In 1988 three mates and I embarked on a rock'n'roll mission to acquire fame and fortune. We acquired neither, but the attempt was worthy.
The band was a four-piece: Scratch on bass, Greg Blackler on guitar & vocals, Michael Bryant (aka Spex) on guitar & vocals, and myself on drums. We had played together in various bands and configurations previously and in 1988 we decided to make the jump and go professional. We were to spend the next four years pursuing elusive rock'n'roll dreams.
The Plant People and Crew at the Wanganui Hell's Angels clubhouse in 1991.
Left to right: Greg, Nepia, Scratch, Ozzy, Dave, Spex and Hooky.
The name "Plant People" came to me one day after pondering the unhappy state of my pot plants (I wasn't much of a green thumb). I thought to myself "I should call Scratch and get his advice - he's a plant person". It was several hours later that "The Plant People" jumped into my head as a band name, and I suggested it to the other guys that night. They didn't immediately take to the name and we tried to think of a better one, but we couldn't so in the end we went with The Plant People. Although originally unintended, the drug connotations were obvious and we embraced them wholeheartedly.
Over the years we played a variety of gigs and venues... Pubs, Parties, Rugby Clubs, Semi-Formal Occasions (eg. Weddings), Motorcycle Clubs, Alternative Music Venues, and occasional Larger Concert events. Sometimes we got paid a fee by the venue, sometimes we got the door take, sometimes we got paid in dodgy contra. It was hard work trying to make a living out of it and we weren't very financially successful, despite getting good attendances. No one in New Zealand was really making good money out of playing music, in fact we often commented that musos got the poorest pay in the industry. Indeed, for a while our roadies got paid more than we did.
Gigs That Suck
I'll annoy a few people by saying this, but the worst gigs we ever played were the rugby clubs. Although we had some really good ones, these clubs consistently had the most arrogant, obnoxious and violent audiences. We would frequently have half a dozen brawls at a rugby club gig - we didn't see that many in four years playing for bikers.
Gigs That Don't Suck
Large concerts definitely rule. Our biggest was probably Mountain Rock with maybe 20,000 people (I can't remember exactly - one day I'll check the history books). Playing to an audience that size is an experience which is hard to describe. It's a rare and intoxicating high. You feel overwhelmed and yet incredibly powerful. You never want it to end and yet it's so physically and emotionally exhausting you need it to end. For a band like us who only got to do this a few times, each time was special.
One of my great regrets in life is that we have no record of any of our "Big Gigs". I suppose at the time we thought there would be other times to get photos and videos, but it never happened.
Groupies and Favoured Fans
Band audiences are fascinating and we had interesting relationships with ours. A typical crowd could have been anything from 50 to 500 people of which a percentage may have been regular followers of the band. We were lucky to have a loyal base of supporters who enjoyed traveling to other cities to see us play. They helped give us a sort of small-time pseudo-fame.
Groupies are all about ego. It's a symbiotic deal -- they feel important when they're seen hanging out with the band, and the band gets to feel popular because lots of people wanted to be seen hanging out with them. There's not many ego boosts like having groups of people cue up talk to you when you've finished playing. We would sometimes stroll into after-gig parties in single file as if we were the All Blacks, flanked by our crew and groupies, and instantly be the centre of attention. We felt like kings. Of course this sounds like a load of grandiose delusional male narcissism -- it is. It's an easy trap to get into and in many ways it was ultimately our undoing.
One day I'll tell you about the horse on stage and some other surprising things that happened to us.