Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part One

Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012

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:

Bare Grillz at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Bare Grillz at 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.

Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012

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.

T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012
T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012

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.

So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012
So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012

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.

Click here for more photos. Days 2 and 3 to come.

[published in the Christchurch Press 17/02/2012]

Seth Frightening, Glass Vaults, Disasteradio!

Seth Frightening at Darkroom
Seth Frightening at Darkroom

After last nights late night at the Brewery it was nice to get to a venue like Darkroom to catch Seth Frightening and Glass Vaults in a more welcoming environment. The Archive (Darkroom’s parent building which also houses Galaxy Records and the new RDU permanent studio) is quickly becoming one of my favorite places, with great shows, warm hosts, fantastic drinks, home-made snacks and brilliant events.

Glass Vaults at Darkroom
Glass Vaults at Darkroom

Seth Frightening carried on from last night, reveling the crowd in their fuzzy, involving and enveloping sound. Glass Vaults were again top-notch, drawing the crowd forward with their hypnotic sound, driven by that killer percussion (though I did have to rescue the floor tom from collapsing mid-set).

Disasteradio! at Darkroom
Disasteradio! at Darkroom

Returning to Christchurch for the first time in a long while and after a European tour and Internet semi-stardom (have you seen all those remakes of his ‘gravy rainbow’ video?), Disasteradio! was a bit ill, but soldiered one like a trooper, with his usual self-depreciating humor and fantastic stage performance. The vocally driven numbers like the classic ‘hotline‘ and the brilliant ‘no pulse‘ were particular crowd favorites, with Zak (of Bang Bang Eche / Teen Fortress) filling in on vocals for Christina. Great fun, as is the new album ‘Charisma’, available as a pay-what-you-want purchase – even the vinyl LP!

Zak (Teen Fortress) performing backups vocals for D-Rad
Zak (Teen Fortress) performing backups vocals for D-Rad

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Valdera, Glass Vaults and Seth Frightening

Valdera at the Brewery
Valdera at the Brewery

Thursday night at the Brewery. Local lad James Musgrave opened up playing a solo set under his Valdera moniker (which is sometimes a duo). Laid-back layered guitar and vocals, including a take on Antony Johnson’s take on Beyonce (which led to a bit of a side-of-stage sing-a-long).

Glass Vaults are something else. There the guys who can hear everything. Who layer up guitar, bass, keys and other noises into a Maelstrom of sugar-syrupy sweet sound that just sounds perfect. Cracking songs, some excellent one-drum percussion and great vocal harmonies. Probably the best band in Wellington these days.

Seth Frightening at the Brewery
Seth Frightening at the Brewery

Seth Frightening also layered things up, with looped vocals, beat-up guitars and even the odd screamy moment to wake up the less attentive punters. Glad I hung around for the whole show.

Click here for the rest of my photos from the night.

Campus A Low Hum 2011: Day 2, Part 2

The Coolies
The Coolies at Campus

Hey back to the camp reports! missed a whole heap of bands on day 2 – Nudge, Royal Headache, the usually fantastic Sam Hamilton and No Zu before catching a little bit of Karl Stevens’ new bluesy outfit the Drab Doo Riffs.

Bachelorette got a great crowd as she played a set with Hamilton robot band the Trons. things took a while to get going but it was a choice set; including a fantastic cover of the Tall DwarfsNothings Gonna Happen‘.

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…

The Cosbys
The Cosbys at Campus

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
Parking Lot Experiments at Campus

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.

My Disco
My Disco at Campus

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…

Disasteradio!
Disasteradio! at Campus

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.

The Sneaks
The Sneaks at Campus

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!