Live Review with Photos: Peachy Keen Festival, Basin Reserve, Wellington 2021

Peachy Keen Festival Poster
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Peachy Keen Festival

Basin Reserve, Wellington
Saturday 3 April 2021

After a week of truly abysmal weather, Wellington seemingly changed its mind and decided to about turn, blessing us with a beautiful sunny day at the Basin Reserve – ideal for a festival.

Peachy Keen felt different from your usual festival as well. One of the key things that stood out is that every act on the bill were fronted by women [except Sweet Mix Kids, the between-set DJs]. Look at most festival posters and you’ll notice that wāhine are glaringly absent, so this was a super welcome progressive change. It also felt more laid back. Many festivals feel like waster-fests (in NZ at least) with a strong focus on punters getting inebriated. Although alcohol was available for purchase all day, I didn’t notice anyone getting out of hand. It felt like a safer than normal environment – I’d even go so far to say family-friendly, seeing as many children were in attendance as well.

KITA

I love Wellington. Say what you want about the politicians and the wind, but it’s an awesome city to live in. Last week the main street in the CBD was closed off all weekend to accommodate a huge free festival called Cubadupa, which involved a hundreds of bands and artists showing their creative side at the numerous stages and areas that had been built for the festival around the city. I’d seen local trio KITA play on the Sunday, attracting a fair crowd with their hypnotic music.

Thinking back, I used to see drummer Rick Cranson and keyboardist Ed Zuccollo play with Adam Page years ago. They were a wonderful match, very technically proficient and able to improvise and synergise with each other. Now they have Nikita Tu-Bryant at the helm, who has a fantastic voice.

Their music was great for the setting. Enough groove to entice some dancers to the front, and laid back enough to suit the sunny Saturday. Really great stuff, and an awesome start to the day.

*Also, check out their new video clip for “Private Lies” that that released today*

KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen

Chelsea Jade

Chelsea Jade was dressed all in white – a nod to cricket, which is what usually takes place at the Basin Reserve where the festival was being held. Flanked by a backing singer on either side, Jade delivered a polished pop set with choreographed dancing.

I’m out-of-the-loop but clearly Jade’s fans knew what was going on, she had them crouching down during parts of her set. She worked the crowd well, evidenced by the throng of fans all dancing against the barrier. She even invited one girl up onstage to dance, who promptly admitted that she had a crush on Jade. “If you dance well enough I may consider it mutual” Jade laughed.

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Paige

I can’t decide if it was laughable or genius (possibly both), but Paige started off her set by covering the Highschool Musical song, which garnered a great reaction. It was a strong start, with instant participation from the crowd and a big sing-along. Her music is fairly laid back so the energy died down a bit, but she’s got a great voice and it was a nice set. I loved the backing visuals too, with bumble bees buzzing around on the screen at the back of the stage.

Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen

The Beths

The Beths were definitely the act I was most looking forward to seeing today. They’ve been progressing from strength to strength in recent years and always killed it during the handful of times I’ve seen them play live. I consider their recent album Jump Rope Gazers the best release of 2020 and was obviously excited to see them play some of it live again.

Of course they delivered. I’m a rocker – no doubt about it – so it was great to see a full band letting loose. They’re fairly humble about their abilities, but watch guitarist Jonathan Pearce shred and you’ll soon see why they deserved to win so big at the recent Aotearoa Music Awards. And of course frontwoman Liz Stokes was the star, with her unapologetic Kiwi accent shining through.The sound quality was a bit patchy – unfortunately something that is fairly common at outdoor gigs – but this didn’t detract from the set too much. The Beths delivered a set of irresistibly fun and catchy hits. Seriously, check them out if you haven’t listened to them already.

The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen

Stellar*

It was a pretty spread demographic attending the fest, split among gender and ages. But looking at the lineup, the promoters were clearly targeting a younger audience. This makes Stellar* an outlier, seeing as most of what they’re known for having happened 20+ years ago.

I’d seen Stellar* open for Shihad in Riwaka (just out of Nelson) on New Years Eve a few years ago. I was shocked at how similar this set was to last time, with singer Boh Runga introducing the songs almost exactly as she had last time I’d seen them play. They should at least be able to mix the banter up so they don’t feel stagnant. The audio mix was also quite bad, noticeably worse than The Beths’ mix had been. The set was fine. I do enjoy their music but it looked like they were struggling to garner much of a reaction from the audience. Stellar* need to work on freshening up if they want to be more than a boomer nostalgia band.

Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen

Foley

I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard Foley before today. But they were fun. I always prefer a band over a DJ or backing track, and they were full of energy. I don’t have much more to say, but I enjoyed them.

Foley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen

Ladi6

Ladi6 was sliiiick. You can tell that she’s been doing this for a while, because this was a performance in every sense. There were three DJs (?) at the rear, manning decks and a mini drum kit and I’m not sure what. Ladi6 was front and centre, commanding attention. She used Samoan fans as props (and I’m sure to keep her cool – it was hot!), and had dancers dressed in bright orange to either side of her. The dancers were super effective – totally in sync and they really stood out with their orange attire. Peachy Keen was all about feminist representation, and Ladi6 upped the ante by making a point to address cultural inclusiveness as well, with the dancers incorporating Pasifika flags into their routines. I’ve gotta say it was certainly the most professional and polished set of the day, and visually it really stood out.

Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen

Ladyhawke

By contrast, Ladyhawke fell a bit flat. The acts had been running progressively later throughout the day and there was quite a wait before she came on. I don’t know what the cause of this was but I’m guessing it was something to do with soundchecking and set ups? Sweet Mix Kids helped to amp the crowd up during these breaks with their DJ sets but that energy dispersed when Ladyhawke came on.

It was finally dark by this point, making the lights onstage effective, but there was just something missing from this set. A few of the better known singles caused ripples of excitement among fans, but overall it was underwhelming.

Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy KeenLadyhawke at Peachy Keen

Gin Wigmore

Gin Wigmore knows how to party. Brimming with confidence, she showed us a good time. Her band rocked. I’d heard a rumour that one of her guitarists had caught covid on the way to NZ so she’d had to recruit a ring-in, but honestly, you wouldn’t know it. They played flawlessly.

Wigmore also joined in, playing guitar on a few tracks, and thumping the hell out of a floor tom drum towards the end of the set. You could tell she was enjoying herself and it was infectious.

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore's set at Peachy Keen

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore’s set at Peachy Keen

Her husband Jason Butler managed to get on someone’s shoulders in the mosh pit. He stripped of his shirt and beanie and threw it onstage. Security guards quickly flashed their torches at him and made him get down, but Wigmore lapped it up, flirting with him from onstage. “Hey sexy man, I think I’ll marry you and have your babies!” she shouted. “Hmmmm I can smell some weed. I live in LA, where you can have someone deliver it to you in a three piece suit. Not like here in NZ, where you have to go to a dodgy area to pay $20 for something wrapped in aluminum foil. Anyone want to share?” she joked.

Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen

Benee

And now for the big act. The stage was noticeably bigger, with some of the clutter from the wings removed to make space. The drums looked formidable, with odd perspex shields set in front (I guess for acoustic mix reasons). Benee was the big draw card that many people had come for.

She came onstage rocking a red puffer jacket and a fluffy bucket hat. And fair enough – it’d been a scorcher earlier on, but there was a definite chill in the air now it was past 10pm. The stage was quite dark despite the lights, and Benee nonchalantly walked from side to side as she sang.

I don’t know if it was forced or is she’s just odd, but Benee was full of quirks. She adopted different accents every time she addressed the crowd. She made animal noises during the pauses between lyrics. At one point she just lay on the floor of the stage as she sang.

I’ll be honest, the appeal was lost on me, but obviously my opinion didn’t matter because thousands of adoring fans were hanging onto every word. Benee’s set started more than an hour later than scheduled, but there was a strict sound curfew  of 11pm, so her set was cut a lot shorter than anticipated.

There was a bit of an outcry over the drastically shortened set, but there’s nothing that could be done.

Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen


All in all it was a fantastic day. Thankfully it was sunny. The Basin Reserve was a suitable venue, with plenty of space for a stage and dancing area, as well as surrounding banks for those who just wanted to lay back and soak it all in. Most of the acts played well, although it was possibly a bit ambitious booking so many. Once events like this start falling behind time it can snowball, and it’s a real shame that the two last acts had to cut songs from their sets.

