There’s a good crowd for a Monday night show in Adelaide, ready to hear some loud, chugging, mesmerising heavy instrumental rock, post-metal, jazz, drone, stoner – whatever else you want to call it.
With only two bands tonight it gives both a bit more time to play and we are richly rewarded. The two dynamic and intense sets are well received by a crowd there to see and hear excellent music.
The first time I saw Tangled about twelve or thirteen years ago they played most of their debut album Deaden the Fields (still one of my top 20 albums ever). It was clear these were musicians with significant skill, passion, and energy. Since then each time I’ve seen them they play a mix of old and new, but tonight they surprised by playing almost all of their most recent release Oscillating Forest, in order. Nothing else, which was fitting, given it was really one piece of music in several parts.
It was almost like starting all over again – they have grown with every release, but their compositions have leapt ahead and hit a new high. This music drives, pounds, explores. I’m still in awe of a group of musicians who can play music for 50 minutes with such an incredible clash of chaos and pounding inhuman noise. Each of them is hugely talented they have really expanded the feeling of improvisation that has always been a signature of their writing and playing. What relief you get from their moments of comfort and care are soon plucked away as you are smashed against the rocks and fallen buildings of a post-apocalyptic world. Un fucking believable.
Next up are Russian Circles, who I think have been to Australia four times previously. We don’t get many acts of this quality coming all this way this often, and we will be seeing bassist Brian Cook again soon when he tours with Botch. Sargent House just keeps sending the good stuff, and local promoters like Birds Robe Records keep supplying great support acts.
“Station” and “Harper Lewis” get the perpetual motion machine running with the trademark cracking, pounding drums of Dave Turncrantz, Cook’s chugging and thumping bass, loops and pedal synth, and Mike Sullivan’s guitar floating over the top or cutting through (his riffs at 3:15 always just put me in a trance). They might have played “Harper Lewis” live well over 400 times but there is no lack of passion and energy, and it’s as tight as a drum.
From the familiar to the newer, they give us “Conduit” from their 2022 release Gnosis, which isn’t much of a shift in direction and keeps the chugging going, before the delicate introduction that signals “Afrika” as it picks you up out of the darkness and you reach for the sky. It’s a beautiful contrast and provides one of the best examples of their dynamic sound and moods within one song – an enhanced “1777” if you like. Fuck this is good.
“Quartered” takes us back to the chugging, driving rhythm before “Betrayal” creates a wall of noise behind which bass and guitar take turns in providing riffs and melody. “Gnosis” brings the tempo down again with its engaging crescendocore. “Deficit” comes along next to represent Memorial on its own and we go back to their first album with “Youngblood”. As the night draws to an end, the intensity of “Mlàdek” runs out the set, leaving us with chugging bass in our ears and smiles on our faces.
Russian Circles and Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have these remaining dates together:
Princess Chelsea – Everything is Going to be Alright Tour
Friday 12 January 2024
w/ Power Nap and Stälker
Power Nap started the night off with synth music that reminded me of 80s music and video game soundtracks. The crowd was still coming in in dribs and drabs, but those in attendance appeared to enjoy it, nodding along to the pumping tunes. Journalist Martyn Pepperell was especially vocal in his approval during a few songs. I don’t usually listen to music like this, but I enjoyed the set.
Stälker are one of my favourite local bands. I remember when I first moved to Wellington as an 18 year old, a band named Gaywyre (later renamed Razorwyre) would consistently put on the best shows at Medusa (now Valhalla), with their ridiculously highly charged powermetal anthems that would pull in audiences that far exceeded the maximum occupancy of the venue. I was beyond stoked to see Chris (guitar) and Nick (drums) return years later with a new band in the same vein: Stälker. It’s fast, grotesque and fun speed metal.
At first they seem like an odd choice, but Princess Chelsea is usually seen sporting a Judas Priest shirt, so the music influence overlap is very apparent. Not to mention that she even wears a Stälker shirt in music videos.
For the uninitiated: Stälker is an experience and a half. Chris on guitar wears a spandex outfit with a bondage chain and a big Greek afro, and he and Daif (bass and lead vocals) both have excessive studded belts and white hightops. It’s an 80’s metal revival and I’m here for it.
