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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Miltones - Blue Smoke - Christchurch - 16 July 2017

I recently picked up a copy of a most excellent debut album from the above combo and so liked their brilliant take on light Americana and Fleetwood Mac. My wife was also impressed enough to want to come along with me to see this five piece in a Sunday sit down gig at Blue smoke.
 After lunching in the city and doing several chores we ascended on Blue Smoke about 15 minutes after the advertised door opening hour and after procuring drinks found a good table in the center of the room.
 The support act was a fella by the name of Nick Dow who played an electric piano/keyboard and was backed by a drummer and another fella on guitar. The music he presented was very laid back pop, almost jazz-like and certainly did have some Jazz flourishes at times. It was really nice music and Nick was a good singer. Perfect Sunday music and I really enjoyed their set. I was reminded of another NZ artist called Gramsci while listening to this music. 
 It was a surprisingly quick turnaround between sets as The Miltones hit the stage and got stuck into the songs off their album. Their sound was clean and clear, the singer is really great and the band was tight and professional and having a ball playing their songs. They played at least one song not on the album and also during one of the later songs in their set the keyboard player let loose a very cool trumpet solo giving the track an afrobeat feel and showing the versatility of this band. They had several people up dancing by the second half of  their show and I was even more impressed with them in a live context, as much as I like their album. Their sound is pretty commercial but I thing their songs are strong and they sound very confident. I think they could go far. Brilliant gig.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Glass vaults - Space Academy - Christchurch - 7th July 2017

Glass Vaults hail from Wellington and play a sort of electronic indie pop with their first album being more experimental than their latest, of which this tour is supporting, which is more poppy on first listen.
  They had two acts in support, the first being a young lady also from Wellington who preforms under the name Womb. Listening to her very small output on bandcamp reveals electronic ambient drones with airy vocals. Live though, she just had her guitar and loop generator and set up some very simple loops and sometimes didn't touch her strings for the most part of the song after initial setting up of her sounds. She had a nice voice and sung with quite an intensity(reminding me of Aldous Harding slightly) in places with lyrics also sounding a bit more deep(when I could make them out). I enjoyed her set and it was a shame that so many of the audience chose to talk loudly throughout her set.
  Next up were a Christchurch band called Pickle Darling, a 6 piece jammed into the small corner allotted to the bands at Space Academy. For a large band their sound was very restrained, they had keys, trumpet, two guitars and bass backed with drum machine. They were very quaint pop with some interesting sounds, very twee, reasonably interesting although the singer was so restrained that he was difficult to hear, but not something I would buy if they had any music to sell.
Still, I enjoyed their set enough, quiet as it was and a large slice of the audience still talked loudly throughout the set.
  I had been on Facebook between sets and a friend said he had seen Glass Vaults a couple of years back and thought the gig was terrible, so I was hoping this would not be the case again. The sold out crowd paid a lot more attention now and the increased volume made talking more difficult. Glass Vaults live were more bouncy and up tempo than their records and nearly everyone was dancing and grooving to their sounds. They reminded me a lot of Primal Scream's Screamadelica period actually and I really enjoyed their set.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tiny Ruins - Blue Smoke - Christchurch 23 June 2017

Tiny Ruins is another of our local female singer/songwriters, along the lines of Nadia Reid and Aldous Harding. I had heard of her, again via the Counting The Beat Podcast, but hadn't really heard her music. She did come fairly well recommended and so I though I'd head along to Blue Smoke and check her out. The tour was kinda in support of a new album that is still being finished as we speak and several new songs were played this night, not that I would tell as I was not at all familiar with her work. I did have a listen to some of her more recent stuff on Bandcamp before I left the house and to be honest I wasn't all that taken with her music on first listen and started to have doubts about going, but I already had purchased a ticket so didn't want to waste it.
  Got to Blue Smoke about a half hour before the support act and the place was already mostly full. Unfortunately for these more laid back gigs, the venue leaves the tables spread around the floor and have a couch up near the front of the stage, I don't like this for gigs as it places too many objects in the way of standing space. It would be better if they either made it a sit down gig with more tables and seats for all or (for bigger numbers) just remove all the tables and seating near the stage end of the venue.
 My back, for some reason this night, decided to start making me uncomfortable as I stood with my drink and waited for the support act. There was no familiar faces at this gig for me tonight.
  The support act was going under the name Reb Fountain. She was solo with acoustic guitar playing a  folksy type of music as you do with that setup. She had a nice voice and the songs were enjoyable enough. It also turns out that She was a member of The Ravens and also The Eastern, both of whom I had seen at Blue Smoke several weeks back. I didn't recognize her though being back in the crowd a bit.
  My back was becoming less comfortable as I waited for Tiny Ruins to hit the stage and the wait wasn't too long as she kicked off her set with a solo acoustic number before adding a bass player and drummer for the next song and finally an electric guitarist for the third number, thus completing the band. It's kinda hard to describe the music but it was soft and laid back and I liked the occasional combination of the twin vocal melodies of Tiny and her female bass player, but overall I was really uninspired buy her set and got quite bored. The songs all sounded a bit the same and the band didn't sound all that tight, especially the electric guitar which seemed out of place at times. The gig was supposed to finish at 10:30pm but as usual the acts started a bit later than advertised and so were going to go over that time a bit but as 10:30 chimed, I had had enough, the physical discomfort and just not at all getting into the music I was hearing was enough to force me to leave the venue early.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

An Audacious Decade Festival - Live 1 & 2 The Auricle - Christchurch June 1-2 2017

