Blog Archives: MRK

UP THE PUNKS 2012: The City Seen Through Thirty Something Noisy Years of Wellington Punk Culture.

 
 
 
 
 
“Not in the habit of saving things for posterity or thinking themselves as history. Not caring about the past, not seeing too much future to look forward too. Whether or not that was really true, it was definitely the understood attitude and mood… I’ve just started on this book and already I’m on a tangent…”

Aaron Cometbus

 

Time. It’s treated quite strangely in the world of punk rock. Most people arrive as though they were the first. And they leave out the back door to make way for a younger, more energised generation. Aaron Cometbus, of the Bay Area fanzine Cometbus, nailed it in a retrospective on his first 20 years of zine-making. When it came to cultural self-awareness, he claimed that punks were decidedly evasive. Whether fueled by  idealism or nihilism, they were preoccupied in a haze of the ‘spirit of the times’. The view from the blazing vehicle of punk rock is framed by a combination of radical ideas, growing pains and fast guitars. Vision under such speed is surely fuzzy. Beyond the ‘here and now’ getting a cultural perspective to the past (or future) is hard. But the last decade or so has seen a renewed interest from within and without Wellington’s punk community with a call to explore the vestiges of time and uncover the recesses of the city’s nearly forgotten punk past.

Enter Wellington’s own unique and peculiar cultural time-machine – UP THE PUNKS! It travels to depths of 35 years ago and up to the active present, exhibiting the stories and artefacts of a vibrant, living underground community. The ongoing documenting and open source archiving initiative provides an important means of linking together a body of diverse works such as music, arts, literature, activism and various aspects of DIY culture, which would otherwise seem disparate across generations past and present. Youth culture is rarely this prolific and broadly expressed. It is a showcase of spirit – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

 

Original poster for UP THE PUNKS 2002 designed by Kerry Ann Lee

 

To claw back the history of an obscure society, obsessed with its very obscurity, is not an easy task. Works can be as fleeting as youth itself, leaving little trace, if any at all. But memory will still prevail. People still fondly recall the legendary performance of influential bands which never lasted long enough to produce more than a rough demo and play at some house parties; rants from a younger version of someone-you-know found in a photocopied zine which was subsequently lost to time and a small print run; piles of old screen-printed posters and merch; dusty records and cordially exchanged mixtapes now warped and stretched; abandoned film negatives of rallies and hangouts with cherished friends. Interesting and unexpected things happens when returning to these places.

 

Punk was always positioned in relation to a wider context, differentiating itself from mainstream society. But over time, as we all know, things change, the mainstream changes too, and so each generational iteration of punk rockers bear traces of that change too. I can’t help but recall the backdrop of a transitional Wellington city in the 1990s, its people waking up from the quiet slumber of economic downturn. People were crawling out of brutalist buildings determined to paint over the grey walls that had only served to compliment the depressive color of the sky.
Whether or not these are actually my own memories, I’m reminded of something geographic, something spatial and material, tangible and almost graspable; squats on the waterfront as Te Papa was still in construction; un-refurbished flats with remnants of 70’s décor; walking home after school via The Freedom Shop, the local anarchist bookstore which was housed in a rustic shed on upper Cuba St before being squeezed out by the Bypass; the hired-out community halls; picking bottles off the street during shows; skinhead encounters in Newlands; skateboarding with mates in the Hutt; the patience required to order records and zines from overseas…

 

The Cure jamming at a house party in Mount Victoria, August 4, 198.1

 

UP THE PUNKS presents a case for continuity between generations otherwise fragmented and disjointed. In doing so it proves, in my mind at least, that the past 35 years wasn’t just an excuse for playing silly buggers after all (although there was a great deal of that too). It’s evidence of a sustained cultural activity. In such a hotbed for ideals put into action, ideas can last a long time, or burn out alongside musical trends, fashion, and haircuts. I’m curious as to how punk – peripheral by nature – has extended and adapted to other aspects of society, or whether (in many cases I imagine) it is left to the embarrassments of youth. It would be interesting to know what happened to those kids as they enter different areas of society, as they develop skill-sets for new contexts and responsibilities. It is contributions from these people that keeps the UP THE PUNKS online archive lively. I can think proudly of punk friends who are now educators, union organisers, lawyers, academics, artists, health care professionals, engineers, innovators, activists, musicians, amazing parents, and just all round good people.

 

A film made by Chris Knox on the punk and post-punk ‘Wellington Scene’ otherwise known as the ‘Terrace Scene’ in 1980. 

 

Without continuing to sound like a back-in-the-day-old-timer, it has to be said that a big aspect of the UP THE PUNKS effort is to present Wellington punk culture as a living community, uniquely localised and continuing today in full force. It stands in contrast to the picture painted by a Te Papa exhibition ten years ago that presented punk as a petrified historical nomenclature that only happened elsewhere. The ongoing spirit of participation from enthusiastic new blood will ensure that punk respond to a changing world, ultimately securing the promise of it’s future.

 

And because of the open sourced, participatory nature of the UP THE PUNKS archive, we now have a means of looking back through the noise of time. With the raw information available to all, the historical narrative of punk in Wellington can be constantly rewritten and contested.

At 16 years and counting, Punkfest is New Zealand’s longest running annual punk event.

