Dead C Poster (art work by Michael Morley)
Actually, the truth was I wasn’t sure whether my parents would like the Dead C. They’re both pretty open-minded people, and my mom seemed to enjoy the Dog-Faced Hermans and God Is My Co-Pilot concert I took her to during my college’s Parents’ Weekend in 1993, but I still acknowledged that this would probably be a stretch for them. I just couldn’t miss a free performance by the Dead C, who very rarely play in New Zealand and even less frequently venture overseas. Despite living in the country for six of the past 12 years, I hadn’t seen them play (or heard of them playing) since their gig at the Wharf Hotel in Dunedin in February 1995. That was my first week in New Zealand, and I was fortunate enough to see this outfit plus Gate and A Handful of Dust for $5, amongst cheap jugs of Speights beer and the gauzy waft of clove cigarettes, patchouli, other incendiary herbs, and old wool sweaters. While I don’t remember much about the sonic landscape of that evening other than it was rugged and expansive, I recall a feeling of elation at being where I was. My spirits were only slightly dampened by the fact that my attempt to make this event a “first date” with a young woman I had set my sights on had been met with a confused no-thank-you (note: we later married, but this required a first date of The Clean and the Verlaines, whom she still enjoys far more than the Dead C and their ilk).
Anyhoo, this recent concert in Wellington was brought to the City Gallery by wunderkind Amy Howden-Chapman to complement an equally challenging exhibition of works by emerging New Zealand modern artists, called “Prospect 2007”. Apparently Michael Morley (of Dead C and Gate) is one of these artists. His radiating shards of psychedelia incorporated in “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Lost Weekend” (pictured on the flyer) and his primitive rendering of a needle on a turntable (entitled “There Is No One What Will Take Care of You” in reference to the Palace Bros lament) were accompanied by other artists’ works such as a crocheted barbecue, photos of sheep in shit-stained but colourful wool sweaters, a video of quarrelling medieval musicians, multiple pinhole cameras based in a giant wooden reclining figure eight, and a video of young Maori Aucklanders arguing whether 50-Cent or Eazy-E was the best rapper in the world.
My parents didn’t complain either, though halfway through they informed me that they were “stepping outside” to “get some fresh air.” I suspect it wasn’t completely their cuppa tea, but they were cheery enough when I emerged into the sparkling night of Civic Square. I was cheery too. The show had ended with roars of approval from the 100+ attendees, Robbie flashing an aw-shucks grin, Bruce waving and bowing like the one-man symphony orchestra he is, and Michael reservedly nodding before offering a battered suitcase full of vinyl and CDs to a smattering of money-wielding aficionados. Cheap bastards like me slipped away with smiles on our faces. I felt like I had attended some sort of “be-in” led by sonic spiritual gurus and like-minded soulmates, and I guess I had. The music was a generation removed from my parents’ experience of similar events, but they recognized the blissy glow and reckoned they had seen something that meant something to me. Group hugs ensued (not really), and we rested our weary eardrums for another day.