May 15, 2009

the regent theatre 24hour booksale


the regent theatre 24 hour booksale is a bit of an institution in Dunedin. set in the grand environs of the centrally located old proscenium palace, it seems like the whole city comes out for the event. the live music played here in the past has included such under-appreciated milestones as the set by Alastair Galbraith committed to tape and released by Bruce Russell on Xpressway in 1987 as side A of 'Hurry on Down', Alastair's first solo release after The Rip. Alastair has this to say about that release on the website of his label, Emperor Jones:

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"One side of it was recorded live at a gig to benefit the Regent Theatre, a large theatre in Dunedin that the owners never stopped doing up. They would get musicians to play for nothing for 24 hours over a Friday and Saturday. It was a chance to play to a horribly mainstream audience of people browsing through second hand books that had also been donated to the theatre. I really stupidly agreed to do a 3am performance and went to sleep and woke up at 2:30am and went down there with Bruce. He recorded the whole thing, but I was under the influence of something very strange, I can't remember what, and when I listen to it I can tell that I wasn't fully awake. The other side was a result of Bruce coming to the warehouse where I was living at that time and asking me if I'd written any songs. I said I'd written about eight or nine and he said 'play them all to me'. I played them one after the other for him and he recorded them on a walkman. I honestly thought he was recording them for personal listening, but he released it! It was good of him, but within a few months of it being out I said to him that I never really knew at the time it was recorded that he was going to release it, and that I would quite like a go at giving him something slightly better, and so there was a first and second edition. Just prior to this, a friend who was an elderly woman I used to do gardening for (and I had known since I was twelve) had asked me out of the blue what I would most like materialistically, and I thought for a while and said 'a four-track recording machine'. Later, she came back into the room with a cheque that was almost enough to buy a second hand one. So I was learning how to record myself at that point and was able to give Bruce slightly better versions of some of the songs."

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wandering around making location recordings of this year's booksale I was able to capture, if not a Galbraith in the making, at least the odd aural spectacle of an elderly female voice reading a medical textbook section about the eye, and a briefly sketched out history of the booksale's cultural import by the woman who wrapped my finds in newspaper, as well as a slightly earlier conversation with the poet David Howard, which ended with him being asked, and refusing, to read to the collected silently browsing audience, and nominating me as a likely alternative.

thanks, David...