Live Review with Photos: Peachy Keen Festival, Basin Reserve, Wellington 2021

Peachy Keen Festival Poster
Standard

Peachy Keen Festival

Basin Reserve, Wellington
Saturday 3 April 2021

After a week of truly abysmal weather, Wellington seemingly changed its mind and decided to about turn, blessing us with a beautiful sunny day at the Basin Reserve – ideal for a festival.

Peachy Keen felt different from your usual festival as well. One of the key things that stood out is that every act on the bill were fronted by women [except Sweet Mix Kids, the between-set DJs]. Look at most festival posters and you’ll notice that wāhine are glaringly absent, so this was a super welcome progressive change. It also felt more laid back. Many festivals feel like waster-fests (in NZ at least) with a strong focus on punters getting inebriated. Although alcohol was available for purchase all day, I didn’t notice anyone getting out of hand. It felt like a safer than normal environment – I’d even go so far to say family-friendly, seeing as many children were in attendance as well.

KITA

I love Wellington. Say what you want about the politicians and the wind, but it’s an awesome city to live in. Last week the main street in the CBD was closed off all weekend to accommodate a huge free festival called Cubadupa, which involved a hundreds of bands and artists showing their creative side at the numerous stages and areas that had been built for the festival around the city. I’d seen local trio KITA play on the Sunday, attracting a fair crowd with their hypnotic music.

Thinking back, I used to see drummer Rick Cranson and keyboardist Ed Zuccollo play with Adam Page years ago. They were a wonderful match, very technically proficient and able to improvise and synergise with each other. Now they have Nikita Tu-Bryant at the helm, who has a fantastic voice.

Their music was great for the setting. Enough groove to entice some dancers to the front, and laid back enough to suit the sunny Saturday. Really great stuff, and an awesome start to the day.

*Also, check out their new video clip for “Private Lies” that that released today*

KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen

Chelsea Jade

Chelsea Jade was dressed all in white – a nod to cricket, which is what usually takes place at the Basin Reserve where the festival was being held. Flanked by a backing singer on either side, Jade delivered a polished pop set with choreographed dancing.

I’m out-of-the-loop but clearly Jade’s fans knew what was going on, she had them crouching down during parts of her set. She worked the crowd well, evidenced by the throng of fans all dancing against the barrier. She even invited one girl up onstage to dance, who promptly admitted that she had a crush on Jade. “If you dance well enough I may consider it mutual” Jade laughed.

Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen

Paige

I can’t decide if it was laughable or genius (possibly both), but Paige started off her set by covering the Highschool Musical song, which garnered a great reaction. It was a strong start, with instant participation from the crowd and a big sing-along. Her music is fairly laid back so the energy died down a bit, but she’s got a great voice and it was a nice set. I loved the backing visuals too, with bumble bees buzzing around on the screen at the back of the stage.

Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen

The Beths

The Beths were definitely the act I was most looking forward to seeing today. They’ve been progressing from strength to strength in recent years and always killed it during the handful of times I’ve seen them play live. I consider their recent album Jump Rope Gazers the best release of 2020 and was obviously excited to see them play some of it live again.

Of course they delivered. I’m a rocker – no doubt about it – so it was great to see a full band letting loose. They’re fairly humble about their abilities, but watch guitarist Jonathan Pearce shred and you’ll soon see why they deserved to win so big at the recent Aotearoa Music Awards. And of course frontwoman Liz Stokes was the star, with her unapologetic Kiwi accent shining through.The sound quality was a bit patchy – unfortunately something that is fairly common at outdoor gigs – but this didn’t detract from the set too much. The Beths delivered a set of irresistibly fun and catchy hits. Seriously, check them out if you haven’t listened to them already.

The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen

Stellar*

It was a pretty spread demographic attending the fest, split among gender and ages. But looking at the lineup, the promoters were clearly targeting a younger audience. This makes Stellar* an outlier, seeing as most of what they’re known for having happened 20+ years ago.

I’d seen Stellar* open for Shihad in Riwaka (just out of Nelson) on New Years Eve a few years ago. I was shocked at how similar this set was to last time, with singer Boh Runga introducing the songs almost exactly as she had last time I’d seen them play. They should at least be able to mix the banter up so they don’t feel stagnant. The audio mix was also quite bad, noticeably worse than The Beths’ mix had been. The set was fine. I do enjoy their music but it looked like they were struggling to garner much of a reaction from the audience. Stellar* need to work on freshening up if they want to be more than a boomer nostalgia band.

Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen

Foley

I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard Foley before today. But they were fun. I always prefer a band over a DJ or backing track, and they were full of energy. I don’t have much more to say, but I enjoyed them.

Foley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen

Ladi6

Ladi6 was sliiiick. You can tell that she’s been doing this for a while, because this was a performance in every sense. There were three DJs (?) at the rear, manning decks and a mini drum kit and I’m not sure what. Ladi6 was front and centre, commanding attention. She used Samoan fans as props (and I’m sure to keep her cool – it was hot!), and had dancers dressed in bright orange to either side of her. The dancers were super effective – totally in sync and they really stood out with their orange attire. Peachy Keen was all about feminist representation, and Ladi6 upped the ante by making a point to address cultural inclusiveness as well, with the dancers incorporating Pasifika flags into their routines. I’ve gotta say it was certainly the most professional and polished set of the day, and visually it really stood out.

Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen

Ladyhawke

By contrast, Ladyhawke fell a bit flat. The acts had been running progressively later throughout the day and there was quite a wait before she came on. I don’t know what the cause of this was but I’m guessing it was something to do with soundchecking and set ups? Sweet Mix Kids helped to amp the crowd up during these breaks with their DJ sets but that energy dispersed when Ladyhawke came on.

It was finally dark by this point, making the lights onstage effective, but there was just something missing from this set. A few of the better known singles caused ripples of excitement among fans, but overall it was underwhelming.

Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy KeenLadyhawke at Peachy Keen

Gin Wigmore

Gin Wigmore knows how to party. Brimming with confidence, she showed us a good time. Her band rocked. I’d heard a rumour that one of her guitarists had caught covid on the way to NZ so she’d had to recruit a ring-in, but honestly, you wouldn’t know it. They played flawlessly.

Wigmore also joined in, playing guitar on a few tracks, and thumping the hell out of a floor tom drum towards the end of the set. You could tell she was enjoying herself and it was infectious.

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore's set at Peachy Keen

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore’s set at Peachy Keen

Her husband Jason Butler managed to get on someone’s shoulders in the mosh pit. He stripped of his shirt and beanie and threw it onstage. Security guards quickly flashed their torches at him and made him get down, but Wigmore lapped it up, flirting with him from onstage. “Hey sexy man, I think I’ll marry you and have your babies!” she shouted. “Hmmmm I can smell some weed. I live in LA, where you can have someone deliver it to you in a three piece suit. Not like here in NZ, where you have to go to a dodgy area to pay $20 for something wrapped in aluminum foil. Anyone want to share?” she joked.

Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen

Benee

And now for the big act. The stage was noticeably bigger, with some of the clutter from the wings removed to make space. The drums looked formidable, with odd perspex shields set in front (I guess for acoustic mix reasons). Benee was the big draw card that many people had come for.

She came onstage rocking a red puffer jacket and a fluffy bucket hat. And fair enough – it’d been a scorcher earlier on, but there was a definite chill in the air now it was past 10pm. The stage was quite dark despite the lights, and Benee nonchalantly walked from side to side as she sang.

I don’t know if it was forced or is she’s just odd, but Benee was full of quirks. She adopted different accents every time she addressed the crowd. She made animal noises during the pauses between lyrics. At one point she just lay on the floor of the stage as she sang.

I’ll be honest, the appeal was lost on me, but obviously my opinion didn’t matter because thousands of adoring fans were hanging onto every word. Benee’s set started more than an hour later than scheduled, but there was a strict sound curfew  of 11pm, so her set was cut a lot shorter than anticipated.

There was a bit of an outcry over the drastically shortened set, but there’s nothing that could be done.

Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen


All in all it was a fantastic day. Thankfully it was sunny. The Basin Reserve was a suitable venue, with plenty of space for a stage and dancing area, as well as surrounding banks for those who just wanted to lay back and soak it all in. Most of the acts played well, although it was possibly a bit ambitious booking so many. Once events like this start falling behind time it can snowball, and it’s a real shame that the two last acts had to cut songs from their sets.