Nick on drums lays down the relentless double bass beats while Daif and Chris walk about the stage shredding and shrieking. They made use of the stage, swapping back and forth as they treated us to riff after riff. Chris ran off stage into the green room a few times and I wondered if he’d broken his guitar and needed to grab a spare, or along those lines. But no, he’d return with fistfuls of beers to distribute to the headbangers lined up in front of the stage barrier. Stälker always play a great set and this time was no different, and even seemed a bit more dynamic than usual, with a few more crowd interaction moments and extended passages.
Headline act Princess Chelsea was a real change in vibes after Stälker’s assault. Small bunches of flowers were attached to the mic stands, reminding me of that time that I’d seen Faith No More play with thousands of dollars worth of flowers onstage with them. The amps and music stands had sequined fabric draped on them. A large stuffed toy monkey sat atop the bass drum. And there were seven musicians onstage. They all swap instruments on the regular, but duties included guitar, bass, drums, percussion, keyboard, percussion and glockenspiel. And all of them contributed to vocals.
Princess Chelsea herself had short, slicked down hair, with jewels attached under her eyes, dark lipstick, a necklace with tiny skulls on it and a Judas Priest t-shirt. It was as if the Childlike Empress from The Neverending Story had gone goth. She mentioned how she loved having mixed bills with bands that played different styles – which was very obvious tonight. And how she was enjoying touring in Aotearoa, having played Whanganui the night before.
I’d seen Princess Chelsea play at the Save the b event in Auckland last month. I purely went because I’m a huge Shihad fan and they were playing their first album, Churn in full. But in all honesty, Princess Chelsea’s set was my highlight of the event.
They’d made the most of the stage, employing the use of the huge organ at Auckland Town Hall, giving mad scientist vibes. They had a harpist. The drums sounded huge. There was so much going on. I found myself swept up in the layers of music, thoroughly enjoying the chaos.
Tonight’s set at Meow was still in the same vein. There was still a lot happening, with instruments densely layering to create an immense sound, and the seven members swapping roles frequently. They played their 2022 album Everything Is Going To Be Alright, followed with an encore of a handful of older hits, including covers of artists Disasteradio and David Lynch (the director).
The music is hard to categorise. Like Chelsea’s look, a bit cutesy, and a bit dark. Twinkly glockenspiel ostinatos sit alongside scorching guitar feedback. They have loads of percussive items onstage, with one shaker looking like a banana, another being a skull. An odd dichotomy that just seems to work. I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Princess Chelsea’s music lately and I think it’s fair to say that the songs take on a life of their own in a live setting.
One highlight was when Josh lay on the floor with the stuffed monkey for most of the song “In Heaven” – seemingly asleep – before rushing offstage to grab a trumpet, coming back to deliver a fantastic solo to rapturous applause. Another moment like this was when Simeon broke his guitar neck at one point, getting a bit too into the performance, and had to rush to the green room hoping to find a spare guitar to use as replacement.
I loved the dirgy, oppressive feel of the title track, “Everything is Going to be Alright”, slowly building under eerie organ and throbbing bass notes, before giving way too immense squalling guitar feedback. But the best song was “Monkey Eats Bananas”. The musicians clearly having an absolute blast as they could let loose and have fun playing a silly song that allowed them some spontaneity.
It was a weird lineup. But somehow it worked. An immensely enjoyable night. Class musicians pushing sonic boundaries and playing odd but excellent music. I never thought I’d be seeing a speed metal band opening for chamber pop act, but I’m sure glad I did.
Time for the annual wrap up. It’s always interesting to look back at the year and reflect on the highlights, and how things have changed.
It’s pretty wild that the covid pandemic seems so long ago now. International bands can tour here again, we don’t have restrictions for gatherings, life goes on. For the most part this is a good thing, but the local music scene was really flourishing for a while, and it feels a lot harder to book gigs now that we have to compete with bands from overseas again for use of venues.
Not that I’m complaining. I saw some incredible bands this year from both Aotearoa and abroad, and that’s how it should be.
