SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

There's a saying "What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" so I'm not sure if I'm breaking some sort of unwritten code by showing these pictures. But I couldn't resist.
Probably the one thing I've wanted to in Vegas since I was here with Faz in 2005 has been to shoot various machine guns/pistols at a range here. I only found out about it too late last time & I've been waiting for a chance to have a go ever since. It's the sort of scene that you just can't imagine in the UK. You walk into a little store a couple of miles from the strip and plastered all over the walls are every conceivable type of machine gun, rifle and pistol, most of which are available to rent and fire in the range out back. All it takes is to sign the legal disclaimer (presumably to cover them if you shoot yourself or anyone else - "going postal" as I believe it's known over here), pay the girl at the till, collect earmuffs and safety glasses and you're ready to go. I decided to start with the favourite of terrorists and rebel armies the world over, the AK47. (Picture no. 2 above). An instructor takes you into the range, gives you a few quick safety drills and than hands you the weapon!
It gives you a real shot of adrenalin when you're handed a fully loaded machine gun (or technically assault rifle). You gently squeeze the trigger and BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM suddenly you've loosed of half a dozen rounds! The muzzle jumps around a lot too making accurate firing hard. The target of Osama Bin Laden I was aiming at was only 10 yards away at the most and I hit it easily, but I suspect if it was say, double that, you would miss with as many shots as hit. I had bought 2 magazines (50 shots) and loosed them off in rapid
fashion. The rifle barrel gets surprisingly hot too! You have a forward grip to hold but can feel the heat though it.
I then tried a Beretta 9mm automatic pistol. This was a bit less daunting than the AK47, but I gave myself the more difficult target of a hostage being held in front of the gunman. You have to try and aim for the head, missing the poor old hostage. Again from only 10 yards, I managed to hit the gunman fairly consistently, but unfortunately 100% accuracy is required in these sort of situations. One shot would have winged my hostage in the shoulder, one in the ear, and more fatally, one right in the throat! I won't be volunteering for a SWAT team any time soon. I will definitely have more respect for the armed police after this. Having to deal with all the variables, with the possiblity of someone firing back at you too, is a job I wouldn't want for all the tea in China.
Next up was a Heckler & Koch MP5. This is the sort of gun the police carry in airports in the UK. It was a much more subtle machine gun - less muzzle jump, and more accurate by far than the AK47. The results at 10 yards are very similar though!
Finally I plucked up the courage to try try the .44 Magnum revolver, the infamous Dirty Harry gun. (Picture top above). This is a BIG gun! Compared to the Beretta, it's a bit like comparing a collie dog with a Great Dane. Off we go back into the range, my instructor being a small blond woman, with me wondering if I'm going to make a right fool of myself. She loads up the famous 6 shells (Did I fire 5 or did I fire 6? You know in all the commotion I'm not quite sure myself!!) and gives me some safety rules and then hands it over. Grip with both hands, making sure to keep the thumb away from the hammer, stand square to the target, bend the knees, and squeeeezze the trigger and KABLAM!!! The muzzle jerks upwards and you get a real kick backwards. I'm aiming at a more stylised target with red dots to indicate the target areas - body, head etc. After 6 shots the instructor empties the gun and reloads and I aim at another area. In all 20 shots, and then the target is reeled back towards me. To my amazement the groupings are pretty good (check it out on the picture). Even the instructor was very complimentary - though I suspect she may say that to all the blokes!
You can tell the effect all this had on me - just look at the size of the grin on my face in the photos! It's a very weird feeling, part fear, part power, part total elation. I wouldn't want to get too attached to it, but I'm glad I've had the chance to do it. I would heartily recommend anyone going to Vegas to give it a go. It's pretty cheap really - $50 for AK47 & 2 mags, $40 for the H&K MP5 and one mag, $25 for the Beretta for 2 mags and $60 for the Magnum and 20 shots. There were loads of other weapons - Uzi 9mm, M16, Sten gun, Tommy gun, German MP40 (WWII) etc etc. You won't get a chance to do anything like this back in good old Nanny State UK. There were other British guys there while I was there too. Obviously there's a bit of a latent desire in many blokes back home in the UK to try and emulate Arnie, Sly and Clint.
Incidentally, if you're a fan of the Dirty Harry movies (as I am) you may have noticed the way the gun in the movies really kicks upwards when fired. This is totally realistic. Though I wouldn't want to try firing it one handed as Clint does. I was using both hands and still had to fight to control it. But I suppose Hollywood has never made accuracy one of it's watchwords.
Anyway I've rambled on a bit too much about this now so I'll stop now. But as they say in the moves, I'LL BE BACK!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner! The much coveted Best Performance at SXSW 2007 goes to.......................................


