Time for the annual wrap up. It’s always interesting to look back at the year and reflect on the highlights, and how things have changed.
It’s pretty wild that the covid pandemic seems so long ago now. International bands can tour here again, we don’t have restrictions for gatherings, life goes on. For the most part this is a good thing, but the local music scene was really flourishing for a while, and it feels a lot harder to book gigs now that we have to compete with bands from overseas again for use of venues.
Not that I’m complaining. I saw some incredible bands this year from both Aotearoa and abroad, and that’s how it should be.
I’ll start with bands I saw overseas. I’ve loved Gyroscope ever since I discovered them as a teenager. They’d played in NZ a few times but I was too young to go at the time. They’ve sat firmly on my bucket list of bands to see for a long time now. So when they announced that they were playing Breed Obsession – the album I loved so much – in full, I was sold. I made the trip to Melbourne and it was everything I’d hoped for. Honestly, so, so good. “Snakeskin” was an obvious highlight – featuring an appearance from original drummer Rob Nassif. “Australia” was a big singalong moment. And surprisingly enough, album closer “Time” went hard. Usually it’s very soft, but for an album comprised mostly of ballads, the set was pretty heavy. I went to the matinee show the following day as well, which was just as great again. Bodyjar also played their blistering punk rock which was a lot of fun, but my trip was about Gyroscope and it was well worth it. It was also nice to finally meet fellow music writer Gilbert Potts in Melbourne.
I managed to see Frank Turner play twice this year. The first time was a last minute solo event after Counting Crows cancelled their gig (Turner was the support act), and the second time was the first leg of his international tour promoting his most recent album. He has long been one of my favourite artists so you can imagine how pleased I was to see him play twice.
Melodic hardcore band La Dispute played a packed out show at Meow, reminding me of Zeal – the local youth venue I’d last seen them play at. Their intensely poetic brand of hardcore always hits hard, and I doubt anyone walked away unmoved after witnessing their delivery of “King Park”.
Guitar Wolf and Otoboke Beaver brought their brands of crazy Japanese rock and roll. It was my fourth time seeing Guitar Wolf, and the third time I’ve been part of a human pyramid onstage at one of their gigs. Otoboke Beaver was just as wild in their own way, in a heaving sold out show, screaming their heads off as they played frantically in their brightly coloured dresses.
Highly Suspect were blown away at their demand from NZ fans, selling out venues to the point that they kept having to upgrade to places with larger capacities. It was fun to be in a big arena rock show, enjoying the bluesy rock of a larger scale band.
Looking at NZ bands, I’d managed to catch the ever-awesome Shihad twice. They headlined the rock stage at Homegrown festival, and also played their debut album Churn in full in Auckland a few weeks ago at the bFM radio station fundraiser. They namedropped Jaz Coleman who had produced Churn and I almost wet myself, thinking that they were going to play a Killing Joke cover with Coleman on vocals. It’s not implausible – Coleman does live in Auckland. But it didn’t happen – they were paying tribute to KJ guitarist Georgie Walker who had passed away recently.
The other highlight of the Save The B night was Princess Chelsea. There were so many musicians onstage, it was hard to know where to look. We had someone playing the gigantic organ at the rear, a harp, multiple guitars, bass drums, glockenspiel, and almost everyone contributed to vocals. It was so layered that the music was borderline doom, and it was awesome. Princess Chelsea is playing Meow in Wellington in a few months and I’m super keen to attend and see what the band is like in a radically different setting.
I saw Lorde play at TSB Arena. I’ve never been much of a fan, but I was curious. She’s one of the biggest names in music, and I wanted to see what that looks like in a live setting. The stage set was interesting and Lorde has clearly rehearsed over and over. But ultimately I was pretty bored. There were lots of musicians onstage, but we heard a lot more backing track than live instrumentation, and the music just isn’t played in a way that the musos could put much energy into their performances either.
My favourite local band of the year is Crying Club. They play infectiously fun emo/pop-punk. I’ve had their single “Munchies” playing on repeat, and they put on a great show.
Similar to Crying Club, Cherry Punch play furious punk music that I’d liken to The Runaways crossed with Motorhead. Everyone in the band brings something unique to the experience and they’ve been playing a lot, so I can see them building a profile quickly. I was fortunate to play in a band that toured with them earlier in the year and it was so fun being able to see them play so much.
Bulletbelt released their album Burn It Up, which made it to the no1 position on the music charts, which is a great achievement for any band, let alone a band that plays a less mainstream genre like metal. I really enjoyed the album release show that they played at Valhalla and was pretty chuffed to see that one of the photos I’d taken of the band is on the record sleeve on their vinyl pressing.
It was really cool to see my friend Vorn seeing some big successes this year, including international tours with Crash Bandihoot, The Wellington Sea Shanty Society, and releasing a great new album with his own eponymous band. All of these bands are fantastic and I love seeing them doing well.
I tagged along with Planet Hunter on a mini tour up north for Kaitaia Metal Fest. It was such a great time. Planet Hunter are amazing musicians and great guys so it was really fun to spend a few days with them in the van and see them play new material each night. I wrote a tour blog, but here’s an account of the Metal Fest from event organiser Frankie O’Malley featuring a few of my photos link.
Lastly, I’d like top draw your attention to a new Wellington metal band, FVKVSHIMA. They’re incredibly technical and groovy, drawing upon influences like Killing Joke and Meshuggah. Keep an eye out for their upcoming debut single, “Quato”
It was fun to be part of FromThePit again. Special thanks to Maeve O’Connell for organising the Wellington night at Bats Theatre, as well as the FTP team who work hard to organise, collate, and arrange sponsors and showing opportunities every year. It’s a real blast being part of a community of creative people who want to celebrate the arts and the talented photographers involved in the music scene. I spent some time in in the record store Reel Groovy a few weeks ago when I was in Auckland and it was cool to see some of these amazing photographs still on display at the top of the escalator.
Looking forward to 2024, I’ve got some exciting times lined up.
I’m going to some big arena gigs like Foo Fighters, Blink 182, possibly Iron Maiden. And I’m glad to see some post-rock bands like Mogwai and Russian Circles coming. And I’m super pumped to see Aussie punks Private Function are coming to NZ as well. They’re incredible. Don’t sleep on that tour if you like punk music.
I’m looking at possible heading back to Europe in May for dunk!fest. Watch this space…
Thanks to all my readers, near and far. I’ve been putting my energy towards other things like photography, booking gigs, drumming in bands etc.. but it’s always humbling to see that people take the time to read my ramblings when I share my thoughts on the music that I’m so passionate about.
Joseph’s top song of 2023
I actually prefer this version recorded at Taylah’s flat over the studio version, but both are excellent
Joseph’s top album of 2023