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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Live Review: The D4 at San Fran, Wellington

The D4 tour poster
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The D4

w/ Dartz
San Fran, Wellington
Saturday 4 March 2023

It’s awesome to see the rise of Wellington punks Dartz. They’re fast gaining momentum as a band to be reckoned with, especially with the recent release of their debut album, The Band from Wellington, New Zealand.

They are fast witted and forthcoming with the banter, and their songs are relatable, capturing a slice of NZ life. Drinking beers, driving crap cars, living in substandard housing, struggling with the cost of living… These are things that almost everyone in our country has experienced. Somehow they ride the line between being both silly and fun, and authentic.

I especially enjoyed their cover of Deja Voodoo’s “Beers”, which proved fitting within their repertoire. “Dominion Road (Dumpling House)”, a reworking of The Mutton Birds song, also proved endearingly nostalgic, with a breath of fresh life breathed into it.

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The press release for this tour details how The D4 created a world of recklessness and high octane energy, touring the world relentlessly with incredible rock and roll bands. Their big album 6Twenty came out in 2002, so they’ve re-released it as 6Twenty One and given it the vinyl treatment for the twenty-first anniversary, along with this tour.

My first exposure to The D4 was the song “Sake Bomb”, on a CD sampler. I know that I’m showing my age here, but I didn’t have a have clue what Sake Bomb actually was. I thought it may have something to do with warfare. My exposure to alcohol at that stage was limited to the scrumpy, Speights and awful RTDs that we drank at highschool parties. It certainly didn’t extend to Japanese spirits.

I guess that I’m just slightly too young to have known The D4 when they were big. I do remember Jimmy Christmas’ next band Lugar Boa having a strong presence on The Rock radio station and at many gigs during my later teenage years.

I have actually seen them play before, at this same venue in 2018 with The Datsuns. But in all honesty, the only memories I have of that night are reduced to remembering that it was extremely hot, and of being concerned for my friend Conor, who got knocked out during The Datsuns’ set.

Well it’s a shame, but nothing felt especially knockout about tonight’s set. The musicians were all clearly weathered players, but it lacked that feeling of danger or excitement that I’d want from a band who writes so many songs about partying and drinking. They have a history of sharing the stage with Guitar Wolf – one of the most exciting rock bands I can think of. But this just felt pedestrian.

Dion Palmer appeared to put the most into the performance, with a bit more movement and plenty of guitar solos. He really should have been centrestage. “Out of my Head” had a bit more oomph, and the aforementioned “Sake Bomb” was fun – possibly because it was a lot faster and more energetic than many of the other songs.

They finished up with the encore of “Exit to the City”, “Feel Like It” and “Invader Ace”.

All in all it was fine, but lacking the energy that I expected from a band of their reputation. Many bands do anniversary tours these days. One punter was wearing a tour t-shirt from when Shihad played Killjoy and The General Electric albums in full. I remember those being killer gigs. In recent years I’ve seen David Dallas play The Rose Tint, and Jakob play Solace. Both were incredible nights. But sometimes these anniversary tours just feel like stale cash grabs and tarnish treasured memories about music that used to feel vital.

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Words and photos by Joseph James