I started this evening by visiting a venue a bit away from the centre as there was an Israeli guy playing there that I had met when Daniel Johnston played the SESAC stage at the convention centre. He had described himself as a sort of Badly Drawn Boy type of singer so, as I had no other "leads" I thought I'd take the plunge. Unfortunately he turned out to be more Poorly Sketched Lad than Badly Drawn Boy! After the Moz enspired 3 song minimum I gave up and went outside to see the other band playing on the patio. They went by the name Wax Fang and hailed from Louisiana. They were greaser rockers in the Motorhead tradition, but redeemed themselves by having the eccentricity to include a theramin in their act. I'm assuming it was a theramin (or similar device as the singer "played" it by waving his hand around a central aerial). I stayed til the end of their set and then wandered down to the Convention centre to the live TV set where a cable network had been broadcasting sets all week. I was particularly interested in seeing Stars of Track & Field who I had seen briefly on Weds (or possibly Thurs - the days and bands are beginning to merge into one). There was a reasonable crowd given that it was away from the main action areas. I enjoyed the set - they are a sort of slightly rockier Coldplay I suppose. I will definitely get their album if I can find it somewhere. They finished their set in true rock fashion - the bass guitarist trashed his guitar by smashing it on the ground in the finest Who tradition.

Then, as they were on next, and I had nowhere else to go, I thought I'd watch The Automatic. I got the album some time ago, but apart from the tracks Monster and Recover I hadn't been that impressed. They kicked off in fine fettle, and it soon became apparent that one of the band (the guy who plays keyboards and sings) was not a happy bunny. He made some comment about the stage manager being "disrespectful" and seemed to be picking a fight with his lead guitarist. All this led to the whole performance having a real edge for a studio gig with only 20-30 people in the audience.At one stage he threw his mike off the stage where it had to be fetched by a stage hand, and proceded to wander among the audience while still singing. Despite all this the band kept up manfully and the songs came over very powerfully. When they finished I turned to leave and saw a guy behind me with a festival badge that read "The Automatic" so I assume he was with the band. He was saying to his female companion "I think we'll let them calm down be fore we go back to see them". Whatever was the problem it certainly made for a great live show.

After that I went back to 6th street and queued for ages to get in to see Daniel Johnston again. The place was heaving, with a queue to get in stretching across the street. I wanted to see if he really was as I had remembered from the other day. I wasn't dissappointed. He was just as oddball as I thought, tho he had obviously been told not to tell the concentration camp joke again! With a person such as this it's a fine line between naive genius and freakshow. It's up to you to decide where you think he falls but I personally come down on the side of the former (just!). I have no idea if he has any recordings at all, and I suspect they would not capture the live performance that well.

The rest of the evening rather petered out - I tried to get in to see a band called +/- (plus/minus) but there was a long queue on a one in one out basis. I could hear what they were like and it didn't grab me so I moved on to another bar and watched a all girl trio of singers called Au Revoir Simone. They performed sweet sort of hamonic songs which were easy on the ear but to be honest had no real substance to them. I listened for a while and moved on again. I aimed to see a band called the Wildhearts from Newcastle but upon reaching the venue saw that their name had been replaced on the bill by someone else. I took this a sign and called it a night at about 1:30am.

So that's about it. I think there might be one or two places with gigs tomorrow but I will probably give them a miss. I have seen more live performances by bands doing their own material in the last few days than I have in the entire rest of my life so forgive me if I feel a little gigged out! I can now add SXSW festival to my travel CV and can heartily recommend it to any music lover.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Has anyone heard of Daniel Johnston? He's the guy on the left, a sort of Van Morrison type figure to look at, but with more mental health problems apparently. Check him out on wikipedia and you'll get the full picture. He was down at the SESAC stage at the convention centre yesterday. I was only there really to sit down and have a (very) late lunch, as I didn't surface til gone 1:30pm yesterday. These late nights are too much for an old man like me.

