Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happy happenstance

Did you ever have one of those nights when you get home at a reasonable hour, only to decide that an evening of wine, pizza and DVDs with friends (however pleasant that may have been) just doesn't cut it for a Friday night? Well, I happened to know that there were some "interesting" acts scheduled for Happy that night, so off I went to see what the night would deliver.

[D] Yellow SwansI just caught the last half of Christchurch duo Thomas:Parkes, who were billed as "Electro pop" and sounded somewhere between very early New Order and The Lightning Seeds, with perhaps a hint of Skallander at times in the vocals. Then there was seht playing with the 1/3 Octave Band, producing dense intriguing textures from music boxes, tape loops, contact mikes and 70s samples.

The term "wall of noise" is often used to describe certain sorts of music, but [D] Yellow Swans don't just produce a wall of noise: they give you all four walls, a floor and a ceiling, then proceed to add on more and more floors until there's a vast Corbusian tower block of noise sitting on your head. I might have almost enjoyed this if my ears hadn't been bleeding so much.

Antique shop, Vivian StLeaving the blogger-filled environs of Happy (Hi Stephen, Hi Rose), it was interesting to note the contrast with the bright syncopated rhythms emanating from Latinos above. Which started me thinking about the strange juxtapositions and evocative traces that you can find in even such a bleak corner of our inner city as this part of Vivian St at 3am. Next door is an antique shop that specialises in mid-century retro furniture, approximately Art Deco to 70s, with a healthy obsession with the 50s. I particularly liked this disembodied head floating among the spherical glass lampshades.

Metalworx sign, Vivian StA little further down the street, beyond the stridently post-modernist Salvation Army building, there's a reminder of the light industrial past that's gradually disappearing from this part of Te Aro. I can't believe I'd never noticed this giant spanner before! At about this time, I began to notice a constant distant roar, like jet engines at takeoff. It seemed to be coming from the harbour, but I couldn't see anything, so I blamed it on post-Happy tinnitus.

From here it's just a short stagger to Cuba St, and as I walked past Indigo I couldn't help noticing a greater than usual preponderance of a certain pungent herbal aroma emanating from people gathered in doorways. Then I realised that the Hollie Smith gig must just have finished at Indigo: ah, that explains it.

Passing through Cuba Mall itself (where I bumped into a restaurateur I know and got invited to a seven course degustation dinner) I then headed through the deserted Left Bank and the alley behind the church to reach my building. The roaring was still noticeable, and if anything was getting louder. I saw a lot of lights moving through the sky, and vaguely thought that this was odd given the airport's curfew. It wasn't until I got back to the 8th floor that I could see what was going on: Mt Vic was on fire, and the noise and lights were helicopters heading off to the harbour to fill up their monsoon buckets.

Just a typical night in this quiet little town of ours.


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