On Monday, September 15th I saw an innocuous Facebook post by Doo Ragnarok, aka Duane Zarakov, aka Pat Faigan – a fairly typical post by Pat, who spends a great chunk of the day posting excellent youtube clips of classic songs – in this case The Great Unwashed‘s ‘Born in the Wrong Time’, which is one of my all time favorite songs, Kiwi or otherwise.
However the responses to this wonderful song were different than usual – a whole heap of sad comments. This is how I found out Peter Gutteridge – founding member of The Clean, The Chills, The Great Unwashed and his own group Snapper – had passed away that morning.
Pretty soon the rest of the world had caught up on Peter’s passing – Simon Sweetman seemed to have the first story online about his passing, and this interview from Mess and Noise back in April last year seems to be the most informative insight online in to who I believed to be New Zealand’s greatest song-writer.
I took the photo above back in 2012 after catching Peter play a live acoustic set at Christchurch’s Darkroom Bar back in 2012 – Peter was very conscientious about his appearance, making sure I drew as much of the ample character in his face as possible. I got just two shots; the above color shot which seems to portray fire and brimstone, a swaggering but downtrodden character. However the 2nd shot I took (below) seems to show another side of Peter – there is warmth and frailty in his eyes – a complete transformation.
Considering the depth of Peter’s music, this transformation is not surprising. Though known for the huge walls of feedback and straight for the jugular approach of songs like The Clean’s ‘Point That Thing somewhere Else’ (which he was always keen to remind us – he wrote at the age of 17), he also had a deeply emotional, quiet side – Snapper’s ‘Gentle Hour’ and several of the Great Unwashed’s song hint at this.
I managed to catch Peter playing a couple times in the past 2 years, with the reformed Snapper playing at the 2013 Camp A Low Hum being a particular highlight – it was great to see Peter passing the baton to a new generation of Dunedin kids, with a backing band that included Bad Sav‘s Hope Robertson and Though Creature‘s Danny Brady.
So Monday was a very sad day in New Zealand Music. We’ve lot one of our greats, a fantastic song-writer that has just begun to resurface after a long absence from the public eye.
I awoke to a wonderful, sunny day in Wainui. Finally the heat that had made the 2009 festival such a delight had returned, although I was still not going anywhere near the lagoon! I had a really relaxed morning, taking in repeat performances from the terrific Guerre, Wintercoats and a little bit of Brian Borcherdt.
I somehow managed to miss Watercolours (the current pseudonym of Chelsea Jade – one of the wonderful voices behind Auckland trio indie-folk trio Teacups) and took lunch during the mid-day slots before catching Perth 3-piece Usurper of Modern Medicine inside the noisy room. Describing themselves as post-rock is a bit of a stretch, but I did enjoy their big bass-grooves, before heading to the forest where solo drumming-based act Sexy Merlin had a few technical difficulties to start his set.
The impressive Bare Grillz played their repeat show out in the harsh sun of the lawn stage, but it was Christchurch’s Sleepy Age I couldn’t miss in the afternoon slots. A fairly packed room saw the indie-pop 4-piece play a solid selection of songs, including the disco-tinged single Décor (which they’ve made a terrific video for) and a couple of songs showing off front-man Josh Burgess’s falsetto skills.
I spent a lot of the afternoon chilling at the camp site with my friends, hearing the tongue-in-cheek hair-metal sounds of Razorwyre echoing around the camp. Wellington’s quirky Orchestra of Spheres impressed with hand-made instruments and out-there costumes, and guitar whizz Kirin J Callinan received a rousing reception to a large crowd at the Lagoon.
As the evening approached I was in the renegade room checking out some quality indie-rock. Firstly Auckland’s Grass Cannons played to a packed crowed; bassist Paul Brown somehow kept playing despite suffering a broken arm earlier in the festival.
Christchurch’s punky Trio Ipswich had to call upon Rueban Winter to fill in on drums for the absent Jamie Larson; which gave the group a sloppy but intense feel. As night fell US duo Prince Rama graced the big stage, playing a very theatrical percussion based set – high on atmosphere.
