DANGER! ROAD CLOSED

What happens when two bands, Cassandra’s Ears and the Straitjacket Fits ignore the sign that says, DANGER! Road Closed.

This magnificent weather reminds me of a wonderful story. A summer tour with Cassandra’s Ears and Straitjacket Fits. An odd combination I know, but it was a seriously fun time and we covered a lot of ground.

It was the summer of 1990. I called Debbi Gibb’s who managed the Straitjacket Fits and said, “How about we team up for a summer tour around the upper North Island of New Zealand. And we did. We toured to several beach locations, however this story is all about the Colville show. Or ‘No Show’.

I don’t know how we managed to drive past the signs that said “Road Closed, Danger”. Not just one car, but four. Three cars with the musicians and one van with the sound equipment. Not one of them thought there was any reason to pay heed to the “Road Closed” signs and we ploughed on through.

We were on our way to Colville from Thames. It is a very erratic road that winds its way up the Coromandel coast. I remember vividly a sheep perched on a 4 x 4 metre piece of grass that had (obviously now)  fallen from the cliff side above us, slipped down the hill, slithered over the road and landed on the beach front, slightly submerged in water.

We all thought, “that’s funny, there is a sheep eating grass on the water front when it should be up the hill about 50 ft”.

Along the way we came across some slips that had covered the road. We simply drove over them. We continued to chat and laugh and think the whole thing was completely normal. Yes it was raining. A lot. But hey nothing was going to stop us from getting to the gig. Not any stupid rain.

The drive from Thames to Colville is about 1 hour and in that time it poured incessantly. We arrived at the Coleville Hall.

There was no one around.

We got out and loaded our gear in to the hall. There was no one around.

We set up and sound checked. There was still no one around.

One of the locals came by and said “How the hell did you get here? The roads are closed and there is a flood warning!”

We scratched our heads and said “really?”

So there we were in, Colville, with our gear safely in the hall.

Along came the organiser of the event. (I can’t recall their name and I am hoping they might leave a note in the comments of this story.) They told us they were very surprised we had arrived but, seeing we were there, we may as well do the show as a few locals might make it in to ‘town’.

All of us in the touring party, I think about 15 in all, took our gear and our sleeping bags to the place we were staying, and went back to the hall.

The rain kept on raining. So we did a sound check and prepared for the arrival of the punters.

But no one came. Not one person.

We thought “That is weird”

There was a café/dairy next door. One of the ladies who worked there popped in to tell us that the river up behind the hall was just about to burst it’s banks and that we were in fact flooded in, and possibly were about to be flooded out as well.

Sure enough we walked outside to our cars and on either side there was water. We weren’t going anywhere and we had the threat of a river bursting its banks directly above us. It was quite surreal and as it got dark we couldn’t tell any more if we were in any real danger. All we could do is wait in the hall.

We had with us was our music equipment and two dog blankets.

There was no way we could leave the hall and there was no way anyone could get to the hall to see us play. So that was that.

All we could do was sit in that hall, on the wooden trestles and wait. All night. And it was cold.

(The dogs slept well though)

The floodwater subsided about 7am. I have never been so happy to see a sleeping bag on a carpeted floor on which we had a few hours to kip.

We never got to play Coleville and as we drove back to the Coromandel we finally noticed those BIG RED signs that said “Stop, Road Closed”.