Sure, there were a few teething problems, but overall it was a great success, and it’s very likely that we’ll see another Peachy Keen event in years to come. It had a unique vibe that I hope they can replicate in the future. I wonder if they’ll aim to pull international acts or if they’ll stick to Aotearoa artists, but either way, they deserve congratulations for taking such a progressive stance and making a point of celebrating women in music.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Premiere: Sora Shima – At the Edge of Hope Is Despair

Sora Shima At the Edge of Hope Is Despair cover
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Sora Shima were staples in the New Zealand post-rock scene for some time. They shared the stage with royalty like Jakob and Mono, and put out some great music.

The band slowed down and fell into a hiatus about five years ago. You know the score – guys get a bit older, work commitments start taking over, suddenly they have families, and the band goes on the back burner. Their last release was the 2014 album You Are Surrounded.

I remember in late 2016 my friend David Zeidler (of Young Epoch fame) asking me to recommend some post-rock acts from my neck of the woods for an A Thousand Arms compilation, which were relatively new at the time.

From memory I suggested Jakob, Sora Shima, Hiboux, Into Orbit and Kerretta. Three of those acts made it onto the first edition of Hemispheres (Hiboux featured in the following edition).

Chatting with Jason from Sora Shima, the fresh surge of interest in his band as a result of that compilation inspired him to revive the band and get things up and running again.

They’ve had a handful of gigs in the past year and have been working on new material and getting back on track. Out of nowhere they’ve dropped two fresh songs.

“At the Edge of Hope Is Despair” is a brilliant return to form. A guitar line at the start reminds me of Tides of Man – which can only be a good thing. And the drums sound immense – really full and vibrant and spacious. So many drummers try to emulate that sound that John Bonham gave us in the song “When The Levee Breaks” and Sora Shima have come darn close. All the instruments come together in a searing, triumphant crescendo that leaves you panting for more. I’m reminded of the recent Hubris album.

“Loss” is more cinematic ambient, full of mournful swells and dense textures. A nice counterpiece to the first track.

Sora Shima

There’s no story behind these tracks, no waffly bio. It’s just shy of 7 minutes worth of music. But it’s damn tasty and exciting to have new content from such a great band. Keep an eye out on the Shora Shima Facebook page for some news being announced in the next week.

While you’re at it, buy their back catalogue off Bandcamp. They’re only asking for $3 for their entire collection, which is criminally underselling themselves.

 

EP Review: distance – over time

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Sam Butler is likely best known for his time as the bass player for Banks Arcade. Recent life changes have signaled time for new opportunities, allowing Butler to explore different avenues.

He put the word out last year, wanting to start a post-rock group. I even had him over at one point for a jam in my bedroom. But a shift to the sleepy town of Nelson put those plans to rest, so Butler decided to see what he can do on his own. The result is the over time EP, put out under the moniker of Distance.

The timing seems slightly comical, considering all the jokes circulating about how we are about to get flooded with bedroom albums and solo projects due to the covid 19 lockdown period, but don’t worry, this is actually quality output.

Butler shares with me about the inspiration behind the EP. The immense Nelson Pine factory plant in Richmond is responsible for producing a lot of the MDF, plywood and timber that we use in our part of the world. You can see the constant plume of “steam” churning out from it’s chimneys at all hours.

Butler noticed this during a commute to work one day and it got him thinking about the water cycle. One thing led to another, and before long he’d formed a song in his head that revolved around the concept of water. Wanting to extend himself, he expanded upon the theme, introducing other elements of nature, and in the end settling on five elements he loved about New Zealand: water, trees, sky, mountains and people.

Most post-rock music is instrumental by nature, leaving the music open to interpretation by the listener. But I do love when post-rock artists use an overarching concept to influence and inform the songwriting process. It can result in a more interesting final product, which invites the listener to interact with the themes and messages of the music on a deeper level. Take Ranges, hubris. or Lost in Kiev, for example.

distance over time Sam Butler

“coalescence” is the original water themed track that jump-started this project. Butler shares that “throughout the song, raindrops fall, coalesce, create puddles, rivers and streams, and then finally join the ocean, where they crash about in the final climax.” Guitar notes with plenty of delay and thunderous drums echo within a sparse chamber before sharply plucked bass and monstrous layers of guitar consume everything and engulf you. I especially love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-em drum fills towards the end of the track.

