David Byrne, Spark Arena

17 November 2018 


The decision to see David Byrne was made fairly late, only a few days to go and a few seats to choose from. So I didn't have the best seat in the house, the view was OK if you don't mind some clear perspex not exactly obstructing, but not exactly easy to overlook either. Ah well, my fault for prevaricating for months. 

Byrne's set starts with a solitary desk with a model brain in its centre, with silver chain surrounding the stage. Birdsong fills the arena, in lieu of warm up music. It's... different, and it's the centrepiece of the first song, Here, and it's enthralling. 

More of the band come out for the second number, all in grey suits and bare feet, and in tight choreography, no fixed instruments, all strapped and wireless. It's got the air of a village festival. 

And that's the vein of the whole show, minimalist, stylish, theatrical and full of movement. No playbacks, no samples, just musicianship and dance that are totally the bomb. 

It's a David Byrne, not a Talking Heads concert, but there's enough Talking Heads to bring the crowd to their feet for Once in a Lifetime, This Must be the Place and Burning Down the House. And my proximity to the perspex screen gave me a nice little platform on the stairs to have my own time on my feet without obstructing anyone's view. 

For all that the crowd loved the older songs, the strength of Byrne as a composer and performer was on fine display throughout all his American Utopia tracks. It was a concert that was out of the box. 

Others Way 2018, Karangahape Rd

31 August 2018


This year's Others Way was bigger than ever, and with a huge array of bands, spanning exciting new arrivals to the treasured folklore. For me, it was the best one yet and a fitting way to conclude the 52 gigs challenge - but definitely not the end of the road.

The Beths are first up at the Studio and they're a rollicking good thrashy pop band, blending sounds of Fazerdaze, the Undertones and Courtney Barnett, with some underlying cool harmonies. My legal friend Paddy would call this set #52, saying that my wife's choir doesn't count, so for the absolute avoidance of doubt, this gig definitively crosses the 52nd threshold on the last day of the challenge.


From there it's on to the steamy heat of the Whammy Backroom for some soulful groove from Bene. There's a bit of Sylvan Esso in this group, and their act is well polished and delivered to a crowd that is substantially older than the performers, and totally in the appreciation zone. 

Collision began in the 70s as a funk band from Tokoroa who played with Dalvanius Prime. They perform to a packed out Samoa House who are having a wild night on the dance floor beneath the fale roof. History in the re-making. 


There's a constant ebb and flow of people at all the venues, especially at Superette's gig where many of us are getting a quick dose before heading across the road to see the Headless Chickens. 

And it's an intense and uncompromising journey that Headless Chickens take us through, with a backdrop of their old videos. Driving rhythms, grungy and jangly intertwined and serious shit being delivered to a well-pumped audience. Gaskrankenstation was a song I thought I had missed ever seeing live, and now life feels a little bit more complete. This was followed by Fiona McDonald leading an anthemic rendition of George at the show's climax. 


While there's much more to see, I'm happy to end the evening with a tempranillo and a glimpse of Laura Jean at the Wine Cellar. It's been a fab night, and equally fab last 12 months. 

Well, not quite ending the evening. Had to leave via the Whammy Backroom and got captured by Death and the Maiden for a while... Just can't let go. 

#52 Courtney Barnett, Powerstation

28 August 2018


Fortunately the Powerstation made the right choice to cancel a speaking engagement by two racist Canadians, so I didn't have to boycott the venue. Otherwise this writer would have been somewhere else on the night of the 52nd gig.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir open, a 4-piece band from Melbourne with a lot of screaming amidst a 90s shoe gazing sound that is very reminiscent of the Straitjacket Fits. But once you accept the screaming, there are some awesomely intense rhythms to appreciate, and which really carry songs about god only knows what. Bendigo was in there somewhere.

Like many of the performances I've been catching, I've only come to appreciate Courtney Barnett in the immediate build up to the show. Like pretty much last night and this evening.

She has a bit of a beat poet leaning with a thrashy rockabilly backdrop, an act that works a treat. Daughter was impressed enough on hearing her in the car to demand merchandise from the evening.


At the live experience, Barnett takes it up to a whole new level. She combines virtuoso guitar with vocals that run between singing and recitations and a healthy dose of I don't give a fuck, like a turbocharged Laura Marling. Avant Gardener, Charity, and I Don't Know Anything are freakin sublime. And if I'm honest, I'm only picking them out because I recognised the songs. It's a kickarse night from end to end.

