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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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