Sure, there were a few teething problems, but overall it was a great success, and it’s very likely that we’ll see another Peachy Keen event in years to come. It had a unique vibe that I hope they can replicate in the future. I wonder if they’ll aim to pull international acts or if they’ll stick to Aotearoa artists, but either way, they deserve congratulations for taking such a progressive stance and making a point of celebrating women in music.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Will Not Fade’s 2020 In Review

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg
Standard

I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say it has been a rough year. Personally, I had a lot of amazing plans that got cancelled. I was planning on traveling throughout Europe, seeing the world, touring with my dear friends Ranges and attending festivals such as dunk!festival and ArcTanGent. Then a pesky virus spread around the globe and put an end to all of that. Admittedly we’ve got it pretty good here in New Zealand. We had five weeks of national lockdown around Easter time, and certainly a lot of gigs were cancelled or at reduced capacity, but we’ve still had live music for a lot of this year, which is an absolute blessing.

Even so, I’ve found it hard for a multitude of reasons. I decided to retire from running the blog earlier in the year. But I have some spare time now that I’m on holiday and I enjoy writing these end-of-year summaries, so I’m back in action for this one last article for the year.

My top albums of 2020

The Beths Jump Rope GazersThe Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

As I mentioned, New Zealand has still been able to have concerts and gatherings for a lot of the year, so this has allowed a lot of NZ artists to stand out a bit more on the world stage. Benee is an example of one artist who has garnered international attention and success. The Beths are another group who have gone from strength to strength. Many of us fell in love with their self-deprecating powerpop with debut album Future Me Hates Me, and follow up record Jump Rope Gazers is just as brilliant. It’s more of a slow burner than FMHM, but still proves just as irresistible and catchy after a few listens, and an easy pick for my top album of 2020. The Beths are also great live and I was delighted to catch them live again this year after a number of postponements. They’re in such demand that they played 5 packed out shows over three days in Wellington, and I imagine they could have even pulled enough of a crowd to play a few more shows too.

Caspian On CirclesCaspian – On Circles

Caspian’s last album Dust and Disquiet is phenomenal. They blew my mind playing that material at dunk!fest in 2018 and I was so upset that I couldn’t see them play again this year after my travels were cancelled. On Circles may not quiet measure up to Dust and Disquiet, but it’s still a solid album, just in it’s own way. It’s a more reserved offering, but this seems somehow appropriate for the times. There’s two songs with singing –  Kyle Dufrey of Pianos Become The Teeth lends his voice to one track, and Phil Jamieson’s singing on the titular track is sublime and soul restoring. Something else I love about this album is the interesting tones and timbres they’ve gone for. Maybe they’re in alternate tunings, maybe it’s effect pedals, I really have no idea. But these tones, coupled with some cello and violin on a few tracks, make for unusual yet enticing listening.

Into It Over It FigureInto It. Over It. – Figure

Regular readers won’t be at all surprised by this inclusion. It’s no secret that I’m a big IIOI fan. They were the first act that I flew overseas to see live. And the last album, Standards, was a great. Figure is a logical continuation of Standards. Brilliant songwriting, great playing. The drumming is complementary and they’ve continued their exploration into interesting tones.

Biffy Clyro - A Celebration of EndingsBiffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

Again, this should come as no surprise; Biffy Clyro have been my favourite band since I was a teenager. I almost slept on this one though – I pre-ordered the vinyl record and due to covid related complications it still hasn’t shown up. Warner said they’d send a digital download but never did (same case with their last record Ellipsis too, up your game Warner!) After a few months of waiting I figured that maybe I should do some hunting. I eventually got a copy of the album downloaded and I’m glad I did because it’s been on steady repeat ever since. Biffy have always trodden a fine line, making a point of being weird and alternative (at times inaccessible even, especially during the earlier albums), yet at the same time playing stadium rock and writing songs that earn mainstream radio play (more so overseas). And somehow they’ve managed to continue down this path with success. There’s less of the bland radio fodder that featured heavily on Ellipsis, and they’ve managed to evolve and push their style whilst style true to their distinctive Biffy sound.

Other music worth mentioning

distance

Sam Butler released two great solo EPs this year. I reviewed the first EP, over time.

Saint Speak

A side-project from Spencer of Tides of Man, lullabies for his newborn.

Spencer Gill with Tides of MAn at dunk!festival 2018

Spencer Gill with Tides of Man at dunk!festival 2018. Image: Will Not Fade

Jakob – “HAARP”

A great lost b-side from the post-rock titans.