The encore has two quieter songs with delicate finger picking, including a Gillian Welch and David Rawlins number. Then the show finishes with a raucous, triumphant Pedestrian at Best.

The evening was a superb way to end the 52 gig challenge. But while it's the end of the challenge, there's an addiction that's taken hold. That won't be ending any time soon.

#51 Wonderfish Collective, Galatos

18 August 2018


"I'm sorry I'm at a gig and not capable of rational thought." It was almost 9pm, the band was just about to come on, and I got a text about a meeting on Tuesday. Tuesday - on a Saturday night? That's days away and in the meantime I've got some disco to get down to.

Wonderfish Collective are a 15-piece band that somehow managed to all fit into the tiny Galatos stage for a funk and soul revue. The show was poignantly timed, just a day or two after Aretha Franklin's passing; her greatest hits played in the background before they all came to the stage, and Natural Woman was an early tribute.

They're a band who do it for love, and donate all their profits to charity. They bring together vocals, strings, horns, percussion and all the varieties of guitar, and crafted a riotously good night. The team dressed better than appropriately for the occasion, with some bodacious 70s wigs, bandanas, track tops, flares and flowing dresses. 

It was a packed house who were in every mood for partying, so much so that by the time Sweet Inspiration came on early in the first set it was clear the Galatos needed fewer tables and more dance floor. Everyone was up for a boogie, and with songs like Let's Dance, Brick House, Move on Up, Sign of the Times, and Boogie Wonderland, all had their fix of disco addictions. The only let down was the sound balancing, at times it seemed the band were struggling to hear themselves, but few seemed to mind. This punter left happy.

#50 Suzanne Vega, Bruce Mason Theatre

7 August 2018


When you live in Grey Lynn and almost all your gigs are in the central city, there's an almost Thar Be Dragons feel about heading over the bridge to a North Shore venue. I think it would be fair to say, I've never had a North Shore vibe. There's a lot to like about the north side of the bridge but the most I've ever been able to contemplate is a foothold in Northcote with a view south.

Hats off to Lisa Crawley. Performing the support act solo on a large stage with the lead act's guitar sitting beside her, and with nothing but a keyboard and a damn fine voice to hold the audience's attention. And attention she got, with songs about travelling alone with salt and vinegar chips, and being the wedding singer for an ex-boyfriend, and other such quirky storylines that also carried a sweet groove.

My Suzanne Vega story began in 1986. I arrived at student halls in Auckland with a confident and ridiculously misplaced belief that my cassettes of Marillion, Peter Gabriel and Mike Oldfield might impress the alternative crowd. I couldn't quite understand why I didn't get much traction there.

So the alternative crowd - Peter, Candy and Angela - introduced me to a few new experiences.

Suzanne Vega was one of the first, heard on Radio With Pictures on a Sunday night with Marlene on the Wall. The following year Solitude Standing came out, and my brother took me and a few hostel mates to the St James to hear her play with her band. Stef and I might have kinda squealed with every one we recognised.

The thing is she made folk seriously New York cool at a time when Van Halen were a mainstay of the radio, and her songs had, and still have, a freshness and a depth that aren't anchored in any decade.

So when she came on, and doffed a top hat, and opened with Marlene, I succumbed to a tear or two. Small Blue Thing a few songs later may have done the same. Gypsy revived the story of a summer in love with a dadaist painter from Liverpool that she told back in 87, but this time it had a sequel too. And the story is still a good one.

Lots to love with this minimalist performance of Vega with acoustic guitar and Mike Visceglia on bass, always engaging and never self-indulgent. Left of Centre was top shelf, sung with just the bass accompaniment, Luka remained poignant, and Tom's Diner managed the transition from a cappella to funk versions in a seamless blink of an eye.

I left well pleased that I crossed the 50 mark with this small but perfectly formed show, and really hoping her promise to see you next time is for real.

#49 Tami Neilson, Auckland Town Hall

4 August 2018


Perched in the circle, right above the stage - it's a great position for observing the Miltones  busting their ass in the support act to warm up a sitting audience. And to give the band their due, by the time their penultimate song came up, Wildfire, the crowd was doing a lot more than humming along.

