Max Key is touring the country to promote his new single ‘All The Way’. The Spinoff sent known recluse Madeleine Chapman along for the full VIP experience.
“You paid to be here? That’s crazy.”
The young man laughed as I hurriedly explained that no, I hadn’t paid $59 for a VIP ticket to Max Key’s DJ gig, my work had. It didn’t matter to him, the damage was done.
“All you had to say was ‘I’ll hook up with you’.”
I pondered the idea as the young man kept talking. Could I have saved my work $120 by simply suggesting a hook up with Max Key? Had anyone else gotten into the VIP section using that method? What did I have to say to get some free drinks? The man was still chatting as I zoned back in, something about how he went to school with Max but had never heard his music. He was openly keen on getting his name in this article but I’m sorry to say that I’ve forgotten it, along with a sizable portion of the night’s events.
What I do remember is that I didn’t want to go. My preference is to not go anywhere, full stop, but especially not a DJ set, and especially not as a VIP. Unfortunately, my preferences were not a concern for my boss, who happily paid for two tickets so that I could take a friend along on what would turn out to be the longest, worst episode of Entourage I’ve ever seen.
On Wednesday I asked my friend Kathleen if she would come to the gig with me. It’s the most I’ve ever asked of a friend and, in a move that genuinely surprised me, she said yes. We both knew we couldn’t go sober so we embraced the spirit of O Week by pre-gaming at our flat and leaving late for the 10pm show (as stated on the ticket).
Turns out we’re very old because we arrived shortly after 10 and there was no one there. That’s not an exaggeration, there was literally no one there. Nothing says ‘I spent real money to be here’ like showing up before the opening act.
We got some drinks, sat down in what was definitely not the VIP section, and waited for something, anything, to happen. After a little while, we spotted a red velvet rope across the room and realised that was where we, the Very Important People, were supposed to be. Ten minutes later and we were sitting in virtually the same seats, only this time we had wristbands on. Our concierge for the night introduced himself and told us that we could order drinks through him “to avoid the big lines”. We looked around at the deserted bar and thanked him for his service.
We had been promised the chance to “meet and party with Max Key” but at 11 o’clock he was still nowhere to be found. Instead, I talked to a fellow VIP who was very secretive about why and how he was there. When I asked him if he had paid for his ticket, he said “I paid a lot of money to be here.” When I asked if that meant paying for a ticket, he said “No, I bought a lot of drinks and paid a lot of money to be here.” Then another man came over, said “no more interviews” and that was that.
Later on in the night, the man who paid a lot of money to be there took Kathleen’s phone from her and asked if it was bugged, checked that she wasn’t recording anything, then gave it back. In my notes on my phone, there’s a quote: “I feel like you don’t understand my commitment to North Korea. We do what we have to do.” I don’t remember writing it. Kathleen doesn’t remember writing it. But it’s there, right above “Friend’s phone got confiscated.”
By the time Max Key finally showed up at midnight, I had hounded our concierge for our promised free merch and was shamelessly wearing my bandana with ‘Max Key’ embroidered on it. I’d also asked for our signed laminate, whatever that is, and he’d looked confused and walked away. Despite the life and times of Max Key being well-documented, I was starting to wonder if they’d planned on anyone actually buying the VIP package.
Max Key had a lot of friends who acted as his security. I know this because I asked all of them. I wasn’t even interested in whether they were friends or employees, I was simply trying to find a single person in the VIP section who had actually paid to be there. I found none. Who I did find was Lucy Zee from The Wireless who had been sent on the exact same mission as me. We were the only people up in the roped section who hadn’t worked with Max Key in some capacity, and boy were they aware of it. Every conversation was interrupted by someone saying “she’s media” or “no interviews” or “those drinks weren’t for you.” Frankly, I don’t know what they’d all have done if we weren’t there.
When I eventually got my photo and time with the big star himself, I was fuming about his tardiness. It got worse when he told me he wasn’t going on till 1am. I had been trying to figure out how to ask him if he’d read my story about us having the same look and ended up going with “HEYIWROTEABOUTHOWWELOOKTHESAMEDIDYOUSEEIT?” He nodded, “On the Spinoff? Yeah. It was kinda funny. I saw the photo on Twitter.” In that moment I noticed he was wearing a grey bandana. Earlier that day I had picked out a bandana at Look Sharp for the gig, being very careful not to get one I thought he’d wear. I’d worn it jokingly to the club but then swapped it out for the crazy embroidered one. The bandana I’d picked was the same grey. When would it end.
I asked him if he minded the haters and the bad press. “No, I know I’m a good person so I just ignore it.” Can I ask two important questions? “On or off the record?” On. “You can ask but I might not answer.” Why is your video just a woman walking away from the camera?
Right on cue a man appeared and shooed me away, saying “he doesn’t want to answer these questions, he’s here for a good time”, which was probably lucky because I hadn’t thought of a second question yet.
The next time I walked past him I hurriedly asked who he would have voted for in the US election. He just shook his head. “I’m not answering any of your questions.”
Back in the booth, I counted all the mosquito bites on my legs (8) and blamed all of my misfortunes on Max Key and my boss. Then Kathleen excitedly told me to turn around. Behind the booth, hidden from sight, Max was bent over something. One of his security friends told us he was nervous about the gig and throwing up. I was doubtful and started to raise my phone which was quickly pushed down and we were told to stop looking.
During his set, I spoke to the woman who featured in his latest video walking away from the camera. When I asked about it, her friend told her to say she wasn’t in it, right after she’d just said she was. Then I spoke to an American man who said it was his job to “make Max Key great”. And had he done his job? Was Max Key great? “No,” he said, then added “not yet.” We spoke for either five minutes or three hours but I remember very little of what he said besides something about the cocaine being “premium” and telling yet another interrupting security friend that yes, he knew I was media.
By the time we left the club it was after 3am and I had left behind our goodie bags with the poster and free download cards, but I didn’t care. I’d had the full Max Key experience and it was about as ridiculous as I imagined it would be. Going through my drunken notes about the event, one of the first quotes I recorded was from a security friend of his. “He’s just trying to make it like everyone else.” Yes he is. He’s trying very hard.
The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and carry out more investigations. Or pay $8 a month and get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel!
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.