 

UP THE PUNKS proposes one last important thing; that this living history is also a slice of the city’s history. It’s “the Wellington you didn’t know you didn’t know” as aptly put by John Lake in the Pledgeme fundraising campaign. The minor stories told here reveal the material culture of life in Wellington as told by the people themselves. It is also relevant for the story of independent music in New Zealand. These stories are our history and it’s a history to be shared by all.

 

 

A Pledgeme campaign to fund UP THE PUNKS 2012 has just started. Come along and check it out if you like!

UP THE PUNKS 2012 exhibition and celebrations: November 6-10

 

Exhibition Opening Night: November 6, 2012, 6PM, Thistle Hall
Gettin’ Worse: Punx Still Angry, November 7, San Fran Bathhouse. Check out the new breed with Numbskull, DILFS, Influence and more…

 

Closing Night Party, November 10, Thistle Hall Upstairs
All ages gig expanding the definition of punk with So So Modern, Rogernomix, All Seeing Hand, Mr Sterile Assembly, Johnny and The Felchers and more…

 

www.upthepunks.co.nz
www.facebook.com/upthepunks.wellington

Read More →

Lake Eyre: A Little Trip to a Big Place

When I was told about a temporal sea in the middle of the Australian Outback I was immediately intrigued because it sounded more like a myth than reality.

Apparently – the story goes – every decade or so when drought breaks (see recent Queensland floods) the rain and floodwaters slowly migrate throughout the continent via networks of newly formed rivers, basins and subterranean waterways.  They end up in the country’s lowest point, located in arid South Australia.  Somehow fish get inside this huge body of water.  I’ve even heard some say that there are fish eggs in the desert waiting to hatch upon the water’s return.  With the fish come bird migrations and colonies.  And if it floods enough, the water sustains a brief ecological spurt; flower blooms erupt in the middle of the desert.   All this talk about water and biodiversity in arid Australia was an image I had not associated with the Outback.

And so with my romantic inclinations, I looked into it.

Lake Eyre satellite image

This ‘sea’ is otherwise known as Lake Eyre.  It is as real as it is mythologised, having been portrayed as a site of fascination and fear all throughout the national narrative of Australia.  According to some aboriginal accounts, Lake Eyre is a Kangaroo skin laid out flat.  In other accounts it is the site of death, with the salty remnants of tears shed by the Sky Gods.  For explorer John Edward Eyre it symbolised disillusionment after failing to find the heroic prizes usually associated with territorial expansion – resources, drinking water, power.  He then proceeded to name the lookout point upon which he discovered the Lake, Mount Hopeless.  Prior to that Thomas J. Maslen drew a fictional map, featuring an inland sea in the middle of the Australian continent.  The sea is shown as being connected by a massive river labelled “The Great River Or Desired Blessing”.   He thereby set the agenda for a national ideal, for a reality, which was at that time yet to be explored.  For geologist J W Gregory the Lake was branded as “The Dead Heart of Australia”.  Charles Sturt unsuccessfully carried a nine meter long whaleboat into the Outback, in a failed attempt to discover an inland sea.  Hydrologists lobbied to artificially kick start a permanently flooded Lake Eyre, as a means to irrigate the entire continent.  The stories go on and on…

I had the recent pleasure of visiting Lake Eyre and it’s surrounding satellite towns.  Here are some travel pics:

 

The ochre coloured township of Coober Pedy. Famous for opal mines and landscapes reminiscent of Mars. 70% of the population live underground, presumably to moderate the extreme temperatures experienced there. The topography of the town resembles that of a re appropriated opal mine, along with random mounds of excavated earth scattered all over the place. It is within these mounds that the houses are located. We had an interesting underground experience at a cafe where the owner closed the kitchen upon our arrival and politely showed us to the door because he needed to leave the shop to “buy some milk”.

 

There was a very cool space ship parked outside the local opal shop/town lookout.

More space junk in William Creek. This one is legit though – Stage one R3 Rocket from the 70s. Tangentially it is also near the historical atomic testing sites. Population: 5, or something to that effect. William Creek is one shop/petrol pump/pub/camping grounds. It is located midway along the Oodnadatta Track, which roughly follows the nearby western edge of Lake Eyre North. The track was previously an early explorers path, which followed a network of water bores.

 

Oasis. Big drought break. The desert was surprisingly green.

 

The remains of a Mosque located in Marree. The town has a history of Afghan Cameleers who settled there in the 1870’s. Coincidentally our travel routing plans were affected by lack of accommodation because of the coinciding annual Camel Cup races. Marree is also home to the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, which hosts a regatta every time the Lake is sufficiently flooded. It boasts to be the world’s most exclusive yacht club for that reason. They are currently in dispute with local Aborigines who oppose the practice of sailing on the lake.

 

The main course: The shores of Lake Eyre. 80% full. It’s a very salty lake, not much fun for swimming in especially for those with cuts or scratches. Up close it is shallow and not quite swimmable where we met the shore. It has a very thick mud base which never fully dries out under the salt pans even in the Lakes dried state. By this stage I’m feeling nauseous in our 1970’s colour schemed mini plane. But nevertheless pretty snap-happy on the ol’ camera.

 

A rather disorientating moment that didn’t help with my fragile state of motion sickness and feelings of strange juju.

 

Some salt pans that weren’t submerged by water.

Leaving the Lake. See you again next decade!

 

fin.

 

Read More →
All rights reserved. Freerange Cooperative Ltd. 2014.
Top