The main act opened with black ties and dresses across the band, and Tami Neilson in a resplendent sky blue dress with tassels, and singing in the sweet spot of Amy Winehouse and Emmylou Harris meeting Ella Fitzgerald.

This was not a night for standing by your man, it was a night for stand outta the way and outta my business. Neilson's latest album, Sassafrass, is an unashamedly feminist tirade against the reactionaries of this day and age, one that takes on stereotypes about parenthood and women in the workforce, and also celebrates the strengths and achievements of women everywhere, including our own PM. It was also a show that had plenty of love and compassion, and was especially directed to generations across her family.

Her band supported, shone and lifted the roof, a perfect accompaniment to Neilson's searing vocals, hilarious storytelling and unmissable presence. It was a night that both rocked and raged, that drew energy from the crowd and returned it with interest.

#48 Pale Waves, The Tuning Fork

14 July 2018 


I have to say I wasn't sure about tonight's choice of Pale Waves. I had heard a few tracks, thought they sounded poppy and fun, a bit like the Primitives. But after I'd bought the tickets I began to think maybe they were just Taylor Swift in emo.

The evening began well, tapas in the tiny Madriz bar on Fort Lane, then Kate suggested dessert at Milse in Britomart. By crikey, it didn't really matter what the show would be like after the rhubarb and pear concoctions we were served, they were a well spent night out on their own.

Arrived at the Tuning Fork to find a much younger crowd than usual here, and a need to wear an age verified wristband. That just means a younger crowd I told myself, don't judge. Think Sylvan Esso, younger crowd and freakin awesome show. And actually, I took my daughter to Taylor Swift five years earlier and still enjoyed the night. At least there are no onesies with this show.

Daffodils opened, clearly Cure inspired, but polished and energetic. We were grabbing a comfy chair at the back and the lead act came by to catch how the support act were going down. They should have been well pleased as the crowd were pumped and ready. Kate just about tripped up the drummer as she walked by our comfy spot, but she was very nice about it.

Lights go down and crowd starts chanting Pale Waves. It's got the expectancy of an Arena show bottled up in the Tuning Fork. I have to say I do enjoy these moments.

Opens with Television Romance, followed not long afterwards it's Obsession and Kiss. Shit, they're playing most of the songs I know and it's only the start of the show. No matter, it's still a fun night out.

It's a sound that does lean more towards its Manchester roots, especially live where the reverb is cranked up. Echoes of Swift in the perennial heartbreak, but that's the plot line of 70 percent of pop music.

My reservations are more in the predictability of every track, that follow a similar arc of straightforward on the beat rhythm and melody interspersed with a heartfelt bridge between the catchy bits. No denying the talent, but there's a missing layer. But I'm pretty sure that they'll still sell plenty of Spotify downloads and fill a larger venue on their return to Auckland, regardless of my yearning for a bit more.

And then it was over after less than an hour. Seriously, you've travelled to the other side of the planet and that's it?

#47 City Calm Down, Whammy Bar

6 July 2018 


It's a cold July night and the bus brings me into K'Rd that is getting into full swing. Bars, restaurants and vape shops are all cranking.

I grab a possie in one of the booths around the edge of Whammy to recharge with an IPA after a long day at the end of a long week.

A year ago I was commuting between home and Middlemore while Kate recovered from major surgery, so that our wedding vows would have a lot more life in them. It was a rough time, made easier by a lot of love and support from a lot of friends and family. It certainly put things in perspective, and while I haven't conquered the work life balance, it has made me connect with life much more, and this 52 gigs challenge probably had its origins there.

Tablefox open, they've got a rocking sound that's reminiscent of the Angels and INXS. A tight five piece unit playing original tracks. Bar is starting to fill and the support act are warming things up nicely. They pull out a rendition of Bowie's Heroes and it's pretty honourable. It's not their only tribute of the night, the last song, Born to Die Young slips into a bridge with The Dudes' Bliss, which gets quite a few singing along with it.

There's more than a bit of the National in City Calm Down, mixed with something of the Cure. Driving rhythms from drums and bass that make even the quietest songs pulse. Vocals that are morose and haunting, offset by a guitar that lifts the spirits, accompanied by keyboards and sax that add depth.