Lakes

Lakes released my favourite album of 2019, and dropped a few remixes, covers and other tracks this year. This 7″ is my pick of their 2020 offerings.

And two albums not released in 2020 that I listened to a lot

Dave Hause KickDave Hause – Kick

You may know Hause as the singer of punk band The Loved Ones. It’s almost a cliche how punk singers start solo projects along these lines (Think The Revival Tour). Kick is a great album, hopeful and defiant in the face of oppression. It’s in the vein of singer-songwriter, even country styles, something a bit more chilled out, but still with rock roots.

MetavariMetavari – Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise

I have no idea how I came across this album but it just hit the spot. A perfect blend of ambient and electronica. I’ve needed more calming music like this a lot this year.


The state of things in 2020

I’m terrified of the ongoing implications of what will happen to the music scene as a result of this pandemic. Musicians who rely on touring and selling merch for a living suddenly don’t have an income. Venues can’t get by because people aren’t allowed to attend gatherings. No venues means no places for bands to play. And it doesn’t just affect musicians, there’s the roadies and drivers and lighting techs and sound engineers and a whole industry suddenly without work.

Many musicians are resorting to livestreaming performances. [Here’s one that my friends in Ranges did for WherePostRockDwells]. Some people have been able to monetise livestreaming these performances. We will see if this becomes comomonplace in the future.

We all know that streaming is not really the answer forward. Sure, it is a revenue stream, but they pay such a pittance per stream that it’s a joke. Bandcamp have stepped up with Bandcamp Fridays, monthly events that they choose not to take their cut on any music and merch sold in order to help the musicians and labels who need the income so badly now. And it appears to have worked, with millions of dollars worth of transactions happening every Bandcamp Friday.

Thankfully we still have live music here in NZ for the time being. I’ve been paying to a Patreon for our local venue Valhalla because I know that without venues, we won’t have a live music scene.

Live music in 2020

I didn’t see many international acts this year, for obvious reasons. I did see Queen at the stadium (it was a bit of a spectacle but I’m glad I didn’t pay much), I saw Yawning Man at Valhalla, and a few metal bands at Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt. My own band also opened for Sebadoh at a sold out show at San Fran in Feb, which was pretty awesome.

Yawning Man at Valhalla

Yawning Man at Valhalla. Image: Will Not Fade

My best gig of the year was The Wellington Sea Shanty Society at Breaker Bay Hall. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I drank a lot of rum and sang pirate songs. My friends and I all agree that it was our collective best night out since The Beards.

Newtown Festival was one highlight. I spent most of the day there taking photos at the Ferguson St Stage for The Mousai.

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival. Image: Will Not Fade

Some of my favourite Wellington bands at the moment are Happy Valley, Planet Hunter and Adoneye, and I managed to see them all play a few times.

It’s a real shame that Spook The Horses had their European tour cancelled, but I was stoked that they asked my band to open at their album release and they killed it. They livestreamed the night if you want to go back and watch it.

Spook The Horses album release at Meow

Spook The Horses album release at Meow. Image: Will Not Fade

A real indication of how much things have changed is when I went to see local speed metallers Stälker recently. It was packed. Certainly a big change from reduced capacity shows that I’d been going to a few months earlier. The mosh pit was pumping and you couldn’t move because everyone was squeezed together so tightly. I used to live for nights like that, but it felt so uncomfortable after avoiding being too close to others for most of the year.

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar. Image: Will Not Fade

2021

It’s hard to say what next year holds for us. Guns n Roses have announced a stadium tour in NZ. Is that too ambitious? Only time will tell. Hopefully the covid vaccine is effective.

Beastwars have held an Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt over the past few years and it’s been successful. I’ve heard rumours about the potential lineup for 2021 and I’m excited about that. I’m not holding my breath about seeing any acts from overseas anytime soon though.

In terms of releases, I’m looking forward to a new Amy Shark album, and hopefully Adoneye release their debut (bass player Jesse is recovering from wrist surgery). There may also be a live DVD from Opium Eater (Jesse’s other band) and Glassblower are dropping their debut grindcore album. My own band Secrets of the Sun will have an album out at some stage early next year too. Sora Shima are coming back so I’m hoping to see them again, and fingers crossed for some new music.

 

What are your favourite albums of 2020? What are your predictions for 2021? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!