Land gone wild

Somewhere near the side of Te Hutewai Road in Raglan possibly still lies the remnants of a C90 cassette tape with a dub of the Smiths self-titled debut on one side, and their second album, “Meat is Murder”, on the other.

See, about three years ago I’d gone for a drive around Mt Karioi. I couldn’t get any radio stations on my Japanese car radio, so I played the only tape I had in my car at the time. It had been my only source of in-car entertainment for a few days at least, and I was getting pretty sick of it. “It’s time the tale were told,” Morrissey warbled, “of how you took a ch-” Before he had a chance to complete his introductory warble, I pressed eject, yanked the tape out, wound down the window and threw it out, cast into the wilderness.

The road around Mt Karioi is kind of scary. The bit along the coast is a perfect tourist road, sealed, wide and safe, but eventually the road turns from the coast and curves around the volcano and starts to become a bit little wild. The road narrows and the seal ends, making the journey a bumpy one.

I didn’t really know where I was going, but I knew that if I got horribly lost, I could at least turn around and go back the way I came.

The road continued around the mountain’s base for a while, then suddenly, strangely, the road became wide and sealed; a brief return to civilisation before the wild metal road returned.

Eventually I turned on to Te Hutewai Road, disposed of the Smiths tape, quickly found myself back on sealed road, and soon enough I emerged in the middle of Raglan West.

I relate this tale because Te Hutewai Road is near where the millionaire liquor baron fellow was found with his passenger in his crashed helicopter last night.

I spent the weekend in Raggiz and most of the time there were planes and helicopters flying overhead after having taken off from the Raglan airstrip. They all seemed to be flying away from the airstrip and heading north and inland (from news reports, it seems they were looking near Mt Pirongia), but it appears that yesterday they returned to search around Mt Karioi.

But the strange thing is that the crashed chopper was found so close to Raglan town. It didn’t go down in the middle of nowhere – it was a quick drive from a populated part of Raglan. But yet few people reportedly saw or heard the helicopter as it flew by.

But that’s what I reckon makes New Zealand so interesting. There are parts of the country that are wild or barely tamed; parts where driving a car along a road on a sunny summer day can seem a little scary; parts where a helicopter can crash not too far from a populated area and barely anyone notices.

The Lady in the Second-Hand Shop and the Man Who Looks Like the Guy from that Garden Show

A One-Act Play

The play is set in a second-hand shop in a small New Zealand coastal town. It’s a long weekend, so the town is full of visitors. One such visitor is MAN. He has come into the second-hand shop and has spotted an item he wishes to purchase (a driftwood sculpture clock, if you must know). He is attempting to negotiate a price with the shop LADY, but first he must run the gauntlet of conversation with her.

MAN: Hey, um, how much would that driftwood clock be?

LADY: Oh, that’s a nice one.

MAN: Yes, I like it.

LADY: Hey, you remind me of someone.

MAN: Oh yeah?

LADY: Who is it?

MAN: I dunno.

LADY: Oh, it’s that fulla from that TV show.

MAN: Well, I’m not on a TV show.

LADY: Jim! That Jim who’s on that TV show where they fix up people’s gardens.

MAN: Oh, really? I don’t think I’ve seen that one.

LADY: Now, what’s his last name?

MAN: I dunno.

LADY: He’s married to that Mary lady.

MAN: Well, I’m married to Sharon, so it’s not me.

LADY: Oh well. I just thought you might have known.

MAN: Nope.

LADY: We get all sorts of famous people in here. A couple of weeks ago we had that, ah, that Dom – Dom from New Zealand Idol.

MAN: Oh, is he the runner-up?

LADY: No, no, Dominic. He was the compere. He was in here.

MAN: That runner-up – he’s doing quite well.

LADY: Oh chroo, chroo.

MAN: Yeah, I was surprised he didn’t win.

LADY: Now, is he a Maori or an Islander?

MAN: Ah…

LADY: I saw him on TV, but he hasn’t been in here.

MAN: So, how much did you say that clock was?

LADY: Oh, that’s not for sale.

FIN

Happy, New, Yeah.

The part of main street of Raglan had been closed off, turning the intersection of Bow Street and Wainui Road into a giant town square. The Raglan Hotel, at the centre of it all, shone its light over the streets, and provided the locals and visiting revellers with plenty of booze.

There was a stage set up down Wainui Road. The Hollow Grinders were playing when I arrived. Most of the audience were standing back from the stage, but there was a row of small children sitting along the front of the stage.

At the front left of the stage was a young lady dancing in front of the stage. She had the hugest arse I’ve ever seen. Ever. Imagine an overweight chick wearing a pair of stretch bootleg hipster pants and a stretch singlet that’s ridden up above her hips. Ok, now with that image, imagine what she’d look like if she’d had an inflatable ring pool toy implanted under the skin around her hips. Try and imagine how huge this would make her arse. Her bum stuck out so much that she could have put a row of beer bottles on it.