It’s clear that Butler is a fellow believer, having paid his dues at the altar of Jakob. The rolling bass line in “coalescence” and the hollow snare tone on “tectonic” – there’s no mistaking where he drew key inspiration for those aspects of the music from.

Butler utilises wonderful field samples, of rolling water, of crashing waves upon the shore, of tranquil birdsong, of people chatting. These recordings lend themselves to the concept that anchors the music, as well as adding an georgeous textural layer to the sounds.

I just adore the birdsong in “undergrowth”. The music contains tribal percussive elements and grunty riffs that sound like the lovechild of Jakob and Tool.

The heaviest track is “firmament”. It sounds crushing and huge, a dense slab of noise which threatens to overwhelm everything.

One of the better known Māori whakatauki (proverbs) is:

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

It’s a nice touch naming the final track “(treasure)”, knowing that the working title was “People”, making me guess that the name is alluding to the whakatauki.

The track is very much a nod to the origin of ambient music: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. We hear hustle and bustle, distant sirens, people connecting. Similar to “Coda” from Pillars’ outstanding 2019 record Cavum, it’s a touching track that explores mundane yet magical aspects of life, and a brilliantly soft finish to a great collection of music.

This is an extremely promising release from Butler, and certainly exceeds all expectations in terms of quality, considering it’s a lock-down bedroom project. Looks like I missed a grand opportunity, given that we could have teamed up to start a band when he lived in Wellington. That aside, over time is well worth your attention, with well crafted songs that sound great, and an understated concept of gratitude that we would all do well to remember in trying times such as these.

distance over time


distance links:

Bandcamp: https://distancenzl.bandcamp.com/album/over-time

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkFeC2SN-QY

Spotify et al: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/distance2/over-time

Live Review: Shihad at Shed 6, Wellington

Shihad 30 Tour Poster
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Shihad 30th Anniversary Tour

w/ Villainy and Beastwars
Shed 6, Wellington
Saturday 20 October 2018

The first thing I noticed as I entered the room was the middle-aged men dancing at the front. I teach toddlers for a living, but not even three-year-olds rocking out to the Frozen soundtrack could match the levels of uninhibited dancing I saw during Villainy’s set.

I mean, these guys were really giving it their all. There’s something truly wondrous about seeing man with grey hair prancing around playing air guitar and enjoying themselves so much. In fact, a good portion of the crowd were lapping up Villainy’s show.

I’ve never paid much attention to Villainy. I know I’ve seen them play a bunch of times but I couldn’t say when. Sad to hear from a music reviewer, I know, but I’ve always dismissed them as one of the many generic radio-rock bands that New Zealand pumps out. But they played well, and maybe I need to reconsider my opinion on them. The final song was a real crowd pleaser, with a melody lifted from Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”.

Hearing Beastwars announced as a support slot was a great surprise. I thought that the show they played at San Fran in July was the last Wellington show planned for some time, if not for good. Beastwars went on hiatus a while back after releasing their last album for a variety of reasons: infighting during the recording process, frontman Matt Hyde battling cancer, and drummer Nathan Hickey emigrating to Europe. They’d only ever planned on releasing a trilogy of albums, so with their planned output completed, there was no guarantee that the band would continue. But thankfully they are back – or at least for this Shihad tour and a few upcoming dates in Oz.

As always, watching Beastwars play was an immersive experience. Hearing the distinctive chugging of “Damn The Sky” (my favourite Beastwars song) made me cry out in joy as they started their set, and they didn’t relent with their offerings until finished. In some ways, they’re New Zealand’s answer to Killing Joke. They draw you in with oppressive riffs and primal drumming, creating a captivating ritual. Hyde summons up God-knows-what and uses the process to purge himself of demons.

As great as it was to see Beastwars unleash the riff again, they were no match for Shihad. This tour marks 30 years since Shihad formed as teenagers, and their experience shows. They’re seasoned veterans of the stage who have refined their art of rocking to perfection.

