I finished reading Shayne Carter’s autobiography Dead People I Have Known (Victoria University Press). It’s an excellent book: reflective, honest, occasionally moving, occasionally funny. It also contains the best descriptions of music since AMADEUS.
I saw Carter perform one time, a Dimmer farewell gig at Bodega in 2012. Bodega is now closed, its central, eyeline-spoiling pillar a collective sigh in the memory of Wellington’s gig-going faithful.
From my vantage point at the extreme right of the room, I gripped the bar on which my beer bottle rested while Carter ripped through one face-melting, feedback-laden guitar solo after another. He seemed in a mood to indulge his fingers more than his voice that day, and that was fine with me. I barely remember him speaking, let alone singing.
What I do remember is his body doubled over in submission to his guitar. His fringe hung down over his sharp-featured face. His lips pursed out in a demonic grin. He must have spent half the gig in that pose.
“The facial expressions,” my friend and I agreed over a beer a few months later when the subject of Shayne Carter live came up. “The facial expressions.”
Years later, she would edit his book. And I would borrow the book from another friend, whose photos are in the book. Just so you know how small New Zealand is.
And I say again, it is an excellent book, worth reading even if you couldn’t name a single one of his songs. It’s almost as good as his facial expressions.