It's this Melbourne band's first trip to New Zealand, and Auckland, as always, gives them a warm welcome. They flew in today after a 3am start. When you're not coming on until after 10 that's a long day, but it doesn't show.

Rabbit Run, Opened my Eyes and This Modern Land were highlights in a strong night nearly concludes their tour. Thanks for stopping by.

#46 Nadia Reid, The Wine Cellar

26 June 2018

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I arrived late for this one, tired and more than a bit frustrated by an evening’s work that hadn’t gone as planned. But being back at the Wine Cellar, one of Auckland's most intimate, shabby and satisfying venues, with a fine ale and hearing Nadia Reid soon put matters to right.

The acoustic act she performed at the Writer’s Festival drew me in to her musical world, but tonight’s gig with a full band adds new layers and appreciation.

With a trademark rose tied to the mic stand, there are plenty of gorgeous sounds underpinned by her rich, expressive vocals. One song that continues to stay with me is Right on Time, which begins slow, builds its groove, then becomes catchy, then absorbing and reaches an anthemic quality. ‘Thanks Mr Guitar!’ calls out one in the audience to the sweet solo that finishes the song.

Later in the year, Reid heads to Richmond, Virginia, to record her next album. We left with another tea towel for the collection and looking forward to her new offerings.

#45 Adam McGrath, Casa del Aroha

24 June 2018

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The Casa del Aroha is a warm and inviting lounge in a Sandringham flat, where 40 or so people squeeze in on couches, cushions, bean bags and dining chairs. It’s an intimate venue for a larger than life folk performer. One man, one guitar, no looper and no stomp box, totally unplugged yet live wired.

Adam McGrath, the driving force behind the Eastern, sets out the rules of Folk Club: rule number one, you don’t talk about Folk Club; rule number two, you don’t talk during Folk Club; and rule number three, the folk singer gets to talk as much as he wants.

And talk he does, impassioned, self-deprecating, radical, inspired and inspiring, telling stories behind each and every song in show that lasts three hours on a Sunday night, yet all leave knowing they’ve had a special treat, captured by songs …

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About a misspent youth and a rabbit stolen from (and returned to) a kindergarten

About too many Wellington bars that are named after things they used to be

About writing someone a love song that was never loved that much

About the power and the glory of the story of the shadow on the shoulder to Te Awamutu

About a guy coming south to help a friend get through a mental health crisis

About cool things that happen because of libraries

About how all we have is the day after yesterday.

#44 The Miltones, Pt Chev RSA

22 June 2018


When you don't want Ticketek to find you a general admission and charge you a shitload for the privilege, Under the Radar is there to help the next level of bands breaking through the ceiling. There's many a band I've been seeing over the past 12 months that are due to UTR and their weekly mailers.

I can't help but think plenty of good housie nights have been had at the Pt Chev RSA. Low ceilings, wide space, and a curtain separating the public bar from the performance area, but it works a treat for a suburban gig. 


There's a substantial crowd tonight, the Miltones have clearly built a sizeable following. I can only think they must be good if Reb Fountain is the support act. Reb's passionate, bluesy vocals warms the crowd up nicely, especially with Bones and Do You Know Who I Am. That's the third time I've had the joy of seeing her since September (fourth if you count the snippet I caught with the Eastern), and she never ceases to gobsmack.

The band come on to a big cheer and quickly show why they're on the ascendance. They're classy and original, a bit rockabilly and damn good fun. 

The lead singer, Milly Tabak has a great country-blues vocal range, with some raw Stevie Nicks in there. She livens almost every song with some astonishing hair choreography, almost to the point of distraction. But it's lively performance, the mosh pit is almost entirely female and they're having a blast. 

Gypsy Queen was a massive standout and has the room in the palm of their collective hand. For me, their rendition of This Must be the Place was a moment of bliss, performed with due reverence to David Byrne, but bringing their own feel to the song. 

Liam Pratt on the lead guitar is straight out of the Stevie Ray Vaughan playbook, which is a hell of an act to emulate. I can't help but think though that it's Guy Harrison's keyboards that give the band an extra edge of originality, with a 70s Hammond organ feel, and when he brought out the the trumpet it gave a sublime mariachi layer. 

Wherever country has come from, it's morphed and shifted into a thousand different shades. No dosey doe in sight tonight, and the world is a better place for it. 

