As a throwback to my first year at Parachute (2004) I found myself travelling to Hamilton on the morning of the event – this time, however, I was not by myself, having caught a ride with Nat Young, a friend of mine, and co-media representative. What happened? Well, here goes …

7.53am: The journey is about to begin! We’re pulling out of Gull service station in south Whangarei, and heading south. Nat says “Auckland is straight ahead, right?” (since we made it back to Whangarei safely, I cut out the part of this article which actually doubled as my Last Will and Testament)

8.09am: Just got my first call of the weekend from my Mum! Apparently she was just checking she had the right mobile number for me. Sure Mum … I believe you.

8.50am: Sometimes a breather at Wellsford is a good thing. Especially when you’ve been listening to Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson and Hanson the whole way down.

9.52am: Nat spots a Hamilton sign on the motorway and gets excited because it’s the first one she has seen on this trip. Slightly more disconcerting is her revelation that she has never driven further south than Auckland before (as I mentioned, I cut the part of this article that doubled as my Last Will and Testament when we got back to Whangarei).

(Added 10/03/2006: Even more frightening was a revelation earlier this week that she had actually never driven further south than Ruakaka before. Did I mention how frightened I should’ve been but wasn’t? Why do you think it took 3 days to put this up here?!)

11.07am: A quick side-trip to Candyland, near Hamilton, ends up with Nat taking the turnoff at around 90kph, after we didn’t spot the sign till the last second. My heart is still beating 200 times a minute when we pull into the Candyland car park.

11.21am: Slightly disappointed with the Candyland setup – way more land than candy. Plus, they didn’t have any of my favourite chocolate, like Minstrels … which led to this exchange:

Me: “Do you have any English chocolate, like Minstrels?”

Girl at Counter: “This is a New Zealand candy store.”

Me: “But Minstrels are the best!”

Girl at Counter: [uncaring pause] “This is a New Zealand candy store.”

12.25pm: Finally arrived at the $2-per-day parking at Gate 2. Our walking distance? Around 200 metres. Needless to say I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

4.37pm: Bit of a gap as I register, get to our tent site (which is awesome) and get used to the setup – but by 4.30pm I was ready to start checking out some bands! First on the list (literally) was Eight Orange Orchard, a Kiwi ska band in the mould of Salmonella Dub. Eight Orange Orchard were actually pretty good, particularly their singer, who had amazing stage presence, but it was obvious that they were young (members would have ranged from about 16-18 years old).

But in saying that, give them some time to grow and they could be a great live band. My favourite thing about them though? The singer seemed like she was out of place, and would prefer singing in a punk or metal band or something, which made for some unintentional comedy.

8.59pm: First shock of the weekend goes to My Life Story. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed these guys’ live show this time around. While I’m not too familiar with any of their songs, they definitely have grown a lot since I last saw them, and have grown into pretty good showmen, worthy of their spot on Mainstage.

9.11pm: Well, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty impressed by the Virtual MC for the evening – instead of having a couple of goobers come out, do some giveaways and tell people what’s going on, they have a video play between acts and show people what has been going on, then have the goobers come out and only do the giveaways and introductions. Plus, the turnaround for the video is good – they’re showing footage that I saw them filming earlier today! I feel strangely proud of myself!

9.30pm: Australian hardcore act The Valley are currently on their second song – the singer seems possessed, sounding at times like Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, and sometimes like Max Cavalera from Sepultura and Soulfly. Unfortunately neither of those guises work. To make matters worse, I haven’t understood a single word he has said up to this point.

9.32pm: Okay, I’m pretty sure he just said ‘Thank You’ between songs. It appears he actually does speak English!

9.43pm: The Valley’s singer thanks his Mum for flying over from Australia to watch him perform. Man, I wish my Mum would fly overseas to watch me sing songs no-one can understand.

Actually, all things considered, this was a pretty disappointing performance, with The Valley taking the honour of most disappointing band of the weekend, especially since I was hoping they would be one of the highlights of the weekend. Not many of their songs were very good, and they were really just too fast and too heavy. Plus, its never a good thing when your singer is just growling and yelling into a microphone, but not making any sense whatsoever.

10.34pm: After playing second fiddle for several years at Parachute, since their debut on the Debut stage, Mumsdollar finally get a crack at the Mainstage at one of the premier time slots – and they didn’t disappoint. If one thing was obvious about these guys this time around, it would be that they have worked hard on their live show since last year, and put a bigger focus on showmanship. Plus, exciting times since they have just filmed a video for their song My Biography. Watch this band in 2006, because they are likely to hit the big time.

… and with that, Friday was all finished. Tomorrow morning brings the media briefing, as well as interviews with Reuben Morgan, Day of Fire and Mumsdollar, and performances from Rapture Ruckus, Anberlin and Day of Fire. For more, check out my running diary of Parachute Saturday, available tomorrow!