Sydney duo Baaddwere super-fun down at the lagoon, heating up the crowd with dancey songs and a whole lot of cheeky screaming; proclaiming ‘You don’t need musical talent to form a band. Just wear a leotard, jump around and scream a lot’.The Dan Deacon Ensemble were probably the head-line act of the festival, and it was an incredible site watching their crowd ripple back in forth following Dan’s dance move instructions and pulsating sound. An over-excited crowd flowed forward too fast for their own feet, causing havoc at the front of the stage.
The night was a bit of a blur from this point on – US dance act Publicist brought the trance vibes back to the forest, $noregazZm played an exciting repeat show in the noisy room, as did All Seeing Hand at the new ‘screen’ stage (which consisted of a projection screen backed against the hillside covered in native forest) and I ended the festival with the incredible (and incredibly vulgar) BMX Rapists, and popular hip-hop act Tommy Ill – both lighting up the noisy room with enthusiastic performances late into the night.
Absolutely brilliant festival, I can’t wait for next year.
Ian ‘Blink’ Jorgensen starting calling the events, zine’s, festivals and tours that he organized ‘A Low Hum’ back in 2001, so the 2012 Camp A Low festival marks his 10 year anniversary as a rather prominent force in New Zealand live music, of particular note in independent circles, as well as being the sixth such festival he has helled.
The festival is a full 3-day / 4-nights: on site camping, multiple environments, BYO alcohol, a particularly diverse array of musical acts and attendees. This year was located in the scenic surrounds of Camp Wainui, a campsite located in natural bush in Wainuomata usually occupied by Boy Scouts. The 2012 event brought together 70 booked acts from the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand – along with an equally large of amount of ‘Renegade’ acts, who popped up during the length of the festival.As one of approximately 800 campers I may not be the only festival attendee who drank a little too quickly on the first night and failed to party into the night that evening, and I also may not be the only camper that experienced the delights of acts from across the world, as well as from their very own household – but with my unique perspective in mind I present my own recollections of Camp a Low Hum 2012:
This was my fifth appearance at Camp, however this prior experience unfortunately couldn’t prevent my own excitement on the first day, so the first part of this review ends around 10pm on the first night, a little after catching a returning So So Modern in driving rain, and feeling the pain (fortunately only in my head) of quick drink and not a lot of food.
After a quiet pre-festival night things kicked off proper on friday morning, though a little slowly. It was drizzly and a bit of a breeze was flowing through the Wainui hillsides, but the weary camp goers eventually awoke to the sounds of Wellington based free-style rapper Megalex, improvising rhymes about suggested topics in front of the camps pleasant (though pretty chilly at this point!) lagoon. A surprisingly shy Street Chant vocalist/guitarist Emily Littler is who I caught next. Performing as Emily Edrosa she played a short set of acoustic songs at an intimate site surrounded by band accommodation dubbed the Lawn.
Camp A Low Hum sets are typically around 25 minutes, giving attendees a nice short introduction to an act, whilst not bombarding them with a long set. Performers often play twice, resolving conflicts when simultaneous shows are on (which is throughout the majority of the festival), and so-called Renegade shows can pop up at any time, often resulting in party like atmospheres with enthusiastic crowds. Venues go from typical camp-site rooms where bodies cram in to every corner, to a seated forest site, to expansive lawn areas that can easily accommodate the entirety of the festival crowd.
Adelaide solo act Rites Wild took things back to the lagoon, the first of quite a few loop-pedal warriors that played throughout the festival. Playing very dark synth drones with a lot of reverb – it was quite a somber performance – or maybe that was just the weather, by this stage starting to get on my nerves. However the second loop pedal aficionado, Melbourne violinist Wintercoats was more my style, playing an emotionally driven set of songs reminiscent of Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy). Things really kicked in to gear when Auckland based rap duo $noregazZm hit the lagoon, switching slots with an absent Spring Break (who arrived the next day) and playing a spastic, snotty set of songs, enticing the crowd to join in their fun. Their vocalist Lisandru Grigorut had previously made his Camp debut in equally spazzy Dunedin punk outfit TFF, despite being thoroughly under-aged.
