Clearly my effort of watching one YouTube video amounted to inadequate research, because upon arriving at San Fran I noted that the opening act was not a Mountain Boy, or even a Mountain Man, but rather a fully fledged band.
Mountain Boy is the work of Aaron Clarke. My friend Joram told me about how Clarke had undergone a project which involved writing and recording a song every week for one year, in the same vein as Into It. Over It‘s 52 Weeks. Clarke’s year-long effort was named Project Sinai – hence the mountain reference. (Mt Sinai is a place of religious significance, most notably where Moses met God and obtained the Ten Commandments.)
I had anticipated a solo set, but Clarke had obviously recruited a band for live gigs. And they suited their role perfectly, offering moody folk songs that set the scene for the rest of the night. And the rest of the audience appeared to agree, with a solid turnout that you wouldn’t see so early on for a support act. My favourite was the last track, which gradually grew in intensity, with the drummer pounding away on the toms with mallets, before switching to standard drumsticks for an energetic finale.
This softer styled folk music isn’t as loud as most gigs I go to, and I noticed that throughout the night there was usually a lot of conversations happening in the crowd while the bands were playing. It raises an interesting question surrounding the appropriateness of talking during a band’s set. Is it disrespectful? Or does it indicate that the music makes people feel comfortable and familiar. The talking wasn’t loud enough to make the bands hard to hear, but there was a definite murmur that could be heard almost all night.
It’s funny how surprised I was that The Paper Kites had changed so much over the years, seeing as I’d kept up with them as they’ve released sequential albums. I first saw them a few times when they only had a few EP’s to their name, and stylistically they were a lot different back then. I remember the music switched between kooky indie folk anthems, and fingerpicked love songs, softly cooed for intimate settings.
The more modern material indicated a big shift to a more electric sound. Less cutesy folk numbers, and more searing guitar, albeit still fairly chill. They stood onstage creating murky psychedelic vibes whilst bathed in a rich purple light.
They did play a few throwbacks, like “Arms” and “Bloom” – both from their début EP which had come out a decade ago – but new material like the funked up “Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain” showed us that evolving sound wise can prove worthwhile.
The Paper Kites
Sam Bently is the obvious leader of the band, the key songwriter, and lead singer. But the rest of the band still match him for talent. All of them could sing beautifully, and at a few times throughout the night they formed a semicircle around a microphone and treated us to serene five-part harmonies. I didn’t see much switching between instruments, but if my memory serves me they are all adept at playing different instruments. For example, drummer Josh Bentley came out from behind his kit to play guitar at one point.
Although he seemed quiet at first, Sam proved quite the comedian when he spoke to us. The band chose to play without lighting for one of their more romantic songs. He explained that there were two types of people who came to Paper Kites shows: the lovers and the sad singles. They played that song in the dark to spare the single folk the shame of being seen crying on their own.
It almost felt as if he was breaking the fourth wall, with self-aware humour. He indicated that the band was going off stage, but would return for an encore if we wanted it enough, obviously setting himself up for later in the night.
Whether casting spells with their tender ballads, riding the wave with slow burning songs drenched in guitar effects, or boosting the energy with some upbeat indie singalongs, there is no doubt that The Paper Kites have talent. They’ve come a long way since I first saw them nine years ago, and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
You know those bands you’ve known “of” for years but only found a true connection with years later? Well The Dandy Warhols are one of those acts for me. While I well remember hearing “Bohemian Like You” in the early 2000s (and also on a Vodafone ad), I only really took a serious interest in the group after hearing “We Used to Be Friends” on Radio Hauraki a few years back. Now this was a track I became a little obsessed with which naturally resulted in me digging a little deeper into their discography. And while I discovered some more bangers I tended to find some of their work a little hit or miss. Yet when they hit, they really do hit.
So when I heard they were to be playing the Powerstation I was a little unsure if they were going to be worthwhile – they’re slightly past their prime and I got the impression they weren’t’ a hugely phenomenal live act. In fact frontman Courtney Taylor Taylor partly confirmed this in an interview with Radio Hauraki on September 14 – talking with Angelina Grey he said he’d recently been bluntly informed that the groups’ party antics at the 2004 Big Day Out resulted in a somewhat mediocre set. Yet there was no way I was going to miss those infectious Warhols hooks while they played them a few hundred metres up the road from my flat. And my expectations were certainly exceeded.
With Taylor Taylor having recently celebrated a 50th birthday, The Dandy’s are no spring chickens. Yet the mood in the Powerstation on this Wednesday in 2017 was fresh and vibrant as the four piece made their way through a set of roughly an hour and a half of, for the most part, banger after banger.
The Portlanders have always been phenomenal at insanely memorable and hooky choruses and these were pulled off well. Making their way through a majority of their esteemed tacks I found myself singing along very loudly to the likes of “Everyday Should Be A Holiday” and “Boys Better”.