#43 The Black Quartet, Freida Margolis

10 June 2018


When we first moved to Grey Lynn back in 2006, there was a high end organic butchery on the corner of Hakanoa St and Richmond Rd, which had stood there for best part of a century. That all ended about five years later when the butcher moved out, unable to compete with the supermarkets and two other boutique butchers in the vicinity that operated to a higher capacity. The butchery was replaced by Freida Margolis, and pretty quickly the local hand-wringing about the loss of small businesses turned into a widespread fondness for the new watering hole that oozed character in both design and staffing. 

It's a small bar, and about 40 or so people were tightly crammed haphazardly to see the Black Quartet. The quartet is made up of Jess Hindin, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, Rachel Wells and Joe Harrop. They frequently support or accompany many established names in the music industry, and perform at corporate gigs and private events, but this is only their third performance in their own right. And on tonight's evidence, they have a rich and diverse offering that deserves a much wider audience.

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Playing a mix of original compositions, and arrangements of classical modern and pop, they had the crowd enjoying every moment. The arrangements were at times delicate and floating, at others strident with pulsing rhythms. Arrangements included Gotye's Someone that I Used to Know, Jeff Buckley's Lover You Should Have Come Over, and Aha's Take on Me. And because no performance is complete (according to Jess Hindin) without Britney Spears, we were treated to Toxic. And there's something about it being done by a seriously talented string quartet that just made it sound bloody good.

In a few songs - Springsteen's I'm on Fire, Hendrix's Purple Haze and Jeff Buckley's Lilac Wine - Rachel Wells brought her mellow vocals to the fore, adding a whole new layer of delight for the crowd. 

It was our first outing as a family in this entire 52 gigs challenge. My daughter is learning the viola at school and enjoyed seeing it within a quartet setting performance. She's in her early teenage years and starting to individuate her own musical tastes, and so it was fun to all be on the same page for an evening. Let the record stand - Dad made a good choice.

#42 Joshua Radin, Tuning Fork

31 May 2018


Tuning Fork tonight
Acoustic performances
With a café chic

Sophie Mashlan first
Humble, engaging talent
Demands attention


Left handed playing
Songs of perfect disasters
Left broken and bruised

I will admit that
"Whisper rock" made me think he
Was just hipster folk

Then he sang Only You
A song that captured the room
Dammit, I might stay

Fan from Arizona
Piercing and ill-timed whoops
Exercise in zen

"Shut the fuck up please"
Someone whispers plaintively
"I'm just excited!"


Depressed but hopeful
Has no envy and no fear
Better tomorrow

A cold winter night
Songs that give us a campfire's
Warm intimate glow

In case you're wondering at this poetic turn, I was challenged to write a review entirely in Haiku. I think this post is testament to the truth that just because you can write in 5-7-5 doesn't mean you should.

#41 Marlon Williams, Auckland Town Hall

26 May 2018

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

There's something a bit intimidating about a gig at the Auckland Town Hal, when the backdrop is a pipe organ that appears ready to spring into life and override whatever is happening on the stage. It certainly adds a dramatic backdrop to what was a special night.

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

Julia Deans opens, bringing to the fore her commanding voice, and performing songs that have an underlying theme of just sort your shit out, will you? One is about all the times when we're a bit of a dick, and another is about blaming crystals, gods or whatever, instead of the choices we ourselves make. Introducing a song from her album 'We light fire', she says 'we spend a lot of energy keeping people at bay, whereas if we embraced each other and our differences, we could achieve some fucking awesome stuff'. The title track, performed solo to end the set, is a standout and is the perfect warmup to Marlon Williams. Williams himself warmly acknowledges Deans, saying that 'if at 15 I'd have known that I would be performing with Julia Deans at age 27 I'd have been shaking in my tiny booties.'

When I saw Justin Townes Earle back in October (I'd only just broken into double figures at #11), he told us to treasure Marlon Williams, saying 'he is the shit.' And he was right. Williams brings his rich country tenor to his music, with the Yarra Benders provide a superb broken-hearted bluesy backing.

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

Photo by Mirla Edmundson

Williams delivers beautiful yet raw songs, both of his own creation, as well as through collaboration with others including Aldous Harding and Delaney Davidson. He also ably reinterprets the work of others - tonight's show included covers of songs by Yoko Ono and Barry Gibb - in ways that are both true to himself and the original performers.

