Aoki Dokeyby Mello Moropa, images by JR Onyangunga and Mello Moropa / 08.04.2010
On Saturday, Easter weekend, Steve Aoki was playing at the Woods in Newtown. I was there and, apart for being kicked out of the VIP room and briefly losing my phone, twice, I had a rather enjoyable time. And I took better pictures than the Cobrasnake. Oh yes, and there are people who read these articles with the hopes of finding the meaning of life. I’m not Shembe; I’ve come to accept that now.
Let’s begin at the end. It’s close to the end of the night and I’m in the VIP room where Steve Aoki, the electro “kingpin”, is enjoying a fruit salad and bottled water in the company of Mark the Cobrasnake and these two nauseating manager/club owner types. I’m looking pretty stupid in here now. A friend (who got so drunk he started whipping people with his belt) has the camera outside somewhere and I’m getting looks like “who the fuck is this guy and what the fuck is he doing here?” Just as one of the afore-mentioned manager guys is about to vocalise his thoughts, the Cobrasnake hands me his camera and asks me to take a picture of him and his gang. Perfect, now I have a purpose. I get on one knee, steady, aim, fire. The picture makes its way to thecobrasnake.com the next day. I hand his camera back to him as a flood of blonde girls pours into the room. It’s turning into another kind of party now and I’m not invited. The fruit salad and I are pushed to the side to make room for dessert: blonde-jozi-chick-pudding.
Earlier I was in the middle of the dance floor. While surrounded by the young, crazed and beautiful, my mind was oscillating between two thoughts. First: where is my phone? Secondly: the Cobrasnake is more earthworm than venomous viper. You expect the famous party photographer to be this effervescent ball of energy, shooting everything that moves, talking to people, having fun. You expect him to display some sort of personality. What you get is a mute with more hair on his chest than on his head, wearing dungarees and a dazed expression on his face. Oh, he’s also got a camera in his hand. Some might think that this makes him mysterious. In reality, it just makes the dude very boring. It’s understandable that one might get jaded after shooting a zillion parties. It’s understandable, but it’s still lame.
Aoki, on the other hand, was exactly what I expected to experience. I acquired a backstage pass from Vice magazine’s Henk. I can’t remember what I told him but I’m sure it was all lies. From there I saw the master practice his deadly Dim Mak (death touch) martial art. Killer set, killer performance, killer energy. Two large bottles of champagne sprayed over the crowed, stage diving, and decanting bottles of hard liquor down girls’ throats. Aoki came here to party!
I had to get close to the guy. Taking pictures that tell a story is difficult when you’re shooting with nothing but the onboard flash, in a club, on a camera where one has to search for the on button. You have to get perilously close. I take a pic of the Dim Mak practitioner as he plays and the flash distracts him. The manager guys try to kick me off the stage but I scurry away before they can get close enough to touch me. I hate those guys!
I go to the toilet to find my phone. What I find is a large number of small black plastic squares covering the floor. Lots of cocaine wrappers, but still no phone. I’m starting to panic, maybe some wrongdoer has traded my phone for half a gram and a blow-up doll. I walk outside to gain some perspective. I see my phone lying hazardously on the road. The gods are with us. From here I make my way back inside to find my drunken friends and to take pictures of hot girls with affable personalities, redheaded leprechauns wearing bowties, and other oddities. Who knows, maybe I can hustle my way into the VIP room. Fuck, where’s my phone?
All images © JR Onyangunga and Mello Moropa.