While roaming the ample camp grounds and enjoying the setting, food and the taste of my deadly beverage I managed to breeze through performances by rather-great Sydney rock trio No Art, Auckland-based Flying Nun fans Lost Rockets, kitschy but cute and catchy Melbourne keyboards and loop-pedal soloist Kikuyu and Newcastle, Australia based guitar and keyboards soloist Alps – who has been quite a regular visitor to our shores over the past 8 years or so, and plays a very personal style of experimental pop music.
Seems appropriate that it was Christchurch’s own T54 that ushered in the bigger stages in the late afternoon. The recently signed Flying Nun act thrilling with sharp guitar playing, pulsing rhythms, and even a random guest vocalist. I’m not sure if the next act I saw in the Forest was Melbourne trio Absolute Boys (though they seemed to contain the same members?), as they replaced the absent Glass Vaults, but their set of minimal electronics swirled and pulsated and sounded simply wonderful in this idyllic setting. One of the truly great finds of the festival for me was Newcastle, Australia power-trio Bare Grillz; totally at home in a house-party setting with a terrific drummer and two guitarists with equally terrific haircuts. Playing aggressive, dynamic punk numbers punctuated with anthemic shouting and a good dose of humor, I’d thoroughly recommend you check them out if you get the chance.
I think this is when my enthusiasm started to get the better of me. Melbourne punk rock trio Ouch My Face were on the main stage, making a second appearance at Camp A Low Hum in their own sassy, sarcastic way. Meanwhile I’d been indulging in my surroundings, eating and drinking with my friends, girlfriend and fellow campers as the rain started to get stronger, with gusts blowing in to the valley and bringing dark clouds with them. I skipped a couple acts for a dinner break, but returned for the magnificent So So Modern, fighting a killer headache to thoroughly enjoy their great set of songs new and old.
The Wellington trio (now without fourth member Aidan Leong) have become more laid-back than their debut recordings, with a more progressive sound in recent years, so It was a treat for them to run through some of the punchy older hits – a dynamic mix of bass heavy keyboards, stinging guitar, sing-shout vocals and truly ravenous drumming. Wind lashed the side of the stage which was thankfully covered in weather-protecting canvas – thankfully giving me a little respite and shelter as I took photos of the band going full tilt. That was it for the night though, I threw in the towel, formulating a new approach for day two of the festival as rain pounded my tent with my head pounding along concurrently.
Hey sorry things have gotten a bit quiet around here lately… I’ve kinda run out of steam over the last day of camp. I remember Hold Dear being cute, the sun being barely escapable – which made watching Lowtide almost unbearable, though Toro Y Moi in the garden shade was a treat.
Some time around then James Dansey (who had been absolutely unstoppable last night, climbing the walls as the frontman of the Sneaks) lead a trio of B-Ballers to glory in the 3-on-3 competition, Teen Hygiene one-upped themselves by laying on the steel roof of the bike sheds (must have been a million degrees up there!), and I hung around the terrifically laid-back Ocean Floor, as their set was delayed on the main stage.
The rest of that afternoon is a bit of a blur, I don’t think I really resurfaced till the phenomenal sequence that went like this:
Lawrence Arabia on the main stage! Holy heck I love everyone of his songs, and I’m clearly not the only one… I had recently saw him play a request show in Lyttelton and was surprised at just how many songs I can croon along too…
Next things were taken to another level with Spring Break ripping it up in the pool – Ryan and that man Dansey (yet again) handing out necklaces and getting the crowd nekkid and sweaty.
Next though was what I was waiting all camp for, Caribou! One of my favourite current artists, Dan Snaith is INCREDIBLE! He played keys and as 2nd drummer with an absolutely blisteringly hot live band, running through the bestes songs like Sun, After Hours, my personal favourite Melody Day and an incredible rendition of Odessa that had me dancing like a maniac with my girl Joey. What a way to wind up a festival…
I caught a bit of Four tet, and there were parties all night before an early morning shower set in, bringing things to a close once and for all. I missed last year, but man I was glad I came back – Camp is my favourite time of the year.