Anyway, I'm sitting there, watching a rapper from NY called Brother Ali, a 250lb albino Muslim (I quote from the write-up in the paper!), followed by a mix/scratch artist by the name of Kid Koala (a Chinese guy), as the area slowly begins to fill up. By the time the turntables had been dismantled the place was heaving. And this guy shambles on stage. He's obviously got the shakes as he has to hold the microphone with both hands to keep it anywhere near his mouth. He tells a couple of very questionable jokes while waiting for the band to tune up (including one about jews in concentration camps, and gives a nazi salute - I kid you not!) and then launches into a song about wanting to kill the devil! So far, so weird. But his voice is very hypnotic. Sometimes it's almost cracked but also sounds somehow absolutely right. It's very odd, but also sounds like I've heard it before. You know, in the way you hear a song and think, Hang on I know this, but you have never actually heard it before. So he does a few more numbers, including a cover of Band on the Run for good measure and it's over. I felt a bit sorry for the next guys on, who I saw last night anyway, called the Cinematics, doing an acoustic set. There was no way anyone could follow this guy. He was a complete show stopper.

So on to the evenings entertainment. I hadn't managed to find many must see bands so I was prepared to just go with the flow and see what happened. I started with a band called Cities, who I can hardly remember to be honest, which is why I should have done this write-up last night when I got in. The next band however were unforgettable. They were a keyboard duo in the mould of the Chemical Brothers, with the added visual of dressing in black and white chequered jumpsuits, with covers over their heads and only ski type goggles to see out by. I have been trying to upload the picture to give you the full impression but my wireless connection is playing silly buggers so I try again later. Edit: Now added but appears at the top for some reason.

After that I returned to the first bar I was in and caught the end of a set by canadian band called Rock City Plaza, who were rather folky, with accordions. I then waited in the same venue for the singer I mentioned a few days ago, Robyn Hitchcock. Thanks to wikipedia again I now know he was in a band called The Soft Boys back in the UK in the 70/80s. He did an acoustic set with another guitarist and a backing singer, finishing with a song entitled I want to kill you, Karl Rove, which went down a storm with the crowd, despite Texas being Dubya's back yard.

I then had a pit stop at the hotel and returned to the fray in time to see a band called Sloan. They hail from Toronto, and are a real throw back to the 70s and 80s AOR. Think Boston or Foreigner etc. They comprised 3 guitarist/singers, a drummer who also could play guitar and sing ( and did for 2 numbers, being replaced by the lead singer on drums) and a keyboard player. So they knew their onions. Real rock stuff, harmonised voices, posturing guitar playing etc. I loved it! I've a secret penchant for such cheesy stuff (I could admit to owning albums by Toto - but won't) so really enjoyed it. They even had the crowd singing along to their last number, so they must be reasonably well known over here.

The last band of the evening were called the Ettes, and were somewhat removed in style from the last band. They were a 3 piece, with female lead guitarist/singer and also a female drummer. (Incidentally I've seen more female performers in bands over here than one ever does back home). They played buzz saw style fast punky stuff a la Ramones. No harmonized voices or long guitar solos here, just loads of attitude and quick numbers fired at you out of a gun.

So there it is - 6 bands in a evening. You could do more, but there is a limit to how much you can take in at one time really. If you're not careful everything can just blend in together.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I've only just realised I can adjust the settings on this blog so that anyone can write comments without having to be a member. Which I have now done. Let the comments flow..........

