Whilst perusing through Bryce Galloway’s unabashedly jocular exhibition at Toi Pōneke, “four songs, played twice”, my initial exuberance for the show gradually dissipated as I was struck with a sudden pang of melancholic nostalgia upon encountering an object that I believed to be long since extinct. For a moment my eyes deceived me and if my fingers hadn’t been beckoned to caress its all-too-familiar curves and edges I might have believed it to be an apparition. Force of habit I guess. A community notice board, one dedicated to musical endeavours no less, lay nestled surreptitiously around a wall stage left; its very presence hidden by the mere mundanity afforded to it by untold years of disdain and neglect. It seemed so out of place within these stringent white walls, like a relic of the past destined to be ogled at behind museum grade glazing by future generations wondering why the fuck we even bothered to communicate through such primitive and demeaning technology. With its crudely hand-drawn advertisements for clandestine instrument lessons, posters attempting to coerce (sorry entice) visitors into a band that probably didn’t exist yet and flyers promising ‘killer sounding mixes’ at an affordable price; its newfangled home (albeit ephemeral) imbued it with a certain kind of guileless magic.
Rapidly arpeggiated harp strings plucked with an air of nonchalance announced the carriage that eagerly waited to embark upon a journey down memory lane in a fashion reminiscent of a flashback scene from SpongeBob SquarePants (now apparently a legitimately recognised name within Microsoft Word). Who was I to refuse such an invitation?
Through the shrouding mists of time a familiar scene began to materialize before me. Once elucidated I was able to recognized my younger self amongst a writhing sea of pubescent teenage boys all vying (seemingly unbeknownst to her) for the attention of a lone maiden sporting abysmally dyed two-tone hair, one too many facial piercings and an uncomfortably tight corset only accentuating a décolletage tattoo that simply read ‘Rawr’. The pungent smell of juvenile angst pervaded my nostrils and the only thing more potent than the sporadic wafts of sweat permeating throughout the air was a cacophonous sound laced with pure pandemonius passion emanating from a dimly lit makeshift stage. A broad but frail sign exhibiting the words ‘abandoned’ was barely intelligible beneath thick coats of spray paint encrusting a single awning above the stage; the crowds gathered before this altar failing to bear testament to any sentiments of desertion. The decrepit foundations of old Barrett Street Hospital were graced with a brief respite from the onslaught of bone- shakingly distorted guitars and demonic vocals as a much welcomed silence signalled the changing of the guard (or in this case the bands).
I watched myself carve a path through the flailing audience to don an overtly pointy and asymmetrical matte black guitar; subsequently cringing upon beholding the attire I had chosen to present myself in that night. A purple and black plaid flannel shirt remained purposefully unbuttoned in order to parade a newly acquired ‘Bullet for my Valentine’ singlet which was naturally accompanied by a pair of stone grey acid wash jeans that had been bought from Glassons to accommodate the emaciated twigs that were my legs. It was a wonder my face hadn’t contorted with pain from the fresh-Converse-induced-blisters that adorned my feet. If the leather studded bracelets weren’t enough to compensate for a lack of tattoos or piercings I don’t know what was. The crème de la crème that would consummate my masterpiece of an outfit was a greasy mop of now straightened albeit burnt hair that verged on scarecrow-esque, only tamed by copious amounts of wax and a meticulously placed beanie that resembled a used condom. I existed in an erratic interim state somewhere between scene kid and emo; though I was blissfully unaware of such socio-political subcultures at this time in my life, the knowledge of which still lay dormant.
The drummer, already short but now barely visible behind the kit, counted off the opening number and we launched relentlessly into our first original song entitled “To Mock a Killing Bird” (fuck yeah we were woke). It was based around a typical metalcore riff harmonised in thirds with a driving eighth note bass line, syncopated blast beat and whiny ass bitch (sorry I mean soaring) clean vocals supported with savage screams. Inadvertently I laughed out loud but instantly regretted my decision as the most ruthless breakdown since Pantera’s “Domination” pummelled my ears, nearly compelling me to headbutt the dude next to me. I stood in awe as the audience moved as one, breathed as one, bled as one; they were the living incarnation of wrath, devout disciples come to worship in the temple of a rather vexated and disparaging Apollo. We possessed them and they us; a reciprocal relationship built upon trust where the unit of exchange was energy and allowed manipulation of the ebb and flow of time. As the tailing feedback of a brutally strummed open power chord brought the penultimate song to a close I sensed a discernible change in atmosphere as tension began to stir on stage. It was at this moment that I recalled the harrowing truth and inexorable reason as to why I had been bought back to this particular echo of a repressed memory: there was no final song.
Suddenly I felt my stomach churn as I couldn’t help but notice a restlessness literally spew out across the now quiescent crowd as an uncomfortable silence choked the room. Off to the side of the stage a disgruntled looking man with a beer belly and bald patch tapped hastily on a wrist watch; ten minutes still remained of our designated performance slot and the musicians were out of music. I looked on in utter horror as my band mates and I deliberated over what tune we would be forced to play again. I guess this is what happens when you don’t take into consideration nerves and excitement while writing a setlist and the additional 20 bpm they confer to each song. The lead guitarist eventually took matters into his own hands and, in a heroic fashion worthy of praise, began enthusiastically playing the intro riff to Avenged Sevenfold’s “Unholy Confessions” at a blisteringly furious tempo. You’d think that having already warmed up on the tune earlier in the set that we would have exhibited some kind of musical prowess over a cover we had spent weeks practicing. Alas, we had lost the devotion of our worshippers and our identity as the false prophets had been revealed. The magic captivating our followers had evaporated, taking any remaining confidence with it, and in a single foul swoop we had decapitated God. Except the sword used for said decapitation was blunt and rusted. After hearing intermittent chants demanding an encore (probably the lead guitarist’s mum) we did as all newly formed and inexperienced bands do; we panicked.
We had four songs; we didn’t play them twice however we did play one of them three times and it happened to be a cover.