Now something a lot different. Some may remember, earlier in the year I traveled down to Dunedin for a festival of sonic art "music" call Lines of Flight. Four events of soundscapes, drones, free jazz, experimental sounds and other unclassifiable noise and even music. It was something very new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. After doing some reading of a book about the local sonic arts scene in New Zealand, I discovered that there is an organization in Christchurch called The Cantabrian Society of Sonic Artists, incorporating the Borderline Ballroom managing committee, and they have a small venue in part of the same building as The Darkroom, where I see lots of gigs, and hold sonic events there. The society is a little past it's apparent peak at present, losing their last venue after funding cuts from the city council and events being a little less frequent than they had been, but I had found their Facebook page and so was able to discover that they were to be holding the Audacious Decade Festival to celebrate ten years since the formation of the society. Looking at the performers list I saw a couple of names from The lines of Fight festival and one artist of whom I have a vinyl record that I really like, as well as the legendary Roy Montgomery.
  Unfortunately the first night the two live events of the festival occurred on the same night that another band I really like was playing with a couple of others across the road and I already had tickets (see last post). The fortunate side of all this was that the Audacious Decade event started a couple of hours earlier that the other event so I got to see the first three acts, including the one I most wanted to see that night.
  So first night starts with Adam Willetts. The Auricle is a pretty small room and on the first night there was very little seating and not much room for an audience with all the electronic equipment spread round the room waiting for each performer and so performers and listeners milled about around the door and hung out in the foyer as Adam stood near the center of the end of the room and proceeded to blow gently on some sort of flute. This was pretty esoteric and minimal and really didn't get my attention all that much and I was quite relieved when he finished. My memory, with so much on in two nights, is already getting vague as to what I saw in what order, but I think next was Motoko Kikkawa and Joanna Osborne, on violin and Cello respectively. I had seen them at Lines of Flight and so knew what to expect and I think I enjoyed their performance even more this time although  I believe it was a bit shorter. Joanna provides the backing drone and other plucking over which Motoko played her violin in a semi classical avant garde style and intones some Japanese speaking quietly into a mic. Nice set.
 Already Alzheimer's must be setting in as I don't seem to remember much about what I saw next, but I think it was Moths +. I do remember someone bashing away on a drum kit semi randomly and a couple of others on electronics and was there some Brass? Why can't I remember, sorry to the artists, I do remember enjoying somewhat what I heard so It can't have been bad, but I may have been thinking about my other gig across the road and weather I was gonna get to see Bruce Russell do his thing as that was the highlight of the night for me. Between sets, I checked in across the road to see what time the first band was to play and figured I'd be OK as the sets at the Auricle were pretty short this night and so headed back over in time to catch Bruce's set. I also had seen Bruce Russel(leader of the legendary Dead C) at the lines of flight and I definitely enjoyed this performance better. Bruce is a very busy performer as he is constantly pushing buttons and plugging in cables and moving his guitar to and throw towards his amp to effect the feedback of the drone he set up. I noticed more sonic variations to the drone this time and he did some interesting things like rolling a small steed tube along his guitar strings and tapping the neck end of his guitar in the floor among other things. Great sounds and a nice way to finish my evening there before heading over the road for the other gig.
  The next night and they had my attention for the whole evening. I arrived at the 7:30 start time and found a lot more seating had been installed for this evenings festivities. The first presentation was to be at 8:00PM. On this night, I had not seen any of the artists before but I knew of two of them. Kraus has a couple of records on vinyl one of which resides in my collection and I really like it's fried version of krautrock and Roy Montgomery was known to me but not all that well.
   First up for the night was Poltroon, Drums and sax, at Lines for flight there was a similar set up called Sewage who played a great set of free jazz, this wasn't as wild as that and I didn't think this performance had a jazz feel to it but it was entertaining, especially watching the drummer when he was banging his cymbals upside down gently on his drums while his mate was wondering amongst the audience with some sort of ghoul mask over the end of his sax.
  Kraus up next and for this set he just played a very accomplished guitar piece with interesting tones and sounds and without all the electronic accompaniment he has on his record. Very talented young bloke and I had a nice chat with him after. Looking forward to his next record he said he was working on. He has a lot of recording out but most are only on cassette.
  Roy Montgomery holds a very important place in NZ music history as one of the members of  The Pin Group, the very first band to release the very first single on the now famous Flying Nun Records. The Pin Group was fairly short lived but Roy has gone on to a long career as an underground musical legend in New Zealand. I don't yet own any of his music but that must soon change. Roy, sitting on a low stool in the middle of the room, his guitar almost facing directly my chair where I'm sitting against the wall, gives a short introduction about how he usually creates his music at home with his guitar plugged direct into an 8 track consul and using headphones to hear the sounds he creates. He says he doesn't usually use an amplifier and the piece he is about to play is a work in progress. He also points out that Pat(Kraus) is a much better player than himself and modestly states he is a fucking useless guitarist. From my perspective this proves to be false as he sets up one of the most wonderful guitar drones I have heard and throughout the piece embellished it with wonderfully subtle variations that kept me enthralled throughout. Just like Bruce Russell the previous evening, a master at his art.
 Omit was next with quite a large table of electronics feed into the multiple small wall speakers dotted evenly around the room, he proceeded to present a most interesting and enjoyable collage of electronic sounds quite often accompanied with a regular pulse or beat or other regular electronic sound. I really enjoyed his presentation.
 Regressor was the last act of the night, a younger fella, who apparently is active in the management of the venue or something, he gave a small speech with a lot of aggressive swearing as he introduced his girlfriend who did a short sound piece before his own set in which he produced some interesting and somewhat aggressive electronic sounds while throwing pieces of furniture and things then stripping down to his waist before finishing his set but tipping up the table with his gear on it and ending with an exclamation of "Fuck It". The sounds he made were fine but I'm way too old now to be impressed with the rest of the shit. The applause for his set was somewhat muted compared to earlier in the night.
  Overall I had a most enjoyable couple of nights and heard some really interesting sound art and was pretty impressed with the number of people there, especially on the second night.

Hiboux - Triumphs - No Broardcast - Space Academy - Christchurch June 1 2017

Ended up attending two gigs this night, susch is the number of interesting events happening lately. I missed several other gigs recently through them either being sold out, clashing with other gigs or just too many for me to travel all the way to the city for every night.
  This gig attracted me because of Triumphs, of whom I have had their first LP for some time and I really liked it. Hiboux were the headlining act as it was their tour supporting their new CD and No Broadcast were also a local band who had been around a while and have a couple of CDs out.
 After watching half of the other gig I was attending across the road, I wandered into Space Academy around 9:30PM just as No Broardcast hit the stage. A three peice, they had a great heavy sound with the lead singer and guitarist coaxing out some more experimental walls of sound in amongst their Muse inspired rock songs. I thought the singer wasn't to bad although with all the reverb and echo it was hard to hear much clearly. I enjoyed the set and also the CD EP they gave me which I listened to the next afternoon.
 Triumphs are a two peice heavy instrumental rock band hailing from the southern metropolis of Dunedin. I waas excited to see them as I have really enjoyed their debut LP, which came out on the fabulos Monkey Killer Records in a limited edition of 100. Therefor it was surprising to see they still had some copies for sale after 18 months since it's release. Just shows how low key these great bands are. They were the loudest band of the night but with just guitar and drums it made it much easier to hear what was being played buy each member with just the two instruments, of course the guitarest had a plethora of effect pedals at his feet and created an excellent wall of noise. I think most of their set was from their upcoming new album as I didn't recognise any of the tunes but they were great numbers with some impressive riffs and I definatly enjoyed them the most this night.
  Hiboux  were a five peice, two guitars, bass, keys and drums that played an instrumental form of "Post Rock". Their set was OK but I wasn't particulary moved or electrified by their music and with so many instruments through the small PA it became all a bit murky. The Music was OK but not really all that inspiring for me.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pieces of Molly, Brainface and Psych Emergency - Space Academy, Christchurch - 27th May 2017

Gig time again with one of my local favourites, Psych Emergency playing with another couple of bands of which I was not familiar. As usual, if I don't know the bands, I'll do a little digging before the gig to ensure I'm not making the long trek into the city in vain. Two of the bands have recordings on Bandcamp and I wasn't disappointed from the quick reviews I undertook.
 Sporting a bout of man-flu, I headed off to the city earlier than necessary, just to make sure I didn't miss out due to the venue being full, of course this is hardly ever the case for these type of bands and so I had to wait nearly an hour and a half before Psych Emergency hit the stage in front of the small crowd. As before when I saw then a coupe of weeks earlier, their heavy psych rock kicks ass and is chock full of great guitar pyrotechnics. They are full of energy and I so wish they would get something out on vinyl.
  Brainface are a four piece and their singer/guitarist was a bit better singer than Psych Emergency. As I had only given them a quick listen via a YouTube clip, I wasn't familiar with their music. They play in a more 90's Alt Rock style and again had some bloody good riffs and strong material and really rocked out. Bloody impressed. They did a pretty heavy cover of the Beatles "Day Tripper" which went down well and a tribute to Chris Cornell with a cover of "Black Hole Sun", which didn't gel for me, but I really enjoyed their set.
  Pieces Of Molly were the last act, 3 long haired rockers as well as the leader from Psych Emergency on drums, these fellas played a great style of heavy classic rock with strong metal inclinations. The singer was the best of the night and the riffs were monstrous and fucking awesome. They had the small audience rocking out big time with the long hairs at the front flaying their mops vigorously. Again, I was unfamiliar with their music but they totally impressed me with their strong material and great noise.
  Three totally amateur part time bands but they all played so magnificently and are deserving of a much bigger audience. I had a great night.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Eastern - Blue Smoke - Christchurch, 25th May 2017