Tonight turned out to a game of two halves. It started well with a band from Glasgow called The Cinematics, who were really a sort of Franz Ferdinand knockoff, but none the worse for it. They were followed by Wombatz, a Liverpool band, at another venue. Nothing very special to write home about there. Then a stab in the dark, based on nothing other than a throw away line in a newspaper interview, the wonderfully named New Violators. They hail from Norway and have a delightfully eccentrically dressed lead singer and produce powerful, melodic songs. Very listenable.
Then followed a bit of a hiatus as the band I wanted to see at 10pm were in such a small venue that it was too cramped to really be able to watch them comfortably. As there was nothing else I fancied close to hand, a quick pit stop back at the hotel was called for. Then followed The Dears from Montreal. Again, nothing to write home about here either. Nothing that grabbed the ear or the soul. I then decided to give Amy Winehouse a try (so to speak!). Having gained entry to the venue & located a good spot to watch from, it soon became apparent I was in the wrong place! A quick check of the all important schedule confirmed I had read the wrong line and was in the wrong club. Fortunately the correct one was just along the road and I was soon inside. The instruments were still being set up, so I thought that Ms Winehouse would be on shortly. Fashionably late so to speak. Again it soon became clear that the next band were definitely not Amy Winehouse. Instead we got a hard rock band in the Limp Bizkit mould, complete with psycho bass player who must be responsible for at least one dismembered body, judging by his 1000 yard vacant stare. He rather reminded me of the pot man from the Wheatsheaf - a sort of Cro-Magnon missing link! Having made a few inquiries, I discovered that the running order had changed and Amy would be on last at 1am. Eventually after what seemed an eternity of instrument setting up and sound checking, we were ready to go.
I wasn't really sure what to expect as I'm not really a great fan of her style of music, but I was really surprised. Her voice is amazing. She's another tiny person with a massive voice. She did about a 40 minute set, finishing predictably with her Rehab hit single. True to her bad girl image she sipped various drinks throughout the set. I doubt one could see her in such an intimate venue in the UK. It was no bigger than the Furnace (Level 3 for you oldies) in Swindon. The crowd seemed to like her anyway, and it would probably been even more packed had some people not left, not realising the running order had changed.
So there we have it. Another day and night of music gone. Two down, two to go!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The picture left shows 6th street which is one of the main bar/venue streets for sxsw. They close it off to traffic and as you can see it's busy all the time. Come midnight it will be jam packed with people hopping from venue to venue, trying to see as many different bands as possible.
Yesterday when I was wandering around trying to get my bearings I kept seeing signs on bars and restaurants saying "Best Brunch in town" & "Cheapest Brunch" and I wondered what the fascination with brunch was. I now understand! After a late night (or early morning) finish it's very unlikely that many people will require breakfast. I finally had mine at about midday. I then mosied on down to the Convention centre to the stage there and spent a good chunk of the afternoon watching a succession of different bands and performers there. It's a good place to see an eclectic mix of genres, with the added bonus of a cafe to keep the stomach happy, and plenty of chairs to sit on (a very important factor at my advanced age and general state of relaxation).
I had better record who I saw while the memories are still fresh: a female singer songwriter by the name of St Vincent (nothing really stood out for me), a large group called Oakley Hall who performed understated lo-fi pop songs, a rapper call Busdriver, who had great stage presence and energy, but totally incomprehensible lyrics (my application to be a High Court Judge is in the post), the commercially suicidally named Holy Fuck, who I only went back to watch because of their name, and who turned out to be a great mainly instrumental synth based band who also had a guitarist and drummer. They played really fast stuff that I really enjoyed. Then came Stars of Track and Field (who I may have heard of before, I'm not sure) who were very good as well - fast guitar based songs with good hooks, and finally, just before I left, Martha Wainwright (any relation to Rufus? I don't know), another acoustic singer songwriter, with no backing band, who attracted a large crowd.
I also spent a bit of time wandering around the Trade Show part of the Convention centre - loads of stands with people either promoting bands from their particular region or country (there were stands from UK, Australia, New Zealand & Canada, among others), who all gave away free CD samplers of the bands they had at the festival. There were also music industry stands - everything from instruments and gear to CD recording companies, and loads of websites that will manage your material and sell it online for you (be warned Smyth, I've got loads of ideas for you to think about!). Generally a real freeby fest. I now have enough CDs of unknown bands to keep me interested for months.
It really is amazing how many bands are here - as well as the official venues (there are 1300 official bands) there are other bars and places having their own lineups of artists, mostly local or US bands, and a lot of the venues have afternoon shows as well - you could watch non-stop music from about 12 midday until 2am the next morning if you so desired. Obviously the quality can leave a bit to be desired in the afternoon, but the quantity is still impressive.
While I was watching and listening this afternoon I managed to find a couple of free papers with all the listings in, and reviews of a lot of the bands, so tonight I have a bit better idea of what's on where and when so I should be able to hop between venues a bit more. As the bands have to take down their gear and the new one has to set up and tune up, there tends to be a reasonable gap between acts so it's quite possible to nip out, see a bit of someone else and return to the first bar in time to see the next act you wanted to see. Maximising your viewing capacity. Among the bands/artists I will try and see tonight are Thomas Dolby (mainly because I heard a rumour when I was a kid that he went to my old school), Amy Winehouse, Badly Drawn Boy, Albert Hammond jr (he of the Strokes) and The Fratellis. I also have a list of unknowns that sounded like stuff I might like as well.
Just to annoy Faz, as he wasn't able to come, I should point out that Ian McLagan of the Small Faces lives out here now and has been performing stuff of theirs, and was joined on stage by Pete Townshend last night as well (he's here as a keynote speaker). Also Donovan (yes the original one off the 60's) was here as well playing in a Church hall of all places opposite my hotel. I saw the name but assumed it was someone else. I saw the review today that said he saw so many canes and crutches among the audience that he thought it could be a faith healing service!
Anyway that's enough for now. A shower and change of clothes & I will be ready for the fray. More later - or should I say tomorrow?