I’ll start with bands I saw overseas. I’ve loved Gyroscope ever since I discovered them as a teenager. They’d played in NZ a few times but I was too young to go at the time. They’ve sat firmly on my bucket list of bands to see for a long time now. So when they announced that they were playing Breed Obsession – the album I loved so much – in full, I was sold. I made the trip to Melbourne and it was everything I’d hoped for. Honestly, so, so good. “Snakeskin” was an obvious highlight – featuring an appearance from original drummer Rob Nassif. “Australia” was a big singalong moment. And surprisingly enough, album closer “Time” went hard. Usually it’s very soft, but for an album comprised mostly of ballads, the set was pretty heavy. I went to the matinee show the following day as well, which was just as great again. Bodyjar also played their blistering punk rock which was a lot of fun, but my trip was about Gyroscope and it was well worth it. It was also nice to finally meet fellow music writer Gilbert Potts in Melbourne.
I managed to see Frank Turner play twice this year. The first time was a last minute solo event after Counting Crows cancelled their gig (Turner was the support act), and the second time was the first leg of his international tour promoting his most recent album. He has long been one of my favourite artists so you can imagine how pleased I was to see him play twice.
Melodic hardcore band La Dispute played a packed out show at Meow, reminding me of Zeal – the local youth venue I’d last seen them play at. Their intensely poetic brand of hardcore always hits hard, and I doubt anyone walked away unmoved after witnessing their delivery of “King Park”.
Guitar Wolf and Otoboke Beaver brought their brands of crazy Japanese rock and roll. It was my fourth time seeing Guitar Wolf, and the third time I’ve been part of a human pyramid onstage at one of their gigs. Otoboke Beaver was just as wild in their own way, in a heaving sold out show, screaming their heads off as they played frantically in their brightly coloured dresses.
Highly Suspect were blown away at their demand from NZ fans, selling out venues to the point that they kept having to upgrade to places with larger capacities. It was fun to be in a big arena rock show, enjoying the bluesy rock of a larger scale band.
Looking at NZ bands, I’d managed to catch the ever-awesome Shihad twice. They headlined the rock stage at Homegrown festival, and also played their debut album Churn in full in Auckland a few weeks ago at the bFM radio station fundraiser. They namedropped Jaz Coleman who had produced Churn and I almost wet myself, thinking that they were going to play a Killing Joke cover with Coleman on vocals. It’s not implausible – Coleman does live in Auckland. But it didn’t happen – they were paying tribute to KJ guitarist Georgie Walker who had passed away recently.
The other highlight of the Save The B night was Princess Chelsea. There were so many musicians onstage, it was hard to know where to look. We had someone playing the gigantic organ at the rear, a harp, multiple guitars, bass drums, glockenspiel, and almost everyone contributed to vocals. It was so layered that the music was borderline doom, and it was awesome. Princess Chelsea is playing Meow in Wellington in a few months and I’m super keen to attend and see what the band is like in a radically different setting.
I saw Lorde play at TSB Arena. I’ve never been much of a fan, but I was curious. She’s one of the biggest names in music, and I wanted to see what that looks like in a live setting. The stage set was interesting and Lorde has clearly rehearsed over and over. But ultimately I was pretty bored. There were lots of musicians onstage, but we heard a lot more backing track than live instrumentation, and the music just isn’t played in a way that the musos could put much energy into their performances either.
My favourite local band of the year is Crying Club. They play infectiously fun emo/pop-punk. I’ve had their single “Munchies” playing on repeat, and they put on a great show.
Similar to Crying Club, Cherry Punch play furious punk music that I’d liken to The Runaways crossed with Motorhead. Everyone in the band brings something unique to the experience and they’ve been playing a lot, so I can see them building a profile quickly. I was fortunate to play in a band that toured with them earlier in the year and it was so fun being able to see them play so much.
Bulletbelt released their album Burn It Up, which made it to the no1 position on the music charts, which is a great achievement for any band, let alone a band that plays a less mainstream genre like metal. I really enjoyed the album release show that they played at Valhalla and was pretty chuffed to see that one of the photos I’d taken of the band is on the record sleeve on their vinyl pressing.
Bulletbelt promo pic
It was really cool to see my friend Vorn seeing some big successes this year, including international tours with Crash Bandihoot, The Wellington Sea Shanty Society, and releasing a great new album with his own eponymous band. All of these bands are fantastic and I love seeing them doing well.
I tagged along with Planet Hunter on a mini tour up north for Kaitaia Metal Fest. It was such a great time. Planet Hunter are amazing musicians and great guys so it was really fun to spend a few days with them in the van and see them play new material each night. I wrote a tour blog, but here’s an account of the Metal Fest from event organiser Frankie O’Malley featuring a few of my photos link.
