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I wrote a post about the closing of the car park sometime last year and never published it, so here it is:
|Photo by Kaiser Caimo|
I've been meaning to address this for weeks but several other things have been keeping me busy. The car park, located beneath Baily Point in Salthill, has been sealed up by its owners. I like to hope that our activity there hasn't been a deciding factor, but it is probably at the very least a contributing one. Though we never once, since starting our messing in August 2010, received any complaints from any residents who live in the apartments above and in front of the car park.
When I first went to the car park it was a pretty different place to how it ended up. There was less standing water for one thing - you could even sit on the bottom floor without fear of getting soaked through.
|Level B4 October 2010|
|Level B4 November 2012|
|Level B3 August 2010|
|Level B3 January 2013|
There was less broken glass, fewer cans and more lights intact on the ceiling (though these were never switched on, except for one memorable and unsettling instance). The stairwells didn't stink of shit. But over time, as word spread of the place (and who knows how much I contributed to that, despite attempts to keep it semi-secret) things started changing.
Traffic (literal automobile traffic) increased. Once, while making this video with Kate we were interrupted by a car driving up from the lowest level. It went slowly, headlights blinding us and the roar of the engine filling every space. We both hid behind pillars, laughing with nerves. We calmed down and went back to work but 20 minutes later another car - a white Mitsubishi - followed the first one up. Kate was already behind a pillar and stayed there but I stood in plain sight and watched the car ascend, probably emboldened by the horse mask. We laughed again, made jokes, devised a secret signal for future encounters ("I think the drug dealers are coming!"). But it was a bit unsettling.
|Car ascending February 2013, on a separate occasion. this car drove down and up twice in the space of 20 minutes, for some reason.|
I think I hoped that this was a one-off, that the space wouldn't slowly be co-opted into being a meeting point for drug deals or clandestine extreme boules tournaments or whatever. I had grown attached to the place and I guess even territorial, at the same time knowing that was a ridiculous notion. I came to realise that the whole point of the place (and the reason I and my friends could use it) was predicated on the idea that it was effectively public. It is not in any way hidden, and for a long time there was no hint of it being guarded. It was like a public, unregulated community centre. That happened to be permanently waterlogged, unlit and kinda smelly.
|(View from the back of level B3, looking at the ramp up to B2)|
One day a trailer showed up on the second floor, the door locked. It sat there for a few months being vaguely menacing and mysterious then disappeared.
Brigid and Caimo both regularly went to the car park alone and reported more encounters, and they were getting very frequent in the last year or so. Cars would drive down with two passengers only to come back up with one missing. Used condoms started appearing like mushrooms, in the dankest and darkest corners. The stench in the stairwell was becoming difficult to stomach. A couple of times last year I had felt like I was slowly deciding to stop going there, that I'd had enough of the place, that I had done as much as I had wanted to do. But I suppose I was a little bit addicted to it. It was still beautiful, despite the steady sink into decrepitude. And I felt like I was finding my own voice because of it. Literally, I hadn't sang as much in my life since going there. So this felt important, and so what if it was falling down, and so what if people give me funny looks when I talked about the place.
I can't remember exactly when the bottom floor became a pool of water, I think it was towards the end of 2011. After a while I realised the presence of this water (which eventually became ubiquitous on every floor to some degree) was very subtly changing the nature of the acoustics. And of course, it started looking different, every floor had its own mirrors which could easily confuse your brain, messing with your sense of depth, scale and distance. Kaiser Caimo sums this feeling up very nicely here.
Caimo was painting on the third floor wall one day a few months ago while Dave and I were recording on the bottom floor when she was approached by a middle aged man who was vaguely shifty but otherwise oblivious to the scenario. He was curious about us and what we were up to, and revealed that he lived in the apartments above and regularly came to the car park to practice guitar with his band. He used sockets in the stairwells to plug in, and they practiced some Bon Jovi songs (I like to imagine that's what they did anyway). Somehow we had never bumped into them before, and they knew nothing of our using the space previously.