I picked up one of The Eastern's Lps last year and have enjoyed the few times I managed to listen to it. A folk country band who would comfortably sit in the Americana idiom, Richmond Fontain comes to mind as a good reference. Their reputation as live act was strong but it appeared that they hadn't played locally for a while from my understanding.
  Blue Smoke was pretty full as I waited near the stage for the first act and got talking to an older lady whom I had seen at several gigs over the last year or so before Ravens hit the stage at about 8:15pm.
Ravens were three ladies playing electric, guitar, acoustic guitar and violin, as well as singing. They played a great folksy country type of music and did it very well and looked to be enjoying themselves very much. Wasn't familiar with them, don't think they have any recordings but I enjoyed their set. Turns out all three of them were also part of The Eastern.
 Luckless is a young lass originally from Auckland but now resident in Germany. She played solo with guitar and effects which she used to set up loops and rhythms to flesh out her music and presented up with an enjoyable set of angst ridden indie type pop. She had a good singing voice and coaxed some interesting sounds from her guitar and sang with some intensity on some of her songs. I was intrigued enough to buy a copy of her LP at the merch table.
 The Eastern then filled the small stage with the seven members jammed together with not a lot of room to move. Their instrumentation consisted of electric guitar, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, violin and drums and additional female vocal backing up the band leader and singer, Adam. Their energy and ability was excellent and had the place enthralled as they poured out their alt-country stories to the enjoyment of us all. Adam had plenty to say and spent a lot of time telling stories and making jokes and interacting with his band. They certainly lived up to the reputation and expectations I had and played for quite a long time. The last song of the night entailed the band unpluging their instruments and wading through the crowd to the center of the venue and finishing the set with an audience singalong. Excellent gig and the quality of the local live music scene is very strong indeed.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Tape Wolves - Esoteric Surf Trash LP release show - The Darkroom, Christchurch - 19th may 2017

Stink Magnetic are a Wellington based record label that releases wild surf punk and crazy rockabilly type music and have been doing so since 1998. Like a lot of these low profile record labels, I had no knowledge of their existence until recently via a track I heard on a podcast and also the Esoteric Surf Trash record was posted several times by members on a Facebook group I frequent. I was interested and was glad to find out that Stink Magnetic were to bring the band down south for the only South Island show and would have copies of the said record(among others) for sale at the gig. This would be the easiest way to get my hands on a copy, as the shops were unlikely to have it and there wasn't any obvious way to get it online and anyway, it looked like being a pretty interesting gig.
  I also found out later that Connie Benson had been added to the lineup for the night. I had recently picked up a copy of her 45 and had seen her live last year and was keen to see her in action again.
  I arrived pretty early as the first act wasn't due onstage until 10 PM, I got talking to the barman and then found a comfortable seat and waited until Connie took the stage about 10:15 PM. She was again only accompanied buy a drummer(different from the one she played with last time) who actually turned out to be Bad Evil, another act on the bill for the night. Unfortunately I don't think they had played together before and didn't gel all that well, with songs finishing badly and the whole set not really coming together very well, I was quite disappointed. 
  Next up was a solo dude going under the moniker of Tender Moonlight. The guy had on a jacket with no shirt, tight track pants and flowers round his neck as well as dark shades, black finger-less gloves and a wild looking surfie blond wig(I suspect). He played guitar backed by some cheesy sounding electro disco beats and some other electronic sounds and drones and proceeded to pout outrageously as he sang his songs in an excellent piss take on the oversexed rock god. His guitar playing was actually bloody good and he coaxed out some really great melodies in amongst his pouting and thanking the ladies continuously.
  At one stage he put down his guitar and joined the young ladies on the floor at the front of the low stage and danced with then as he sang, this went on a little too long as his guitar playing was really the highlight of the set. Also by this stage he had removed his track pants to reveal a pair of very tight leather jocks that looked suspiciously like they had something stuffed down the front to add to the bulge. It was a great set and bloody funny and some very impressive guitar playing.
  Next was Bad Evil and the Dirty Germs. Bad Evil was the bloke who drummed for Connie earlier but now he was on guitar and vocals, playing with two others on drums and bass who were wearing bike helmets. Trashy surf type rock with loads of distortion, they were pretty OK but didn't like really impress me enough to remember much about their set, although they certainly did rock out pretty well. There was plenty of commentary from Bad Evil and some mechanical issues with the drum kit as well as plenty of beer guzzling from the group.
  Finally The Tape Wolves hit the stage, another three piece, these guys had capes of sorts and black masks and hats to represent wolves. Again plenty of beer was consumed during their set which was also pretty high NRG trashy surf rock, or Esoteric Surf Trash if you prefer. This band was pretty full on and intense and their energy was palatable as they rocked the Darkroom unlike anyone else I had seen there so far. The place was heaving at the front and I was unable to keep my body still as they rocked out to the max. I was blown away and most impressed. Listening to the actual LP the next day was a bit of a let down after seeing them live(although it is a bloody good record)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Christchurch Rock City Show Case - Psych Emergency, Thunder Wolf, Smokin' Voodoo, Skelter - The Darkroom - Christchurch - 12 May 2017

Gig time again. I had checked out both Psych Emergency on their Bandcamp page and had seen a video of Thunderwolf and was impressed with both enough to want to check them out the next time they played. That time took quite a while with Thunderwolf canning a previous gig and Psych Emergency not playing locally since I discovered them, as far as I know, so it was a bonus that I get to check both bands out on the same night, two birds with one stone so to speak. None of these bands have physical recordings issued but I did check out some online stuff from the other two bands before I headed off to town on Friday night. This was a ticketed event and when I got there, about a half hour before the first band, there was a sold out sign on the door, so a good result for the bands, although sold out in the Darkroom means about 100 bodies I think.
 As the poster states, this was a rock showcase, so it was gonna be loud. I'm not all that much into straight ahead rock as much as I use to be, I do like my music a bit more adventurist nowadays but still I enjoy good rock.
 I wasn't sure of the band order for the night and with local amature bands like these lot, there is no "Headline act" so to speak so I kinda expected the running order to be from top to bottom as in the poster above. This was not the case and it turned out that the band at the top of my list was the first to play, Psych Emergency is a good name for this group and hard psych rock is an apt description of what I heard them play this night. A three piece band with the guitarist fulfilling the singing duties.
 These guys were awesome, some quiet parts to some of their songs before they ripped into some pretty titanic riffs and inspiring guitar pyrotechnics, their energy was palatable and I was really taken with their music and playing. The vocals were the weakness with the singer saying at one point that he really liked the next song they were going to play because he didn't have to sing. For me, they turned out to be the best band of the night and I hope to catch them again soon.
 Thunderwolf, another three piece and slightly older blokes, were a more hard rock outfit, kinda like in the Wolfmother mode so to speak. They rocked out really well and had some great riffs and good melodies. Both Guitarist and Bass player sang, although the Bass player was the lead vocalist. Their vocals though, were pretty shouty and mostly unintelligible, with neither being particularly strong singers. I did enjoy their set a lot.
  The third band, Smokin' Voodoo,  when they started in on their first song, were sounding to me to be the most experimental of the night, but that though quickly evaporated as what looked like Twin Brothers on guitars and vocals, started in on a pretty sloppy set of heavy music whose set was a little more difficult for me to pin down as to the exact style they were playing. I didn't really connect with their sound much and again neither were particularly good singers and were pretty shouty in their delivery. The audience reaction, although still enthusiastic, was fairy muted compared to the rest of the bands, giving credence to my feeling that they were the least enjoyable act of the night.
  Final act was the four piece Skelter. The longest haired act of the night, led but a tall lanky stick of a man with an impressive long mop of very red hair that would have most woman in fits of jealousy and man he could sing. Best singer of the night by a country mile, and one of the better ones i have yet seen at the Darkroom. They played a most enjoyable set of what could only be called classic rock. Think Black Crows perhaps as a rough comparison. They rocked out really well and had some really catchy riffs and were the most commercial sounding act of the night.
  Overall, I had a great night and saw three bands that rocked my world for a few hours. Psych Emergency were my fave of the night as the band that I thought had the most palatable energy and the best music.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nadia Reid - Blue Smoke - Christchurch - 1 April 2017

