2015 in Review – Live Music at Will Not Fade

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg

What a year it has been! We’ve been blessed to have so many amazing bands to come to our shores this year, and we are just as lucky to have strong local talent that we can depend on seeing throughout the year as well. I’ve summarised below some of the highlights and letdowns of my year, concluding with a discussion of the live music scene.

The best shows of 2015

Jurassic 5 blew me away with their incredibly fun and interactive show. Great music, great showmanship.

Frank Turner has been one of my favourite artists for years now. There’s no way that I could see him play his rousing music and it not be a highlight of my year. It was a cool bonus to meet him and have a chat outside the venue after the show as well. His new album, released a few months later, was also excellent.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

This Will Destroy You. Image: Fergus Cunningham

I actually thought that Australian post-rockers sleepmakeswaves put on a far better set than the more established headliners This Will Destroy You. There was so much energy and joy on stage. Many post-rock acts just let their music do the talking, but sleepmakeswaves put on a show as well as playing great music.

Most insane show award would go to either powermetal lords Dragonforce or mathcore act Dillinger Escape Plan. Although both could be classed as metal bands, they are at different (extreme) ends of the spectrum. Both played at a packed out Valhalla, and both bands featured musicians who were ridiculously proficient at their instruments.

I finally got to see what I consider an original hardcore/punk band this year. I’ve seen OFF!, Misfits and Corrosion of Conformity in the past, but they may as well be covers band,featuring more ring-ins than original members. A group of us hired a van and drove up to Auckland to see Gorilla Biscuits play at The Kings Arms. I think it is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing one of those pioneering punk/hardcore groups live, and it was great. Such a fun and positive band.

It is always a pleasure seeing perennial local heroes Jakob and Beastwars (the two bands toured as a double bill), and I managed to see my favourites Shihad play three times this year (at Homegrown and AC/DC).

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 of Homegrown. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

My last highlight was Declaration AD, although I say this with a hint of sadness. They released their final album (Sometimes It’s Us) earlier on in the year, along with the announcement that their time as a band was coming to an end. The lineup for their final show at Zeal included some of the best current punk/hardcore/metal acts in New Zealand.  Declaration played a mammoth 16 songs and finished on a high. They made a big impact, not only in Wellington, but also in the wider New Zealand hardcore scene.


Every show I attended in Auckland this year left me feeling disappointed.

It started off with Foo Fighters cancelling their intimate Town Hall show because a truck with their gear had en route, leaving them without the equipment they needed. My friends and I took the opportunity to see American rapper Freddie Gibbs  instead. Gibbs was brilliant, but making fans wait for hours just to see a short 40 minute set was disrespectful to those who paid good money to see him perform.

The following night wasn’t much better. The Foo Fighters weren’t bad, but it was nothing compared to their previous few NZ concerts. They had stopped trying, choosing instead to rest on their laurels. They included a handful of covers throughout the set that dragged, and I was bored and ready to go home well before they had finished. I was glad to see that Rise Against were on form though. I didn’t think much of their latest album, and their opening set wasn’t very long, but it was actually one of the better sets I’ve seen them play.

A month later I was up in Auckland again for Westfest. I was most excited to see grunge icons Soundgarden. They started off with my favourite song of theirs, “Spoonman”, and it sounded terrible. Frontman Chris Cornell’s voice sounded strained and the band couldn’t keep energy up. I ended up leaving halfway through their set, because a free ride back to where we were staying was more attractive than seeing one of my favourite bands struggling onstage. Thankfully my other drawcard, Faith No More, were great, and metal pioneers Judas Priest put on an outstanding show earlier in the day, making Westfest worth attending overall. Cornell came back to New Zealand at the end of the year and all the reviews I read were glowing, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket to attend after he had put on such a dismal display at Westfest.

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More's Facebook page

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More’s Facebook page

Wellington venues

Venue Shed 6 has been refurbished as an alternative to the infamous TSB Arena that it sits beside. I saw both Gary Clark Jr and Jurassic 5 both play there, and had no complaints either time. It’s a versatile space and I hope that it gets utilised more in the future.