It's a show where the audience is invited to not only savour his artistry, but also to share his own heartbreak. For me, there's a voyeuristic sense about it. You know that his latest album, 'Make Way For Love', is about his relationship with Aldous, as was hers about him. When you're from the FFS school of let people live their lives, it's for me a little conflicting to be happily immersed in his reflections of the relationship. To be fair, there's a lot going on in these compositions; it's not the same as the endless diary of Taylor Swift's relationships. Williams introduces the song 'Can I Call You?' as a song of malintent. It's an ugly song, move on move on, he says afterwards. Other songs like 'I'm Lost Without You', and 'Nobody Gets What they Want Anymore' (written with Aldous) continue the theme - heartfelt yet never over the top.

Photo by Kate Goodfellow

Photo by Kate Goodfellow

He's joined by the Yarra Benders, a band full of multi-instrumentalists that could hold a crowd in their own right. In a couple of nice touches, Williams leaves the stage for the band to deliver extended instrumental sessions that brought their talents to the fore.

Tonight was the 67th of a 67-tour show, and concludes with hugs all round as this particular journey comes to an end. And as shows go, this was a cracker.

With thanks to Mirla and Kate for their photos from the night, which were a lot better than my phone was able to come up with.

#40 Nadia Reid and Claire Cowan, Aotea Square

17 May 2017 

The Auckland Writers Festival has sprung the Heartland Room, looking noticeably much like the Speigeltent of many arts festivals. Tonight it's the venue for a conversation with, and performance by Nadia Reid.

Tama Waipara is the host, a fellow performer and longtime friend who describes Nadia as an electrifying, understated genius. And when she performs later in the show, it's clear that his praise is well deserved.

She speaks of many possible pathways that she strongly considered in life, including being a vet, a midwife and a teacher. "If music ends tomorrow, there are so many other things that I would happily do."

And yet music is her all, she has a quiet passion for her music and a deep gratitude for all that it brings. "Music got me through teenage and high school and to make a little bit of money. I had a guitar for about 10 years and it was like my dearest friend." It's also something that she holds dearly to, and doesn't share it lightly with other performers. "Writing is a very personal process, if there's anyone else in the house I cannot write."

At the end of the conversation Nadia performs three songs, all of which reveal quiet, almost contemplative songs with a rich quality to her voice, and a sweet vibrato that carries through all the pieces.

Over all too soon (but still within the rules), and the camera totally fails to deliver anything I would be happy to share. But she's touring in June and July, and will be one to mark up on the calendar.


After Nadia Reid's show, there's a pause for an hour before a team of writers read excerpts from David Eagleman's book Sum, a collection of engaging, disquieting and memorable depictions of the the afterlife. The assembled writers are Eagleman himself, Robert Webb, Neal Stephenson and Courtney Sina Meredith, who each bring their own personas into the recitation. 

But for all the literary and performance prowess, for me the real treat is having Claire Cowan, founder and composer for the Blackbird Ensemble, perform four solo pieces with a cello, looper and a few other creative materials. In keeping with the subject matter, each are dark, rhythmic and enthralling, and deserved the biggest cheer of the night. Webb, who followed one of her pieces, said "wow, that was incredible." Too bloody right. 


#39 CJC - The Oblivious 8, Backbeat

9 May 2018


Got here early, time enough to get a seat near the back which hopefully won't be too annoying for the people around me as I write my latest epistle. I was told off at the Angus and Julia Stone gig at the Civic for blogging during the concert by someone behind me who said she found it very distracting. So I obliged by stopping and as a consequence found it hard to recall much detail a few hours later. I've been a little bit conscious of this ever since. But at the same time, getting the experience largely written before I'm stepping out of the Uber gives me a warm (albeit slightly embarrassing to admit) glow of satisfaction.

These guys may be messing around with their quartet of eight, but they're performing with serious intent tonight. It's very far from your laid back classic jazz, this is the aficionado's night out. One where a riff from the Threepenny Opera was worked in and what do you mean you didn't recognise it?

But they're bloody good, and they're working hard for their art. It's as if Jimi Hendrix has switched to sax, the keyboard player has a road map but is open to any foray into the jungle, and the drummer is working on something so complex he just may crack the Enigma code. Meanwhile, Eamon on bass is working so hard that his glasses slip off and aren't seen until the second set.

