Live Review: Jim Beam Homegrown 2015, Wellington Waterfront

Jim Beam Homegrown Wellington 2015

Jim Beam Homegrown 2015

Featuring a selection of New Zealand bands across multiple stages

Wellington Waterfront

Sunday 8 March 2015


The lead up to Jim Beam Homegrown has been interesting to observe. Tickets sold out about a week ago, prompting a frenzy of online ticket on-selling. An influx of first-year university students had just come down from their collective O-week high and decided that the cure was to attend Homegrown, no matter what it costs (Thanks Studylink!). Tickets that had originally sold for $109+bf were fetching $250. One girl even paid $700 for two!

Then the weather hit. The festival was postponed from Saturday to Sunday in light of predicted hurricane strength winds. Most visitors from out-of-town had return travel booked for Sunday, so suddenly couldn’t make the event. On top of that were locals who for whatever reason couldn’t escape Sunday commitments. Cue another ticket frenzy, with people desperate to get whatever they could for tickets that they were unable to use. I’m sure that hundreds went unused. Ticketing agencies refused refunds, citing terms and conditions. A postponed event is different to a cancelled event, and they can’t help it if someone is unfortunate enough not to be able to make it.

As a consolation, Homegrown organised two shows at TSB Arena on Saturday for those who couldn’t attend on Sunday. There was an early afternoon rock show featuring Villany, I Am Giant, Devilskin and Blacklistt. A later evening show featured rapper David Dallas, dub-rockers Kora, rock heavyweights Shihad and drum and bass favourites Shapeshifter.

Out-of-towners could choose one of the Saturday shows to attend. Seeing only four bands may have felt like a raw deal, but it was better than nothing. Not enough people showed up though, so Homegrown organisers allowed local ticket holders to attend as well, to fill up the venue.

On Sunday morning the weather was stunning. Still, bright and warm: the perfect recipe to ensure that thousands of drunken concertgoers get their generous dose of sunburn. There was no evidence to indicate the lightning, floods and gale winds of the previous day. The Wellington waterfront was already alive with activity due to the weekly vege markets, and steadily got busier as punters arrived for the festival. Lining up to swap tickets for wristbands was surprisingly painless. No half hour queues like I’d seen in previous years.

Silence The City

The first band I saw was Silence The City on the rock stage in TSB Arena. The day was still young so there wasn’t much of a crowd gathered in front of the stage. They played a short set of alt rock, complete with blinding strobe flashes at regular intervals. A few songs have got airtime on the radio recently and the crowd reacted well to those, along with a cover of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn”, that was quite different to last time I’d seen it played.

It seems that most shows have a standout member of the audience (like Amelia, the blonde girl at Dragonforce a few weeks ago). Well the star of the day at Homegrown was the bare-chested dancer at the rock stage. He was a bearded man with long hair and an open denim shirt who was tearing up the dance floor as if he owned it. He was effortlessly elegant and graceful as he strutted and twirled. The way he moved his feet was especially impressive, seeing as how the floor was so disgustingly sticky from all the spilled drinks the night before. I found myself spending more time watching his dancing than watching the band.I’d seen this same man at Westfest the previous week, dressed and dancing exactly the same during Soundgarden’s set.

Black River Drive

I like Black River Drive but I haven’t really followed them since I saw them about five years ago, when they were promoting Perfect Flaws. They have a nice light rock sound that still retains an edge. I noticed that they have a new drummer now, but still sound largely the same. It made for nice listening as I watched our nameless dancer friend boogie his day away at the back of the arena. BRD also get bonus points for having a bubble machine onstage.

Black River Drive Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Black River Drive.   Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Nothing scheduled for the next few hours was of interest, so my friends and I took some time to rest up for the night ahead. We bought some ice creams that melted almost instantly in the heat, and made sure to drink plenty of water.

David Dallas

Come 7pm I made my one foray away from the rock stage to the Pop and R&B stage for South Auckland rapper David Dallas. It certainly was a different crowd. Gone were the seas of black band t-shirts and heavily tattooed limbs, although there were plenty of #makehistory temporary tattoos that the Jim Beam girls had given out all day.