She had one dancing technique – she would put one or both of her hands up and gyrate her hips. Around and around her enormous bum rotated while her huge upper arms wobbled in unison. She seemed to only be able to manage about 30 seconds of dancing before she had to stop and rest, but it was enough to make people applaud. Conversations stopped, a few people threw coins in her directions, and other people joined her in front of the stage and danced.

The next band was called Slide, or something like that. They consisted of a drummer (who was also the evening’s organiser), a bass players and a didgeridoo/keyboard/saxophone player. They had formed the day before. They played three songs. The first two were jams, about eight minutes long each. Then they played a shorter song, that was about five minutes long. Actually, there may have been another song somewhere in there. Then the drummer/organiser made a speech thanking all the sponsors. While he was doing that, 11.59 became 00.00. A bit later he checked his watch and said happy new year and told everyone to have a party, as he apparently hadn’t been able to organise one himself. It was really disappointing. I mean, it’s not like there’s a shortage of good local bands who could have played there.

A few fireworks were let off, drunken people wandered the streets. Walking back to the car I heard a girl say, “Oh my God! I’m going to be 24 this year!”

“Ha,” I said to my brother. “I’m going to be 30!”

Beach Day Out

I went to the Beach Day Out concert in Raglan. It was held on the playing fields at Raglan Area School. This might not sound very impressive, but the fields are on a finger of land that juts out into the estuary, with splendid views of the surrounding water and hills. Much more grand and scenic than, say, Ericson Stadium.

I wasn’t sure when it was starting, so I showed up a bit late and ended up missing some local Raglan band that was the opening act, and then the WBC. But I did catch up with Stu and got plenty of tales from the road.

The first band I saw was Augustino. They never seem to impress me much when I see them in music videos (except for the “Into the Grain” video, which is brilliant), but live they always come across as a dirty ol’ rock band. Even their slower songs, which have never really done much for me, today ended up dragging me along with them.

Next was Goldenhorse. I’m not a huge Goldenhorse fan. I don’t like them, I don’t hate them. They’re just this other band that other people like. But they played “Wake Up Brother”, and I like that song, so I was happy. (P.S. Ben King has a big arse, a la Lopez.)

Brooke Fraser (or Brooke Frasier, as the Edge DJ called her) was playing with Eight being her backing band. She looked very ordinary on stage with a big jacket (borrowed from Augustino, she said), and sunglasses. Her songs, which all seemed to be centered around her voice and her acoustic guitar, felt like they were dragging the atmosphere into a mellow, sincere, girly spiral of niceness. I found myself wishing that someone, anyone, would come on stage with an electric guitar and up the tempo a little. Oh, but her two singles went off and saved her set from sinking into acoustic quicksand.

Pretty boy pop-rock band Zep were next. I was ready to dismiss them as being a pretty boy pop-rock band, but then they started playing and were charming (and by that I actually mean charming, not disgusting). Not only that, but they managed to do what few punk bands are capable of doing these days – they pissed off audience members just by being themselves. A guy standing near me kept muttering about how Zed were faggots and how he was going to smash them. Yes, it’s fun to hate bands who are better looking and more successful than you. I was surprised at how their older songs like “Daisy” and “Glorafilia” now have a darker, more menacing tone. “Renegade Fighter” was dedicated to New Zealand bands, which was a nice touch. They finished their set with a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. It was unexpectedly touching, as if there really was a feeling of being a creep.

Next was Nesian Mystik. Most of their set was really clunky. They didn’t seem to do any songs longer than a minute. Tunes would seem to suddenly stop short, with the guys pacing around the stage like they were impatiently filling in time. Their set plunged to new depths with another short song – a horrible version of “Ten guitars”. But then, suddenly, unexpectedly, they stopped sucking. Along came “Unity”, and then a massive, magnificent “It’s On”, which got the crowd going.

Stu had warned me about Scribe. He’s so popular right now that when the Beach Day Out tour bus would leave the various concert venues, it would have to slowly drive away because of all the teenage girls hanging around it. Stu also revealed that the bands would get on the piss and various people would start drunkenly reciting Scribe lyrics, proving for sure that not many, if any, dudes can roll like Scribe.

Scribe slunk on stage, simultaneously anonymous in his cap, hoodie and casual clothing not unlike most of the audience, but also instantly recognisable as Scribe, huge New Zealand hip hop star. He has charisma. Even though it was just him, P Money, (and a cool backing track, complete with backing vocals), he seemed to be bigger than just one guy and a microphone. Interestingly, when he performed “Stand Up”, he self-censored it, saying “New Zealand hip hop, stand the wheeeee! up”. Of course, the audience knew the original lyrics and loudly sang along.