Jeff Henderson with his masterful soliloquys on sax are the centre of attention, but I'm equally captivated by Steve Cournane on drums who works the kit like a beat poet on overdrive. Eamon Edmundson-Wells on bass is both solid and spectacular, and the bandages on his fingers show the extent he's willing to go for the good of the band. Jonathan Crayford on keyboard brings a 70s funk to complete a unique sound. A hell of a lot of damn good stuff went into tonight's sets.


#38 Public Service Broadcasting, Powerstation

3 May 2018


It's an older crowd tonight at the Powerstation, still one of Auckland's best venues. By older, I mean generally older than me. I'm good with that, I've been an old bastard at quite a few gigs in the past year. 

Public Service Broadcasting entered my consciousness as I was driving on ANZAC day, catching the tail end of an interview on Matinee Idle. Phil O'Brien was gushing about them, while he was interviewing J. Willgoose Esq., one of the band. Like really gushing, like that'll be me in the front row of the Power Station next week sort of gushing (and he's here tonight).

But the sound appealed, and checking out YouTube, they have quite a point of difference. They blend 1950s and 1960s genuine newsreels with a pop rock overlay for an immersive experience. Seemed like one I needed to check out.

And yeah, freakin awesome. It's like someone took the idea behind Paul Hardcastle's 19, grabbed 50s and 60s newsreels then pulled together the Stone Roses and some of the National to create a total mind blast, pulled off by three guys in collar and ties - Willgoose on guitar, banjo and various instruments, Wrigglesworth on drums and JF Abraham on bass, horns and keyboards. I gather JF Abraham is a relatively recent addition to the group, yet he adds a dynamic presence that is difficult to image without him.


Taking footage of Welsh collieries, the Russian and US space programmes, Spitfire fighter pilots, and various other themes and blending them with driving rhythms and cascading guitars, keyboards and horns, they create songs that captivate and soar. And they're damn catchy for good measure.

Go! was a standout, capturing the moon landing, with the crowd leaping on the Go! to every point on the NASA checklist. And a world away, cascading and uplifting, was They Gave me a Lamp, about the political awakening of women in the villages of the Welsh collieries during the miners strike of the 80s.

Fittingly, the show finished with the conquest of Everest. Images I've seen all my life and given fresh meaning and significance. Definitely top 5. Thanks Phil.


#37 CJC - Callum Passells' Flightless Birds, Backbeat

25 April 2018


I've been meaning to get to Creative Jazz Club for some time, but until this year Wednesday was my singing night.

Callum Passells is a quietly and clearly talented alto sax player who I've seen recently with Blackbird Ensemble and Aldous Harding. This is his own vehicle, a classic jazz quartet with Ben Sinclair on tenor sax, Tom Dennison on bass and Adam Tobeck on drums.


This week's CJC venue is Backbeat, upstairs on K'Rd above the Rock Shop. There's a vintage jukebox in the corner that looks well-loved. Framed and autographed electric guitars line the walls - in the corner where I'm standing I can see the autographs of Chrissie Hynde, Eric Burdon, Art Garfunkel and Audioslave; elsewhere there's Mark Knopfler and Joe Jackson among many others. Mick, the owner, has one of the largest memorabilia collections in Australia. He picks out copies of guitars that musicians use and gets them autographed when they're touring NZ.

The place is packed, and Backbeat is small, no space for a green room, the band just hang out at the end of the set. The age range here is striking, huge mix of different ages, perhaps speaks of Auckland as a place where all sorts of styles will get a following.

CJC is an aficionado's hangout. I'm not an aficionado, but I'm enjoying the switch to a style altogether different from the gigs I've been going to. What little I understand is that these guys play bebop originals, which I love for the way with all the improv, you just can't quite predict which way it's going to run, there's a chase and hide feel where something will pop out to surprise you.

Callum, to his credit, explains for people like me what's going on. It's a contrefact, taking an established seven chord progression and putting a new melody over the top. And all four are so on top of their game they totally pull it off. It's a cool night out, even for someone who knows eff all about jazz.

