The Wairakei Resort Gig

‘The restaurant’ – brand new!

After a month or so of ‘R &R’, Paul and I got a gig at a resort. In a state of both disrepair & being rebuilt, the place had a history of ‘live’ music and we became a continuum of that theme. Our last port of call on a dark winter’s evening, we dropped  a demo tape of at reception and returned, dejectedly, home. This was out first effort to find a gig, after a month or two off-  & the signs weren’t good in a small place the size of Taupo, NZ. 

The phone went the next day: “Are you guys as good as you sound on the tape?” “Hell, we’re better than that!”  I said, in true humble Sagittarian style. An arrow had found the mark and we got employed.

Maybe I’ll write a book about the ‘Wairakei Resort‘ one day. The place has a long history. Seems a place of a thousand ghosts and memories. Back then it was surrounded by the oldest exotic plantation of pine trees in NZ, in a perfect circle. 

It seemed a surreal and breathtaking set, that first evening. We sat on the porch, watching about 50 quail on the front lawn as an awesome sunset surrendered to the tree line, against a perfectly  clear mountain-air sky. The crisp stillness was emphatic. Here, surely, was a strange set for something magical – or a place to lose yourself, never to return. Fortunately, it turned out to be more of the former, although, truth be known, it was a close run thing. 

When we’d arrived, we couldn’t believe the accommodation for our stay on that first gig : a run down old shack, the worst in the row of ‘staff quarters‘, beside the golf course.

Yeek – and it was cold. To be fair, one of the managers was horrified later to learn this was where we were put up the first weekend.

A fresh lick of paint seemed to be holding the walls up. No curtains. Freezing. Still, we’d put our bags inside and got ready for the gig and sat, observing the quail.

Then we set off for ‘the function room’. Our first night on the job…we were well received. Our brand of dinner music ‘wowed‘ the locals. Unfortunately, Keith, the maitre D (whom I’ve previously mentioned -funny story here about when we first met : Keet), threw things into state of confusion by turning on the mirror ball halfway through the night, as if we were a dance act. Dredgie was horrified, me cross eyed, Keith confused and the patrons bemused. Then it all got sorted. The mirror ball was turned off and we finished the night in our ‘quiet‘ way. 

Paul and ‘Steven Seagull’….

We got employed for Friday and Saturday evenings. Our first night in ‘The Restaurant‘ was a ‘triumph‘ -apparently. It was empty, apart from an austere looking older couple who seemed to hardly notice whether we were playing Mark Knopfler, Rolling Stones or Ray Charles. The funniest part of the night was when we sitting in the adjacent bar, during our last break. We realised the raucous music that suddenly burst into our consciousness was the last (hidden) track on ‘Woodface’ a Crowded House CD we’d put on. Paul raced into the restaurant & switched it off and saved the day. 

This is a Paul Simon song we used to perform together

A few years down the track, performing in different countries!

It turned out the older couple was the General manager and his Wife. The next evening, at ‘staff dinner’ ( left over dog? who knows? the staff food was often reinvented, re- presented as a new dish, each day ) the GM came up and congratulated us and hoped we’d stay for a long time. The place seemed somewhere between Hotel California and quaint NZ colonial times. The ‘old school‘ ‘boarding school’ type mentality was stifling. Dredgie and I flitted in and out of the picture. Playing golf (free) , writing songs, doing the gigs in the restaurant. We hung out afterwards, completely ‘lost in time‘, in the comforting soulessness of the ‘B.P. Diner, in the gas station across the road. We often scoffed burgers hungrily, having been unable to consider eating the ‘staff dinner‘ that had been on offer 3 hours earlier. The older waitress eyed us with maternal sympathy, a peaceful worldly look in her eye- angels at every turn.

I reckon we are walking receivers, set, ready to become whatever the universe requires of us, as our personalities unfold.

Here’s our song ‘B.P. Diner‘ (from the Album ‘Lost In Time’)

BP Diner reflects the juxtaposition of this somehow ethereal quiet setting while a young barmaid told us of her struggles, attempting to juggle motherhood, in a relationship that was under pressure, in a small town….-yeehar. If grace could be found here, you’d find it anywhere.

Here’s the video. Spot the lion (me ) and the gorilla (Paul) – we got dressed up for a cameo in a circus themed function between sets once. Really….

Now do you believe me?!

OK, here’s how it happened. Paul and I were booked to do a few brackets of background music for a function, which had a theme of ‘circus’. Despite some pretty interesting outfits and few good folks, this turned out to be a rather stuffy lot. We didn’t quite get daggers from the crowd as they conversed and dined, but we did get some rather long cold stares. Thank goodness, there was quiet applause from one table, occasionally, that gave us a point of focus.

Someone had the idea of hiring a lion and gorilla outfit to dress an employee up, to liven up proceedings. Trouble was, no one wanted to do it. The management asked if Paul and I would do it to provide some excitement. We didn’t need a second invitation.

We got the outfits on and worked out the briefest of plans: Paul was to chase me and go where ever I did in the room.

There followed 5 minutes of complete and utter shambolic improvised ‘theatre’ of sorts. I raced in, mincing along in the silky lion outfit. Paul was right behind me making gorilla noses, jumping in the air and clapping his feet together, rather athletically.

As planned, we raced around the room. The room erupted. I went under some tables. Paul went under the tables. I went across the top of a table and dived between the patrons on the other side. Paul followed. We had fleeting dances with some of the gamer folks…I got accosted and ended up sitting in the ringmaster lady’s lap, while Paul leapt around… it was too funny.

We left the room abruptly at the gallop, got changed and -once we got our act together (and it took some time, as this was one of the funniest experiences we’d had on a gig ), we resumed out positions on stage, performing to a much more relaxed bunch…. the things you find yourself doing.

So there you go. The ballad of the Lion and the Gorilla has yet to be composed…

More ‘Wairakei stories’ coming up.

3 thoughts on “The Wairakei Resort Gig

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