Wednesday, January 28, 2009
STINKmotherfuckingFEST 2008 BC
The Stink Magnetic Record Company was birthed 10 years ago in a bedroom in Palmerston North if the Legend is to be used as a reliable journalistic document. Capturing for posterity on magnetic tape the human activity of making music - that rare and strange creature that exists only in time. Taxidermy'd for display, replicated, sent into the world brandishing the savoir faire that comes with doing something just because you fucking can and think it would be a choice fucking thing to do.
That was ten years ago. Ten years is a lot of tape – the company Prime Minister, D. Thomas Herkes estimates over 1200 cassettes dubbed one by one by hand – 44 releases grace the catalogue from Shit All to Hell to The Friendly Barnacle. You get the idea.
Through this decade of fervent activity friends, bands, and fellow travelers have emerged into a certain community. Enough of a community to draw folks from around the country to the river city of Wanganui for three days of celebration. Most of us from Wellington and Palmy, most Wellingtonians from Newtown, and most of those camping in Mr. Herkes’ backyard by the river. A perfectly beautiful spot transformed to a refuge enclave, a tent city of musicians and associates baked by the sun and swimming in beer.
From here a nightly pilgrimage was made to The Holy Temple of Stink, along a riverside path through three warm nights under a swelling moon. At the door to the temple, the management raffled meat (Stink Flesh?) while hucksters harassed the helpless hawking music and merch.
The old Wanganui Chronicle building offered everything you could really want from the experience; an cavernous rabbit warren leading to the narrow space of Stink HQ. Here with its black and white patterned floor and the stage decorated as a cemetery of cardboard tombstones that under certain light and a certain amount of sleep deprivation twist into a three dimensional phantasmagoria under dangling bats. Here with guitars and amplifiers, with booze and drugs, with sharp sartorial sense and fair share of that savoir faire, the Stink Magnetic community, hangers-on, and tourists shook, shimmied, and sweated.
At an affair such as this, in a community such as this with its histories and decade long development of the aesthetic all the bands have their thing to do, their shtick to pull, their role within the family unit, and they all do exactly that. There are themes of course, concordances, shared elements that build this community. The main thrust, as you’d expect, would be that dirty old rock and roll with a fair share of country overtones and noisy underpinnings. Suave in its primitivism, and a whole lot of vice versa.
Primitive like Voodoo Savage and His Savages. Even if they weren’t New Zealand’s only caveman band they’d still be New Zealand’s greatest caveman band. Suave like The Wrong-doings building up to the psychedelic squall their classic set closer, Deep Into the Woods.
Shit, what else?
Heavy Turkey played a Heavy Turkey set. Back pain, bats, and a bit more back pain. What more do you need.
The Wanganuian Sets cranked out some kind of one-man Albini-ized kinda thing on the first night and left at least three groups of people I overheard discussing whether his name was Sets or Sex.
You’re right. It wasn’t even that funny at the time.
Some to-do has been made of the endearing incestuousness of The Death Rays. Once more for the record: two sisters and two cousins making two couples who live and play together. Probably the only thing that could make them more complete would be if they were to star in a cartoon series driving about in some van with a tripped out paint fighting crime and unmasking dastardly villains.
Boss Christ, once possessor of New Zealand’s wildest sideburns now bellows and barks at the world from a full on moonshiner hillbilly motherfucker of a beard. There was a slight frisson I felt getting to travel straight from visiting Rimutaka penitentiary to see the Boss stomp and howl the party at Stink Mag’s house.
The Tape Men: Power of tape times three. Whatever strange science drives these mysterious creatures it was enough to levitate drummer and drum kit into the audience without missing a beat. A moment which carved itself out of the blur and haze and cemented itself as a fragmentary highlight for more than a few witnesses.
And that is the thing, the blur and the haze is inevitable it’s the fragments we take away. The tent city by the waterside was no place to rest and gather ourselves together as much as it was a different tempo to the madness. A truckload of concrete blocks dumped in the middle of the camping area at 8am Friday morning with a bomb-like shaking of the ground set the tone: you can only get up and keep going. Keep telling yourself that these great feats of human endurance will make you a better person.
Hair of the dog, hair of the dog.
And those miraculous medicines did work their magic.
By the time that Knife Fight had burned through the blistering blasts of grinding garage genius that are their stock in trade, surrounded on all sides by and audience of savage, maniacal dervishes most ingested potions had transmuted to pouring perspiration.
Mr. Herkes then lead the in-need-of-a-wash masses to scream the night away grass-sliding on the giant tapes (made from real estate signs) that are the icons of Stink Magnetic.
We broke camp the next day, somewhere just beyond being the walking dead, for the beautiful Stink kids to give us one more treat. A picnic in Kowhai Park (where the concrete dinosaurs and octopus seem designed to delight both trippers and small children) with reprised performances by Slim Chants and Boss Christ. The latter busting it out on upright base while Boss junior demonstrated how to put into practice his papa’s philosophy for saving the planet.
Then we drag ourselves back to this town where madness and mediocrity moves in each breath of the wind, glad of the time away and looking forward to getting some fucking sleep.
Happy birthday Stink Magnetic, happy birthday Mr. Herkes. Y'all put on a mighty fine shindig.