It's about 2:30 in the morning and I've just got in from the night's entertainment. I have to put some of my thoughts and memories down now or I'll have forgotten most of them by tomorrow (or today as it is now). I have to say that I was a bit unsure as to whether this trip would be a bit of a bust or not. It was a bit of a shot in the dark really. So it is really gratifying to be able to report that has been GREAT FUN! I've seen about 8-10 different bands or acts so far, from acts I've never heard of, to ones that I have, and really like already, such as Razorlight who played the NME event. I guess that they are not as big over here as they are back home as you would never be able to see them in such a small venue in England. Other people I've seen are the Automatic (just caught the end of their set), Jamie T and the Bravery (pictured).
I also saw a strange performance down at the stage at the convention centre this afternoon. The schedule said Robyn Hitchcock, so I was expecting a female singer/songwriter type. Instead I got a male 60's hippy throwback, who proceeded to perform accoustic versions of songs from the sixties and seventies, while, in between numbers, interviewing a guy by the name of Joe Boyd, who was some sort of producer in the sixties and worked with people such as Bob Dylan (he was there when Dylan did his famous electric performance), Pink Floyd, The Incredible String Band, Nick Drake etc. It doesn't sound much on paper, but in the flesh it was rivetting. These guys must be better known than I would credit because the auditorium was packed. Perhaps the better musically educated (Faz/Pug/Moz?) can enlighten me?
I also saw on the same bill a band from London called Scanners, a fourpiece, with 2 guys and 2 girls. One of the girls was the singer and she (and they) were very good. As a result I went and saw their set in the evening as well. Some catchy numbers, lots of attitude and a good looking female singer. Could go far? You heard it here first.
A quick point - as a well known non-drinker I am often found ordering a diet coke (other brands are available) from the bar. In 2 separate venues tonight the bar tender wouldn't let me pay for it on the grounds it was only a diet coke and had no alcohol in it. It seems that in the land of the unfettered profit, there is a heart after all. Indeed in all my years buying the same drinks in the UK I have NEVER been given a free one! So perhaps a little less of the sense of superiority over the Septics could be in order? OK, rant over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

As I write this I am looking out over the grey Austin Downtown skyline, as shown in the picture on the left. In fact I'm feeling quite at home as the conditions are suitably English - grey, a bit damp, but not cold. What you see in the picture is 6th and 7th streets, the epicentre for the SXSW music festival. 6th street especially is lined with bars and venues, all of which come 6pm will be blasting out music at high volume. In fact I can hear music already (it's about lunchtime) even up on the 12th floor of my hotel! There are venues all over town as well, but I'm pretty much in the centre of things here in my hotel and can easily walk (at my usual fast pace) to everywhere I need to go.
I arrived in Austin last night (Tuesday) at about 11pm. I felt like I had been on the road for ever! I left Swindon at 8pm on Sunday, and despite a night at the Stansted Hilton, and a night at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, I hadn't had a great deal of sleep.The airport was chocka with people arriving for sxsw - fans, bands, music industry types. I was lucky in that the chap I was sitting next to on the plane was getting picked up at the airport by his girlfriend and very kindly offered me a lift to my hotel as he lived nearby. So I got a bit of a short guided tour from some locals. I finally fell into bed at about 12:30am.
After a solid night's sleep that has put paid to the jetlag (I hope),this morning I went down to the Convention Centre and picked up my registration badge, which has to be worn on a lanyard around the neck to gain entry to all the venues. Everything was a bit chaotic, but after an hour or so of queuing the not-at-all inexpensive badge was mine. It came with a goody bag of stuff, mainly promotional stuff for bands, and venues, but also some cds and oddments, including 2 condoms! I suppose this is a music bash after all. Sex & Drugs & Rock'n'Roll and all that. I'll stick to the rock'n'roll. (For now anyway...............)
I think I'll head down towards the convention centre as there's a stage there with bands all afternoon, get some lunch, and try and work out which venues I'd like to take in this evening, and which bands are must-see items. Apparently most places will be open until 2am so it could be a late one!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

