Live Review: Princess Chelsea at Meow, Wellington

Princess Chelsea EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT TOUR Poster
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Princess Chelsea – Everything is Going to be Alright Tour

Friday 12 January 2024

Meow, Wellington

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.

Power Nap


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.

Stälker Stälker

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.

Stälker Stälker Stälker


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.

Princess Chelsea Princess Chelsea

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).

Princess Chelsea Princess Chelsea

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.

Princess Chelsea Princess Chelsea


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.

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Planet Hunter Northern Tripping – Auckland and Kaitaia

Planet Hunter Northern Tripping Poster
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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.

Northern Tripping Whammy Backroom Auckland poster

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.

Van life

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.

Sneaky Snacky

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 at Whammy Backroom

Empress

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.

Thousand Limbs at Whammy Backroom

Thousand Limbs

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 at Whammy Backroom

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 MetalFest 3

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

Kawakawa, home of the famous Hundertwasser Toilets (near this location)

cat butt

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.

Kaitaia MetalFest3 Billboard

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.

The Shard Kaitaia MetalFest3

The Shard

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 at Kaitaia MetalFest

FNA

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 at Kaitaia MetalFest3

Teraset

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 Kaitaia MetalFest3

Planet Hunter at Kaitaia MetalFest3

Sunday

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

 

UPDATE: Some of Joseph’s photos were used in this NZ Herald article, which gave good coverage of Kaitaia Metal Fest 3: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/northland-age/news/heavy-metal-alive-and-well-in-the-far-north/3RPKET23JJHGDDTUSHEZKLYKH4/?fbclid=IwAR2-Nou-e-NSxb4-RRsWhtdBeuRU5S4b1elN7ePruCuHRrzJjyVWBOdzObw

Planet Hunter Northern Tripping Tour 2023

Planet Hunter Northern Tripping Poster
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Wellington’s greatest live rock band is taking their show round the North Island this May, with their Northern Tripping Tour. Having released their incredible album Moscovium in September, they’re finally taking it around the North Island and treating music fans with their unmissable shows.

Come check out their hypnotic grooves, infectious riffs, and witness their out-of-this-world sci-fi stage presence!

Planet Hunter Northern Tripping Poster

Whammy Backroom, Auckland

Friday 5th May

with Empress and Thousand Limbs

Tickets: https://www.undertheradar.co.nz/gig/83447/Northern-Tripping.utr

Kaitaia MetalFest 3

Kaitaia MetalFest 3

Saturday 6th May

Also featuring:

Teraset
F.N.A
The Shard

Tickets: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2023/kaitaia-metalfest-3/kaitaia

Northern Tripping Moon Wellington

Moon, Wellington

Saturday 20th May

with BXRT and Mana Mushroom

Tickets: https://www.undertheradar.co.nz/gig/83472/Northern-Tripping.utr

Planet Hunter’s website: https://planethunter.band/

Live Review: Frank Turner at Meow, Wellington

Frank Turner Meow
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Frank Turner (show 2745)

w/ DEE
Meow, Wellington
Monday 27 March 2023

This was an unexpected gig. Counting Crows announced a tour late last year. They’re a band that I’m neutral on. I don’t mind them, but wouldn’t choose to listen to them either. But when Frank Turner was announced as the support act I decided I was going immediately. Part of me winced as I dropped $150 on a ticket so I could see someone play a 30 minute support slot, but hey, money comes and goes, my love for Frank Turner is forever.

So imagine my delight today when I hear that Counting Crows have cancelled their show at Michael Fowler Centre, but Frank Turner has arranged a consolation gig at Meow. My condolences to Counting Crows fans, but that wasn’t the band I wanted to see. And this Meow show was free! I would have happily paid, but I won’t complain. This way I got to see a full Frank set!

I made sure to arrive at Meow early, wanting to avoid the risk of missing out if the venue hit capacity. When I got there around 6.30pm, there was already a queue snaking down the alleyway. We were let inside at 7pm and the venue was close to full at that point.

DEE opened the night with sweet, shimmering folky music. She was glowing under the blue light, with a sparkly sheer shirt and glittery make up. Her music was pretty sleepy, but her voice was stunning and carried plenty of personality. She was clearly chuffed that she’d been called in to open last-minute, but if she was nervous it didn’t show.

Frank Turner came onstage to rapturous applause. I think it’s fair to say that many people were like myself, and actually glad about the turn of events that led to this. Nothing against Counting Crows, but this sure beats only getting a short 30 minute opening set.

Always one to please his loyal fanbase, he touched on eight of his nine albums out to date, as well as playing the title track to his forthcoming album, Undefeated, and an obligatory Counting Crows cover, which made perfect sense. He shared how he grew up on metal and punk music, but learnt to play every song on his sister’s Counting Crows record because the guitar playing was easier to learn than Megadeth solos. 

This is the second time I’ve seen Frank play solo. There were times that it seemed as if something was missing – obviously the music sounds better fully fleshed out by a band. But Frank had us help out, humming lines that would usually feature guitar solos, or clapping where a strong drum beat was needed.

He’s clearly a master at what he does. I guess you can’t help but attain excellence after playing 2744 shows. He knew how to play dynamically, where to invite crowd participation, and had great banter.

I’m always surprised by how much of Frank’s music is shouted – as opposed to sung – in a live context. But this is perfect for a fired up crowd wanting to join in. I’ve listened to these songs hundreds of times and I made sure to belt out the words along with everyone else. The energy was contagious. 

I think one of the things I find most appealing about Frank’s music is that he can articulate feelings that I find incredibly relatable. I remember last time I saw him, he started his set with “Don’t Worry”. And as corny as it sounds, it felt like all the stress I’d been carrying just melted away. I love the fired up songs about the power of punk rock, about rejecting Nazis, about but I also love the sincerity of some of his more vulnerable moments. Tonight, “Get Better” and “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” struck a chord. Frank doesn’t know me at all, but I felt seen, and somehow supported, knowing that I’m not always alone in how I feel. It’s powerful.

And as soppy as it sounds, I think it is because Frank genuinely cares. He’d spent the day working on his pronunciation so that he could say “Aotearoa”. He played the song “Miranda” at special request from a 6 year old fan in attendance. And also mentioned how this song was topical, in light of the recent protests around Nazi anti-feminist figure Posie Parker visiting New Zealand to spread a message of hate.

And he put on this free show for us tonight.

Because he cares about his fans.

I came out of that show feeling revived. I was energised and refreshed and willing to take on the world. Now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all?

 

Joseph James