Grace Jones performed at Auckland City Limits to an enthusiastic crowd. Then Dan Carter appeared and ruined everything. Madeleine Chapman reports.
When the end of days arrives and humans are on a slip’n’slide to oblivion, the skies will open, light will beam down from the heavens, and Dan Carter will appear on a big screen to introduce his good friends Peking Duk.
This is exactly what happened on Saturday 3rd March at Western Springs Stadium. Grace Jones had just performed a one hour set to rival any festival set in the history of New Zealand music festivals. When she left the stage at precisely 9pm, her band followed. The crowd stayed and continued to cheer in a half-hearted attempt at an encore. I looked around me and saw only grey hair. Everyone was polite and in no rush to break the Grace Jones bubble we’d found ourselves in.
And that’s when it happened.
This noise happened.
It stopped everything. The sound wrapped its arms around me, through my ear canals and settled into my soul, where it still lives. Heads turned, cheering stopped, everyone searched for the source of the pain. We all found it on the adjacent stage, on the big screen, in the form of national hero Dan Carter.
Have you ever heard a New Zealand accent pop up in the wild during a Hollywood movie? Remember how grating it sounded coming after the many rounded ‘R’s of the American accent? Now imagine getting used to one of the greatest voices in history in Grace Jones, only to have it followed by an air horn and then Dan “yeah, definitely” Carter.
Despite searching far and wide for footage of an event that has altered the trajectory of humanity, for better or worse, I have only 15 cumulative seconds of footage. Apparently not one person at a popular music festival was recording when Dan Carter, wearing a red hoodie and standing in a field, appeared on a jumbotron and said something like “Hey it’s Dan Carter, my friends Peking Duk are about to play.”
His voice was somehow louder on its own than Grace Jones’s entire band. He was the voice of reckoning, booming down on all the old people who just wanted a moment to process what they’d witnessed and then walk directly out of the festival gates.
“MAKE SOME NOISE,” he yelled, still very much standing alone in a field, “IF YOU WANNA HEAR SOME PEKING DUUUUK.”
The crowd stayed quiet, but maybe their cheers were simply overshadowed by the reappearance of the air horn. The old people around me spun on the spot, waiting for their ascension in what was definitely the rapture.
“MAKE SOME NOISE”
Dan Carter was yelling again. Some comes-with-the-app disco effects were playing out on the screen.
“IF YOU WANNA HEAR SOME PEEEKIIIINNNGGG DUUUUUKK!”
For the third time the air horn sounded. The Grace Jones crowd surged away. Not in any particular direction, just away. Eyes were trained on the ground in the 9pm darkness. When Grace Jones began, it was light, quiet, and a joy. When Grace Jones ended and the air horn began, it was dark, loud, and we were about to die in a stampede to the gates.
Up on the big screen, as the air horn blew, Dan Carter turned around and punted a ball into the distance. Where did that ball come from? Was he holding it the whole time? Then he either fist pumped or danced for two seconds and the moment ended. A movie production company jig began, followed by Peking Duk’s first song. As we fled, I saw an old couple had chosen to dance while the world ended. Respect.
I wanted answers. How had this happened? Who was responsible? Was it actually just a really good Tom Sainsbury impression? All through Phoenix’s stellar final set, I thought about Dan Carter’s friendship with Peking Duk. I thought about Dan Carter listening to Peking Duk. I thought about Dan Carter yelling “make some noise if you wanna hear Peking Duuuuuk!”
I didn’t sleep that night.
The next day, after asking online for footage of The Incident and getting no leads, my flatmate Kathleen very calmly mentioned that she had a short recording. God bless Kathleen and may she ascend during the actual rapture which will feature Peking Duk very seriously intoning “rest in peace Whitney Houston” to thousands of drunk kids before playing a techno remix of “I Will Always Love You” like they did on Saturday.
I watched the footage on loop for hours. I now occasionally make the air horn noise in everyday life. I went from believing it was the worst thing to happen at a New Zealand music festival to now believing it’s the greatest moment in New Zealand history.
The clip isn’t great unto itself, though it’s funny to imagine Dan Carter recording his part in France without the air horns and effects, and pausing for the crowd. If that same clip were used during an O-Week set (I’m told it has been) it would be perfect. But having Dan Carter yell at you in a red hoodie mere moments after Grace Jones and her dulcet tones had sashayed off the stage is jarring and should never have been allowed to happen. But it did happen. And we’ll never be the same.
The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark, a major sponsor of Auckland City Limits. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.