End of tour analysis.

The worst thing we could do now is do the usual England media inspired new broom approach. I guess the media back home are calling for Fletcher's head (as usual with any England coach in any sport who fails to win). I think this would be stupid. When you look dispassionately at what has occurred several things come to mind.
Firstly this is a very good Aussie team. No, make that a great Aussie team. In terms of how they dominate their sport they are up there with the West Indies from 1975-95, the Brazilian football team of the early 1970's and the current All Black rugby team. To give you some idea of the amount of experience in the side that just beat us, Moz and I were watching a rerun of the Oval Ashes test in 2001 on TV (it was raining in the S.Africa vs India game) last night.Of that Aussie side, 8 played in this series - Langer, Hayden,Ponting,Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath and Lee. Only the Waugh twins have retired and Gillespie is still on the fringes of the team. That's over 5 years ago. No-one from the England side was still around for this series. Tufnell was still playing for God's sake! When you have that sort of continuity you have a massive body of experience to draw on.

Secondly, this series was closer than the 5-0 scoreline would suggest. Just as 2005 could have been 4-1 to Australia, this series could have been 3-1 to the Aussies or even at a pinch 2-2. In every test bar Brisbane there has been a point at which the test was right in the balance. And each time some Aussie player stood up and produced a wicket or innings when required. We didn't. That has been the difference. Make no bones about it, we competed in this series, just not for long enough in each test to force the Aussies into errors.
Thirdly, despite all the naysayers England are still 2nd in the Test rankings, slightly above the pack chasing Australia. No-one else has looked remotely like challenging them - they are on a run of 10 or 11 consecutive wins since the Ashes defeat in 2005. They have just beaten S Africa home and away. The last team to manage a series draw here in Oz was India in 2003, when they had their very powerful batting lineup at full strength and (more crucially) both McGrath and Warne were unavailable through injury and a ban. That is what faces the Aussies now those two are gone. The inability to bowl teams out in pretty much any conditions.
Fourthly, England's team is young. Of the current lineup all should be available for the 2009 Ashes series in England. A good proportion of them are in their early to mid twenties. Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Anderson, Madmood, Panesar are all young and learning. This will have been a tough time for them all but they SHOULD take something from this defeat. It should give them the hunger to improve, give them a standard to aspire to. Indeed if I were England coach I would be looking at those young players for the signs that it has hurt them and that they want to improve. Those would be the ones I would want to keep. Anyone who was prepared to think that the status quo would be good enough, as you don't play Australia all the time, would be out on his ear. There must be a hunger to win.
Finally, as good as this Aussie team is, it's finished. Four members have gone this series - Martyn, Langer, Warne and McGrath. Before the next Ashes series both Hayden and Gilchrist will have gone too. As good as Ponting and Hussey are they will not be able to carry the batting lineup totally themselves. No-one could possibly repeat what Gilchrist has done at number 7. It's unprecedented to have a wicket keeper who can average 50 in Test cricket. As for Warne and McGrath, what more can be said. Over 1200 test wickets between them. Even if you found two players with equal talent they would take time to bed in. And you are not going to get replacements, especially for Warne. He is a once in a lifetime, even century, kind of player. So the Australian side faces a tough few years of retrenchment. You can see how tough it will be by the manic insistence in the Aussie press that everything will be alright and no-one need to panic. Everything will continue as normal. Well, I don't buy it. Right now I would rather be in England's shoes. Yes we are low, but the path is upwards. The Australians are standing on the edge of a high cliff looking into the abyss, with no idea how far the bottom is away. In 10 months time, when they play their next test series, they will have to step off that cliff and see what occurs. I for one shall be watching with interest.