All Seeing Hand, Seth Frightening and Yvnalesca

Seth Frightening
Seth Frightening
All Seeing Hand
All Seeing Hand

First in a series of 4 excellent gigs at the Darkroom over ANZAC day weekend. Wellington Groups All Seeing Hand and Seth Frightening supported by mellow local beat maker Yvnalesca.

Click here for the complete photo set on Flickr.

The Bilders at Darkroom

Bill Direen
Bill Direen

Wow it certainly has been a long time since I’ve contributed to thebigcity – sorry about that. It’s been a pretty quiet holiday break in Christchurch, at least musically – however I’m really looking forward to Mount Eerie’s tour and of course the great annual trip to Camp A Low Hum – both in February.

 

Last week however I had the great privilege to catch the latest line-up of Bill Direen’s might group the Bilders. Direen’s back catalog of fantastic songs (‘Do the Alligator’, ‘Love in the Retail Trade’, ‘Sad But True’ etc) is truly immense and this sharp three piece pulled out all the pieces.

Mick Elborado and Stu Page
Mick Elborado and Stu Page

Word has it their drummer (and fantastic film-maker) Stuart Page was in a car accident earlier in the week and shouldn’t have been playing, but he soldiered on anyway. It was also fantastic to see Christchurch legend Mick Elborado back on stage, playing bass the way only Mick can play – he contorted and tore up that ‘Mickenbacker’ on the more excitable numbers. Direen himself was relaxed and demur up front, leading the fellas through-out the night.

Click here for all the photos from the night.

Darkroom’s 1st Birthday

Brown Leaves
Brown Leaves

The dynamic duo of T’Nealle Joie (Bang! Bang! Eche!) and Jasper Bryant-Greene (who ran the Gold Sounds record label, releasing T54’s first recordings) saw a hole in the Christchurch Music and entertainment market after the earthquakes of February 2011. With virtually no live music venues in the city and very little night-life to speak of, the pair leased ‘The Archive’, a multi-use venue on St Asaph Street, initially with a warehouse all-ages event that featured the Transistors, Bang! Bang! Eche! and Valdera. After a refit the Archive would go on to encompass the venerable Galaxy Records, a studio for the RDU radio station, the art space Room 4, and perhaps most importantly, the Darkroom.

Transistors
Transistors

Back in October 2011 the new bar opened with the experimental sounds of US sound artist C Spencer Yeh and a very special sell out show from Christchurch’s own Bachelorette. Over the course of the last year the venue has not only grown in reputation as Christchurch’s finest local venue for independent music, but also in stature, with additional seating area, a huge array of drinks and an ever-increasing clientele. Saturday marked the Darkroom’s 1st birthday, and as a tribute to the early history of the venue, the same key groups were present to celebrate.

Brown Leaves are a rebirth of prior group Valdera, featuring the same duo of James Musgrave (guitar, vocals and pedals) and Matt Scobie (drums), though in a punkier, more straight-forward style. These days Musgrave seems more comfortable as a front-man and the duo ripped through a short set of sharp, jagged rock numbers with gusto.

Bang! Bang! Eche!
Bang! Bang! Eche!

Speaking of gusto – the Transistors have recently returned from the United States, touring alongside Japanese Rock n Roll icons Guitar Wolf. Lead singer James Harding was a live-wire, bouncing around the stage but still hitting ever mark in their blistering, non-stop show. The trio showed the well-honed chops of a group that’s spent months on the road together, not stopping for a breath during their opening handful of songs.

Lastly Bang! Bang! Eche! took to the stage, building up the tempo of their performance as the night came to a close. With Joie and Charlie Ryder exchanging bass, guitar and keyboard parts, vocalist Zach Doney triggering electronic effects and climbing around the audience, and drummer James Sullivan as energetic as ever behind the kit – it’s hard not to have fun at a Bang! Bang! Eche! show. What a great way to cap a terrific 1s year as a venue.

You can see more photos from this show here.

Carb on Carb w/ Males and Coate

Carb on Carb
Carb on Carb

Carb on Carb are the Auckland-based Indie-pop duo of Nicole Gaffney (Guitar and Vocals) and James Stuteley (Drums) – an outgrowth of former group Mammal Airlines (which also featured Giles Thompson). Friday’s show at the Darkroom featured the group supported by top-notch local emo group Coate and Dunedin trio Males.

Coate have settled in to regular performances at the Darkroom, their intricate songs catching many a keen ear. With front-man Will Roud delivering melodic, driving vocals and exchanging guitar lines with 2nd guitarist Taylor Welsh, the 4-piece are one of the most technically accomplished groups in New Zealand.

