Guy’s World: Lessons From The Valley
UPPER HUTT, FRI 13: I’m out for some stripped down, no bullshit, high octane fun and I know I’m not gonna get it in muffin eating, latte slurping, Karen Walker wearing Wellington. That’s why I’m in the Hutt, heading for the Lazy Lizard bar, where rock may be a dirty word, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
But first a cigarette stop. Steve foolishly tries to purchase a packet of Marlboro Lights, wussy smokes favoured by pasty faced gothics to go with their chartreuse and eye-liner for readings of romantic poetry at the Karori cemetery. Realising his mistake, Steve goes for Dunhill Red: a neutral choice that won’t raise any eyebrows at the Lizard.
Lined up for Rocktober 13 are three bands: The Fabulous Pakehas, The Buzzards and the Turbo Rats. A mate of Steve’s, Darren, plays guitar in the Buzzards and organised the show. Quite apart from supporting a mate, me and Steve wanted to hear some real rock ‘n’ roll.
There’s nothing in the world quite like loud, dirty guitar. It aint’ nice and it aint’ exactly pretty. It ain’t exactly new either. Some time around the mid 1950s guitarists realised that if you turned the amp ALL the way up you had a whole new instrument on your hands: a squawking, violent, thunderous, yet undeniably expressive voice.
Early pioneers included Paul Burlison, who provided the fuzzy counterpoint to Johnny Burnette’s sexually charged screams in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio. It sounds like Elvis’s Sun Sessions, but a whole lot meaner. The classic early primitive is Link Wray, whose first single was named rumble because it sounded like a street fight. Burlison found his signature tone by dropping his amp off the back of a truck, Wray achieved similar results by blowing up his speakers. In those days, you didn’t get an antisocial sound out of a box, guitarists found their voice by a combination of chance, weird science and disrespect for the “right” way of doing things.
Almost 50 years later, distortion is still the expression of angst, sexual energy and greasy teenage kicks. We’ve heard the psychedelic soundscapes of Hendrix, the snotty ebullience of the Sex Pistols and the hard volume of AC/DC. Turn the radio on today and the young punks are still cranking it up.
It’s true that today we can also fulfil our need for thumping sounds with drum ‘n’ bass or house or whatever. There is something compelling about all that bass rattling the subs. But despite the smartasses telling us, since the Seventies at least, that rock is dead, we still need to hear loud guitar.
Back at the Lazy Lizard, and the Fabulous Pakehas are channeling the spirit of the Rolling Stones: a nice, sloppy, relaxed clank and grind. These guy’s have studied at the Keith Richards School of Cool. Guitar slung low, fag in mouth, don’t give a f**k attitude. Keith Richards was the guy who taught guitarist that it sounds better when you play out of time, just a little behind the beat. The Pakeha’s own tunes didn’t really stand up to their stellar covers, my fave being the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls Of Fire.
“I wanna be Keef.” “No I wanna be Keef.” “You were Keef last time.”
The boy’s told us they loved us more than Elvis. Cheer bro’s. Later they said some stuff about an unholy union with Jesus that I’d better not print. The Pakeha’s had Great line in between song patter. By this point quite a crowd had built up, proving that despite Wellingtonian’s snobbery towards Hutt Valleyites, they do have good taste in music.
The Reverend’s in the house, Jesus is in the house… Captain Caveman’s in the house?
I’m a long time AC/DC fan, and I was hoping for some Acca Dacca at the Lazy Lizard, being the Hutt and all that. The Buzzards used to play AC/DC, but tonight I was out of luck. They focused on modern rock – stuff you’d hear on Channel Z, like Rage Against The Machine, Blink 182 and Smash Mouth, disappointing the tourist in me that imagined the Hutt would be forever Holdens, mullets and AC/DC.
The Buzzards, soon to be renamed Juicy to complement their new repertoire, played well and got the crowd on their feet. 7-string guitarist Darren played like a demon as always, but the material didn’t allow him to stretch out his formidable chops. Dirty guitar may still be with us, but the indulgence of the extended solo is no more. I can’t forgive the Buzzards for playing Creed’s Higher though.
When Darren isn’t going hard with the Buzzards he likes to transcribe Eric Dolphy free jazz bass clarinet solos and studies astronomy. You don’t believe me, do you? With his immaculate black dyed pompadour hair-do and bright red T-shirt amongst a sea of dowdily attired guys, Darren seemed a bit like a cartoon character transposed onto normal life, like the toons in the film Roger Rabbit.
The shit-eatin’ grin never left Darren’s face all night
A mate of mine, Damon, has a mullet, but he’s in denial. He says that to be a mullet, a hair-do has to look bad and must clear the ears. He sees the word mullet as a term of derision. I see it as a blanket term, often used affectionately, for a family of hair-dos, from the Jeff Beck shag to Billy Ray Cyrus’ abomination. The only criteria is that it has to be long at the back and short at the front. Anyway, telling Damon he has a mullet (it’s reminiscent of Jimmy Barnes’ hair) is a sure-fire way to get a rise. “Of course it’s a mullet,” an old flatmate said, surprised at Damon’s denial. “I thought he was making a glam rock statement.”
For the record, there were a few mullets on display at the Lazy Lizard, but just as many guys with normal hair like you’d see in Wellington. Yes, there was the odd chick in f**k me boots, but it wasn’t the time warp the kids from Cuba Street might think. There were some downright spunks. But I couldn’t resist taking this pic…
AC/DC, Rum and Coke, The Farrah Fawcett Flick: The classics never die
Did the Turbo Rats crank out Highway To Hell, the ultimate bogan anthem? I dunno, We left after the Buzzards. Steve was ill and the place was so smoky we must’ve passively smoked a pack of Winfield 25’s each. And as the designated driver, I couldn’t drink heaps of piss and get into the spirit of things.
Rocktober 13 taught me what I’ve long suspected: the Hutt Valley knows how to rock. I would’ve loved to have transplanted the crowd from the Lazy Lizard into Bar Bodega in Wellington, to show the muffins how it’s done.