30 years to hone their abilities. Tom Larkin, as always, is a monster behind the kit. He always sounds amazing, whether whipping out thrash-metal blast beats or just holding down a groove. His backing vocals were more noticeable than usual tonight, as he sung into his gooseneck microphone. Karl Kippenberger helps with the groove, always looking effortlessly cool. And Phil Knight lets his playing do the talking, bringing the riffs and the solos.

Shihad have nine studio albums out now. I can think of a few times that I’ve seen them play a set spanning their whole career,picking a track or two from each record, and playing through them chronologically. It’s a smart move, ensuing that they please fans old and new.

This time they’ve taken the same idea and reversed it. They commenced with “Think You’re So Free”, from latest album FVEY, and worked their way backwards, playing a song or two from each record. “Think You’re So Free” is venomous and powerful, as is “FVEY” – both tracks a commentary on society, and protest against the then-government and world powers who control our lives.

Love Is The New Hate’s “Alive” felt slightly jarring after the throbbing dance-beat of “Sleepeater” and poppiness of “One Will Hear The Other”, but “All The Young Fascists” signaled that we were approaching Shihad’s golden era that balanced commercial appeal with a heavier rock edge.

I saw Jon Toogood front The Adults at Meow recently, and it was obvious how at home he feels on stage these days. He acted slightly different in this context though. The Adults show felt more intimate and relaxed, whereas here he seemed more professional. That is, if you could consider someone encouraging the crowd to shout swear words “professional”. You can never tell if an artist is just paying lip service or not when they say how great the audience is, but I would suggest that he was genuinely touched at seeing a sold-out venue full of die-hard fans in his hometown.

He gave a special shout-out to a young boy sat upon his Dad’s shoulders and wearing an AC/DC shirt. “This is the future of rock and roll!” Toogood announced, “Kid, one day you’re going to be up here doing my job. Just don’t become a fuckin’ DJ!”

Pacifier was a contentious time for the band, when they changed their name in an attempt to break into the American market. Some people hate it, but it has some great tracks on it. The two that got played tonight were “Comfort Me”, and the anthemic “Run”

Next up was The General Electric. TGE came out 20 years ago, so Shihad have just remastered it and released it on vinyl for the first time. To celebrate, they played about a third of the record.

I’ve seen Shihad play all of TGE live on two occasions (at San Fran in 2010, and at Big Day Out the following year) and, tell you what – this time was just as great. The band went backstage for a breather while Toogood serenaded us with the synth-ballad “Brightest Star”, before coming back in force with the furious “My Mind’s Sedate”.

If you’ve ever seen the band play “The General Electric” and “Wait and See”, then you’ll understand with songs from this album always dominate Shihad sets. They’re energetic, dynamic. They make you want to move and jump about. Clearly Toogood got swept up in the excitement too, finishing “Wait and See” with a stage dive, before accidentally dropping his microphone, and sheepishly waiting while a tech fetched it back for him from under the drum riser.

Toogood encouraged everyone to pull out their phones and lighters to wave them in the air for the classic ballad “Pacifier”. The stage lights dimmed, unneeded due to the glow emitted from the hundreds of screens.

The self-titled album – referred to as The Fish Album by some, gave us “Home Again” – one of the bands most enduring songs – and “La La Land”. Killjoy offered the immersive synth drenched “Deb’s Night Out”, and the vitriolic accusing “You Again”.

Which brings us to the début album Churn. The industrial-meets-speed-metal record that first came out back in 1994. “Factory” is an intricate song filled with malice. I imagine that they rehearsed this one a lot, because it would be incredibly unforgiving if they weren’t absolutely in sync with each other.

Yesterday Shihad played in Christchurch, and put up a poll on Facebook so the fans could vote on which song they wanted to hear for an encore [it was “Bitter”]. Tonight the band chose to play “Cheap As” – Toogood’s favourite riff, he revealed. It was a neat way to highlight the band’s evolution, playing the first track from their début album, and then the last song from their latest album. Both are crushingly heavy, abrasive and politically charged. And in between those two songs we had ballads and anthems, tastes of pop and metal, synth-backed dance tunes, somber love songs, and hard hitting rock numbers.

30 years. Nine albums. A sold-out hometown show. It’s one hell of a legacy, but it’s not even close to over. Shihad have been one of my favourite bands since I was a teenager, and they reaffirm why I love them so much every time I see them play.