Nadia Reid had came highly recommended from a knowledgeable New Zealand music fan and I had seen her record posted on a couple of facebook vinyl groups I interact with, so it was inevitable that I would check out her music at some point. It was an almost last minute decision to attend this gig on her second album release tour, as funds were not available right up until the 11th hour. But the funds did arrive in time and enough to allow me to purchase both her records while at the gig.

 Blue smoke was pretty much sold out for the concert as about 300 patrons mingled on the floor supping their beverages. I arrived just before the support act, with just enough time to buy my records, stash then in the car and order a drink as The Breaking Hearts started their set. The Breaking Hearts are a male/female duo with her singing and playing Acoustic guitar and him playing electric. They have apparently been around for a bit as they had something like 3 CD releases for sale on the merch table. They played a half hour set of folky type music which was ok but overall didn't excite me a lot. There were two songs around the middle of the set that stood out with some good vocal melodies and impressed me the most. I did find her voice a little overbearing towards the end of their set.

 The obligatory changeover time then occurred during which time I had a conversation with the owner of my local record emporium which was a pleasant way to kill the interval as I was there on  my own. 

 Nadia hit the stage alone with her acoustic for the fist song of her set and was joined soon after by another three muso's to complete her band. She doesn't always play with a full band but a lot of the music on her albums is with a band. Her music is a nice folky blend of americana and fairly mellow, although a couple of songs were a bit more energetic. Some times hearing an artist live for the first time and not having heard them before makes it a bit harder to really enjoy them. Sometimes a live act will impress me a lot even though I have never heard them before and sometimes maybe being more familiar with the artists music makes for a more enjoyable experience. This gig was a good night but I failed to be overawed or blown away by what I saw and left a bit underwhelmed as my expectations had been quite high. I still enjoyed the gig but was happy when it finished. Listening to both her records now as I write and I am very impressed by what I am hearing, so will take the opportunity to see her again when it arises and will be interesting to compare notes.

Below is a live clip from Orange Studio(where I have attended a couple of cool jazz gigs) playing a song of her first album.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Lines of Flight Festival - 9-11 March 2017, Dunedin

The Lines of Flight festival is part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival, although the Lines of Flight itself has been going since 2000. Three days, four presentations of noise, experimental sound art and improvisations, no actual music was played during the event. Actually that is not true, there were four acts that did actually play songs with beats and melodies, but I'll get to that later.

I had not heard of Lines of Flight before even though this biennial event was now 17 years old, but these things are very low key and the audiences are pretty small. I was alerted to the event by a passionate New Zealand music fan and a appercionardo of drony weird music, Chris Walker, the DJ of the Waiheke Radio's "Counting The Beat" podcast, of which I listen to regularly. Chris posted the event on Facbook and I decided I was keen to go, not just for the event but also to go vinyl shopping in Dunedin and also to meet the man himself.

The first night was held at the Dunedin Art Gallery in the Octagon, on a mezzanine floor above the main lobby. I had a front row seat as a pretty good crowd seated them selves down for the evenings weirdness. Chris soon turned up and joined me for our first meeting and a quick conversation before the first act.
 Hermione Johnson was up first. A fairly young lady who has a background in Classical composition and plays piano. This night she played what I guess was an improvised piece on prepared piano and what a ferocious piece it was with her pounding the keys lightning fast as well as using elbows and forearms. During a quiet moment she was stroking the sticks and wires use to prepare the piano, creating lovey airy tones before thundering back into the keys. It was a very impressive noise and I was pretty stunned with the result. Magnificent. Peter Porteous( the event organiser) Then said it was the best opening act they had had. I didn't take any pictures as they did ask to turn off phones for the concert. The video below is from the 2012 Lines of Flight although I thought her performance this time was better than what I hear on this video,

Next up was a duo of a man on drums and a woman on sax, called Sewage. They played an awesome free jazz set with the young lady improvising on both violin and sax with some added screams. This was the first time I had actually seen live free jazz and I was really impressed.  Their hals hour set went very quick and I was sad to see them finish.

The third act for the night was a fellow called Johnny Marks, who I also understand is part of a fantastic New Zealand band called All Seeing Hand. This guy is a throat singer. His act was him using a box of electronics to make some pretty cool electronic pulses and throbbing and other sounds while using his throat singing techniques to vocalise over the top, it was pretty cool sounding and quite dark, especially when he started vocalising some very dark lyrics over the electronic sounds, An intense set and was impressed how much vocalisation went into the piece. Another great set for the night. Below is a video of Marks in Wellington in 2013 using different instrument for the musical accompaniment. 

The final piece of the evening was by French artist Jerome Noetinger a sonic artist of some international repute. This man played a Reel to Reel tape machine. I was pretty impressed, it was just as interesting watching him work as listening to the weird soundscape he created. The video below describes what I saw far better than I could, of course the show we saw sounded different but it shows his technique.  

Overall it was a fabulous night, better than I thought it could be and highly educational. I have sometimes struggled with some of these types of sound art on recordings but they do make much more sense in a live setting. The art galley was a superb setting for this exhibition and there was some pretty cool echos adding to the sound effects.

The second night was held at a different venue. Still in the Octagon, this time were were in a very old and rundown small theater, next to the wonderful Regent Theater. A smaller venue but also a slightly smaller audience this night, the evening started later than advertised, as usual, with things finally kicking off  about half an hour late(a pattern for the weekend) with a young lady going under the title of Smith. She sat near the edge of the stage on the floor in semi darkness with two microphones and some electronics and proceeded to present us with a quite intense collage of sound effects and vocalisations looped and doubled up several times. was quite an interesting sound collage.

Next up was Eye, a three piece "Band" with drums, guitar and electronics. The event organiser Peter Porteous was in this group. These guys set up a drone with some vocalisations which built until the drums chimed in with some ferocious intensity and volume. Pretty dam cool.
The Video below is Eye at Chicks Hotel in port Chalmers 2012.

The third act was a lot more quite than the wall of noise we got from Eye, Motoko Kikkawa and Jo Osborne playing Violin(Motoko) and cello (Jo). Jo set up the drone with her cello with Motoko supporting before adding some other embellishments with the violin. The piece did have a classical feel to it and some nice violin sounds and Motoko vocalising in Japanese. I enjoyed the start of the piece but found myself losing concentration on the piece later on.