Lastly, I’d like top draw your attention to a new Wellington metal band, FVKVSHIMA. They’re incredibly technical and groovy, drawing upon influences like Killing Joke and Meshuggah. Keep an eye out for their upcoming debut single, “Quato”
It was fun to be part of FromThePit again. Special thanks to Maeve O’Connell for organising the Wellington night at Bats Theatre, as well as the FTP team who work hard to organise, collate, and arrange sponsors and showing opportunities every year. It’s a real blast being part of a community of creative people who want to celebrate the arts and the talented photographers involved in the music scene. I spent some time in in the record store Reel Groovy a few weeks ago when I was in Auckland and it was cool to see some of these amazing photographs still on display at the top of the escalator.
Looking forward to 2024, I’ve got some exciting times lined up.
I’m going to some big arena gigs like Foo Fighters, Blink 182, possibly Iron Maiden. And I’m glad to see some post-rock bands like Mogwai and Russian Circles coming. And I’m super pumped to see Aussie punks Private Function are coming to NZ as well. They’re incredible. Don’t sleep on that tour if you like punk music.
I’m looking at possible heading back to Europe in May for dunk!fest. Watch this space…
Thanks to all my readers, near and far. I’ve been putting my energy towards other things like photography, booking gigs, drumming in bands etc.. but it’s always humbling to see that people take the time to read my ramblings when I share my thoughts on the music that I’m so passionate about.
Joseph’s top song of 2023
I actually prefer this version recorded at Taylah’s flat over the studio version, but both are excellent
There’s no hiding that I love Vorn – the eponymous band of Vorn Colgan, also featuring Thomas Liggett on violin and Nick Brown on drums. I once flew to Nelson overnight to see them play in Mapua and I took my parents to the gig.
Have you ever had that experience where you’re watching a movie with your folks and then a sex scene comes on and it becomes extremely uncomfortable and you’re not quite sure where to look? Yeah… the gig was a bit like that. I’m not sure why I thought it’d be wise to take my fairly conservative mother to a Vorn gig. But I did – and on the whole it was a good time – but just left me feeling a bit unclean and borderline regretful afterwards – which I think is the natural reaction for most people who listen to Vorn’s music.
Vorn live in Mapua. Image: Will Not Fade
You may remember that I reviewed Vorn’s (the band) last release, which came in the format of a one-take YouTube video. The experimental format was not much of a success – if measured by how many listens the release acquires – but in true Vorn fashion, it was original and showcased some great musicianship.
Since then, Vorn (the person) has found success through other means, going semi-viral with The Wellington Sea Shanty Society, and adding trombone to his ever-expanding repertoire as a member of New Orleans styled second-line band Crash Bandihoot.
Opening track “Fanfare” brings you up to date with events that have happened over the past five years. Vorn is living (or dying, depending on what sensationalist spin he drums up to sell albums) with stage four cancer. I found this out when I saw the press release advertising his 2019 “Last Chance to See” Final Tour. That news hit me hard. It took a while to sink in and I broke down in tears at work the following day. But thankfully modern medicine (or more likely: sheer stubbornness) has kept Vorn with us long enough for him to void his “last chance” promises and putt out another album for the general public to ignore. The song is obnoxious in pedantry and weird time signature changes, but with wry humour throughout so it’s all par for the course. It also explains the album title: The Late Album, which Vorn always joked would be his post-humous next release.
Lead single “No Arms No Chocolate” discusses horrific ways to perish and the futility of life. Life goes on… or rather it doesn’t. So it goes.
I love the pacing of it – very driven with lots of pulsing stabs of rhythm. It sweeps you up and takes you for a ride. A rip-roaringly cheerful nihilism anthem. Drummer Nick Brown shared that the song title references a weird French chocolate advert but couldn’t explain what that had to do with the song’s themes. Or why he wore that questionable Santa outfit in the video clip…
Follow up single, “A Safe Pair of Hands” lives up to its name. I find the bass line especially warm and comforting. I don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I find it incredibly endearing. They’ve done well blending traditional instruments with some programmed/synthesized elements to create a dynamically catchy and inviting wee earworm. It’s a reworked version of a song that Vorn contributed to a Powertools Records compilation years ago, and I’m glad that they’ve chosen to revisit it and bring more attention to that fantastic songwriting. This is the song that I keep coming back to, and I love how it makes me feel.