Despite what I say about the band being hit or miss, they certainly had enough anthems to fill a set, including a few I hadn’t heard before. Influenced by psychedelic music, this was an outstanding aesthetic of their live context – a number of sections hit home with a wall of bright ambience. For instance “Holding Me Up”, a track I didn’t know prior, completely blew me away with its upbeat and driving grooves.
Another stellar aspect of the show was the stage presence of keyboardist and percussionist Zia McCabe. An original member, McCabe moved and grooved throughout and looked like she was having as much fun as parts of the audience. While Taylor Taylor can’t hit some of the higher notes, he sounded strong enough to carry a superb wall of powerpop noise behind him.
Formed in 1994 The Dandy Warhols are no longer an ‘in’ band – an idea the largely 30 plus demographic suggested. Yet their distinctive brand of euphoric alternative rock is sadly a bit of an anomaly these days – an approach more younger bands could draw from. This was a feel good show and one that left me feeling elated. It’s even gone so far as to inspire my own songwriting. Long live The Dandy Warhols.
Auckland singer/songwriter Lydia Cole has just come home from a short Australian tour promoting her second album, The Lay Of The Land, which came out a few weeks ago. She’s in a weird state between excitement and exhaustion.
“On Monday I flew back. I did three shows in four days. It was kind of insane. I have never been more tired or thoroughly exhausted in my mind and body than I was this weekend.
“It was awesome though. Totally pays off and definitely worth it.” she hastily adds.
Image: Josh Yong
Cole will continue the tour locally across our three main centres over the coming few weeks, before emigrating to Berlin in a couple of months. She has spent the day trying to organise the logistics and equipment for her next few shows.
“The stress has been pretty insane over the past month, but I’m learning to break it down. I’m not sure about the details for the Wellington show, because I’m just thinking about this weekend, you know? I’ll worry about Wellington next week, which is the only way for me to cope with everything.
“At the moment it’s literally too much work for me to do. I did the Kickstarter, and there’s something like 260 people that I have to send CD’s or different rewards to. I’m definitely not up with all of that. Maybe half of the rewards are in boxes waiting me to package and address and send out.
“But I figure if those people have waited 18 months than they won’t be bothered about another few weeks … hopefully” she chuckles.
“I’ve never been this busy before. It’s like full-time plus. But I’m really grateful for it, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way.”
A new album
The Lay Of The Land is a stunning follow-up to 2012’s Me & Moon. She’s pleased with the album. Me & Moon left her anxious about what people would think, whereas this time around Cole is has had long enough to sit on the songs and is happy that they represent her well at this moment of time, and realises that they don’t have to define her forever.
“In the studio when I was recording it I was very anxious. And I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously thinking that there was 260 people hoping to like this. The grassroots support from an array of people – the Kickstarter people – was one of the big reasons why I decided to go that way. Firstly: it was financial, but secondly: I don’t have a label or a publicist or anything – it was just me at that stage, doing my own thing – and I realised that doing Kickstarter was a way to have a few hundred people aware that I was going to release something. They’re waiting, so you already have a bunch of people on your buzz already. They’re loyal. They’ve invested with their money already and they’re likely to tell their friends and follow what you’re doing, so it’s cool.”
Cole had quit her job and sought contributions from her fans via crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help her fund the recording process. She managed to raise the $15,000 within only five days, and since recording the album a year ago has worked hard to piece together the package that has become her album. This has involved finalising the album art, creating music videos, having band rehearsals and waiting for the CDs and vinyl records to get pressed
When you look at what she has put out, you can understand why it has taken so long. Take, for example, the incredible stop motion video for “Telepathise”. Cole teamed up with ex-pat animator Timothy Armstrong to create this brilliant clip that is not only visually stunning, but complements the song so well. It took Armstrong a whole month to make, and could have easily taken three times as long.
There are so many intricate details in the video. Armstrong discussed at length with Cole what types of trees she likes and what animals she wanted featured. He painstakingly created the layered images atop a Lazy Susan table and spent a lot of time manipulating small lights to create the different effects you see in the video [example here].
Cole is also super excited about having vinyl copies of the new album available.
“I was living at home a few years ago with Mum and Dad and they had an old record player. I’ve got a small collection: Louis Armstong, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, Phoenix Foundation (fun!). Since I’ve gone flatting I haven’t had a record player and have had to shelf them, but listening to records is like making coffee for me. It’s a physical routine: you chuck it on, put the needle down and it’s more of a tangible moment to enjoy.
