Aldous Harding sings atheist spirituals.
Sometimes climate change has definite upsides. Wellington, for example, might turn into a Mediterranean city on the Cook Strait where people walk around in light shirts and blouses late into the evening and dine alfresco in little lanes. Of course the other news is the driest spring in Canterbury for 100 years. He wonders when the media will stop reporting like that. If five of the hottest summers were in the last ten years is the latest one still the hottest in 100 years?
Across from the State Opera House is a park. It was called Pigeon Park. He watched a documentary once about the poor, harassed woman who turned it into its new form. It’s not a form he likes much to be honest, all points and rubbish in water, but he loves the tiles themselves with the plant forms pressed into them. The tree is still there. The one that used to attract all the pigeons, and have a wide spatter print of guano around its base. There are no pigeons squabbling there though and he wonders how the pigeons in the tree have been dealt with.
A man in his 30s comes over. His gait is interrupted and he twists at the knees a little when he walks, moving forward and dipping up and down as his legs drop a bit. He has a beard, and thick black hair. He explains about how he needs money for an operation because his bowels don’t work. There is always an instinct to think that this is a lie and that the money is for something else, but he never thought it mattered. After all he had just had a couple of beers, and a wine and it felt nice. Was feeling nice something that started only with the working poor and was something those at the bottom were not entitled to?
He had no money. He never did. Sometimes he thought about taking out all his money in $5 notes and just walking through town giving it away. Why not? He didn’t though. That was the key to the story: he hadn’t done that. After the man shuffled away he approached other groups. Some people gave him money, others chatted with him. There was a steady build of people mingling outside the State Opera House before the Aldous Harding concert. A mix of people who knew the secret about Aldous.
Inside the State Opera House the lights eventually went down and Martin Phillips walked out on stage. At first he had thought Martin was a roadie; a man dressed in black checking amps. It wasn’t. Phillips played his first song. People clapped. Then he played Pink Frost which some people knew. After that things flattened out into a nothingness. A murmur of songs going to no high or low; lyrics cycling around repetitively. After awhile he remembered why he had felt a slightly positive flicker about Martin Phillips. It was I Love My Leather Jacket. He didn’t play it.
Afterwards the lights came up and people went out to get drinks.
Then the lights went down and people came back in again.
For some people this was going to be a theme for the night. Going back out and coming back in, and kicking over plastic cups.
Aldous walked on stage in white pants and a top; a black coat. Like an ivory between two black keys. She sat on a high stool with her guitar and waited for a time as the room stilled itself. She placed her hand at the neck of her guitar and the room leaned forward a little.
Swell does the skull
I don’t want to be a sinner, no
Don’t want to be a sinner, no
But bourbon, always bourbon
For him it felt like an ancient song. A song he imagined performed late at night on the shores of Troy, the campfires burning high sending sparks up to the stars as the men lay their weary bones down and thought of the dead, the lovers left, and listened to the wine dark sea ripple back and forth up the shore.
There is a connection between Aldous and that type of music that lifts our dusty souls out. Is she trying to puncture the skin between this and other places? Is she the boy soprano voice calling on god in the cavernous dark cathedral? Or is it a going back down inside?
The lights come back up. It’s over. Whatever it was. The audience stands and kicks its collective plastic cups over and bursts into a cacophony of talk and social media update illuminated faces. Pouring out onto the street to see the moon or perhaps not. He doesn’t like talking now. People talking is like people putting their hands all over something clean. The moon is a clean companion.