Act four was the infamous Bruce Russell, main protagonist with legendary sonic noise band The Dead C. Bruce set up some sort of feedback drone with his guitar and effects and spent a very busy half hour moving from one pedal to another and plugging and unplugging cords and some knob fiddling. I couldn't always discern sonic changes when he did something but it was cool to watch him at work and the drone was always interesting. I did catch a short clip of his piece.

While Bruce was still assaulting our ears with that incredible noise, Robbie Yates, the drummer of the next act, BYG, snuck on the stage and started looking round by his kit and slapped his cymbals with his hand a couple of times before sneaking off the stage again. The rest of the members of BYG(Alastair Galbraith/Robbie Yeats/Mick elBorrado/Reg Norris) sauntered on to the stage and started setting up and playing while Bruce was still packing up his gear. I though perhaps things were running behind schedule and they wanted to get on with it before going over the stated finish time(which they did most nights), but I found out later that the intention was for Robbie to start in with his drums while bruce was still making his noise and the rest of BYG would come on and the five of them would play together as they had apparently done in the past at some point under the name A Handful Of Dust. Unfortunately Robbie could not find his drumsticks so that all kinda fell apart. The four members of BYG were playing as Bruce finished packing up and created a bloody heavy wall of noisy rock music(yes, actual music was played by this group in a conventional sense). It was bloody loud and Alastair's singing was pretty hard to discern over the other instruments but I got that there was some pretty good melodies happening in this heavy music and the fellas were getting right into it. Chris was over the moon as it turned out they were doing songs from two of Alastair's earlier  bands, The  Rip, and Plagal Grind, to bands that Chris really liked but I was not really familiar with their music. The set was bloody great though and it was a kind of very heavy rock I had not heard played like that before. Below is a live clip of Plagal Grind some time in the 90's which gives a little taste of what we heard that night.

Day three, Saturday and the festival moved to Port Chalmers and a dingy old hall called The Anteroom. Two shows were to be performed this day with a total of  nine acts.
The first of the afternoon session was LSD Fundraiser a solo dude in a balaclava with a guitar and another guitar like instrument that he used to set up his drones. I think it was for this one that I just closed my eyes and let the drone and it's manipulations wash over me like a meditation, it was quite pleasant.
 Teen Haters are a duo (guy and girl) from my neck of the woods(Christchurch) I think they were interesting but already my memory is fading as to what that actually did. Another drone like piece but like all the others had it's own idiosyncrasies and originality. For some reason though what they did hasn't stuck in my mind like some of the others.
 The next act I will never forget though, Hermione Johnson was back this time with a drummer and she was playing an old casiotone keyboard put through some effects to make it sound like some cheesy 1950's electric organ or something, it was supercool and Hermione played some great little melodies with the drummer playing along like Meg White. An excellent set. I got two shot clips of them.

The last of the afternoon sets was called Fuck Buttons with Michael Morley from The Dead C and another player both sitting on the back of the low stage with towels over their heads manipulating electronic gadgets to create their soundscape. With some of the sounds they were making I kept waiting for them to play the 5 notes from Close Encounters, I also was evoked to remember the early minimal works of Philip Glass while meditating on their sounds.

We had about 2 hours to kill before the last presentation so asconded down to a lovely old pub overlooking the port for a few drinks and a check up on the cricket before fish n' chips for tea.

First act of the evening was a young  Canadian woman going under the performing name of Blanket. She was travelling New Zealand for several weeks and playing the occasional show when she could. She had a show lined up in Dunedin on this weekend but when told that much of her intended audience would probably be at Lines Of Flight, she asked to join the festival. Another act with a box of electronics which she manipulated to create her sound art. I don't quite remember what she actually produce that night now, so many acts getting to be a blur but none of what I saw over the whole weekend had me going that was bloody horrible or anything. All the acts were interesting and engaging.

Rachel Shearer was next and Chris informs me that she has been around quite a while and played in some local groups. She was sitting at a desk with a laptop to create her sonic art. Her piece started of with a static sort of drone which sounded a bit like air escaping from an air compressor but with a static crackley timbre to it. i wonder if it was suppose to approximate rain, especially as she played some waves gently crashing at one point. The static drone went on for quite a while and I was loosing my interest until she started to change things up and the piece morphed into a more industrial sounding soundscape which I enjoyed much more. Below is a clip of Rachel from 2013 from the Audio foundation.

There was a pretty good crowd in the hall this night in anticipation of the next two acts. first up was The Negative Nancies, two girls, one on drums and one on keys joined by Mick elBorrado on guitar as they pumped out a very raw and primitive set of tunes. Pretty up tempo mostly very amaturest bur most enjoyable. My only gripe was the keys were hard to discern over the guitar and drums and the vocals were pretty distorted but they were bloody excellent and great fun. A taste below from this Audio Foundation video from earlier in the year.

The next band could almost be called the headline act of the festival. I think they are one of the best and most creative bands in the country at present. A proper band playing real music(sic) with three full albums under their belt, I had been in anticipation of seeing them all weekend. Orchestra of Spheres are a four piece of two women on Keys and electronics and vocals and  two blokes on drums and Oud? A funky afro inflected dance band, they were almost out of place here but who cares. Their set was short, although the longest of the night, and they stretched out the songs quite a bit and had a real cool groove going. The drummer is fantastic and the guitarist plays his oud like Jimi Hendrix. Best of all they did Sun Ra's Rocket #9. Phenomenal. Below is a live clip from 2013.

The night and the festival finished with Jeff Henderson, I know very little of Henderson or what to expect. Here is what happened. After OOS the crowd thinned a bit, Jeff then went round handing out clacking spoons and recorders to random people and told everyone to do what ever they wanted with them but not to stop until it was over. He then wandered round the hall with his sax blowing quietly and freely along with the noise created bu the audience. There was some nice freeform recorder playing from one of the other musicians in the audience and some were getting quite creative with their clackers. Jeff's blowing really didn't do much for me and because he wasn't miked he was hard to hear a lot of the time. Not really the John Gilmore free blowing I was hoping for. I said to Chris after it could have been pretty interesting if the participants had of kinda synched together and maybe created a recorder drone against the clackers or something, I could imagine this happening but it didn't this night.

Overall, I had a fantastic festival and learned a considerable amount about this form of sound art and how to appreciate it better. Looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Salmonella Dub - Speights Ale House - Christchurch 17th February 2017

