WHERE do I even begin on this one. Maybe… I recently experienced something so David Lynchian that I probably actually was in one of his films.
Okay. The Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame (TTCMHOF).
On the drive up to Parihaka music festival a couple of weekends ago, we went through a teeny town called Manaia. I saw a sign touting some sort of music museum and my ragtag band of compatriots and I pulled over to have a look.
When I pulled the door open it gave a giant CREEEAK. Then we were in a small dark entrance room, with a mysterious sign telling us that if we passed through the second set of doors, we would have to pay the (unspecified) Entrance Fee. The nervous beat of “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” started pounding in my head.
Although very poor and thus somewhat uncomfortable with a mandatory mystery charge, we were all intrigued, and opened the second door. We realized we were standing at the back of a large town hall type building with a stage set up at the opposite end. Two people were performing a country song on stage, and about 20 people were sitting around tables in the hall watching the performance.
Confused, we stood rooted to the spot. The music stopped. All heads in the room slowly turned to stare at us.
“WELL HELLO!” the woman on stage yelled. “LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE SOME VISITORS! ARE YOU THE GROUP THAT CAME BY EARLIER?” Still confused, we shook our heads no.
“WELL ARE YOU HERE TO LOOK AROUND OR TO LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC?” This was another slightly puzzling question. Surely people who come in to museums are usually there to look around, not listen to music? However, as there was a concert in progress, it seemed that the only polite answer was, “We are DEFINITELY here to listen to some music!” I was unable to get a team consensus on the issue because you could have heard a pin drop in the room… and all eyes were still focused directly on us. I think I mumbled something like, “Uh, yeah, music would be nice,” and then dropped into a nearby chair at the back of the room.
When the music resumed, it was in a class of its own. We quickly realized that the man and woman onstage were the house musicians, supporting a rotating lineup of vocalists who came forward from the audience one at a time. The songs we heard are hard to describe. The experience really can’t be replicated outside of that space. Imagine that dwarf singing backwards in Twin Peaks, and you might have some idea of the surreal atmosphere. I was focusing every molecule in my body on maintaining a neutral expression. I wanted to take pictures but felt that they might not be able to be developed, like pictures of vampires. Luckily the fabulous Caroline Chin was quick-witted enough to stealthily bring out her camera and shoot a tiny video, which has become my most prized possession. Watch for her giggle-shaking about halfway through.