Ps. as a side note – at Wellington airport on the way home, hanging out with Joey, Charlie, Jos and Dove – we caught Dan Snaith walking around looking lost.. and somewhat lonely… The four of us cracked jokes(‘Where’s my bandmates!?’ etc) , but we just wanted to hug the guy…
Glass Vaults were totally chill in the pool, but I missed Rat vs. Possum on the main stage. Unfortunately i’ve lost track of a bit of what went down, some renegade shows went down (including my fellow camper Jos playing a chip-tune set, and the always entertaining Cosbys – both in the renegade room) and there was much revelling…
Things really kicked in to gear next, the Coolies absolutely ripping shit to shreds in the barn. Main their new material rules, totally free form, creative and brutal – I LOVE the new generation Coolies, can’t believe i haven’t got the new LP yet…
Parking Lot Experiments played to a big crowd in the pool, completely overwhelming and yes fun once more -these guys really were one of the highlights of Campus for me, and I even managed to catch one of their shows when I got back home to Christchurch.
In previous years and in previous A low Hum tours I’ve been front row centre for My Disco. However I’m one of those lame ‘I like your early stuff better’ kind fans as I reckon their earlier LP ‘Cancer’ is their best – it’s so minimal and sharp, I just go nuts when they play that stuff… So yeah their new material doesn’t really sit so well with me. The guys are still amazingly talented, but they’ve lost a bit of that minimal, incredibly tight sound…
Luke Rowell is an A Low Hum legend; and he showed it with a stonking, chock-a-block Disasteradio! set in the pool, surrounded by laser lights and stage-invading fans. Oh man, total love-fest of cheezy awesome synthy sounds. Great fun.
Again I missed a couple official outfits – Dunedin kids TFF and the Wilberforces, PlusF in Covers, Blinks DJ Set and All Black Wolf at the party stage, but the Sneaks MORE than brought the party. Those guys are seriously my favourite party band of all time – i was jumping around like mental in the stage area of the Renegade room as Dansey was climbing all over the crowd and letting himself go. There are few bands with so many great songs (Kuzai Heart You Girl, North Shore Pussy, No Sex, Thowback etc etc) that bring such joy and fun to their shows… Thats what camp is ALL about!
Thankfully the FANTASTIC Old Loaves from Wellington were then playing in the Barn. Hot damn these guys are great. i described them at the time as kinda like the Gordons, but I guess maybe more straight forward and with a pretty brutal edge. Really really dug these guys, and they got a great crowd response from the fellow Christchurch lads in the crowd.Next up Wet Wings had a go at the full line-up, with Matt scobie joining Darian, Lucy and Jon in the Pool. there was even time for a little dancing this time around.
Saw a little of Mothers of Darkness – a pretty straight forward band; but headed off pretty early, I think this time around catching a renegade room double of No Aloha and new outfit Etiquette. Although No Aloha will be faimilar to Christchurch and Wellington audience (and features basically the Insurgents performing new songs). Etiquette are a brand new band with a few familiar faces; and I must admit I took a shine to this new band immediately. Mark turners a pretty great front-man, and with catchy call-and-response vocals I was an instant fan.
Teen Hygiene seem to have a gimmick – their drummer likes playing ‘high’; though not in the typicalsense; he’d stacked up a giant drum riser in the barn, and later better that by playing on the roof of the bike sheds (in scorching sunlight). Seem like a pretty straight ahead rock band out of Wellington.
I missed Alphabethead, though I believe I did later see him (along with James Dansey of the Sneaks) clean up in the 3-on-3 b-ball competition. Next band I didn’t catch were Lowtide – and Aussie shoegazey outfit notable for their use of twin bassists. Good stuff; with cool twin vocals too.
After a painfully sunny day though, the beast was to come once the sun came down…
Ok so I kinda flaked a bit on the first day night… I did however manage to catch High Places, who had some odd sound issues and a bit of a disjointed feel. Nice stuff but not quite the same as their Christchurch show with Dan Deacon a while back.
