11 October 2018, Hastings By Rosheen FitzGerald
There’s a bottleneck by the bar. The crowd mills, getting their drinks in, peeking through the cracks in the velvet curtain through which accents of sound escape. When we filter in, there are oohs and ahh’s at the intricate dremel-worked tables, bare boards, brick walls, black backdrop barely concealing worn concrete beneath, while on stage the gang run through last minute practice.
The accomplished eight-piece band, billed as ‘Hawke’s Bay’s finest prostitutes’, are well turned out in leopard print, sailor hat, embroidered jacket, poppy headdress, black veil and tiara, sequined shirt, sombrero, lumberjack chique (hey, there’s a groove for every kink), while the man himself, the great and good ‘Anon’, takes the conductors role all in black kurta pyjamas and stockinged feet. I can’t help but wonder if his usual rubber soles might insulate him from the electric energy he’s created in this room tonight.
A vague intro for a vague show leads into a hip-hop tune that starts heavy on the horns, establishing a theme that carries through, providing a point of reference, a beacon for when things get weird and we find out how deep the rabbit hole goes. On flute, Dana Parkhill carries the tune, grabbing the audience by the hand and taking them on a journey of musical wonder and oddity.
Wuts’ vocals intone ‘tha muthafuckin fringe’ for a few beats before replacing ‘fringe’ with ‘cringe’…the only appropriate response to a middle-aged white dude rapping over a symphony of his own composition. In doing so, he sets the tone for the performance – acerbic dry humour layered on top of zero-fucks-given musical genius.
Numbers oscillate between sombre and frenetic.
Bride of Frankenstein, Amy Dunne’s vocals are suitably obtuse – her big eyes and operatic style channelling the bogeyman, but more fun than frightening, hamming up the scary face and ending with a B-movie shriek.
American Becca takes pride of place for the definitively best beatboxer I’ve heard today, prompting me to question how these noises are coming from this tiny girl in angel wings.
Imogen Duncan’s balletic en-pointe interlude pairs prescribed movements with a glasslike expression, like a figure atop a cake on a revolving stand, strange and riveting.
‘Solo Mum’ captures the complexity of parenting – you need to work hard to get to the good stuff – Anton on clarinet consciously taking the lead. He’s supported by the community of musicians at his back but at the end of the day, the clarinet’s the one making sure the baby’s not thrown out with the bath water.
An ode to Toad of Toad Hall is fun and funny, with bizarre and hedonistic lyrics on cards so we can all sing along.
Then, lest we fly too far on this flight of fantasy, we’re gently deposited back to earth with ‘Bon Voyage’, a sobering finale, channelling the soundtrack of a noir detective movie, drawing the evening to a definitive and complete conclusion.
The whole thing has the feel of a soundtrack to some long forgotten film from the fifties, the musical score to a Pirandellian cultural phenomenon. It perfectly exemplifies the spirit of the fringe – one (massively talented) man’s sojourn into his musical imagination, and devil-may-care who’s listening.
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