Another time Brigid, Kate and I went down one floor to find it already inhabited by a group of about 20 Leaving Cert kids celebrating the end of exams. We decided (on my over-cautious insistence) to go back upstairs and wait an hour, rather than risk a confrontation. By the time we went back they were gone and we made some noise, but never settled into it that day. I kinda regret not just going through with it; who knows, they may have been into it...
Towards the end, I knew the Gardaí were making regular raids on the place, turfing out people who had started going there every single Saturday evening to drink and get some kicks smashing up the lights (which were supposedly worth €40 each, according to some clampers we met there once, with dozens of them on each floor). Once the guards apparently chased someone in there and were so intent on catching them they smashed one of the stairwell doors in.
When we did the "I'm in the abyss!" launch on a Sunday we were shut down about twenty minutes from the end of a six-hour session. At first the guards were adamant we remove ourselves immediately, using their best "move along" shtick. But when they saw the cameras and the instruments and realised nobody was trying to run away they softened their tone. They told us they had "received a complaint" (from, I suspect, the guy in the hig-vis vest who looked frightened and offended and was probably a security guard) and thought we were more of the same sort they had raided and turfed out the previous night. They took my details and told me their name when I asked. They started off and said we could even keep going till six, but to get permission next time we planned on doing anything like this. I enquired as to who we should ask for permission, though I did know the answer already.
In December I had agreed to go in with Vicky Langan to put on a small tour for Richard Dawson, with me organising the Galway leg of it to take place in the car park. There was the choice of Thursday, Friday or Saturday and for some reason I chose Saturday. After the launch gig (and all the talk of Saturday night shenanigans in the car park) I decided not to hold the gig there and found an alternative. I'm actually incredibly glad we did it in a regular venue as it worked out perfectly and probably a lot of impact would have been lost had we done it in the car park. The surroundings tend to take over the mood there so the more improvisatory stuff tends to fit better. Not always, mind.
In the meantime we continued as normal, recording and painting and photographing. Dave was in town with his collection of borrowed horns and his drone boxes so he, Caimo and I went down to do something with them. From the top were heard the sounds of hammering and talking, a car stereo.
We figured it was the same guys we had seen the previous week who used the very top floor as a temporary garage, repairing a car. Dave was specifically looking to record solo violin, solo walkie talkie and solo trombone, all towards various of his myriad planned Raising Holy Sparks releases (some of what we did that day is on this forthcoming release). We each did our parts, and each time the other two listened to the "performance". From above there came a beautiful, near-constant drone from the drill work that was happening on the top floor, which we now realised was probably not what we thought it was. We continued, and started playing together, accompanied by this mysterious noise. We finished up and started walking back up, happy with a particularly productive and enjoyable session. We got to the top floor and were greeted with timber poles drilled into the floor and ceiling, along which were ranged timber slats. It looked like a fence, and the plywood lying nearby told us they were just getting started on a wall. We joked about it, how ridiculous was the idea of sealing such a place with its uneven walls and openings, the five stairwell entrances. We figured they were just blocking up parts of it to send a message to those that were using the place illicitly on a regular basis. Kaiser Caimo took these photographs and we left.
I kept an eye on the place, checking on the wall's progress and sure enough, one day they had done the laughable and sealed it up. Every stairwell entrance had a sheet of plywood nailed over it, the narrow spaces were upper and lower walls narrowly met were filled with wood. The last day I went down there was still one space, wide enough for a car. I cycled around taking photos on the fly, knowing it was probably the last time I would be there.
The next day there was a shiny new gate with a lock in place.
Though it obviously hasn't stopped people using the space that is still left as a drink'n'destroy spot.
I'm happy in a weird way. The odd kind of pressure I put on myself to use the place while I still could is gone, and I feel the more straightforward avenues of recording/performance opening up again. Still, every time I or someone I know gets a new instrument that we've never used before I get the familiar "I wonder what that'll sound like in the car park" thought. It was good while it lasted, and there are no shortage of ways to remember it. It's for the archaeologists now! And the Girls, of course.