The opportunity to review and photograph Head Like A Hole was the culmination of a long history/obsession with the band. I first saw a photo of HLAH when I was 11 and became a fan without even hearing their music; it was back when they were becoming known for their onstage antics - dressing up in plastic yellow tubing, playing naked, the sort of crazy behaviour that is appeals to a pre-teen music fan.
A few years later I snuck into a bar underage for the first time to see them play, then saw them again a year later at an all ages show that I had to walk 17km to get home from. The year after that I made sure I was picked to interview them when they came to play my school.
I've seen them play a couple of times since they reformed - the first time shortly after they buried the hatchet, at a gig with Luger Boa, and then at the Big Day Out a couple of years ago. I wasn't expecting much but I was impressed with how fresh their sound was, how energized they seemed after all these years, and most of all, how exciting it still seemed.
Now they've got a new album that they're pushing/plugging and I was curious to see if they could still deliver a HLAH show that wasn't, now, based on fond memories from my teenage years, so I headed down to Wellington's San Francisco Bathhouse on a mild Thursday night to find out.
They're an older, wiser beast now (Booga told the crowd he'd recently turned 40, but they don't look any older than when they broke up in 2000; perhaps a sign of their cleaner lifestyle these days). No more gimmicks to reel the punters in; no more narcotics nor nakedness, although the noise still remains.
After prolific opening act Cairo Knife Fight entertained us with their looped drums, Hendrix-like guitar antics, and heavy blues riffs, we were collectively ready to welcome Booga and crew back to the San Fran.
The crowd was an odd mix of old fans and new, evident when they started with a song from the new album. The young ‘uns at the front knew it word for word and were singing along and moshing hard, while a circle of older/original fans stood slightly back from the chaos. And that didn’t really change until HLAH pulled out Faster Hooves from their second album, Flik Y’Self Off Y’Self.
From that point on the band had the entire crowd enthralled and were back to their original form. The energy was amazing, Booga stalked the stage like an angry, drunk (although admitted that a shot of Tequila before the show made him feel sick) bum. There was constant stage diving and crowd surfing, including from the band, drinks were had from a (hopefully replica) human skull and bottles of Tequila were thrown to the crowd.
After Hootenanny Booga declared that we’d now reached the halfway mark, before chuckling and admitting that they were nearly done. A few more hits rolled out, notably their cover of I’m On Fire, always a crowd favourite, before they took a slight pause, returning with a four piece horn section to close with Crying Shame and Glory Glory from Blood Will Out.
It was loud, chaotic, intense, and seemed to be over far too soon – I could have happily listened to a set twice as long, especially if it meant more of the old favourites. But it left me in no doubt that Head Like a Hole are back and they’ve still got it.
Formed in Wellington, Head Like A Hole originally consisted of Booga Beazley, Nigel Regan, Andrew Durno and Mark Hamill. Like most young bands, they started out by playing small gigs at local pubs & various well known live venues. Then quickly started touring the university circuit. The band soon made a name for themselves with energetic and often outrageous live performances, appearing on stage either naked, caked with mud, or covered completely in body paint.
Therefore forming a solid and dedicated following throughout the live music scene. Head like a Hole were soon signed to Wildside Records and began their recording career. 1992 saw the release of their debut album, '13' which the band largley produced themselves. The single 'Fish across Face' successfully made it into the New Zealand Top 10 charts. In keeping with Head Like a Hole tradition the video for 'Fish across Face' included a scene where Nigel regurgitates an orange substance into Booga’s mouth and was promptly pulled off air.
Head Like a Hole continued touring and performing the university orientation circuit. Then returned to the studio in 1993 to record their second album. 'Flik Y'Self off Y'Self'. Which was released in stores in 1994 providing two singles. 'Faster Hooves' and 'Spanish Goat Dancer'. After the release of two successful records the band’s popularity and exposure increased, and so Head Like a Hole remained on tour. Playing to capacity crowds and sold out venues throughout the country, and in 1996 secured a position on the bill to play The Big Day Out festival. That same time the band suffered a sudden and tragic loss, with the death of their Manager Gerald Barry Dwyer. And it was late 1996 where they headed back to the studio, this time travelling to Australia and worked on a third album. 'Double Your Strength, Improve Your Health & Lengthen Your Life'. 'Cornbag' the first single from the album was released in November 1996, but received only moderate chart success.