My favourite gig of the year wasn’t a “big” band. It was The Prog Alliance Tour featuring Claemus, Elidi, Pull Down the Sun and distance. It just ticked all my boxes. Great musicians playing prog and post-rock. It must have taken a lot of planning to organise a nine date tour for bands from three different cities, but the Wellington one was a great success and I’m proud of what they pulled off. distance also put out a stellar album, everything in exchange for nothing in August. Really cool to see how that project has evolved from a lockdown bedroom project into a fully fledged amazing band.
Speaking of awesome local prog-rock, Ovus dropped a tasty wee EP earlier in the month. Josh the bassist lives in Christchurch, but I’m holding out for an EP release gig sometime soon.
I’ve been hyping them up for a few years now, and Adoneye finally released their long-awaited EP this year. It’s a beaut. It’s a shame that the band members parted ways and didn’t get to celebrate the wonderful music that they deserved to.
Alexisonfire continue to deliver the fire with recent album Otherness. I cannot get enough of the single “Sans Soleil”.
Reliqa were my favourite new discovery of the year. They killed it at Monolith Festival, and their new EP is fantastic.
Planet Hunter dropped their debut album. They’re Wellington’s best live band, so of course I’m a huge fan. And they managed to capture the energy and talent and distill it all into a fantastic record: Moscovium.
I’ve been friends with Vorn for many years now, and follow his projects with great interest. I actually joined one of his bands – Crash Bandihoot – on a brief tour in May. One of Vorn’s other bands, The Wellington Sea Shanty Society have enjoyed some relative success in recent years after the song “The Wellerman” started trending. I convinced Vorn to let me contribute backing vocals to their latest EP, so was very excited when that was released in August. I’m not credited, so maybe they weren’t impressed with my singing abilities? Anyway, TWSSS annual shows at Breaker Bay Hall have become a highlight to look forward to every year. This year was just as great as the others I’ve been to, and I also won best dressed – wearing a sexy mermaid outfit that I’d painstakingly created.
The Beths are progressing from strength to strength. They played The Opera House in Wellington recently in support of their third album – a big step up from the usual smaller venues they usually play here. And they crushed it. Seated venues are usually a poor choice for fun, energetic bands, but it wasn’t a problem.
Jakob rule. Returning to San Fran – their home venue away from home – they gave us everything we’ve come to expect of them, and also played a few new tracks to whet our appetite for the upcoming album. And Jakob bassist Maurice Beckett also released an awesome album from his side project, Desbot. Seriously worth checking out.
I was upset that Amy Shark cancelled her NZ tour with no explanation (and I’m still waiting for a refund, well over a months after the cancellation, and roughly a month after the scheduled gig date), but that freed me up to catch Avantdale Bowling Club that night instead. Playing the fantastic TREES album, ABC put on a stellar set of jazzy hip-hop. I love hip-hop with a live band, and this band was goooood. Also, it was pretty funny seeing people smoking it up and having a great time dancing and singing in a venue that feels as “classy” and conservative as the St James Theatre.
I caught my friend Taylah playing a bunch of times this year and was consistently blown away but the sheer talent that Tay and her band showcase. Always a fun night, and her songs are irresistibly infectious.
2022 was a tough year for me on a personal level. Covid finally hit New Zealand and brought us up to speed with the rest of the world. This meant a lot of cancelled gigs, and missing a bunch of gigs that I was too exhausted to attend while I recovered from the virus. But I’m in a good space at the moment. I’ve been working with some local bands to build their profile and book gigs, and enjoying the challenge of discovering what success can look like within the creative fields.
The NZ borders opened and we finally had international bands return. I saw The Bronx in May – the first international band I’d seen in years. And I went across to Melbourne for Monolith Festival in August. It was an amazing opportunity to see a handful of my favourite bands on the same day, and a great reminder of what I had been missing.
The NZ music scene has flourished in recent years. Annual events like Newtown Festival and Cubadupa were the biggest gatherings in the world at the time – because NZ was covid-free and didn’t need to worry about social distancing – but sadly both were cancelled this year. But given the space, local bands had the chance to prove themselves worthy. I’m happy to see international bands touring here again, but it already feels like local bands are now struggling to book shows with reintroduced competition in a market already lacking enough venues for demand.
I’m not sure what 2023 will throw us. Life has been fairly unpredictable and anxiety-inducing for some time now. But I’m looking forward to releases from PROKOP, my favourite Italian post-hardcore group Winter Dust, and I can’t wait to see blues sisters Larkin Poe play in April. I saw that Trombone Shorty is coming to Australia as well, and hoping that he makes it over to NZ.
words and photos by Joseph James