I had a good time. There was a good selection of bands, a cool crowd, a lovely location, fine weather, and a bloody good time. Chur.

En route

Aqua Velvet has proven itself to be not only the best live venue in Raglan, but the best live venue for people in Hamilton. It’s fun for Hamilton gig-goers to venture over the hills and spending some time in Raglan.

Sadly tonight’s gig at Aqua Velvet will be the last for a while. There have been all sorts of noise complaints. It’s not a simple matter of Aqua Velvet playing too loud music. There’s all sorts of politics and money coming into play, and it’s meant that Aqua Velvet have to shut up or lose their liquor license.

Fortunately it was a really good gig: Bob Log III supported by The Shrugs.

I was a bit late (I need to work on my gig-going timing) and only saw a handful of Shrugs songs, but they ended with “Mustang Song” which is one of my favourites. It starts off slow and mellow, then builds into a rockin’ guitar explosion.

Bob Log III is a one-man blues band from Tucson, Arizona. Interestingly enough, he’s the third one-man band I’ve seen at Aqua Velvet this year, Pumice and Nodrog being the two others. Bob Log sits down wearing a studded shiny jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet. The helmet has a telephone receiver attached to it which is what he sings into. This set up allows him to focus on his guitar and his killer blues playing.

Aqua Velvet, with the windows and doors closed to keep the sound in, was getting hot in therre, and the packed venue soon became all sweaty, which was just what was needed. Bob did mean things with his guitar and did please the crowd with his scorchin’ guitar skills. I liked his styles so much I bought his CD.

Oh, I should mention the naughty stuff. Bob Log III has two tricks. One involves getting to girls from the audience to sit on his knee while he plays. He managed to get two ladies to participate. All the guys in the audience moved forward to take a look at the special lap dance.

Bob’s other trick – and he has t-shirts dedicated to this – is the boob scotch. This is where he gets a lovely young lady to dip her boobie in a glass of scotch on the rocks. He reckons it tastes better. After the show (and he had changed into a shirt and jeans and had transformed into an ordinary looking, really nice, friendly guy) I asked him what his success rate was.

While a number of chicks gravitated to the front of the stage, no one did the boob scotch at Raglan, but he’d been lucky the night before in Auckland with one chick who did double boobing with two glasses. In America, he has a fairly high success rate. I think he said only four towns where he’s toured have resulted in no boob scotching. He said he knew which towns they were and planned on going back to try again.

In Europe I think he only got about a quarter of the gigs with a boob scotch, and in Japan no one would do it. He said the Japanese were too nice. Instead they’d just hold the glass up against their chest. That’s as good as it gets there.

The problem with doing the boob scotch is that there’s always going to be a bunch of people with digital cameras, so you’d home from the gig and find your boobs all over the internet. Yeah, like that.

Y’know, with the current body part of choice in popular music being the big ol’ butt, it’s nice to find a musician who still likes boobs.

Drive

I drove past three car accidents today. The first was just past Ngaruawahia, where a car had driven into a ditch. A tow truck was trying to get in a safe position to be able to tow it out.

Then later on I came down the big hills on the way to Raglan, and there were two cars who had appeared to have hit each other almost head-on. One was totally smashed up in the front, the other was smashed at the front on the right side. There are lots of windy roads on the way to Raglan. People who are used to the smoothness of motorway driving don’t get that you really have to slow down when you go around a tight corner. So I’m guessing that someone took a corner too fast, cut across into the other lane and hit a car coming in the opposite direction. That accident was so recent that no emergency vehicles had arrived yet. The ambulance passed me further long the road.

Then a few hours after that I hooned out to Manu Bay and back. On that road there’s a chicaney corner that’s really hard to drive around. Not only is it a tight hairpin turn, but it’s also up (or down) a hill. The recommended speed is 25 km/h. On the way up it I remember thinking that it’d really suck to get stuck in a ditch like the previous car had. Minutes later on the way back a car had taken that corner too fast and had driving into the inner edge of the bend and was stuck in the ditch. The passengers of the car appeared to be drunk teenagers. Maybe the driver was too.

I saw the Hollow Grinders and Nodrog play at Aqua Velvet. It was a cold night and hardly anyone showed up, but it was a fun show. The ‘Grinders’ set list was written in biro, and no one could actually read it, so they gave it to a guy in the audience and got him to yell out the song titles. Later in the show, Otis observed that there were only three people in the audience he didn’t personally know, so he introduced himself. Instead of having a door charge, they put a plastic fireman’s had in front of the stage and invited people to give a koha (that’s Maori for “gold coin donation”). I gave them 5 cents, but felt guilty and biffed in a $5 note later.

