Rock, and Roll

On the corner of Bow Street and Wainui Road in Raglan, is the Tongue and Groove cafe. Inside, on the wall of the corridor next to the toilets, are posters advertising bands that have previously played there. Amongst all the posters is a hand-designed, photocopied A4 poster for a show that took place on 25 August, 2000, featuring Hamilton-based bands The Nerve and Trinket. They’d apparently made the hour-long drive over to Raglan to broaden their rock horizons. Admission was only $3.

Back when I lived in Hamilton I used to go out a lot to see bands play and kind of got involved with the scene. I had guitar lessons from the guy who was the lead singer and guitarist in the Nerve, and I remember at the battle of the bands in 1996 when two bands named Trinket entered (the other Trinket ended up changing their name, but neither of the Trinkets won that year).

I saw a lot of really good bands playing. Some only lasted a few months, others stuck around for years. There was always this feeling that eventually there had to be a band from Hamilton that would go on to greatness.

The problem was that Hamilton had this reputation as being full of bogan-rock metal bands. The last band from Hamilton that did anything big was Knightshade, rocking the charts in 1986 with their scorcher “Out for the count”. Cleverly using boxing as a metaphor for a bad relationship, they sealed Hamilton’s reputation as a bogan rock city.

I still had hopes. I wanted there to be a band coming along out of Hamilton that was so good that they’d blow away all preconceived notions of Hamilton rock and make people sit up and take notice.

For a while I had high hopes for Trucker. It was a bit of a Hamilton supergroup, with the guitarist from the Nerve, the bass player from Trinket, and a couple of other guys who’d done their time in other bands. Trucker were pretty good live, but by the time they got their stuff recorded it sounded a bit too processed. Their coolness hadn’t made it onto the CD.

Then an unexpected thing happened: a band from Hamilton got really big.

A few years earlier Trinket had changed the kind of music they played. They went for a harder, more rock and less pop sound. They also changed their name to suit. They were now known as The Datsuns.

After years of electronic music dominating what was cool, suddenly rock ‘n’ roll came back into fashion – really, massively into fashion. Not only was rock ‘n’ roll the new rock ‘n’ roll, but it was also the new black. The Datsuns were getting out there and playing and were getting noticed in Britain. They played big music festivals, were signed to Richard Branson’s V2 label, did a session for John Peel’s show, made it onto the cover of the NME and – holy shit – played on Top of the Pops.

They even made it into The Face magazine’s “40 messed up new bands” special where Dolf told it like it is with the quote, “I’ve heard Hamilton referred to as a ‘cultural wasteland’. It took us years to find people who appreciate what we do.”

But here’s the kicker, the kind of freaky little twist the follows the “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it” line: I don’t really like the Datsuns’ music.

I interviewed them once and they are really nice guys. They’ve worked really hard and put so much effort into their music. They seem pretty smart and I think they’re really enjoying what they’re doing, but I just don’t connect with their music.

I saw them play a few months ago at the King’s Arms and while most of the capacity crowd was just freaking out and having a rockin’ ol’ time, I was standing at the back kind of digging it, but just not really having much fun. It just felt like I was just standing in dark, smoky room listening to a band play than experiencing some sort of divine rock ‘n’ roll experience.

I still like going out and seeing bands play and I’ve seen some live stuff lately that has excited me and blown me away, but I just can’t get into the Datsuns. I’m not going to force it or fake it. I’m just going to keep listening to bands that I really like. Maybe there’s something good on this weekend at the Tongue and Groove.

Hamilton Rock

Back in the day, when I lived in Hamilton, I used to go out and see bands play and drink beer. There was this exceptionally good month when I saw Captain Higiz play every weekend, four weeks in a row. There were so many excellent bands back then, MSU, The Hollow Grinders, Bwa Da Riddum, Trucker, Dean and a bunch of other ones that I can’t remember.

I then got into the Hamilton BBS scene and started writing reviews of the bands I saw shortly after I staggered home from the pub drunk, or sobering up. Yeah, I was pretty hard core back then, man. Here’s two.

