The Trip of a Lifetime – Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa – Kare Kare – Part Four

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Music producer Nigel Horrocks at his former Kare Kare home

I originally thought I could condense my entire week in New Zealand into one blog post.  Ha!  I packed a month’s worth of fun into the seven days I was there.  Kare Kare Beach was one of the highlights of my trip, and the series of events that happened there were truly surreal.

I’ll begin with the Jane Campion film “The Piano”.  This New Zealand-made film garnered no less than three Academy Awards in 1993.  That was one year before I headed over to the very shore where it was filmed. I saw “The Piano” at the quaint Nickelodeon Theater in Santa Cruz, and I’ll never forget my reaction to its shocking ending.  The opening scenes filmed on Kare Kare beach in which actress Holly Hunter landed there were intense and foreboding.  The weather looked cold, grim and overcast.  Little did I know I’d be there – life takes us to unexpected places, that’s for sure.

When John and I made our way to Kare Kare on his motorcycle, there were scattered showers.  Luckily John was a skilled motorcyclist and he smoothly navigated the windy road.  (I was still nervous and I clutched him so tightly it was a wonder he could breathe!) We made the pilgrimage to Kare Kare because Crowded House had rented a house that overlooked the beach.  It was in that designer home that the band recorded their album “Together Alone” with the producer Youth, the bassist of Killing Joke.  (This unique house had previously been rented by the actor Harvey Keitel when he was on-location filming “The Piano”.)

I didn’t expect to see the Kare Kare house up close, but on a whim John drove us up to the entrance and he pulled off to the side of the driveway.  To my embarrassment, a man stood there staring at us.  He wasn’t angry, like I had assumed he would be for our trespassing.  He drew us into a friendly conversation and inquired why we were there in the rain.  He invited us into his home for tea, and John gave him the groupie details.  We discovered that he was Nigel Horrocks, the owner of the house.  “I am impressed you came here in there rain!” Nigel remarked.  “You must come back here tomorrow night for my party.  It’ll be a music industry shindig!”  I was slightly in shock that Nigel would invite us to his event, but I welcomed his hospitality with open arms.

We took John’s car the following evening back to Kare Kare.  Nigel’s driveway was festooned with lit tiki torches.  After we walked inside I spotted a kava kava drink station.  I helped myself to some of the brew and it was my first time imbibing it. The drink made me a little woozy, and I relaxed somewhat in the crowd of strangers.  It was early but there were already around sixty people milling about.

I looked over toward’s Nigel’s cramped kitchen and I almost passed out.  Less than five feet away from me was Neil Finn.  Now, if you are not a Neil Finn groupie, imagine the musician (or actor or scientist or whoever!) you most admire in the world.  You are within spitting distance of this person.  What would you do?  I freaked out.   There was no way I was going to chit chat with him  I did find it rather symbolic that I saw him in the kitchen.  Neil has frequently written about kitchens in his songs; I’m not sure of the backstory, so I’m not the best Crowded house fan by any means, but it seemed very fitting to spot him the tiny kitchen.

There were other musicians strolling about drinking wine or kava who I  sensed were famous in New Zealand.  Unfortunately I was clueless as to who they were, except for the Crowded House keyboardist Mark Hart and Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner.  A television camera crew was in attendance, and I found myself on the New Zealand news later that evening.  (John kindly made a video of the segment, which I still have to this day.  I’m shown in profile holding my kava kava cup, speaking with another guest.)

A makeshift stage was set up in the living room, and several performers took advantage of the well-heeled crowd to sing, including the singer Emma Paki.  I was very impressed with the talent I heard that evening.  At one point nature called, and I took a breather in the bathroom.  I got a kick out of using the same toilet that the Crowded House musicians and Harvey Keitel used.  What can I say?  I’m easily pleased by such details.

One moment I won’t forget is when party guest “Jaz” Colman, co-founder of the band Killing Joke, took the stage.  I’m not sure if he had too much wine or whiskey or kava kava (or all three beverages combined, perhaps) but he was in a heated state.  He started yelling at all of us, calling us “C*nts!”  I was a bit offended, and slightly disturbed, but it was also a comical moment.  I guess you had to be there! (Someone did take the microphone gently away from him.)

It was getting late and the sky was pitch black, save for a beautiful full moon. Outside in the backyard there was a roaring bonfire and a small group of Maori log drummers playing.   The sound was intense and so was the vibe.  I found myself talking loudly with a friendly man who looked familiar.  John came over to take me aside.  “Do you know who that is, Dyane?” he asked excitedly.  “No,” I replied, wracking my brain.  “It’s Paul Crowther!” I shook my head and could not believe it. Paul “Emlyn” Crowther was one of the drummers of Split Enz from 1974-1976. Thousands of miles away from where John and I stood, in a Santa Cruz room lay my albums Crowther played on along with videos of him during his wacky Enz tenure.  Because he wasn’t famous like his colleague Neil Finn, I was able to relax and enjoy talking with him.  I returned to his side and he invited me to dance to the hypnotic-sounding drummers.  We joined hands and it was a magical moment.

John and I had brought sleeping bags with us, and we did not want to impose on Nigel so we walked down to the beach.   The potent kava kava brew made for an excellent sleep aid.  Luckily we weren’t subjected to any rain during the night.  We made sure to sleep in a safe spot so that we weren’t overtaken by the tide.  It was an unforgettable time for us, and I’ll always be grateful to Nigel Horrocks for creating an extraordinary experience for two young, ardent music fans.

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