Salmonella Dub are one of the original bands of the New Zealand Roots Music scene as it is sometimes referred to. That is a music style that encompassed Reggae, dub, drum n' bass and electronica and has been a very productive scene here for the last 20+ years producing some excellent music and makes up a considerable part of my NZ music collection. The Dub formed in Christchurch in about 1992 and after releasing several albums, really hit the big time in NZ with two great No.1 albums around 2001-2004. That was the time that I first saw them live at an old hall in central Christchurch. I remember at that gig that the sound system was up way too loud(as so often happens) and the Bass, (the main driver behind their music) was horribly distorted, which spoilt an otherwise good gig.
  I was still dithering about whether to go see them at this gig when I got a message from a friend asking if I was going and that she wanted to surprise her partner with a ticket, so I said I would be keen and Andy had recently moved to NZ last year and this was to be his first live gig in Aotearoa.
  The Speights Ale House in Ferrymead, Christchurch is another first time venue for me. It is a little larger than the other venues I have been frequenting of late, with a capacity of about 500. We arrived there around 8:30pm while the place was still fairly empty and settled in to listen to the DJ Skew Wiff Mo. who was plying his vinyl at the back of the stage. Soulsystem were on next, a funky dubby/reggae sort of band who were pretty enjoyable and got better as their set went on although their final number was a medley mash of The White Stripes and The Eurythmics that didn't really work for me.
  It was after 11:00pm by the time the Dub hit the stage, a large band with like 7 members on the stage, blasting out their boisterous music to the sold out crowd. Sound quality this time was much better and wasn't as loud as I was expecting, although with so many musicians in the mix, some stuff still gets lost in translation.
 The songs that they played that I did know from their reasonably large catalog, were played quite differently from the recorded versions I am familiar with and I didn't find them quite as enjoyable as I usually do, also the bass, that is so important to their music was not as pronounced as I would have liked. They played some slower grooves that would be fine on a nice summers day at and outdoor gig, but I thought keeping things more uptempo would have been better for this night where the punters looked keen to dance their asses off. The lead singers scatting or what ever you call it also got on my nerves a bit and I did find myself getting a little bored at times during the extended slow jams. Overall the music still had me grooving and was mostly enjoyable but I felt something was missing, there wasn't quite that spark that makes some gigs just so much more memorable. The last song they did was the best of the night with a real motorik bass line that sounded really cool. Andy said he enjoyed it all thoroughly, although he is probably not as much as a fussy bugger as I am. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Aldous Harding - Blue Smoke - Christchurch 8th February 2017

Aldous is a young folk singer originally from Lyttelton, just over the hill from Christchurch. Her debut album came out in 2014 but I didn't come across it till last year. It is a solo acoustic record and Aldous(real name Hanna apparently) sings with a different sort of phrasing which makes her singing sound almost Irish. The Album is enjoyable but needs focused listening to appreciate it fully. I certainly had been enjoying her music to a certain extent but after watching some videos of her on YouTube I was starting to get a feel for how intense and committed to her art she is, so the opportunity to see her play live might prove to be a rewarding experience. This was the first night of a short New Zealand tour preceding her forthcoming second album and for the first time ever she was to have a band playing with her.
  Friend Bryce, who attended the Veils Concert with me the previous week, was back on board to check out this singer he had never heard of before, trusting my knowledge and tastes to lead him to something enjoyable. He was not disappointed.
  We arrived just minutes before the support act hit the stage to a mostly full venue. The support act, Oscar Dowling, was a young three piece playing fairly nondescript indie pop or something, they were not particularly tight and the sound was pretty muddy. I thought the guitarist did play some interesting stuff and some tempo/timing changes in a couple of songs impressed but overall they weren't particularly memorable.
  Aldous hit the stage around 10pm, dressed all in white, alone with her acoustic and proceeded to  play us three or four songs, some from her debut album and one I'm not sure. We were someway back in the room and she was sitting down so it was difficult to see her but the sound was really good and she sounded wonderful, her guitar picking is also impressive. The rest of the band soon joined her on stage and she introduced us to a bit of what was going to happen in the show. They played several new songs from the forthcoming album, all of which sounded impressive with her singing voice going to so many different places and sounding pretty powerful at times. Some of the stuff they had never played live in concert before so we were getting a real treat. She also did a Paul McCartney song and towards the end of the show, did something she said they she had never done before, rock out with her song "Hunter" and they pulled it of wonderfully. She was having a great time playing with the band and because they were playing in a subtle and intensely subdued way, the sound was very good.She came back on for an encore and played another solo song and said, as the band came back on, that they would play one more. I had been hoping like hell she would play "Horizon", A song not yet on record but I had seen a video of her performing it live last year, it was a powerful song and her performance of it in that video impressed me greatly. I was thrilled, along with many others in the audience, when she announced that that was the last song of the night, Bryce had no idea of the magic he was about to witness. With the band backing her quietly in the background her vocals on this powerful song erupted to a completely other level and just about blew us out of the room, it was far better even that the video version that I had seen, I had goosebumps and Bryce was just gobsmacked.  Her performance of it was just sublime and absolutely moved me to tears, one of the most outstanding live musical moments I have ever experienced. A gig never to be forgotten.

The video below is the original one i had seen before this gig just to give you an Idea how good this song is.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Veils - Blue Smoke - Christchurch - 2nd February 2017

Hard to say if The Veils could be called a New Zealand band or an English band. Based in London and the brainchild of Finn Andrew, who was England born but spent some of his growing up time in NZ, the original lineup was formed in the UK but later he did go back to NZ and recruit some locals he had known there earlier. This indie pop/rock band has now released 5 albums since 2002 and I had never heard of them until Chris Walker played one of their recent songs on his NZ radio show/podcast and had mentioned their latest album several times over the past several months. I had seen that they were playing two gigs in Christchurch and I thought about going but hadn't really made up my mind until I saw a short conversation between two hiking friends on Facebook, one of whom I knew was a keen music fan and he expressed a great admiration for The Veils and his disappointment that their gig was sold out. I duly informed him that the earlier gig they were to play still had tickets available and I would go if he did. He duly emailed me the next morning informing me he had two tickets to the Thursday night gig and did I want to come to dinner before the concert.
 I managed to have a quick listen to their latest album on TIDAL before I left home and was quite impressed with the more experimental aspects of their Indie music. We arrived just after doors opened and it was very pleasant to have someone with me to chat with for a change at these concerts and it made the time go faster while waiting for the music to start. One big surprise was I had failed to notice who was the support act for this gig and I was very pleasantly surprised  to see Delaney Davidson's name on the blackboard outside the venue. I had wanted to see him play for a while but had missed his last gigs here
 Delany hit the stage around 9pm with his checked shirt and short brimmed hat and his acoustic guitar which was massively distorted through his effects pedals, singing into a mic that also treated his vocals and proceeded to  give us an intense blues soaked, rocking show of  stunning moanes, loops, bangs on the guitar wood, one man grunge blues show. It was fucking impressive and Bryce, who had no Idea who Delany was was extremely impressed as well. I was ecstatic.
  Finn and the band then hit the stage after the interval and straight away I could see here was a powerful and charismatic front man, with his wide brimmed hat, his unshaven face and his hand movements as he sang with gusto the songs that have made them quite popular. The volume was pretty loud for this gig  and as usual when all hell was breaking loose, it sounded like a wall of squalling noise, but even though I had almost no familiarity with their music I got a pretty good idea of their quality, I have enjoyed unknown bands in a live setting more than this gig but I still really enjoyed their energy and music. I also think that Bono had a bit of an influence on our man Finn. If I had known their music better I think I would have enjoyed this gig as much as Bryce did and now that I have vinyl copies of their two latest albums, next time will be even better.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Bats - Space Academy - Christchurch 26th January 2017