2nd group Males are new to Christchurch, the poppy trio wearing their hearts on their sleeves as they flew through a selection of indie-rock numbers. Bassist Sam Valentine caught some flack for his haircut, one particular punter pointing out the young guy’s resemblance to Blur bassist Alex James. Their songs push the low-frequencies to the front, and the trio displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout their set.

Both Carb on Carb members have been heavily involved in the Auckland all-age music scene – Gaffney’s previously played guitar, synth and sang with popular Auckland teen group Moron Says What?!, whilst Stuteley is partly responsible for Papaiti Records, an independent record label that compiled and released the excellent ‘Pressure to be’ album (distributed in the United States by Calvin Johnson’s legendary K Records). I was impressed by the groups catchy, shuffling songs, noisy guitar and Gaffney’s subdued vocals – they’re well worth tracking down on BandCamp.

See the rest of the photos here.

Also – Carb on Carb played a house-party alongside Christchurch’s Dance Asthmatics and new duo X-Ray Charles the previous night. Photos from that party are here.

Coate, Winter, Half Mountain, Teke and Craig and Steven at darkroom

Coate
Coate
Sorry this has been a long time coming. Epic 5 band night on a Thursday night at darkroom. Coate have to be one of my favorite local groups these days, and Winter were a lot of fun too. Opening act Steven was an uncompromising, impassioned guy, Teke and Craig were as slick as ever and debutant Half Mountain show a lot of promise.

Winter
Winter
You can view more photos from the set here.

Sherpa w/ Bang! Bang! Eche!, Dance Asthmatics and Zen Mantra

Tam November of Zen Mantra
Tam November of Zen Mantra
Smashing line-up friday at Dux Live, with a great mix of young, up-and-coming groups from Christchurch, with poppy Auckland group Sherpa headlining.

Youngest of all would be opening trio Zen Mantra. Fronted by the barely 17 year old Sam Perry, Zen Mantra take on a psychedelic approach to clean and concise indie-pop. With swirling guitar, bass and rolling drums their songs are warm, fuzzy and comforting and are simply drenched in melody. A young group absolutely absolutely overflowing with potential.

Dance Asthmatics make for quite a contrast. Brian Feary (drums), Joe Sampson (guitar) and Ben Odering (bass) create a tight, flowing and often groove filled backing with more than a little krautrock style rhythm – but frontman Stephen Nouwens can steer the group in any number of directions. He can take a plaintive but acerbic and poetic approach to singing (like a young Mark E Smith of the Fall), and then the next minute rip into an aggressive rant, gasping for breath between each delivered sentence. Always exciting and always a lot of fun.

T'Nealle Worsely  of Bang! Bang! Eche!
T’Nealle Worsely of Bang! Bang! Eche!
Despite lacking practice since previous shows, Bang! Bang! Eche! lived up to their reputation as one of Christchurch’s finest and slickest live acts – with the best reception of all the groups on the night. Particularly on form was bassist T’Nealle Worsely, though the group lock together like a syncopated, pulsing singularity.

Out-of-towners Sherpa have been making quite a reputation for themselves up in Auckland – their album Lesser Flamingo and stunning new video Turtles are unabashed slices of pure New Zealand power-pop. Gleeful and with great dollops of catchy guitar and keyboards. Frontman Earl Ho is a colourful character – leading the group through a sharp set of songs at blistering pace. A lovely way to end the evening.

See more photos here.

[Published in the Christchurch Press 27/07/2012]

Kittentank w/ Sandfly Bay at Darkroom, April 21st 2012

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

With local instrumental trio Sandfly Bay delaying the start of the show due to equipment issues; I took the time to soak in Darkroom’s ambience. As one of our newest venues, Darkroom has really found a place as Christchurch’s key intimate spots to hear live music – however they also provide a fantastic menu of home-made vegetarian snacks, and they have an ever-growing array of boutique Wines, Beers and Liquors. I tend to favour Ciders, and with the Darkroom now stocking Peckham’s Moutere Cider Kir I had to give it a try. This is a fine, dry Cider with quite a significant dose of blackcurrant. A simply fantastic drink, and far removed from the mass-produced stuff you find in supermarkets.

Sandfly Bay have gone through numerous variations, both in line-up and style since they originally emerged as a high school band a few years back. Now without a vocalist, the current line-up produces a blues-inflected brand of alternative rock. Heavy on the rhythm and with particularly prevalent bass from Ben Ordering – who seems to be in quite a few local bands these days! Their sound is quite danceable and upbeat, and they certainly seem to have a fan base for their infectious, groove-filled songs.

