A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Rock and Roll Dream.
From a block away there is no sign of a crowd, the kind of thing you’d expect to see for a show like this. There is a van and trailer parked out the front and a Civic trying desperately to parallel park between the two, moving a few millimetres either way each time.
I show my ID at the door, but the bouncer waves me in and assures me I look twice my age. Not a good thing when you’re twenty six. There’s music playing and I wonder if I’ve missed the start. So much for being fashionably late…
My name isn’t on the door list, but I use my English to secure my press pass. The door man claims he recognises me as a reviewer, but this is the first time I’ve come to this venue in this capacity. I just have one of those faces. I make my way through to the bar with the house lights still up and two separate people watching the sound check from the dance floor.
The sound check band was the most exciting thing I’d heard and seen since I watched Impish play Guv’ner’s back in ‘05. The drummer, looking like that singer from Pluto, with that longish hair, a manscaped facial hair arrangement and the smoky eyes played drum and synth simultaneously, while singing no less while a Hendrix clone in a bandana rocked nonchalantly by on the other side of the stage. The music is progressive and unique; a strange mash-up of psychedelic and doom metal tributes to screamo, scene and -core break downs. I text a friend and tell him that this band could be better than Tool.
The first drink goes down a treat, but the cigarette room is unseasonably locked. I take a walk outside to space out my drinks and I’m joined by half of the crowd. He reminds me of a step-dad of old. All he needed was a ripped and faded Pink Floyd tee. I consider buying him a tequila, because I’m wondering if he might be part of the band, but I decide against it thinking he’d probably misunderstand my intention. When I debated that the band’s minibus, parked out the front of the venue, was better than U2’s cargo planes I wonder if I misinterpreted him. Fearing the conversation would prematurely run dry I head back inside.
I’ve had three bourbons before the opener even begins and my black bogan jeans are too tight. A young couple join our group of three, filling the last unoccupied corner. He looks 20, she looks 16. The barmaid is pregnant and bored.
“Are you with the band?” The only other original audience member asks.
“I’m a reviewer” I reply. He indicates that was his next question. He’s obviously referring to the black notebook I’m carrying around to scrawl notes in. I don’t recommend the notebook as a recording medium. Though it attracts the eyes of passers-by and adds to the sense of mystery surrounding you, it is impractical to stop in the middle of the mosh-pit to record the goings on. It’s also impossible to decode your scrawling unless you somehow recreate your messy state.
This tree trunk of a man I’ve befriended says he’s from Taihape. Down for the show. It’d been a toss up between the new album and an old compilation as a little pre-show education. He said he’s heard the band on a 90s compilation with a bleeding John Toogood from Shihad on the cover. I argued it was the Wildside Compilation, but he insisted that album didn’t have a chainsaw on it.
By nine the room is finally starting to fill up. I recognise the obligatory Palmy Celebrities, like Kane Parsons from UCOL and Smokey Feel and Race driver Brendan Hartley, but the others… Who are all these people? Where do they come from? The audience is replete with balding stoned geezers. Mechanics, builders, used car sales men, I presume. They could have been old fans, their bodies decimated from years of living the rock and roll dream. The band has also drawn in a few young skinheads with their thin necks and shiny domes, their obscure death metal band shirts and gorgeous, too hot for them, women in tow. What’s the word for a male cougar? A Pedo? Whatever it is, there are plenty of them here too.
At around half nine, a full hour and a half since I arrived, the house lights dim and Cairo Knife Fight open to red lights, reverberating feedback and smoke machine. If the sound-check was an introduction to CKF, this was my education. Their music lived up to the hype I’d given it during sound-check. Their ability to keep up with each other’s eclectic timing was impeccable. It wasn’t all progressive stoner rock either. Somewhere in the middle the tone changed from something Toolesque to something to make the ladies in the audience bounce and sway. After their final song my body is left pulsing like a dial tone, affected by the synchronised drum and guitar hits.
After the entrance and the parading of the skull the band opens with a true to radio version of Swagger of Thieves, but then who cares about the set list when you have your arm around the neck of a complete stranger and you’re both hopping like these guys are the Sex Pistols. Being so close to the stage you could, like Booga said, feel the bass reverberating in your sacks. There are drunken cougars sitting on the bar, flopping about in a rough estimation of the beat. I imagine she could feel it a bit too much.
I was surprised there wasn’t as much chanting to Valhalla. Admittedly I didn’t recognise it at first, but when I did I was sure to write in my notebook the name of the song and show it to Taihape Man. I’d explained before that Valhalla was one of the integral tracks on Blood Will Out but stopped short of doing my crazy bastard chant dance to illustrate the awesomeness of the song. I think that was partially because a girl we’d noticed earlier had pushed right up behind us.
Taihape Man has doubts he’d recognise Wet Rubber without the background porn dialogue at the beginning, but I begged to disagree. Once the crowd were chanting “Wet Rubber” at the top of their lungs you’d know what you were rocking to. To our surprise the porn clip played and the song had the hands of almost the entire audience in the air.
The older material is like a time capsule that relates everything that was right about the Wellington scene in the early 90s. Half the room get it. They lean back on the bar or lean forward on their beer guts with their stubbie gripped tight as waves of sedating nostalgia pass over them. The other half of the room doesn’t give much of a shit about history. They’ve paid to see Glory Glory performed live and loud as dance around to Head like a Hole like their parents before them, blissfully unaware that their parents had lives before them.
I’m close enough to the stage at this point to recognise Ankh-bearing Booga and the dude with the Grey beard as the two I’d seen coming in wheeling suitcases earlier. Never before (or at least since Project: Blood last took the stage) has there been such a mighty collection of beards. The highlight of a gig for those who don’t have time to surf the net for pictures of their favourite bands is seeing these people, who could be any person on the street, belt out this brutal skull bunting metal. It was well worth the bleeding ears and ringing that lasted until deep into the hangover the next day.
When they say this is a last song there is no feeling of deflation, because the crowd knows those bastards will be back for another two songs. They haven’t even played Glory Glory yet and you know they’re going to have to or the neophytes will riot. That song has been thrashed on Hauraki more than a Baptist boy caught cutting church to drink, it would have been a crime not to close with it.
As I’m dragged outside in the torrent of others wishing to escape I see my blue hooded bud from Taihape, his eyes closed in elation, Coruba to his lips and two women grinding their bones against him. If I could move my hands without passing a grope to the other members of the stream I would have sent him a salute. He was living his big city dreams in small town Palmerston North, and it looked like the best night of his life.
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.