The Bats are a longstay of the NZ music scene forming in my hometown of Christchurch in 1982 and releasing their music on the legendary Flying Nun Records. Their quirky pop sound typifies the Flying Nun/Dunedin sound of the early 80's to a tee. I was familiar with some of their very early songs via student radio back in the day but never really owned any of their music and sometimes found their sound to be a bit too lightweight for my tastes. They have been touring and releasing music sporadically for the last 35 years now but I am not familiar with their latest music. 
 This gig was a kinda hometown warmup for a couple of upcoming gigs across the ditch in Australia in support of their new album which was released the following day after this gig. I thought it would be interesting to see them live again, the last time being when they supported the Violent Femmes here in 1992. 
  Space Academy is a small warehouse venue, just across the road from The Darkroom( where I have been seeing a lot of Bands lately), which doubles as a cafe during the day and hosts other arty events also. It was my first visit there.
  The gig was sold out but with modern fire regulations in a small venue like this there was probably less than 100 people there in all and there was certainly room for more.
  I took my place near the front of the audience for the first set as they kicked off about 9pm with a couple of songs from their previous album"Free All The Monsters" from 2011. I was impressed with the sound of the music and although their sound has altered little over time their song construction has matured  and I enjoyed the material even though I was unfamiliar with it. The next bracket of the first set was dedicated to their new album "The Deep Set" and I was even more impressed with the songs they played. Some pretty catchy songs which look like making for a pretty good new record. The sound quality was ok but slightly too loud and distorted to really get a strong feel for the material and unfortunately when they added in a couple of additional musicians on strings for a couple of tracks the sound got a lot more muddled and the strings were pretty hard to hear in the mix.
  A short break was had before they got stuck into their past catalog of songs for the second set. I decided to try standing nearer the back of the room near the mixing desk to see if the sound improved back there but it didn't really and now I couldn't see the band at all as there was no stage, with the band on the floor with us and they are all kinda short. Although I was not familiar with most of what they played in this set, I think they kinda worked their way back through their catalog, finishing the set with ":North By North" From their 1987 album "Daddy's Highway", which was the only song I really knew. Apart from the slight issues with the sound(usual for rock gigs) I really enjoyed their playing and also their music more so than I thought I would. A great little live band.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jay Clarkson and Breathing Cage - Blue Smoke - Christchurch 21 January 2017

Jay Clarkson is a bit of an underground music legend in New Zealand, a bit like Bill Direen who I saw play live late last year. She started off in a post punk group called The Playthings, who released two fantastic singles in the very early 80s before going on to record EP's and a single with her next two bands, They Were Expendable and The Expendables, who put out some absolutely wonderful uncategorizable haunting pop music in the mid 80's. She then went on to form The Breathing Cage who released one LP before she went off to have a sporadic solo career. Most of these early bands recordings are pretty hard to come by nowadays and as usual I regret selling off the stuff I did have back in the day. I did recently pick up a CD compilation of The Breathing Cage recordings of whom I was not all that familiar. It's is a good CD and the music is slowing growing on me as I get more familiar with it.
  The gig was held at another cool venue that I have not been to before, Blue Smoke. A bar attached to The Tannery shopping center in Woolston, Christchurch.
  The crowd was not too bad for this musical legend, fairly gray haired and I suspect, like the Bill Direen Gig, pleny of the audience were themselves musicians. It is a quite small venue and I guess there were about 100 people there.
  I had an appointment in the City earlier in the evening and with a couple of hours to fill in before doors opened at  8pm, I had dinner and went browsing records in another mall nearby. I arrived at the venue before doors opened and wandered around The Tannery checking out the closed shops while waiting.
 After an hour of sipping orange juices the support act mounted the stage. Motte is a lone young lady with a violin and a bunch of effects equipment where she played shot pieces on her violin and set then into playback loops building on each other and then playing on top of the loops. It was quite ambient and haunting and on two pieces she sang some lovely melodies with a very good voice. From reading on her Facebook Page some of it might have been improvised. She created a lovely sounds collage  which the audience seem to appreciate well.
  Jay hit the stage alone for the first part of her show, armed with an acoustic guitar, she kicked things off with a song off her recent album "Spur" which was released last year. Her current music is quite folky from what I have heard of it. She was having some sound issues with the acoustic and swapped to electric for the rest of her solo slot, playing more recent songs I am not familiar with and a quite grimm Chris Knox song as well.
  The next slot She had bass and drums backing her as she played several songs from her earlier material including the fantastic " Boy With The Sad Hands" Which I think was her first Solo single way back.  This showed she was going to play some of the other stuff she had done in the 80's, not just The Breathing cage stuff. This set was great, really got my toes tapping and although I don't know all of the material played it was bloody good.
 The last set She swapped bassists and added another guitar for what was almost the full Breathing Cage lineup I believe except for the new bassist as the original guy had broken his finger or something. The Breathing cage material sounded fantastic live, better than the CD and I was just lapping it up. Stand outs were "Big Life" and the old Expendables Track " The Man With No Desire" which I was just so chuffed that they played. as well as a couple of others I recognised but don't know the names of.
 Jay said they hadn't played this stuff  together for 25 years and there was a couple of times things went slightly off the rails but  I left the venue with a very big grin on my face and the knowledge that I had just witnessed a very good gig.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Prophet Hens - The Darkroom - Christchurch January 12 2017

Been a few months since my last gig and seeing as I had picked up both of the Prophet Hens albums not that long ago and was getting to enjoy their Flying Nun/Dunedin brand of jangly indie pop more and more with each listen, I thought I should also go and check them out live while I had the opportunity. Regular readers(If such a thing exists) will now be familiar with The Darkroom in Christchurch after I saw several local bands there last year ( see previous posts). It is a tiny venue but I like it a lot and the sound is pretty good and not too loud.
   An all to familiar tale in Christchurch, a quality young band with two good records under their belt and some pretty catchy well constructed pop songs coming up from their home of Dunedin to play for us and only about 20 people come to see them play and it wasn't exactly an overly enthusiastic audience either. It is probably because of playing to audiences this small that the band announced during their show that this was probably going to be their last tour. That being said, they put on a good show and looked to be enjoying themselves as they played a good selection of their album tracks. They don't sound too much different from their records and the band gell together well as I was tapping my feet throughout the whole set. Really glad I saw them and the gig just deepened my appreciation of their music.
  They actually supplied their own support, as the opening act, Grawlixies, is actually The Bass player(Robin Cederman) and singer/keyboardist (Penelope Esplin) from The Prophet Hens. A nice folky duo with Robin on acoustic guitar and Penelope playing accordian. They played some lovely folk pop with interesting song lyrics/subjects and great vocal harmonies. Again I enjoyed their set a lot. A good night.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Don McGlashan & Shayne Carter - Aurora Center - Christchurch 20 October 2016

Two of the Godfathers of New Zealand Indie rock/pop have teamed up for some live gigs around New Zealand in October 2016 and because I admire McGlashan so much I really needed to attend this, as I missed him last time he played here.
 Don has been in several legendary New Zealand bands over the last 35+ years, including  BlamBlamBlam, The Front lawn and The Muttonbirds, as well as putting out solo stuff as of late. I think his song writing is second to none in NZ and he is a most versatile musician and a great singer.
 Shayne, likewise is very well known in post-punk indie circles, also fronting several near legendary NZ bands such as, Bored Games, Double Happys, Straightjacket Fits and Dimmer, he also releases solo music of late.
 The Aurora center is a great venue at Burnside High School with a capacity of about 700 punters, the place was almost 3/4 full and surprisingly we were feeling reasonably young, looking at all the gray hairs milling about in the foyer before the gig.
 The lads hit the stage about 8pm, just the two of them and went straight into the first song, with Don on amplified acoustic guitar and Shayne on electric guitar. I think, from memory the first track was a McGlashen song and as Don explained they would alternately be playing Don's songs and Shayne's songs. He also explained later in the show that they picked the songs from each others catalogue, i.e.Don picked all the Shayne songs and Shayne picked all the Don songs. Of course I knew a fair number of Don's songs that they played even though it was far from a "greatest hits" show, where as I was not so familiar with Shayne's songs and indeed it appears Don picked several of Shayne's more experimental songs which made for some really interesting pieces. Don played drums on a couple of songs and also some sort of Trombone thing  where he played a bit and then put what he played into a repeating loop on a couple of numbers. The whole thing was very informal and laid back with plenty of banter from Shayne and some really great music, they played for a little over 2 hours and I was just so impressed, thinking what a couple of great old hands entertaining with so much fantastic music. Overall an awesome gig. If they are playing near you go and see them.
I didn't do any videos at this gig but below is one of the songs that they played recorded live in the studio for a CD they are releasing of the music they played us this night. 