Dallas’s band, The Daylight Robbery, were absent due to Homegrown having been postponed. But this didn’t stop Dallas delivering a hit-heavy set. With a DJ manning the backing tracks, Dallas and long time collaborator Jordache tag teamed and performed songs from throughout Dallas’s entire career. If anything, losing his band let Dallas mix things up more. Sid Diamond joined him onstage for “Southside”, followed by another guest spot from PNC. Dallas was right at home onstage and he knew it. He smiled coyly and beckoned for more applause. He rapped a few pre-intro verses before finishing his set with “Runnin'”. It’s true: Not many can rock a show like this.

After wolfing down a burger and a punnet of chips we ventured back to the rock stage for rest of the night.

Blacklistt. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Blacklistt. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.


Front-man Damien Alexander started off the set with a vicious rap, before Blacklistt gave their typically aggressive performance for the hard rock fans. They played to please, from the Blindspott stuff that we all wanted to hear to the newer Blacklistt songs that became the next step for the band. The reality is that Blindspott/Blacklistt are one and the same, save for legal dramas. Both have the syncopated beats, the pent-up anger, the DJ scratches, the high-pitched guitars, the reggae ballads… all those aspects that make up the overall sound. One interesting moment was when a chant started up between songs mid set, with half the crowd shouting “Blacklistt”, and the others chanting “Blindspott”.  Without being formulaic, the show was everything I’ve come to expect from the band – no matter what you choose to call them.

Shihad. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Shihad. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.


I first saw Shihad play in 2008, at the first Homegrown festival when I was 16. Tonight was the twelfth time watching them play. And there’s a reason I keep coming back.

Shihad are rock legends, veterans of the stage who have played together for longer than I’ve been alive. They play every show with such energy that the audience can’t help but become infected by it. The way that front-man Jon Toogood punches the air with such force, and keeps the roadies panicking by climbing atop the speakers side of stage. The way the Karl Kippenberger plucks those bass strings in a way that you can’t help but move to. They way that Tom Larkin pummels those tight tribal patterns out of the drum skins. And although Phil Knight is the least showy, his guitar playing is vital for filling out the band’s sound. When the four of them play Wellington together, they make sure every time that it’s a homecoming to remember.

I actually watched Shihad play the same set the night beforehand. A large majority of the songs played were from the latest album FVEY, with their throbbing beats and abrasive riffs. Four were from The General Electric. The one hiccup was that Knights guitar sounded like it was tuned differently for “Home Again” on the Saturday night, something that was quickly remedied just after the bridge. I think this is the sign of a great live band, that I’d be more than happy to watch the same show two nights running, and not feel bored.

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song "Pacifier" for the encore on Sunday.

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

When I was a teenager my friends and I would road trip from our hometown of Nelson up to Wellington to attend Homegrown each year. After seven years I’ve already seen most of the bands on the lineup that I’m interested in multiple times. Even so, it still always proves to be a lot of fun. It’s easier now that I live in Wellington, and the lineup never varies much, but I can see myself happily attending more Homegrown festivals in years to come.


Joseph James

Live Review: Shihad at Riwaka Hotel, Nelson (FVEY tour)



w/ The Datsuns, I Am Giant and Cairo Knife Fight

Riwaka Hotel, Nelson

Tuesday 30 December 2014

I last saw Shihad play Riwaka in 2010, promoting their previous album, Ignite. They’ve since released FVEY, a heavier nod to their first two albums. This is their first NZ tour in roughly two years, and they’ve brought some premier Kiwi rock bands on the road with them.

To my surprise, the music had already started when I arrived at 7.15pm. The tickets had advertised that doors open at 7pm, but bands don’t usually start until at least half an hour after doors open.

I only saw the last three songs because I was late, but Cairo Knife Fight put on yet another impressive set. It seems that they are the perpetual opening act for many notable rock bands. Drummer Nick Gaffaney continues to leave me in awe each time I see him play, dominating the drum kit as well as singing, playing synth bass and operating looping pedals. Ex-Weta guitarist Aaron Tokona wasn’t playing tonight, making me wonder if this has anything to do with his other band, Ahoribuzz, who are headlining New Years Eve celebrations in Nelson.