Earlier in the evening my parents were reminiscing about when you could drive from Hamilton to Auckland and back on $2 petrol. I think I spent about $32 getting my car filled up today. Oh yes, and the new bit of road from south of Meremere to north of Huntly is open now. Two smooth lanes in each direction, and it totally bypasses Ohinewai. Looking across at the old windy two lane road, it seems amazing that it was ever deemed worthy of being State Highway 1.

Pantaloons

I was distracted. A shitty movie on TV and a chatroom discussion on the pronunciation of the “wh” sound in Maori made me a little late for the Hollow Grinders and All Torn Up gig. So late that I paid to get in, went to the bar, bought a beer and the Grinders finished their last song. But it was really cool running across Wainui Road towards Aqua Velvet with the beginning of that song playing. All Torn Up were fun. The audience seemed to be mostly locals. Oh, and the door stamp smudged purple ink onto my t-shirt.

After the show I was standing out on the footpath talking with Dirk Thrust and another fellow Dirk knew said that Raglan was a healing place. A friend of his had come out here and gone in the surf and cried. I think there may have been a spiritual church in the equation too. But Raglan doesn’t specifically heal me. If I drink the water I get sick.

Where are my seduction pants?

The Grinders in Raggiz

I drove to Raglan and saw The Hollow Grinders play at Aqua Velvet.

Pumice was the support act. I’m not sure if Pumice is always just Stefan Neville, but tonight it was. He played drums, a guitar, sometimes keyboards and various other stuff that made interesting noises.

I could see that there were a few people coming in and immediately thinking “what the fuck?”. Someone tried heckling him, but it didn’t work because he was really, really good. He played sitting behind the drum kit, and would intensely play, then look up at the end of each song and look happy that people were applauding. He did a really nice version of “Sunshine on Leith”.

But the exciting thing is Pumice is one of the bands playing support for the Breeders concert. I’m guessing he’ll be on before the Brunettes. It’s hard to guess what the audience reaction will be, but I suspect it might be like when the Shrugs opened for the Datsuns at the St James. I was talking to StfnNvll after the show and said I was planning on going to the Breeders show. He said he was a bit nervous because all he really knew of them was “Cannonball”. Ha!

Hey, the Hollow Grinders were great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hollow Grinders show as good as this one. The sound was good, and the atmosphere was as well. There were plenty of people dancing (not just the Hamilton fans). I think it might have worked because it makes sense for a band that plays surf instrumental to be playing near one of the best surf beaches in the world. There’s even a few songs about Raglan-related surf stuff.

I had a couple of beers, I danced along, I had a great time.

Pink? Punk?

Apparently when Molasses was sold and became Aqua Velvet, none of the staff was kept. So the head coffee guy started his own coffee place. It’s located down the alley between Right Up My Alley and the ever-excellent GAg. There’s no menu board, just an espresso machine. So I went up there and ordered a takeaway latte and – oh my God – it was made in a normal-sized latte cup, not the usual big-ass bowl o’ latte that someone has become the way that lattes are served in New Zealand. There was no price list and the dude said I should just pay whatever I think a latte is worth. I gave him $2.50, but in retrospect I think I should have given him $3.00. It was a good latte.

I’m going to Hammo for New Years. There’s going to be a barbecue and beers, which is a good way to celebrate. Damn, I’ve spent the last month being all like “OMG! I will be spending New Years Eve on my own! No one loves me!!!” etc. So now I can officially tell myself to STFU.

I still haven’t figured out how to not scare guys, but I’m working on it. More pink, perhaps?

To the bridge

One takeaway latte, made by the bass player in one of my favourite bands of all time. So now everything is ok. Cranky-ass bitch? She’s gone. I’m happy and inspired now!

Raggiz:

1. Browsing around Raglan Dealers brings up all sorts of dilemmas. Should I buy the collection of bridge scoring pads and folders? Or what about an old cigarette tin? Or maybe I should get those leather shorts?

2. There used to be a cafe called Molasses. It was sold and the new owners have called it the Aqua Velvet Ballroom. This is troublesome for various reasons. First, naming a cafe after Aqua Velva, that cheap aftershave, is kinda weird. And it’s not a cafe anymore, it’s now a ballroom. Except I doubt that there would ever be a ball held there. It’s like ballrooms in hotels that only ever seem to house conferences and motivational speakers. But the worst bit is that they’ve taken down the cool metal Molasses sign and replaced it with a couple of boring painted signs with the new name.

Also: I hate TV news. Tonight there was an item about a question on “Who wants to be a millionaire” that had two possible correct answers. OMG OMG OMG!!! I know that news is typically slow at this time of year, but, really.