Kittentank
Kittentank

Although Wellington-based group Kittentank started life as guitarist / keyboardist / vocalist Frank Eggleton’s own solo project, their current existence now revolves around a troop of some 9 members, though thankfully not all at the same time! Playing as a more-conventional 5-piece on a fairly small stage, the group through together an amalgam of styles, driven by some truly excellent drumming and driving grooves that I reckon evoke the feeling of early Stereolab recordings. With a classic keyboard sound and guitar used both as texture and lead, their indie-pop-garage-punk pastiche really appeals to my tastes. Track them down on BandCamp for a taste of one of the best new groups out of Wellington.

 

[Published in the Press 27-04-2012]

Peter Gutteridge (and Brother Love) at the Darkroom

Apologies to Brother Love for missing their set – though I did talk to ‘the Brother (aka Martin Henderson) and the long-time ex-Christchurch sludge-rockers are back in the garden city again, with more shows on the horizon. You might remember Brother Love and the Homebacon Gang, playing shows with the likes of Space Dust, Ape Management and King Loser throughout the 1990s.

Peter Gutteridge at the Darkroom
Peter Gutteridge at the Darkroom

It was a rare treat to see legendary Dunedin-based songwriter Peter Gutteridge too; It’s been ‘more than a decade’ since the Snapper frontman last played a show in Christchurch, and according to Gutteridge he hasn’t been playing live in Dunedin either, although he still continues to write and plans to record new songs.

With Snapper known for pulsating Synth and Heavy Guitar drones adding a hypnotic rhythm to essentially dark pop songs, Gutteridge surprised the ample Darkroom crowd by starting his set with folky acoustic versions of his songs. The set began with a sober, melancholy performance of ‘Born in the Wrong Time’ (a song Gutteridge had written whilst in the Great Unwashed) played in a very minimal, stripped back acoustic style, ringing out repetitive individual notes on his guitar akin to the droney sound of his Snapper recordings.

As a founding member of several of New Zealand’s finest bands (The Chills, The Clean, The Great Unwashed and Snapper), Gutteridge’s back catalogue is full of involving, heady and evocative songs, but Snapper’s signature pseudo-hit ‘Buddy’ seemed to be the most recognized by the crowd, enticing a few upfront to sing-a-long.

He finally switched up a gear with the last handful of songs – playing with ear-piercing electric guitar and pulsing synth and understated bass from Henderson in support. I was transfixed by the duo’s sound in this configuration, much akin to the solo Gutteridge recordings I’ve heard (there’s an Xpressway tape from the 1980’s called ‘Pure’), which makes sense as he opened this 2nd set with ‘Dry Spot’, a song he’d released on a 7” for Crawlspace Records in 2000, culled from a live recording.

Great to see one of New Zealand’s best underground musicians back and playing music again, and I would definitely look out for future recordings.

[Published in the Press 5/4/2012]

WAOTS, Fauxhound and $noregazZzm at darkroom

WAOTS at darkroom
WAOTS at darkroom

 

Another excellent show at the darkroom this weekend, with New Zealand’s most party-orientated eletronic, eletro and chip-tune artists playing to a fairly crowded room on a lovely night in the garden city.

 

WAOTS (aka We Aeronauts of the Spirit / aka Max Lequeux) was the most downbeat on the night warming up the crowd with tracks comprised of Nintendo DS chip-tunes augmented with keyboards and vocals.

 

 

$noregazZzm at darkroom
$noregazZzm at darkroom
Fauxhound at darkroom
Fauxhound at darkroom

Favourite Ex-son of Christchurch Jos van Beek was next, playing his GameBoy augmented electro chip-tune tracks with great gusto, dancing around the stage and getting the crowd pumped up.

 

$noregazZzm ended the night with their own brand oh hip-hop fueled electro electronica – great fun, and a shame the lads aren’t going to be around much longer; with Dave Currie heading overseas at the conclusion of the tour.

With Lisandru showing his usual bravado on the mic the duo put on a great show.

 

Click here for the rest of the photos.

Dance Asthmatics and God Destroyer

Dance Asthmatics
Dance Asthmatics

Dance Asthmatics played a great varied set at Darkroom; mixing up a bit of melodic jangle guitar rock with some Fall-esque posturing and swagger, and even some straight ahead punk. Nice.

God Destroyer are made for a different night all together, varying between ambient drone and *almost* atonal noise. I like their melodic, quieter moments best…

Click here for more photos

God Destroyer
God Destroyer
Dance Asthmatics
Dance Asthmatics