“Look, I’m not a big sound-y person and don’t understand technical stuff very much but I did have an inkling that the warmth and the textures – a lot of the synth sounds on this album – would suit a vinyl sound. It was real cool when the test pressing arrived and I chucked it on. It sounded so good – I think it really suits it. I’m stoked with that.
“And they’re selling really well at shows and online as well. I sold a whole bunch to people in Germany and all through Europe, which is awesome! Hopefully they all make it in one piece!”
Nic Manders on keys. Image: Josh Yong
Berlin represents a fresh start and new challenges. Going from support slots for big name artists and Silver Scroll award nominations to being a nobody on the opposite side of the planet.
“I’m very aware that I’ll become nobody. I’m excited to start afresh and meet people and go to gigs and busk and see who reacts to me on the street. I’ve always had Nic Manders produce my stuff, and he won’t be there. Over there I’ll be doing home recordings and stretching myself in that way as well.
“I’m a real big fan of sustainable and thorough growth. Like, chipping away at your character, chipping away at a project that means a lot to you instead of hoping for that overnight success that doesn’t actually mean anything. I apply that to my music and to my personal growth. I think that the slower you grow, then the more concrete that change will be.”
Connecting with musicians
We spend some time enthusiastically discussing the Sufjan Stevens shows we had each been to when he came last year. He embodies that type of musician Cole aspires to be like, just an upfront guy who is also a talented musician. She shares that these are the types of people she tries to share a stage with as well.
Luke Oram on guitar. Image: Josh Yong
“A guy called Chris from Christchurch is coming up to Auckland to support me. He messaged me on Facebook to say ‘Hi, here’s a link to my latest song on Soundcloud and I’d like to support you’. I really liked it. I’ve never met him and have seen no footage of him playing live so it’s like a fun little risk that I’m taking.
“In Australia it was real interesting trying to find people to support me. And I was lucky with that too. I got a couple of real cool people. I think musicians have pretty amazing stories a lot of the time so it was cool to bump into more people who have crazy stories.
“People who play music in similar genres to what I play – they’re writing from the heart and writing about stuff that matters to them. Usually when I click with someone like that it’s often on a personal level as well, so you make a really good friend out of that, which is nice.”
Authenticity is something Cole values. She presents herself as she is, flaws and all. She chooses not to wear makeup and her personal lyrics can leave her feeling incredibly exposed, but she’d prefer to be seen as genuine than perfect.
“When I was younger I thought that not needing a day job meant you’ve made it, but I’ve changed my perspective on what success means.
“Success to me is balance and health. The past little while I’ve been working part-time in a café, and doing music the rest of the time. The café work helps keep me social and personally healthy, and not going all crazy in my head. And it pays the bills. And that to me is success.”
Lydia Cole has four more NZ shows before moving to Germany to continue her personal and musical growth. With hundreds of people paying to help fund her music and a likely three sold out shows on this tour, it’s hard not to agree that she has done well for herself. We wish her the best of luck starting afresh overseas.
Ty Dolla $ign began the NZ leg of his Campaign tour in Wellington off the back of his mixtape of the same name,
This show excited me for two reasons. Firstly (and more obviously) I am a fan of his and what better way to experience his music then performed live. Secondly, I was excited to contribute to Will Not Fade by writing about Hip Hop/RnB – a genre that may not get as much coverage on this site.
First coming into the spotlight on the track “Toot It and Boot It” by YG back in 2010, Ty Dolla $ign has since release 2 EP’s, 9 mixtapes and 2 albums, and founded a music production team (D.R.U.G.S). He has also contributed his song writing skills to hits like “FourFiveSeconds” (Kanye West/Rihanna/Paul McCartney), “Loyal” (Chris Brown/Lil Wayne/French Montana/Too Short/Tyga) and “Post to Be” (Omarion/Chris Brown/Jhene Aiko).
A standout in the ever-growing category of singer-rapper (think Drake, Future etc.),Ty Dolla $ign’s sound has elements of Hip-Hop, RnB and Soul. Among his influences are 2Pac, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Music production plays a big part in his artistry, being a multi-instrumentalist.
We arrived at Shed 6 to see it roughly half full. Shed 6 is an underutilized venue that I would like to see more acts play. It reminds me of the now-defunct James Cabaret, although is twice as large. A DJ was walking around on stage trying to amp up the crowd.
Ty Dolla $ign’s cousin Teecee 4800 succeeded in elevating the mood. The audience notably perked up in response to the live performance after having listened to prerecorded tracks through the PA for the past few hours.
And as much as they loved Teecee, it was nothing compared to the star attraction. Ty Dolla $ign arrived onstage larger than life. He wore a Hawaiian styled jacket atop a black Gucci t-shirt – both of which were removed before long. His dreadlocked hair was tied back under a cap, and he wore round sunglasses to protect his eyes from the harsh red stage lights.