#36 Anthonie Tonnon and the Successors, Lot 23

6 April 2018


Lot 23 is a café and gallery tucked away in Eden Terrace with a studio out the back, near the Dominion Rd flyover. I've been there before, back in 2014 when Jacinda Ardern's army of door knockers got their election day briefing, when she was standing for Auckland Central - not a great outcome on the day, Jacinda came close but was beaten by the new electoral boundaries that robbed her of the Grey Lynn stronghold. Three years later, she was the Mt Albert candidate, Labour Party leader and the rest is history.


So putting 2014 behind me, Lot 23 is actually a great performance space, big enough for a crowd of 80 or so with high ceilings to create a sense of scale.

The crowd are quite a contrast compared to the the Wine Cellar last night. Older on average, artsy, well dressed, Friday night professionals looking for an experience. Definitely not just hanging out at a gig.

Sandy Mill and Dianne Swann opened with a few numbers, soulful and acoustic with a captivating blend of guitars in their sound. A single is on the way which should be looked out for. Quite a treat to have them kick off the evening.

Then Anthonie Tonnon comes on. Dry ice, melodic synth, jangly guitar, heartfelt singing and driving bass. What's not to like?

He's performing with the Successors - a backing band that includes one Stuart Harwood on drums, who I once shared an office space with. He made an e-bike for his girlfriend which included a collection of carefully wired rechargeable batteries wrapped in leopardskin fabric. Genius, and he plays drums. Way cool. 

A highlight was 'With her two free hands' with Elizabeth Stokes on trumpet, adding a tone that began as contemplative but became soaring as it progressed.

The songs have a Don McGlashan quality of storytelling but with dramatic sense of movement that envelops the performance. 

His connection with the crowd is tangible. At one point we all raise both fists in the air and pledge with him 'I will control the technology, I will not let the technology control me.'

Tonnon uses the silences between songs to dramatic effect, it's not just about the songs themselves but about the continuity and deliberate discontinuity of the transitions, that all combine for the concert experience. And, yes, it was an experience, not just a gig.

#35 Jed Parsons and Gareth Thomas, Wine Cellar

5 April 2018


Thursday night at the Wine Cellar is not Friday night at the Wine Cellar. It's just a bit quieter and the patrons are a bit more hipster than the end of week crowd. That's apart from the guy in his early fifties with no mates wearing the green icebreaker and starting his latest blog on his phone. 

It's early April and I've got 18 gigs left to reach 52, with a target of end August. Should be doable but I've fallen off the pace in the last month and there aren't any festivals left to carry me through. Now it's a case of just getting out more. But then that's the cross I have to bear if I'm going to see the challenge out. And of course it's no chore, I'm finding the challenge a hugely rewarding way to get through 12 months.

I really do have to learn the knack of picking when a gig starts though. The Tuning Fork is totally reliable, I know when I can be tucked up in bed with my cocoa. The Wine Cellar is more millennial in its timekeeping, the phrase 'show starts' has a much more nuanced meaning here. But one of the nice things about arriving too soon is the realisation that half of the hipster millennials hanging out at the bar are in fact the band.

But on to the show itself, once it did begin it was a cracker. Gareth Thomas opened with a collection of guitar pop tunes that veered from the boppy to the funk to the avant garde to the dark and Doors-inspired. Best moments, were 'All eyes in the room', 'Feel alright', 'Gone cold' and 'So long', which closed the set. Worth the price alone. Jed acknowledges him early in the set as one of his songwriting heroes - I totally see why.


Jed Parsons is a multi instrumental performer who has supported countless musicians. Tonight he's performing in his own right, showcasing some fun guitar rock of his creation. Turns out he can sing too, powerful and melodic and an infectious warmth.

Halfway through his second song, performed solo, a guy walks up to Gareth Thomas who is standing right in front of me, and says "he's not that good". Gareth laughs and hands him something, and I can't work out what. I think it was a guitar pick, because next minute he's up on the stage to finish off the song as it steps up a gear. Some great numbers with a quirky edge throughout the set, 'PlayStation and porn', 'Change your dream', 'Everybody's stupid' and 'Get lost' to name a few.

It's a warm and engaging performance, one that deserves a growing following. He's genuinely chuffed at the people that have come to hear him, after travelling up from the south for the gig. Moses, the bassist, says a great slogan for Auckland would be 'It's just warmer'. Works for me.