We were being interviewed by National Radio on the release of our album Transit. As soon as the interview had finished an email flew into our inbox enthusiastically inviting us to attend the Hamilton Fringe Festival in response to our desire to tour and exhibit the original art we obtained for the album. And in classic fashion, we said ‘sure’ first… and then settled down to figure out the finer and fiddlier details.
Supported by our contact, Jo, who did the bulk of the leg work in Hamilton, we secured some funding so the art could be couriered to the festival, and a van hired to bring our equipment back and forth. So, thanks to Creative Communities and Creative Hamilton for supporting our endeavor.
As usual, plans expanded and we opted to get the exhibition to Hamilton a week early and Jo enlisted a crew of locals to adorn the gallery walls with the accompanying lyrics to the songs attached to the art.
As the itinerary firmed up, Jo got us a show in Raglan, a small tourist/surfing/coastal village about 30 minutes out of Hamilton. So it was to be Raglan on the Friday night, an artist talk and presentation of songs on the Saturday afternoon for the Fringe Festival, and then an all-ages show later that same evening: three shows in 24 hours.
The journey north was uneventful apart from a sweet detour into the village of Mangaweka, home of the C F Goldie museum. Here we visited old friends and told stories, learning a wonderful fact about Karl Sims/C F Goldie, the infamous art forger. Apparently Karl is considered to be the World’s eighth most famous art forger, and according to some ‘authority’ he would have been considered the best had he had a greater ‘sphere of influence’, e.g. not resided on an island at the bottom of the world, but somewhere with a far vaster population, like Europe, a bigger and more duppable citizenry.
Back on the road we made Raglan in good time. It’s a small town with a reputation of being reggae central. Anyway, we meet our host for the evening, Dave, dropped our gear at the pub, set off the alarms in the pub, the door wasn’t locked, but no-one looked terribly flustered by, or worried about it. Then we headed out to Dave’s farm home for some food and rest after the long haul.
Dave’s farm view was spectacular, an incredible vista looking down out onto a northward curving coast, high and distant above the township.
Returning to the venue, the Yot club, we set up and met the local band playing alongside us, Frankie. It’s was a slow start to the evening as the rugby world cup had a game in Hamilton, just our luck, and almost the entire country is distracted.
After the match the place started to fill. Frankie started, a classic three piece, playing post-rock pop compositions and it sounded good. We came on and I think we surprised a few, the spectrum of expression from ‘leave the venue’ to a wide- jaw smile, transfixed to our antics.
Retuning to the farm after the show it’s the blackest Raglan night, a spectacular show of heavenly star-light, far from the incandescent street light of any city. It was a long day of journey and music, so whiskey then sleep.
Waking earlier on the Saturday, we returned to Raglan for coffee and nosh then made our way over to central Hamilton. Arriving around midday we set up our gear at the gallery and get to see the exhibition hanging for the first time. And it looked great! Jo and her mates made a spectacular job of installing the show, we we’re particularly pleased with the way the text had been written on the wall’s around the art. The space was set, the gear ready, we put on our costumes and waited for the show to begin.
And they attended, not in droves, but an intimate 20 or so, and that’s ok because this is the first time we have actually put this concept to the test, e.g to tour and present an ‘artist’s talk’ about the relationship of this commissioned art to the context of the song text, and then finish off by a live presentation of the songs.
We decided to break the talk into two parts, chatting first then music, then repeat. And it’s was a mobile chat, we moved up and down the room selecting work’s of art to discuss, talking about the text to the songs and much of the background research involved in the writing of the lyric.
The interest is surprising. We paused mid-stream to ask if people are bored, would they like some music or more stories? “More stories” they reply.
It was a fascinating experience for us, and warmly reassuring, in that people are very committed to engaging in conversation and dialogue when the chance arrives. People like stories, to be informed of the detail behind an event, and to have the opportunity to ask questions. We were surprised we talked for as long as we did.
One person commented at the end that it was rare and wonderful way to explore art. He commented that usually events surrounding ‘Art’ mostly revolved around free alcohol and hummus, but ultimately one left with little more understanding of the work than when one arrived. And somehow this event was different, a perfect outcome.
We play again with Frankie, and another local act called The Beautiful Shambles. It’s a great well resourced venue, with a lovely and helpful sound-man, a special breed.
The shows started late, as advertised, but is lite on audience. Out on the streets it’s quiet, again we get a sense this is in response to the rugby world cup. Many had paraded earlier in Welsh and Irish flags, we guess they are the teams playing locally (I’m secretly pleased that I still don’t actually know, I have managed to miss the inundation of rugby information, I am a genetically deficient kiwi obviously).
Great to see the local acts, committed and fun, thanks. We played a sweet set. It’s so nice to get to hear these songs through a nice sound system mixed well, thanks to again to the sound guy.
Show over, packed up and out. We stored our gear back at the gallery to collect in the morning, but to do this braved downtown-post-RWC Hamilton, drunken, macho, unpredictable, mini-skirted Hamilton. Here’s where all the people were, it’s lightly raining and the streets are laden with bodies loaded with alcohol and expectation. There’s little motivation to hang around, it’s an odd sight to see the inebriated bold male youth hanging off the bronze arms of the statue Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Tea and toast and bed, that’s rock and roll.
Here’s a cut up from the Transit album launch party @ the Russian Frost Farmers in March. For Hamilton punters, it’s a glimpse of what’s coming your way.
WHERE: The Russian Frost Farmers Gallery, 2 Eva St, Wellington CBD
Cost: NIL!!! album $20
With guests DJ P-Pants!
Transit, the 5th release by Aotearoa New Zealand’s mr sterile Assembly is stonking.
Dubbed as “one of the most interesting, if hopelessly below-the-pop-culture-radar bands in New Zealand,” the irrepressible two-piece of mr sterile and Chrissie Butler have reeled in a swathe of Aotearoa’s finest musicans and artists.
Mixed and mastered by the fine hands of Mike Gibson, the sound is a rich weave of heavy bass and drums built around multi-layered vocals. Jeff Henderson, of screaming jazz improv sax fame brings the melodics, alongside a scattering of Nell Thomas (Orchestra of Spheres) on the gamelan gender and the solid bass grooves of Aaron Lloydd. Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu, Upper Hutt Posse, has been a key collaborator on the project, recording all the vox, sax and extra sounds as well as contributing his own vox and text. Lyrical collaborations with Wellington poet Maria McMillan have also found their place.
The gathering of the 11 images for the 11 tracks has been a momentous effort. Eight of the works have been commissioned specifically for Transit. The artists, Andrew Ross, Deborah Barton, James Robinson, Campbell Kneale, Stefan Neville, Kerry-Ann Lee, Jeff Henderson, and Garage Collective, responded as they desired, creating a powerful collection to accompany the songs. Two works are from artists Tao Wells and Roger Morris, who have gifted established works to be tagged to the songs. The eleventh art work is a very special Wayang puppet received as a gift when the Assembly played in Java on their south east Asia tour in 2007.
In 2011 mr sterile Assembly will tour the exhibition across the country in between tours to Australia in April, and Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia in July.