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bill Direen & the Bilders - Darkroom - Christchurch - 8 October 2016

 Bill Direen has been around forever, it seems, an original in the Christchurch punk scene, as I have just found out, he was in an early Christchurch Punk Band called Vacuum before moving on to front The Builders among many other collaborations over the last 40 years. Bill is a bit of an underground legend in New Zealand, playing with many other semi underground figures in the local scene and some overseas artists as well, he now has a quite extensive discography, albeit, one that it is difficult to track down many of the releases.  
 I'm not familiar with all that much of Bill's output over the years but I do remember hearing some of his stuff on Student Radio back in the early 80's and I have just discovered, through checking out his discography, that I actually had a copy of The Bilders second album, "Lets Play" from 1985, which I had completely forgotten about. With my current obsession of collecting NZ music, both old and new, I had recently picked up The Builders 4th album "We Are The Coolest Cats In The World" from 1989, a fantastic record and listening to that inspired me to go see this gig when I saw it was coming up.
 I arrived at The Darkroom about 15 Minutes before the advertised start time and already there was a reasonable number of punters there and it turned out to be the biggest crowd I had seen for a gig at The Darkroom so far, not full, but close.
 I was in the toilet when someone got on the stage and started talking to the audience, and when I came out there was a lone figure on the small stage with a guitar about to start his first song. The concert was advertised as Bill Direen, Builders and Guests, I didn't know if that meant guests doing their own thing or guests playing with the band. I had never seen Bill Direen in person before so I wasn't sure who I was seeing on stage playing these short intense, very locally themed songs and I was thinking how amature this sounded as It started to dawn on me that this might actually BE Bill Direen. It took a bit of getting use to Bills singing for this portion of the show and his guitar playing was very minimal and staccato like, but he wasn't alone for long as he invited the first of his guests to join him on bass for some better sounding songs in this, what Bill called, "bracket" of the show. The gig was fairly chaotic or disorganised looking as each "bracket" started and stopped as other guests came and went for numbers throughout Bills career. The guests turned out to be various locals that Bill had played with over the last 40 years, including Steve Cogle, who played in the original Vacuum as well as other local bands like The Terminals and The Victor Dimisich Band and has a current band called Dark Matter. He also had another original acquaintance from those early punk days, the writer Grant McDonagh, who gave a reading from a manuscript he is writing, describing how he met Bill Direen back in the late 70's. His memoirs could be quite interesting for people interested in the local scene back then.
 As the evening progressed with each "bracket" I thought it got better and better until the final bracket that was the longest and included the current 3 piece line up of the Builders where they really rocked out the best, playing for me the songs i new the best including their "hit" The Alligator Song" which got a lot of air play on student radio back in the day.(see Video below)
 Bill Direen is a great song writer and social commentator, and although what I have heard of his studio recordings are far more complex than what they were able to play live in this situation, it was a great set that I enjoyed a lot.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Antipodes - Orange Studios - Christchurch - 6 October 2016

Another cool Jazz gig at the Orange Studio. Antipodes are a composite group of Australian and New Zealand Jazz Players with a couple of members being in NZ band The Jac, of whom I have on CD from Rattle Records. This Line up consisted of Bass, Guitar, Sax, Drums and Piano.
 Playing to an audience of about 30 people, the group were recording this gig for what ever reason. They played all original compositions and were a fairly young band. The first set went for about 45 minutes and although I enjoyed it I didn't think it was a good as the previous concert  we attended at Orange about a month before by Reuben Bradley trio . The second set was much better, perhaps because the material was better and also seemed more challenging to play as they lifted their game to suit. There were certainly some strong compositions being played. The Pianist was most impressive and was playing some pretty wild stuff in amongst it all but was often drowned out by the volume of the other players. The guitar suffered a similar fate when not soloing and one of his own compositions contained some most impressive ECM like playing.
 Still a most enjoyable gig and looking forward to some more jazz at Orange Studio in the future.
The video below is from a show in Auckland last year and has a slightly different lineup.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Bold New Worlds - Christchurch 4 October 2016

Keeping things far more cultured again, we attended this, our second only classical music concert by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Like the previous concert, I was attracted to this particular concert by the inclusion of the piece "Three Movements" by Steve Reich. I have a soft spot for Minimalist music and have several Steve Reich CD's in my collection, including one with the above piece. Other pieces preformed this night were Mason bates "Violin Concerto" and  Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No.9 "From the New World"
  The concert was preformed at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena, and although I have been to quite a number of concerts there, this was the first of this type. Normally something like this would have been held at the Christchurch Town Hall but that venue is still closed from the 2011 earthquakes. Unfortunately, I felt the Horncastle arena isn't quite the ideal venue acoustically for this type of music, it is a sports arena and has a concrete floor and very high roof and also our seats were much further away form the orchestra than I would have liked. The ticket allocation, when I was purchasing the tickets suggested all the closer seats were sold and ye there were many empty seats below us on the night, go figure? The Charles Lumley Auditorium, where we saw the recent CSO concert was far superior to this sort of music, although may be a bit small to house the NZSO on it preforming area. I thought maybe the Aurora Center at Burnside High School might have been a better venue, but I'm not sure if their staging area is big enough.
  We took our seats about 10 minutes before the show, along with about 300 other patrons. It was more of a mix of ages this time, as the last show we were almost the youngest there, and although the very grey did predominate, many other age groups were present in numbers.
  They opened the concert with the Steve Reich piece, it's inclusion in the concert was in celebration of his 80th birthday, and in live performance I found it much more interesting and enjoyable than listening on CD. It is a great piece of music and it is gratifying to see this "Modern" music getting played here.
  After a big stage reshuffle, during witch the composer, Fawzi Haimor, gave a talk on the three pieces to be played this night, they then presented Mason Bates "Violin Concerto". Batede is a much younger composer and this piece was written specifically for Anne Akiko Meyers, whom we had the privilege to see actually preform this piece herself here in Christchurch. This modern piece is a very enjoyable composition with some great melodies and some outstanding violin from Anne Akiko Meyers. It also had some cool percussive moments and the orchestra did a great job of presenting this piece. Below is a video of the same piece played in 2013 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

 The final piece, after intermission, was Dvorak's "From the New World" Symphony. I  had no idea what this would be like, I know Dvorak's name but couldn't tell you if I knew of his music. It turns out this Symphony is very well known and I certainly recognised the Melodies presented in both the first movement and especially the fourth movement. A great piece of music that, like the Copeland piece we heard at the earlier concert we attended by the CSO, evoked images of western movies ( the first movement) and surprisingly, the Star Wars movies. I wonder if John Williams borrowed from this music when composing the Star Wars music. The violins in the third movement reminded me strongly of the music to the fight scene with the Sith and the Jedi in the Phantom Menace. The forth movement evoked vision of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine in the very first Star Wars Movie. A robust and vigorous Symphony, full of great melodies and preformed with much gusto by the NZSO, it turned out to be the highlight of the night.