I attended two concerts at the Westpac Arena this year, and I would hesitate to attend another there. I have no issue with Elton John’s show, but his fans were totally ripped off, being charged extortionate fees for limited visibility. Likewise, AC/DC put on a brilliant show, but when 40 minute delays left fans exposed in the cold wind and rain I doubt many present were happy about the choice of venue. Sound and visibility issues coupled with overpriced tickets and cramped seating do little to suggest value for money.

Robbie Williams played a successful show at the Basin Reserve in October, indicating that the Basin could be a better alternative as Wellington’s primary outdoor venue.

Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Mogwai at James Cabaret. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

At one time Wellington’s best live venue, James Cabaret really let things slip. Lack of adequate air conditioning and no passouts made it hard to cope with the hot overcrowded conditions, especially when shows ran later than advertised. It was a real let down during Nas and Run The Jewels. And I don’t know if it was the venue’s fault, but there were complaints made about the excessive noise levels at Mogwai. After a handful of bad experiences I was seriously considering if I ever wanted to attend the venue again. And then without warning, the venue closed. Gorillaz Sound System had been booked to play James Cabaret, but got switched to Bodega last-minute. That was the last I ever heard of the venue.

We still have the trusty old bars Bodega and San Fran, who tend to get most bands. Meow has also been hosting more big bands this year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been to the new venue MOON in Newtown yet. I hope that the Town Hall will get revived one day, but from what I hear about the costs of earthquake restrengthening, it is too costly to be considered viable.

The festival scene

The established staples in the festival scene seem to be surviving. Homegrown promises to be exactly the same as it has always been. It’s almost the musical equivalent to the 7’s rugby tournament. Hipsterfest Laneway is potentially expanding next year. Raggamuffin promises to be a hit, with Wu Tang Clan announced as headliners.

Trusty old Big Day Out has experienced a rocky past few years, and has since been re-branded as Auckland City Limits, with affiliations to the similarly named Austin festival. It will be interesting to see how well ACL fares. Headliner Kendrick Lamar will be a major drawcard, and it is held later in the year, so won’t be competing against other festivals and events to the same degree.

It’s a risky time for promoters at the moment. Soulfest was cancelled last-minute due to poor ticket sales. New festival Mclaren Falls had to change venues due to complaints from locals. After the change of location they renamed as Echofest. And Echofest also cancelled and announced liquidation, leaving ticket holders potentially unable to get refunds.


The future of Westfest 16 is up in the air. NOFX have confirmed that they will not be coming.

Somewhat related, Australian festival Soundwave has ended. Promoter AJ Maddah has a history of dodgy dealings, and it sounds like the responsibility for the festival can be shared between Maddah and ticketing agency Eventopia. Fans are understandably upset, especially because neither party are willing to refund ticket holders. This has wider implications for live music in Austalasia, because it has undermined concertgoers faith in promoters and ticketing outlets. There is no way that Soundwave’s cancellation is a good thing, although some people are trying to crowdfund a Soundwave replacement called Legion.

It also places the future of Auckland heavy music festival Westfest in question. Westfest has ridden on the coattails of Soundwave for a few years now, offering very similar lineups. Westfest 14 and 15 both ran at a loss, and Westfest 16 had a noticably smaller lineup, reflecting and foreshadowing Soundwave’s issues. With many bands no longer travelling to Australia for Soundwave, it remains uncertain if they will travel further to New Zealand. However, despite being unprofitable, Westfest has done wonders to boost ODR Productions’ profile, and I have faith that whether they retain their festival or not, ODR will continue to organise most of the best shows for heavy music fans in New Zealand.


2016 still looks bright. Wellington is offering their bi-annual Arts Festival, with acts like Sufjan Stevens and Death Cab For Cutie attending. I’m sure that we will have plenty of sideshows from Laneway and Byron Bays Bluesfest to look forward to as well.

Iron Maiden Book of Souls tour

David Dallas is playing at Victoria University O Week, and although I expect that will be awesome, I’m apprehensive about going to a gig that will likely feature a crowd of 17-year-old drunk first year students (probably dressed in togas as well). I’m also looking forward to seeing Iron Maiden play in Christchurch in April, and comedy/percussion show Blue Man Group in June.