I briefly saw the rather preppy Melbournaties Butcher Blades breaking out some dance beats in the pool, but missed Sydney’s Royal Headache in the barn catching some AMAZING Karaoke near the bike sheds. Shit got serious when a karaokist fell head first out of the van, monitor beneath them! Ah well!
There was no way I was gonna miss Toro Y Moi on the main stage. Chaz was really getting in to the swing of things around camp; lining up for morning cafe bites, attending the DIY synth workshop and generally chilling out – pretty appropriate considering how chill his music is. Great support band too; playing a really relaxed but funky set – a great way to end an evening.
Holy Crap!, demented music video god Simon Ward has already posted a ton of handycam clips from camp straight to his Youtube channel; a whole heap of awesome stuff here including the mighty Peter Crabb ripping in to R Kelly’s Ignition (Remix) in the Karaoke van:
Day 1 started with a series of laid back acts, Melbourne-based loop-pedallist Great Earthquakes the first official performer on a little embankment near the campus’s stagnant pond. Christchurch’s Wet Wings followed with their own beautiful, haunting songs. The core duo of Darian and Lucy were flanked by Jon Lemmon on keys, the trio giving a very stripped down and percussion free performance.
I missed quite a bit of the brunch slots (including Portland, Oregon’s The Ocean Floor) for the sake of acquiring more food, but I did make it back in time to see one of the highlights of the Festival – Melbourne Based Parking Lot Experiments. I’d describe them (at least live) as an incredibly upbeat Dodo’s; and a whole lot of fun.
Scul Hazzards played another brutal set before Liam Finn hit the main (assembly) stage, backed by his brother Elroy on drums. I felt this line-up change didn’t really suit Liam’s music; he seemed more drawn to playing in a drawn-out manner; and without the explosive effect of his loop-station performances. Ah well.
Auckland-based Kitsunegari were anything but drawn out, however they were a complete shambles; with a broke guitar half-way through their first song! The group are a new and young outfit comprised of at least one former Bandicoot.
The first pool act I got to see were the exceptionally cutesy James Duncan and Chelsea Jade (also of the Teacups), with lovely, wispy vocals by Chelsea and the occasional Suicide-style synthy bit from James.
Missed a few more acts as the day got hotter, venturing around Campus and exploring the likes of the Gym and the main camping area before I caught awesome duo Coasting in the barn. I was completely unaware former Coolies drummer Fiona Campbell has been drumming for the Vivian Girls, and here she was whipping up a storm with fellow Brooklynite Madison Farmer. Nice tight, surfy songs. Cool Cool.
Melbourne 4-piece Tantrums seemed a little more gothy than their recordings give on, but they seemed to have some nice, relaxed electronicky stuff.
Speaking of Electronic music; former garden city lad Pikachunes tore it up with great big anthems in the pool; I really dig the likes of video indie-hit Just a Boy, and found myself singing it most of the night.
Sharpie Crows are the opposite of an electronic band, though now their drummers gone their frontman Sam Bradford was behind a drum machine type thing while his bandmates wailed behind him. Holy heck how much does that guitar fella tremble?
I missed Wellington’s Secret Knives, the photogenic Perth act Pond were unmemorable, and I can’t say CTrix is my favourite chip-tune artist (despite using a trusty old Amiga for the majority of his sounds), but it was certainly shaping up to be a great night with High Places and Toro Y Moi (and others) to come…
Nervous energy and frantic organizing till midday day
Flying to Wellington, getting lunch and some food for camp
Long drive up the Kaptiti Coast through the Horowhenua, into the Manawatu, through Bulls and eventually to Flock House Setting up the tent in near darkness.
After all the preliminary stuff was out of the way it was time to check out the not-really scheduled day 0 bands, one of the first being the excellent noisy local brats Street Chant, plus London-based aussie noise-rockers Scul Hazzards.
Didn’t have much of a late night, but I did hear the much-hyped Leno Lovecraft from the tent and he sounded pretty flash.