I’m not going to give a blow by blow summary. No one has that much tolerance to put up with all my in-jokes. But I’ll touch on a handful of the songs to highlight the variety of what you’d expect to encounter.
“Aging Hipster Blues” is a fun, tongue in cheek shuffle with an air of smarmy jaded elitism. It conjures the image of that Simpsons meme in which Principal Skinner is questioning how he became so out of touch. “Ballad in G Sharp Minor” is a waltz but certainly not a romantic dance. “The Unbearable Dumbness of Being” sounds like post-punk mixed with electronica. “Drug Friends” is the spiritual successor to “The Tinny House Hop” from Vorn and The (2008) – fun, catchy, and about drugs.
“Somebody Wrote A Prog Song About The Internet and It Is Fire Emoji” is extremly meta and the title sums it up. At first, it’s a bit slow for me. But when it hits, damn it’s awesome. Watch your volume levels on this one, because it’s so quiet for the first half, before coming in loud and strong with riffs and distortion and cool musical elements that bogans like. This is the song that outs me as an insufferable Tool fan if I chose to discuss it. The final passage is full stank face mode.
“A Dying Man’s Curse Be Upon You” is an interesting concept – the contrarian answer to the Irish Blessing that you’d expect to find embroidered and on display at any given Pakeha Grandmother’s house. I find it both funny and genuinely upsetting, especially considering the niche band merch Vorn made to accompany the song. Take time to listen to the lyrics and laugh at just how petty the curse is.
“Zombie Rock” is always a favourite. A jazzy number that invites crowd participation with the easily learnt lyric of “BRAINS!” Vorn never learns though. You’d think he would, running niche pub quizzes every week, but he doesn’t. This crowd participation always backfires and irritates him no end when people inevitably screw it up. And I find his frustration hilarious and always heckle him about it whenever the opportunity presents itself. Anyway, the song is infectiously fun. And even more fun when you shout out BRAINS! at the wrong time just to annoy the guy who wrote the song. [Editorial note: I have since found out that “Zombie Rock” is not on the album, but will be used as a B Side. But I love the song and I like heckling Vorn so I’ve opted to keep this paragraph anyway.]
Vorn’s musical output has always been fantastic. Ceaselessly witty, and drawing indiscriminately from random genres. And Vorn has never shied away from dark themes. But I do find the subject matter of this album confronting at times – seeing how it is about one of my friends dying. Vorn wrestles with his mortality by singing about his looming demise with humour.
You can see the trio wearing matching t-shirts in the video clip for lead single “No Arms No Chocolate”, and the album art for this single features the same image. It’s Vorn’s “deathmask”. To quote him “It was custom made to immobilise my face while they fired radiation into my brain. The X marks one of the spots”. They’ve turned brain tumours into band merch. Similarly, they have been selling t-shirts of Vorn’s face with eye’s X’d out for a few years – a design that they’ve updated for The Late Album cover art. Power to Vorn for finding a way to process things in a creative and productive way, but do get a bit sensitive about it.
Vorn is a nerd. An intellectual and a musical savant. The stereotypical New Zealander loves rugby and Six60, and Vorn is the antithesis of this. So I am torn between admiring his talent, and wanting to tear him down for being the tall standing poppy that he is. But ultimately I have to concede that I am a nerd too – undeniably so, seeing how I run a music blog. So of course I love how clever and complex Vorn’s music is. The biting social commentary, the marvelous harmonies, the odd time-signatures that the band plays in, just because they are good talented enough that they need to challenge themselves like that. All packaged up in a macabre, self-deprecating album.
Kudos to Thomas and Nick for making the band more than the sum of its parts. Thomas’ violin playing never ceases to fascinate me, the ways he makes different sounds with his plucking and bowing and using effects pedals. And as a drummer, I’ve always admired Nick’s playing, and marveled at how his style is so different to my own. And when the three of them are harmonizing, the vocals are to die for. The Vorn band has featured many different members throughout the years, but Thomas and Nick have stuck with Vorn for some time now, and it really shows with how well they can lock in and interplay.
