Tourettes and Skyscraper Stan

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9 November, Sitting Room Session, Napier

They seem an unlikely pairing; poet/novelist/once rapper Dominic “Tourettes” Hoey and tongue-in-cheek country crooner/songwriter, Skyscraper Stan (Stanley Woodhouse). At a glance, they’re quite a sight, Woodhouse’s leather jacket and clean shave alongside Hoey’s beard and snapback cap. Intriguing, for sure, but also had me asking the question that comes up each time I try to wrap my head around fusion food – will this pairing be like curry and rice, or milk and orange juice? The short, probably simplistic answer is, curry and rice.

The longer, slightly more thought-out answer? Read on…

In their third gig of a 17-show, three-week tour, Tourettes and Skyscraper Stan take the stage at one of the infamous and intimate Sitting Room Sessions. It’s an auspicious night, the first Sitting Room gig at a new and sensorially stunning venue. The chairs are eclectic – a seat for every body. The small stage is perfectly backdropped by a Ron Te Kawa quilt and each space has been lovingly and tastefully dressed for the event. The audience seems close-knit but friendly and enthused, appreciative of the space, the hosts and performers. There is no mic stand so the show is unplugged, but the room has been chosen for its beautiful acoustics, which seem to swirl around us, wrapping the audience in a warm sonic hug.

The hug is first induced by the clear resonance of Woodhouse’s guitar and his smooth, rich vocal tone. With his first number, ‘A Man Misunderstood’, I find that I’m quickly “with” him in this story of misplaced fortune and trust – so much so that a peculiar childhood memory springs to mind – a shapeshifting bard from the 80s kids TV show Storybook International. Woodhouse’s song sounded in no way like this, but had brought up a long forgotten feeling of a good memory. I’m a kid again, hunched in a blanket, flanked by siblings and leaning into cartoons on a weekend morning. Sure, it’s sentimental, but I eagerly await the next story. The songs vary in theme, from daily situational observation to social and political critique. Rich with metonymy and sardonic humor, and given the country/folk treatment, Woodhouse’s clever offerings are fun, and absorbing. Between songs, he is light and funny – in that typically kiwi self-deprecating way; “It’s really just a fast rhyme that sounds impressive but doesn’t say much,” he quips about one song. I’m softening and relaxing, thinking to myself, “Damn, I think I’ve just been crooned!” And it feels good.

When Hoey takes the stage we are already a well-entertained, open audience. Even so, as he pulls scraps of paper out of his jean pockets, I tentatively ready myself for the possibility of the dreaded milk and orange juice experience. He reads from the scrap, a series of sharp, poetic witticisms, which, once read, are casually scrunched and tossed to the floor. Belying that casual act is Hoey’s command – of the space, and of storytelling. Through dialogue, anecdote and metaphor, Hoey deftly weaves stories of life on the margins, delivered spoken-word style, with lilt and punch. His command so thick, we can almost grasp at his words – the processing of deep thought borne from lived experience as a x-ennial growing up in Grey Lynn. Hoey cleverly, but firmly reminds us of the vacuous truth of the ubiquitous “social ladder” – a concept which, although invisible, is fervently practiced, and therefore physically apparent and viscerally felt – harshly so, by those in poverty. Being of a similar ilk, and sharing that rung on said ladder, I found all of his poetry relatable. His connotations landed, and connected. Having said that, I think all will find many moments to relate, nod and laugh through Hoey’s act. His perspective is succinct and persuasive and, like Woodhouse, he ultimately plays within the grounds of acknowledging our diverse, yet shared humanity.

The pair are not so odd when one sees that each carries their own flavour of mana and, importantly, that each respects that in the other through being present, requesting songs, laughing along and cracking jokes. It occurs to me that I’ve been had, there is no milk and orange juice. What is presented is sweet, sour, salty, hot and bitter – but most of all, fresh and satisfying. Curry and rice.

Dominic “Tourettes” Hoey and Skyscraper Stan are playing one show only in Hastings tonight at Common Room, tickets available here. Check out Dominic Hoey’s novel Iceland and Skyscaper Stan’s music. CDs and books available at the show tonight.

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