He was clearly excited to be in New Zealand. He commented on how much he had enjoyed Wellington since landing at the airport and complimented us on our potent strains of marijuana before lighting up a large blunt and taking a big drag before throwing it into the crowd. A risky move considering that it was an all-ages show, but I get the impression that this didn’t concern him too much.
It was a real buzz to run around in the photographers pit taking photos from all angles. It’s a shame that red lights – the bane of the photographer – dominated the entire show. Steam cannons lined the front edge of the stage to shoot geysers of steam into the air at certain moments.
Ty Dolla $ign treated us by playing all manner of tracks from his varied career, showcasing his strength as a collaborator. It’s a shame that autotune is so prevalent in many of his songs because he has great singing talent. It was terribly fun and it was clear that everyone in the building was having a blast.
It was interesting trying to figure out who the true Ty was. A large, heavily tattooed rapper drinking gin out of the bottle. A talented musician with illustrious credits to his name. He proudly brought his daughter and sister onstage, but then later let his DJ stop the set to pull girls up onstage to dance. Is it possible to be both a family man and womanizer? He brought TeeCee 4800 back out to tag team on some tracks with him.
The once-fun set got derailed and lost all momentum as DJ Dre Sinatra spent five minutes beckoning girls up onstage to dance for the final track before taking them backstage for the “after party”. As lame as it was halting the show to seek out groupies, Ty Dolla $ign did end on a fun note, with Fifth Harmony’s “Work“, and ventured into the audience to do a spot of crowd surfing.
Overall it was a fantastically fun gig – certainly worth staying up late on a Tuesday night for.
You’d think that with the amount of trouble I get into, I’d have learnt by now not to underestimate my ability to get lost in another city. But unfortunately I still find myself in situations like that today, in which I managed to get stranded on an island.
After an exciting day of exploring old army bunkers on Waiheke Island, I found the winding roads too hard to navigate, and managed to narrowly miss the ferry I needed to catch back to Auckland in time for the gig.
Sadly opening act Barracks had long finished their set by the time I got to the Powerstation, and Alexisonfire were already half way through their second song as I entered the venue.
I was kicking myself for showing up so late, but my excitement meant that I was soon caught up in the moment and forgot about the stress of trying to get there earlier. I’d been looking forward to this show for many months, and after an eventful drive up from Wellington I was finally here – albeit slightly late.
Alexisonfire are five piece post-hardcore act from Ontario, Canada. They released four albums between 2002-2009. One point of difference they boast is that they have three singers: George Pettit fronts the band on unclean vocals, Dallas Green sings clean vocals as well as playing guitar and piano, and Wade McNeil provides backing vocals whilst also playing guitar. In 2012 the band disbanded, with each singer going on to front other projects.
The Powerstation was well packed for a Monday night, with a generous turnout to see the newly reformed Canadians back in action. Here was a band that was most relevant a decade ago, but could still attract a decent audience on a work night.
And after seeing them play, I could see why. This was one of the more intense shows I’d been to in a while. The driving drums, high energy riffs and powerful roars all blended together to create a visceral experience. I’m surprised that the mosh pit wasn’t more wild, between the music, Pettit shouting at us to “Fuck this place up” and McNeil telling us to punch Nazis in the face.
To be honest they could have said just about anything and the crowd would have lapped it up. People even tolerated Green’s request for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the roadies. In fact, if I remember correctly, he also asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to his guitarist when City And Colour last played in Wellington as well. In my experience this seldom goes down well when a musician pulls this. But everyone was having a good time. People cheered when the band announced that the venue was a safe and tolerant space. People cheered when they heard that former local act The Bleeders lived near the band in Canada. People cheered when Pettit said he could see us all clearly after having had laser eye surgery.
The band covered a great cross section material, with tracks pulled from all four albums – predominantly 2006’s Crisis – and even the title track from their 2010 Dog’s Blood EP.
It was a dynamic set. The band ripped through popular hits and offered an all-out assault at first, but towards the end of the set they changed it up by introducing meandering instrumental sections and tender sing along moments. Encoring with some songs from the older two albums was met with favour, with many people noticeably running to the front to get closer during their old-time favourites.
Although the band’s punk pedigree was a big draw card, their slow burners and more melodic moments stood out. Green has enjoyed a fine career with his solo side project City and Colour, which is more folk/singer-songwriter styled. His strengths lie in vocal melodies and this was more than evident tonight, with his voice being far louder in the mix than the others. His voice is fantastic, and although he strained at times, his singing sections provided standout singalongs that brought balance to George and Wade’s double teamed shouting.
It was a brilliant gig. Varied, dynamic, and featuring all the expected hits. The band not only played their songs, but they put on a show. Nostalgia for well-written old songs were enough to draw the punters in, and excellent delivery kept them wanting more.