Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whanganui: the new Berlin?

When I said the other week that I was going to Whanganui for rock'n'roll reasons, you may have thought something like 'bah! How disappointed he will be, searching for the Devil's music in that forsaken pile!  There will be no joy for him on this journey, mark my words!'


Well, well, well.

To that I would reply that a) your internal monologue is really smug, and you sound a little like a cranky old wizard, and b) actually you're also Wrong, because is turns out that Whanganui is not only awesome, it's also quite rocking.  Because I like to keep my ear to the ground,* I had been hearing rumors that Whanganui was cool for a little while.  Mostly I had been discounting these, because you know how people will talk.  After a whirlwind seventeen-hour visit last weekend however, and some subsequent rummaging around on the internet, my opinion has changed.  I now feel like I've gathered enough evidence to justify a mental reclassification, which means that Whanganui has been officially added to the list of Places We Could Move To For A Little While Sometime To Make A Thing Of Some Sort. 

The first point in Whanganui's favour is how extremely grampire it is.  As we were looking at photos of some of the available rental property on the internet, Ms. Millicent Crow remarked of one place that it looked like somebody's grandad had actually exploded in the middle of the room, such was the degree and quality of Axminster carpet and floral wallpaper.  That kind of decor would be perfect for living in for a couple of months trying to write some songs or something.  If ever you couldn't think of something to write about or if you were bored or whatever you could just watch the cat constantly freaking out, partly about about how much the carpet reminds her of a snake-filled jungle, and also because of all of the scary grandad ghosts that only she could see.

Gampire as, and full of ghosts.
Whanganui is a proper city, you know.  It even has suburbs and beachside communities you can move to if living uptown on the dole writing the occasional song becomes too stressful.  Out by the sea there's a suburb callled Castlecliff where a particularly attractive cottage caught our eyes.  If we wanted to live there, for example, it would cost us exactly half of what we pay in Auckland, for a place twice the size.  In fact, right now, the most you can pay for a house in Whanganui is $380 per week, and that's for somewhere that's about the size of Graceland and comes with a full complement of monkey butlers and a shark tank.  The great thing about this place out in Castlecliff, though, is that as well as it being close to the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls and so forth, the ad says 'no pets.'  If you look in the photograph below, however, you will see most clearly that there is a horse in the yard.  I swear I didn't photoshop it cos honestly, look at the shadow, I'm not that good.  This is great, because what it obviously means is that in Whanganui, a horse is not a pet.  It's a car.
House with a horse.  If I had a job, I could ride it to work.
I don't want to give you the impression, dear reader, that life in Whanganui would be all about old person houses that smell a bit funny and riding your horse to town every Tuesday to change your library books.  There's more to it than that, and when I said above that Whanganui is actually rocking, I did mean it.  If you walk the echoing downtown streets on a Saturday night, between rows of mostly empty-looking turn of the century stone buildings with their faded advertisments for Epsom Salts and names like 'South Pacific and Orient Meat and Wool Co.,' you are likely to hear the sound of ghostly voices and laughter.  Follow the sound, turn a corner, and you'll start to see a drift of tight jeans and full skirts.  Just as you may begin to notice that the walls are covered with stencil art and photocopied A3 posters, you'll hear a 'one, two, you know what to do' crackling from a fuzzy PA upstairs, and the windows of the old Wanganui Chronicle building will commence to shake with the sound of a telecaster slamming the valves of not one but two towering and ancient Jansen amplifiers.  This will be followed half a bar later by a rattly snare drum playing the Johnny Cash freight train riff, then the rest of the band will come in and you'll suddenly realise that there's something seriously rockabilly going on here and if you'd better leave town quick before you put a quiff in your hair and get hooked on diet pills.

Or you could just jump right in and take the stairs, which would lead you to the headquarters of Stink Magnetic Recording Company, where there will be a party happening.  These guys are one of the things that make Whangnui a rock'n'roll town, and their commitment to fuzzy surfabilly psychowerewolf zombie music is a cedit to the whole community.  The building they're in, which I think used to belong to the Wanganui Chronicle, is a maze of art studios and open liftshafts, with a basement so haunted the locals look at you funny if you ask them about it.  There is talk of another venue opening next door, and if you ask about noise control they just laugh and open a beer.  When we played there last week the crowd looked like the sort of people you get in Oamaru or Lyttelton, or Berlin for that matter - people who can't see the point in working stupid hours for idiots in order to pay rent in a big city when they could live cheap in a town with lots of space and do things like build robots out of bike parts or work on their guitar sound.  These people are essentially my target market, which is a bit of a shame because their lifestyle choices mean they tend to have no money.  But: they usually let you stay at their house, and they often have heaps of cool things to play with in it.

So basically all I'm saying is don't be surprised next time one of your friends says they're moving to Whanganui for a little while.  They're not a junkie, and they're probably no more mentally ill than the rest of us.  They just want to live in a town where they can concentrate on writing and illustrating their book about birds and still have some money left at the end of the week.  Also, now that Mr Laws is no longer the president of the place, it has again become a safe envioronment in which to raise your turtle.

*this is an actual lie, the first to appear on this blog.  I hate keeping my ear to the ground; most of the time if I look like I'm listening I'm really doing something completely else.  Sorry about the lie, I will try to make sure it doesn't become a habit.  If I lose credibility with my readers I may damage my chances of getting rich by selling advertising here.

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