What were the best shows you attended in 2015? And which ones are you looking forward to attending next year?


Joseph James

Album Review: Faith No More – Sol Invictus

Faith No More Sol Invictus vinyl album cover


Faith No More are an anomaly.

Sure, they’re a rock band. But they’re also more then that.

They can funk it up like the Chili Peppers, or skank it up like the Wailers. They’re so odd and avant-garde that one never quite knows what to expect. Little wonder, then, that they inspired a wave of bands that collectively spawned the nu-metal genre.

You are as likely to hear them covering Lionel Richie on an easy listening radio station, as covering Black Sabbath on a hard rock station. And when I saw them play at Westfest back in March they closed their set with a Bee Gees cover.

That set was great. The band exhibited their bizarre humour by wearing a uniform of white linen, with a white backdrop behind them and hundreds of bouquets of flowers carefully arranged onstage. And as great as it was to hear all the old classics, the songs from the then-unreleased Sol Invictus still stood out as strong enough to slot in among the other songs.

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More's Facebook page

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland.
Photo taken from Faith No More’s Facebook page

It can be scary for fans when bands reform. Will they live up to the standard of their glory days? or are they has-beens who have decided to give it another go for the money? After seeing them play earlier this year, I could tell that Faith No More thankfully still have the goods.

They’re hardly covering new territory with Sol Invictus. It’s merely a continuation of Album Of The Year. This is surprising in some ways, considering that almost 17 years have passed since AOTY, so you could be forgiven for assuming that their sound would change over such a long period. Take Blink 182, for the sake of comparison. Their Neighborhoods  album that the released shortly after they reunited didn’t sound like old Blink 182, it sounded like Angels and Airwaves and +44, projects that the respective members had worked on during their split. The band members hadn’t stayed stagnant, so their musical styles had developed over time. Likewise, the FNM members have kept busy during their time apart – working on side projects, touring with other bands, scoring movies and starting record labels – but this doesn’t seem to have affected their sound and style.

‘Motherfucker’ was a bold choice for the first single – unlikely to garner much radio play because of the swearing, but provocative enough to cause publicity buzz elsewhere. However, second single, ‘Superhero’, wasn’t anti-commercial like the first, with the first preview initially being hosted on the Marvel website. Obviously Marvel are synonymous with superheroes (after which the song is named), but they are also the ruling kings of Hollywood, (along with Disney).

These two tracks were good choices as singles though. They, along with ‘Matador’, are the standout songs on the album.

‘Motherfucker’ is built upon a repeated drumbeat and chanting. Mike Patton’s soaring vocals cuts over the mantra. It’s so silly, but contagious. Its sinister, but ridiculous enough that it can’t be taken too seriously.

Likewise ‘Superhero’ seems cartoonish with its “HEY, hey, HEY, hey” like the “Gabba gabba hey” part from the Ramones ‘Pinhead’, but then ominous enough to stay grounded.

Patton sings, screams, shouts, growls, whispers and croons. His voice really is an instrument, with a reported six octave range. He uses different types of microphones and effects just as a guitarist uses pedals to change-up the sound.

Refusing to be pigeonholed, Sol Invictus sounds diverse yet familiar. It’s uncommon enough to have rock music led by piano and not guitar, but FNM have deliberately cultivated their own recognisable sound. Part operatic, part spaghetti western, with plenty of avant-garde and slick, dark rock to boot. There are definite nods to earlier albums, almost to the point that the album seems too same-y, but at 40 minutes long, the album is too short for repetitions to bore.

Trying to analyse it too hard is futile to attempt. I’m sure that there is some social commentary going on somewhere, but I couldn’t specify what exactly. The whole thing feels like a big in-joke from the band. Is this a magnum opus that they are proud of, or a social experiment to see what they can pass off as art to sell to the mindless masses?

Sol Invictus has grown on me with each listen. It’s weird, slightly unhinged rock music played by talented musicians. It’s the same Faith No More, just as they left off. If you’re a fan, then you’ll know what to expect, and you’ll probably like listening to more of the same. I wouldn’t call Sol Invictus vital, but it’s certainly not a disappointment.

Joseph James