Imposter syndrome is never far from reach, and as I try to conclude this review, I am very much aware that I will never be able to do justice to any analysis of Vorn’s creative outputs. I consider Vorn (the person) a genius, and am in awe of the talent that the Vorn trio amass. I have no idea what many of his songs are about, or quite how technical and challenging they are to play. It’s beyond my comprehension. But the music is fun, funny and interesting, and certainly a departure from convention.
Recommended for nerdy musicians, intellectuals and those with dark sense of humour.
Recently I’ve been reading breakfastandtravelupdates, the tour blog from The Beths bassist Benjamin Sinclair. It reminded me of the joys of tour blogs, so I decided that I should document the Planet Hunter Northern Tripping tour in May. They released debut album Moscovium late last year (review from Craig Leahy), and are finally heading out on the road to bring their music to the masses.
I consider Planet Hunter the best band in Wellington. It’s an easy choice, as far as I’m concerned. Few bands come close in terms of entertaining live performance or musicianship. Their songs have such strong groove that they’ll get people dancing, while moving in an out of weird time signatures.
They’ve been around for a long time now, and three of them have history playing together in previous band Mangle and Gruff. Years of experience writing and performing together have melded them into a tight unit who excel as a musical force to be reckoned with.
Whammy Backroom, Auckland
w/ Thousand Limbs and Empress
Cormac had created an itinerary with times, destinations, stops, addresses etc… We had a lot of driving ahead so it made sense to have all this planned. I did find it funny that Cormac had included “drop kids at school”.
Cormac has a Toyota Voxy, a big van that fit the five of us, our music equipment and our personal gear. It’s been named “The Mothership”, and is spacious and smooth to drive.
L-R: Me (Joseph), Will (guitar), Jed (bass), Cormac (vocals, guitar), Dave (drums)
We created a driving playlist to listen to. The rule was that no band could be repeated, although there were work arounds eg Ozzy Osbourne featured both solo and in Black Sabbath. The playlist is called “Tanks and Rainbows”, named after things we saw whilst driving Desert Road. It’s a pretty wild mix, but it was a lot of fun to listen to during our many hours on the road.
The drive to Auckland went well. We stopped at Taihape for the obligatory photo in front of the gumboot. Tokoroa had impressive looking wharepaku, underneath a taniwha-looking cover.
Auckland traffic sucked, which is to be expected. But we got to the venue around the time we had planned for. Parking also proved difficult, but isn’t that an intrinsic part of any Auckland experience? I asked an Auckland based friend for kai recommendations close to the venue. He suggested Sneaky Snacky, directly across the road. I ordered a fried chicken burger with a donut for a burger bun, and fries with MSG. My arteries weren’t happy about it, but my mouth was in heaven.
A heart attack in food form. A delicious one, at that
Whammy Backroom was an interesting space. Three venues: Whammy, Whammy Backroom and The Wine Cellar all come off St Kevin’s Arcade in the Auckland CBD. They’re fairly small spaces, all connected and run by the same people. Paddy the sound tech told me that sometimes there will be a mini festival event, with three stages running concurrently, and attendees able to move between them.
One of the disadvantages of the three venues being so closely connected is that lots of people got confused and went to the wrong venue. One of my friends accidentally went to the other Whammy, and the guy on the door was difficult to deal with when we explained the mistake, and refused to refund her until I really put the pressure on.
Empress opened the night, a duo from Kirikiriroa. The two of them have played together for a long time, previously in a trio named Cheshire Grimm. Lora the vocalist used looping pedals with her guitar to build the sound up while Craig maintained the beat on drums. My favourite song’s lyrics were quotes of things people had written on community Facebook pages, which I found very funny. It reminded me of Housewitches.
Post-metal Thousand Limbs took the stage next, a post-metal quartet. Two of the guys are highschool music teachers, and some of their students were playing next door at Whammy, with a handful of their other students also attending our gig. This is super wholesome and indicates that they must be awesome teachers. Thousand Limbs were great, and they reminded me of some of the acts I’d seen at dunk!USA in Vermont.
Anyone who knows Planet Hunter will know that Cormac always comes up with crazy visuals. He’d specially made a new mask for this tour, which featured the face from a CPR dummy. He looked glorious onstage, with a silvery flowing poncho, and elongated head with the creepy dummy face. It was hilarious to see him twerking to the music in this get up, but I tell you what, it adds a certain je n’est ce quoi to the performance.