Friday August 2, 1996, 1:32 am

“GUYS I HAVE FUCKED”

or

“RELAX, IT’S JUST A CONCERT REVIEW, DUDE”

Hi. Ok, heat deux of the Battle o’ the Bands was tonight at the Wailing Bongo I was there. I had three handles of Export and it was very nice.

First was Department of Correction. I didn’t see them, but they came second last year, so they might have been quite good, if you’re into industrial stuff.

Handle o’ Export Number 1: Trucker

Jamie, Paul, Stan and Paul II rocked very hard. They had the whole pop/rock thing worked out really well. Jamie’s guitar was chuggin’ along nicely, Stan provided little lead parts that sounded really good, Paul’s basslines were from the Planet of Sound and Paul II’s drumming was good too. They were so good that I symbolically had part of Jo’s beer to show that Trucker were worth more than just a handle.

Handle o’ Export Number 2: Disjecta Membra(ne)

Goth dude one, goth dude two and goth dude three and goth drum machine rocked the stage dressed in black. Goth dude three, the keyboardist apparently joined the band on Saturday, but more importantly, he is in my rock music class at uni. Goth dude one sang like the guy from Bauhaus and did some wheedly bits on his guitar, goth dude two played bass and goth drum machine kept a steady beat. A lot of their music was funeral stuff with scary organ music, but they did occasionally rock out, which caused The Goth Dude to get up and dance.

Handle o’ Export Number 3: Psyclops

Metaller 1, metaller 2, metaller 3 and Dylan the drummer had a big bad rock god thing going on. Every single guitar solo was wheedly wheedly weeeeee! At one stage one of the guitarists got so carried away with the sheer emotion of the wheedla that he jumped up on the speaker stack and let it rip. The thought occurred to me “Just because a person can type fast and accurately, doesn’t mean they can write well”. Oh yeah, Dylan the Drummer turned up at my 21st.

So the fascist judges went away and got pissed then came back and said the usual “it was a really hard decision, but in the end the best band won” which meant that they all suck so Department of Erection won. If the best band had actually one then Trucker would have won, so I don’t like the judges.

The whole gang was there. Sciflyer was there and so was David Hasslehoff, but most importantly, Biff Bangle was there and I was at one stage sitting a mere two metres from him.

And as for the title, there is some significance, somewhere out there. Just don’t start psychoanalysing it.

Party at Biff Bangles House, late ’96.

A thousand and one thoughts are buzzing in my head. They need to be written down.

Johnny Fist and the Horny Mormons were between songs. Someone in the audience yelled out “Play some Bryan Adams”. Another person yelled out “play some David Hasselhoff”. I was standing there thinking, “Hey, I can do that!”. May this whole rock thing isn’t as hard as it seems.

After seeing Biff Bangle drumming I am thinking of becoming a Buddhist, so that when I die I stand the chance of being reborn as the raw materials that might one day be made into a drum kit. I can only hope that Biff Bangle would somehow end up playing me.

I got to the party by following the cars and the music. I walked in and realised that I probably didn’t know anyone there. There were all these people with face paint, wigs and stuff walking around. There were sheets of silver stuff on the walls. I started to freak out. Like I was some really straight person stumbling into a dem of debauchery. Then I thought about it. If I’d known there was a wig thing happening I would have worn one. If I had ample supplies of silver stuff I’d stick that on the walls. No worries.

The party was throughout the whole house. The music people were in the front room with the bands, the happy people were in the lounge, the goths were in the kitchen, the stoners were beyond the kitchen. There seemed to be some action in the bathroom. I was considering going to the toilet, but I thought there would probably be a few people in there with drinks.

When Johnny Fist and the Horny Mormons were playing I caught myself air-guitarring. Not full-on wheedly shit, but my hands were just sort of in guitar-playing position.

And those rock songs were so good. Their version of “Smoke on the Water” was really evilly sexy. I’ve never felt compelled to describe a performance that way before.

What does it say about the youth of today that “Camel Walk” and “Miserlou” got everyone really excited?