Random Play by Graham Reid

Brash pop and Brash politics

Anyone bemoaning declining standards in the education system might have wanted to catch the Checks at the Big Day Out last week. In their original Tired of Sleeping (which I took to be a comment on the state-of-the-nation) there was the line, “a satyr for Hyperion”.

These schoolboys have obviously been paying attention in English because that seems to be a flip on the line “Hyperion to a satyr” in Hamlet when the broody student is comparing his late father (Hyperion, one of the Titans and father of the sun god) to his uncle (satyr, the half-man half-goat beast).

So big-ups to these brash lads for not talking down to their audience.

I had a good time at the BDO this year, mainly because for the first time I wasn’t there to review, ask security guards and cops why those kids were lying semi -conscious under main stage, and flitting from one stage to another to try and get a feel for as many bands as possible. Then trying to file before an early deadline.

Last year I recall trying to go down the stairs to the media room as Metallica’s audience was coming up. And they aren’t polite people.

This year I managed to see who I wanted and stay as long as I cared to. (Kid Koala made me want to go buy his albums and comic books, an advance copy of the Pluto album which I am listening to now confirms how good their new songs are.)

So generally I had a good time. Right up until I braved the Slipknot audience.

I know very little about Slipknot other than what I have read. And an interview in the Herald that morning made me want to see them.

I had them pegged as big noisy racket but the article suggested that maybe I had misjudged them. So with the best will in the world and being genuinely curious I made my way as far to the front and centre as I could.

They were shit. Not as bad as the Donnas who struck me as someone’s idea of a joke and a tie-in marketing exercise, but just plain noisy shit. That much I didn’t mind, they are perfectly entitled to do what they do just as I am to conclude they are not for me. What I didn’t like most of all were their fans who, if the black-clad belligerent masses around me were anything to go by, are the kinds of people I wouldn’t have round for a barbecue.

But that too is my choice and I am ever mindful we cannot fairly judge a band by its audience. (I liked Joy Division, but was damned if I’d have Tony and his mates over ever again after they took a pocketful of downers and wanted to sit around my house on a school night till 4am listening to Closer.)

No, we must be cautious about making a direct correlation between artist and audience, but my guess is that Slipknot (who sensibly keep themselves anonymous behind masks to allow for a family life with girlfriends and kids and going to Wall-Mart unhindered) probably don’t ever meet their audience.

Oh sure, they probably do CD signings and in-stores and glad-hand a few competition winners backstage before a show, but they don’t actually hang out with them. You know, get on Jack-binges and go to parties with them. They don’t get their hands dirty and probably wouldn’t want to be in a moshpit with them.

That’s in the nature of the game, but sometimes you wish people commanding the spotlight did actually have to meet their constituents.

That thought occurred to me when Don Brash said at Ratana Pa yesterday his previous Orewa speech wasn’t anti-Maori.

Well, on a literal reading of it maybe it wasn’t. Just as maybe the speech he is predicted to deliver tonight won’t actually come out and say we should really hammer welfare beneficiaries.

But Don, no matter how politely you couch it, out there in the moshpit of middle New Zealand that last Orewa speech legitimised anti-Maori sentiment. It gave voice to those might not otherwise have had the courage to spit their venom and deep-seated, often vile, racist sentiments.

Yes, Brash’s last speech made some valid points -- it would be wrong to damn it out of hand, and even Labour liberals made some quick shuffles when they felt the ground beneath them move -- but it also went much further than that. And I do wonder whether Don knew that. I suspect not. His blithe demeanour suggests he doesn‘t.

Because, like the guys in Slipknot, Don Brash doesn’t actually meet his constituency.

Oh sure, he does the political equivalent of in-stores and gladhands a few of the faithful backstage. But mostly it is tea and biscuits with the elderly who ooze concern about the way their country is going, and it all sounds so reasonable and polite.

Maybe Don needs to get out there and meet some of the talkback types who would happily put the boot in to Maori and their grievance industry, and would like to derail that gravy train they have heard so much about.

Maybe Don would like to spend a day over a few beers with those farmers who want to ride into town to sort out these bloody dole bludgers.

Don, meet your constituents.

Many are satyrs to the Hyperion you would want to be.