Planet Hunter Whammy Backroom
We had been told not to start the gig before 10pm, we think possibly so it wouldn’t disrupt the gigs at the two connected venues? So it went late. Planet Hunter started at 11.45pm. We were spent by the end of it, but the set was great. We stayed with Cormac’s dad on the North Shore.
Kaitaia Metal Fest 3
w, Teraset, FNA, The Shard
We got up early for the drive to Kaitaia. We knew the far north had been hit hard by cyclones earlier in the year, and weren’t sure what to expect about the roads. I don’t know those roads, but to be honest, other than a small detour and lots of potholes, the drive was pleasant and easy.
Will told me that this animal is a zebra.
On the way up we stopped at an exciting South African shop that had animal sculptures and biltong. But the most exciting stop was Kawakawa. It has the famous Hundertwasser toilets (visually appealing, but very smelly), a train going through the middle of town, and a painting of a cat anus on a public bench. All three of these things made me very happy.
Kawakawa, home of the famous Hundertwasser Toilets (near this location)
Arriving in Kaitaia, we had to take the obligatory photo in front of the Kaitaia Metal Fest 3 billboard. Frankie the promoter came out to great us and gave us a wee care package that included Kaitaia Fire hot sauce, honey, and a voucher for a breakfast at a bakery the following morning.
The Kaitaia MetalFest3 Billboard. L-R: Jed (bass), Will (guitar), Dave (drums), Cormac (vocals and guitar), me (Joseph)
Collards Sports Bar was a cool space. There was a small stage in the corner, and it was suitably sized for the audience we were anticipating, along with a covered outdoors smoking area. After soundcheck we dropped our things at our accommodation and had a rest. It’s weird that after having sat in the van all day, it felt so good to just sit down on the couch.
Arriving back at the venue, we were pleased to see a great turn out. Ticket sales weren’t a great gauge of how many people to anticipate, lots of people just rocked up on the night. A few people had mentioned to me that the Northland music scene was monopolised by reggae, but it was a solid turnout and clear that many metalheads resided in the area.
The Shard started the night off with a bunch of metal and rock covers. It was a short but fun set. I was particularly impressed with how well the Rob the vocalist nailed his impressions of the singers of each band that they covered.
FNA stands for Far North Automotive. Again, the vocalist proved to be the stand out member of the band. I’ve been teaching myself to sing while I drum in recent years, but my skills are nothing compared to what we saw from Grant the drummer during the FNA set. I was in awe of his abilities, holding down the beat as he belted out the vocals. They roped in a mate for guest vocals during a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name of”, which was extremely well received, as you’d imagine.
Teraset were a last minute addition, stepping up to fill in for Teeth and Nails, who had to pull out. You may recognise drummer Will Stairmand, who hosts The Distorted Transmission. They were easily the heaviest band of the night, and the dancing was replaced by more headbanging.
And Planet Hunter finished off the night. I loved seeing the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces when Planet Hunter started. Their sound is impressive enough – Grant from FNA could not get enough of our Dave’s drumming- but Cormac’s crazy outfit was enough to make people do a double take as well. Cormac does lots of squatting and big movements as has dances to his music, and I got a real kick out of seeing the entire front row reflect his movements, almost like an aerobics class.
All in all it was a fantastic night. Good turn out, and everyone had loads of fun. Props to Frankie for doing such a stellar job of organising and promoting the event, and hopefully Kaitaia MetalFest 4 is ever bigger and better!
Planet Hunter at Kaitaia MetalFest3
Sunday. Time for the biiiiig drive home. We’d been up pretty late but the partying hadn’t affected anyone too much, and we were still buzzing from the successful night before. We stopped into Coast to Coast Bakery and grabbed some pies for breakfast – Frankie had generously arranged for a voucher – before hitting the road. Thankfully the roads were still passable and we missed the crazy weather that hit not long after we left. I don’t have too much to report on the drive. It was a long way to go and we tried to minimise stops. I did insist that we stop at Matakana in Kerikeri for the guys to buy treats for their better halves. You know how it is: happy wife, happy life. This hopefully ensured that we have ongoing permission to do of these weekends away in the future. We enjoyed adding songs to our Tanks and Rainbows playlist, talking rubbish, taking in the scenery and throwing metal salutes to every herd of cows that we passed.
Planet Hunter are playing Moon1 in Wellington on Saturday 20th May