Their new single “Rezlord” from their forthcoming album reminded me of Muse, and the final song was rather Tool-esque. I love watching how two musicians can create such a full sound using effects and looping pedals. They had silly little moments in which they went wild making as much meaningless noise as possible, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the overall experience.

When I first saw I Am Giant in 2010 I thought they were pretty cool. “City Limits” had received regular airplay on the radio and they had released their début EP that week. I bought a copy of the EP at the show and their singer signed it for me and we had a great chat. How things have changed…

Since then their egos seemed to have skyrocketed and their performances haven’t improved at the same rate. Their singer Ed Martin has recently left to pursue a solo career and replacement singer Ryan Redman (ex-Exit Ten) has only exacerbated the inequality between the standard of the music and the pompous attitude of the band members. Redman is a twat. He clearly thought he was all that, making eyes at girls in the crowd and blowing kisses and thrusting. Too bad for him he couldn’t actually sing well. At first I thought his voice was hoarse because his collar had been buttoned up too tight around his neck, but it turns out he just wasn’t any good. He couldn’t hit the high notes and he could barely do justice to the rest of the singing. I Am Giant had the arrogant rock star attitude without the talent to match.

Australian rockers Airbourne were originally billed to play but have since been replaced by The Datsuns. I’ve seen both bands a few times each in the past and I prefer The Datsuns spacey garage-rock over Airbourne’s AC/DC impersonations.

And I’m glad for the lineup change.The skinny Cambridge rockers got thrust into the limelight when NME called named them “Best Live Band” in 2002, and they’re still killing it over a decade later. I swear they were all dressed exactly the same as last time I saw them play, a few years ago. Three of them had long hair and they were all worryingly thin. To add to their classic rocker appearance, the drummer played a transparent perspex drum kit like the kind Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham used to play.

The music was relentlessly energetic and they worked the crowd well. Rudolf, the singer, had everyone sit down and instructed us that once the band let loose we were all expected to “jump up and go bananas”. They had us clapping along and singing the ‘woahs’. One standout song was “That’s What You Get” from the new album Deep Sleep. Of course, they played the obligatory hits as well.

During their set a drunk bogan hi-fived me and told me “The Datsuns are the epitome of New Zealand rock music!”. Well, I don’t know about epitome, but other Kiwi artists could certainly learn a thing or two from them.

The lights dimmed, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” rang through the speakers, and then the almighty Shihad tore into their set. They opened with the visceral single “Think You’re So Free”. I was excited to hear them play new heavy material from their new album, FVEY. Songs from Churn and Killjoy always go down a treat, as do heavier songs like “My Mind’s Sedate”. But The FVEY songs didn’t make the same impact.

The new songs are certainly aggressive, but they are also quite long and don’t change much. I like it heavy, but I need more variety. Being pummeled by such a consistent barrage of bass got a bit boring. Lead guitarist Phil Knight needed to be louder in the mix. He usually brings some treble into the foreground to balance out the sound, but was lost to the murkier low-end.

Frontman Jon Toogood vehemently dedicated one song to our prime-minister,  making it very clear that this was not a respectful act. There was a built up anger that shone through the songs.

Over half the set consisted of new material. I actually preferred the older, more familiar songs. As always, Shihad were tight and professional and energetic. They delivered a blistering show like only veterans of the stage can. It was enjoyable, but the new songs didn’t appeal as much as I’d anticipated.

There were a few surprises for me tonight. Cairo Knife Fight had a new guitarist. I Am Giant’s new singer was rubbish. Shihad’s heavy new material isn’t actually that exciting live and The Datsuns stole the show. Overall it was a great night out.

Shihad's set list.  Eight of the songs are from the new album, FVEY. The pick belonged to bass player Karl Kippenberger

Shihad’s set list. Eight of the songs are from the new album, FVEY. The pick belonged to bass player Karl Kippenberger