News & Insights 2 June 2007

“Oi – you with the enormous scimitar!”

Saturday 2 June, 5pm (Grand Ballroom, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Seoul):
In a couple of hours, 500 esteemed guests are arriving at the Grand Ballroom for the annual Queen’s Birthday Ball. This afternoon the ballroom has been used for an alternative function, and the organisers now have just two hours to turn the place into Hogwarts (the theme this year is Harry Potter). It’s a bit like Challenge Anneka. I am looking round the enormous ballroom, wondering how on earth they’re going to do it. And then I see.

The Event Co-ordinator clicks his fingers and a vast army of identically-clad hotel workers pours into the room as if from nowhere. I am half–expecting a moralistic chorus of “We’ve got ano-ther puzzle for you” but, clearly, there’s no time. Within minutes, fifty immaculate dining tables dot the room, meticulously spread with fine china and cutlery. It’s terrifying.

In contrast, we are feeling smug and well-prepared. We sound-checked yesterday and everything is ready to go. We watch the ant-like battalion of workers arranging the Quidditch pitch, setting up banners, suspending huge papier mache owls from the ceiling and tinkering with the table-top dry-ice machines. Lucky old us. Nothing left to do until we start our set but chill out backstage with a doughnut and a G&T.

Danny pokes his head through the dressing room door. “Which one of you guys has the jack adaptor for playing the iPod through the PA?” (we have agreed to organise the entrance music tonight – a pretty vital job because the committee have an elaborate Harry Potter-inspired opening ceremony planned). “We don’t have it, Dan,” Tony replies. “You do.”

“No way man. I’ve never had it. Chris has got it.”

“Yeah, whatever Dan. I don’t even know what it is. George must have it.”

This tomfoolery goes on for a few minutes until we realise that, genuinely, we really don’t have it. This is bad. This is very, verybad. 500 tarted-up ballroom guests sweeping into the Hogwarts ballroom in a swirling mist of dry ice to the heart-rending strains of John Williams’ Harry Potter Theme will lose a certain amount of its impact without the heart-rending strains of John Williams’ Harry Potter Theme.

Without this one tiny adaptor, smaller than my little finger, the whole shooting match will fall flat on its arse. And it will be our fault. Taking a cab across town and back to the nearest music shop (which may or may not stock the appropriate adaptor) will take about 45 minutes. The ball starts in… 45 minutes.

The race is on.

******

We are in a cab, snaking down Mount Namsan to Seoul city centre. The clock is ticking. Things are actually looking pretty good for the first ten minutes or so, until… well, until we slow to a standstill in front of a huge street parade of Hwarang (Korean Warrior Knights). They have big swords. None of us feel like being the one to poke his head out the car window and yell “Oi – you with the enormous scimitar! Move your arse!” so we figure we’ll just sit it out. 

Five minutes pass. This is a BIG parade. We’re running out of time. We have but one option – we cut our losses, pay the cab driver, bolt out of the car, navigate our way as politely as possible through the wall of heavily-armed trained killers and head pell-mell for the music shop.

In the store, we are greatly relieved to find that they do indeed sell the appropriate adaptors. They have bloody hundreds of them. We just need one, but we buy seven and distribute them amongst ourselves. You know, just in case we get attacked by an extremely fastidious mugger.

One frantic taxi ride later, we are back at the hotel – with just a couple of minutes to spare. Danny hurriedly hooks the iPod up to the PA, the guests assemble outside the main entrance and, as John Williams strikes up in the ballroom, the doors open majestically. It’s quite a moment. The party has started.

****** 

This gig is certainly unique. For example, it’s very rare for us to open our set with a rendition of the Korean National Anthem – and rarer still for us to be accompanied by a world class opera singer (Sunghee also sang the national anthem at the opening ceremony of the 2002 World Cup). As a general rule, it’s also not every day that we play in front of an Ambassador (although I should add that this isn’t the first time). 

It’s a superb night. We have a brilliant time up on stage – George is soloing like a beast, I’m pogo-ing around the enormous stage and Tony is in his element, crashing away on the drums and beaming at the 500 furiously boogying party guests on the dancefloor.  Danny does a sterling job on the desk, and seems to have formed a close – if silent – friendship with the Korean sound engineer.

The crowd are fantastic. They’re also mostly sloshed on the free bar, but then who can blame them? Certainly not me. In fact, we attack the complementary booze pretty voraciously ourselves once we’ve finished our set. When the ball finally ends, we pinch a big white owl and a 60-foot high Slytherin banner as souvenirs and crash back to our hotel rooms.

Job well done, I’d say.

Chris Lightyear

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