The idea? Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month and 38 years of his own rancid opining and reportage, Gary Steel will present something from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. From the indie Wellington music magazine In Touch, July 1981.
ROCK AGAINST RACISM, THISTLE HALL, WELLINGTON
LOCAL MUSIC IN abundance, seen and heard. One grot Thursday evening brings the crowds in from 7pm to 3am-plus.
Friendly home of punk Thistle Hall in upper Cuba St reverberates to the pre-Bok tour show of unity in diversity; our very own Rock Against Racism gig.
A motley crew of punks, James K. Baxter lookalikes, hippies, Rastas, gang men and their wimmin (and dogs…) shuffled round the floor.
Potentially, this is a lethal assortment of subcultures. The atmosphere is one of studied passive effort. Black Power dance and drink with hard-core punks.
The boys in blue are all there too: seems like a city’s worth. They appear deterred at little sign of riot likelihood.
And the music? What have we got? Jasmin are meek little ladies with acoustic guitars singing things like ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’.
Primitive Art Group are surprise of the night. Chaotic, challenging, pulsating, energetic avant-garde free blowing jazz. Plenty messy and indulgent, but spontaneity and novelty line-up (cello, double bass, two saxes and drums) makes for often times stimulating listening.
The little I caught of Spines’ set is ‘interesting’. Modern pop I guess.
Flamewave (otherwise known as the Rawa House band) play jammy, terminally blissed-out music with message which has the occasional funk groove. But despite Phil “Proton” Bowering’s dexterous bass and the crisp drum-work of ex-Rodent Tim Robinson, they are generally tedious in the extreme.
Ukiah are a black funk three-to-four piece. Versions of ‘Hey Joe’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’ were barely there, the modern ‘Ten Guitars’ substitutes.
And now to the headliners! The Gordons play the same material this time round. First bars knock air out of lungs. Sheer blast leaves one gasping for oxygen. This beat meddles with nature!
Their sonic attack is incomparable. The Gordons are originals. Most groups with five times the technology within their grasp couldn’t produce half this awesome noise.
For the first time tonight the air is turbulent. People are running to escape the noise. They’re standing gazing in amazement. They’re covering their ears, panic stricken. They’re hysterical. They’re walking in circles and the hardened fans are simply freaking out. Or maybe comatose on the floor.
A horrible PA fails to deter them. A sheet of howling, screaming feedback equally as loud as the ‘music’, shoots at the audience like so many sheets of impacting plate glass.
The Gordons make it work for them: pure amplification creation and harmonic distortion. Beneath this is a hard, biting guitar edge and thundering, pounding bass/drums. Sometimes the band appear to be on another plane altogether, driven by some not-so-divine inner voice. They can be distant while the feedback seems to play itself; a throbbing heartbeat through the holocaust.
The Gordons are the best band in New Zealand and I’ll hear no dissent.
Naked Spots Dance played next. Another great band, they nevertheless couldn’t follow an act like that. I headed home to tune in my cotton wool ears to a much muffled Barry Jenkins show. My ears played feedback ditties for days afterwards. GARY STEEL
Notes: If you think you’ve read this before, you probably have. It was re-published on Witchdoctor in 2011, but then hackers deleted the file, so here it is again! Originally published in IT magazine, July ’81, just prior to the Springboks’ infamous tour.