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Rhian Sheehan at Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Rhian Sheehan Wellington
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Rhian Sheehan

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Friday 12 October 2018

To say I was excited about this gig would be an understatement. Rhian Sheehan’s album Stories From Elsewhere is one of my favourite records. It helped me zone in as I wrote countless essays throughout university. It sets a calm and playful tone as I teach toddlers every day. It helps me unwind late at night, and makes me happy to be alive on sunny weekends.

Not to mention his other works. As a composer, Sheehan is prolific. I guess you have to be, if that’s what you do for a living. From his early electronica albums, to ambient soundtracks, to vivacious planetarium scores, to brand new album, A Quiet Divide, Sheehan’s works have never failed to inspire.

Arriving at my seat in the Michael Fowler Centre only increased the excitement. First off, it’s a great venue, known for brilliant acoustics, and especially suited to a show like this. Secondly, I’d bought tickets as soon as they came available, so had front row seats. Looking upon the stage sparked my imagination: drums, synths, a row of guitars, a grand piano, timpani drums, percussion rigs and an area for the string section. Such an array of instruments told of infinite possibilities.

As well as being a musical concert, it was also billed as a visual spectacular. The first thing that stood out was a prismatic disco ball hung above the stage. Three sheer mesh screens were draped from the ceiling, making a triangle around disco ball. A range of lights and multiple projectors were at the ready, and the room was slowly filling with atmospheric stage fog. Sheehan has been working with local special effects company Weta on a few projects recently, and in turn they’ve helped him to develop a visual show worthy of his music for these performances.

At 8pm the string section took their places, soon followed by Rhian Sheehan and the rest of the musicians. I recognised a few faces: Sheehan’s wife, Raashi Malik (formally of Rhombus), Steve Bremner from the recent The Adults show at Meow, Jakob guitarist Jeff Boyle, Ed Zuccollo with his signature mini-moog. A veritable star-studded line-up.

Golden lights bathed the stage in misty warmth. Strategically placed projectors shone images onto the mesh screens. The music – ah, such brilliant music – plays. Houston, we’ve hit Nirvana!

Of course it all looks incredible. The imagery varies greatly from song to song – sometimes as basic as geometric shapes, lines, boxes, pyramids… but always interesting. Images of spectral figures dancing about, of bustling cities; scenes of serene nature and of man-made destruction. Vast landscapes befitting of epic soundrack compositions. Ethereal animations alternate with powerful time-lapse footage. My favourite was “Soma Dreams”, which was similar to the video clip, with a flying whale, dancing woman and splashes of vibrant colour towards the end.

Of course the music was everything you’d hope for. Many of these songs have soundtracked my life for the past few years, and hearing them played live is electrifying. I write about mostly instrumental music on this blog, but seldom venture to the ambient or neo-classical end of the spectrum, so seeing a string section in a setting like this is a rare treat. And all the more interesting, with the electronic elements marrying the classical elements. Glitches and samples sat alongside harmonious swells. We heard wildly different versions of piano – with the traditional grand piano, and then the digital counterparts like synth and moog adding their own unique timbres. I appreciated little touches that deviate from the recordings – like Zucollo adding improvised solos on the moog, or the intense bass swells from the pedal-boosted cello – that made songs sparkle more in this setting.

This is evocative music. Songs that sweep you off your feet, grab you by the hand and tug you along on an adventure. Songs that explore the emotions that lie deep within the human psyche. Songs of beauty and joy. Samples of children’s music boxes and trickling streams, and busy traffic interplay with the music, grounding it and adding depth. This is the sound of magic.

The show was split into two sets, with a 20 minute intermission between. The first showed more new material, with fresh unseen visuals. The second set included more old video clips. The selection of music was diverse, with a good mix of old and new, studio songs and soundtrack work, and a few electronic tracks to spice up the sets. All up the show lasted two hours.

Rhain Sheehan is not a performer. He’s a studio musician who creates soundtracks for a living. But somehow he managed to bringing his other-worldly music to life in an unforgettable way, creating a audio-visual spectacle that completely enveloped the Michael Fowler Centre last night. I went in with high expectations, and left completely in awe.

 

Joseph James