mood was dead and Gavin looked concerned. "This is a horrible little dungeon, I feel like there's loads of paranoia in the room, can you feel it?"
Sensing the emotional ambiguity at play in his core, I suggested Gavin stand up on the stage and perhaps share a few words about turning 30 and realizing the game is up.
For the record, here is Gavin's slightly rambling speech: "Gathered friends, there are much worse ways to turn 30. I ask myself, is my life running away from me? Am I having enough fun? One has to be philosophical about the realm of the possible and the realm of the probable. I think I'm happy. I'm not sure I had enough fun in my twenties, though. I mean, by the common metric I've had a good enough life, I've just never found the fun marrow in my belly-bones.” At this point Gavin looked a little shaky and went to sit down.
He made the unfortunate mistake of trying to find respite in the chair designated for cruel celebrity blogger Arjan Writes, who looked at Gavin in his trampish abandonment and ordered him sternly to "FIND YOUR OWN TABLE!"
I had been stage managing Gavin through the day and decided to prepare a surprise for him to round it off. However, once he realized something was waiting for him behind that yellow door there, he started hitting me over and over again, shouting, "What have you done! What have you done you asshole!" proving the ungrateful bastard's paranoia was at its peak. Well Gavin....
That man giving Gavin the cake is the actual brother of the real Mr Hudson. Finally, at the last hurdle of youth, it was a chance for Gavin to party with the rock and roll gliterati.
"Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!" he squealed, as he crawled on the floor towards the birthday cake, oblivious to the fact he was uttering the same last words as Steve Jobs.
Happy birthday, old bean.
After ten minutes of partying (guests making awkward chat as Gavin sat transfixed by something on the floor) and dancing (avoiding eye contact with Gavin) to classic Go West tunes streamed off someone's phone, Mr Hudson's brother suggested we enter the room next door to this one, where another surprise was waiting for us.
Mr Hudson's brother, you cruel bastard! You sent a sensitive man, pumped full of acid, stumbling into a corporate business meeting full of very unimpressed Canadian people.
This was a genuine bad moment for Gavin, who started shaking quite a lot. "I want this article to finish now," he kept muttering under his breath. Don't worry Gavin, it's nearly finished.
I took Gavin back to his room to cool off. He'd been tripping for a good six hours.
I finally left Gavin crawling around the new MacBook he'd bought himself earlier as a birthday treat. As he grappled with the touchpad, he found himself discovering all kinds of new swipe commands that were not previously possible on his old PC, and it was at this point I realized that it was the ergonomic design of a MacBook... On Acid that was providing him with the ultimate high. "It's kind of like dealing with a clitoris, very 'What does this do?'" he enthused. "Oh No! I almost threw my stickies in the trash!" he laughed.
So, I had thought the whole industry conference was incredibly dull. But when I asked Gavin if he'd felt bored at any point, he retorted, “Why should I be bored? I'm the star of the show!”
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