Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part Two

Spring Break at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Spring Break at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Continuing our review of Camp A Low Hum 2012; a 3 day music venue set in the scenic natural reserve camping ground Camp Wainui; nestled in the hills of Wainuomata, Upper Hutt.

Parties tend to run all night at camp, so sleeping can be a bit tricky at times. However I arose fresh, but a little sweaty in a sun-drenched tent. The weather had improved markedly over night, so I enjoyed walking around the camp in the sun, putting together a make-shift camping breakfast, drinking (a lot of) water and planning my strategy for the next two days.

Strolling down to the lagoon I was welcomed by the lovely, reverb-laden voice of Whanganui’s Castlecliff Lights. A tremendous vocalist who entertained the crowd with her sultry voice, layers of acoustic guitar and even some tastefully utilized melodica. A nice way to start the day.

Dead at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Dead at Camp A Low Hum 2012

While eating breakfast I happened to meet a young Wellingtonian named Flo Wilson, who mentioned she was performing a renegade slot later that morning as Foxtrot. These shows pop up through-out the festival, with makeshift poster adverts placed around camp to entice the festival goers, along with word of mouth advertising. You often find the best parties at camp are these renegade shows! Flo performed a solo set of songs based on vocal manipulations. She utilized loops and even an old tape player to create a particularly unusual sound; including a surprising cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for my man’.

After a dash to the Wainui shops and back, I sprinted to the lagoon to witness what promised to be the classic pool party of the festival; the appropriately named Auckland pop duo Spring Break (James Dansey of the Sneaks and Ryan McPhun of the Ruby Suns). Spring Break are hilarious; hamming up their performances with skimping (and soon to be discarded) outfits, dancing and singing like a 1980’s era Prince covers act. With incredibly catchy songs with that get stuck in your head for days (‘No Tango Dinero’, ‘Do You Want Me?’), I can’t imagine anyone walking away from their performances without a smile on their face.

Jon Lemmon at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Jon Lemmon at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Brutal Melbourne rock act Dead revved up a sizable crowd gathered on the lawn. With just bass and drums the duo showed incredible chops, releasing a pulsating, distorted sonic attack on a crowd just barely waking up (at mid day!). It would be a hard act for Christchurch act Dance Asthmatics to follow in the noisy room, but the 4-piece led by Stephen Nouwens (also front-man of the rather more shambolic BnP) showed why they’ve become a bit of a crowd favourite back home; with drummer Brian Feary pulling out some slinky drum beats, and talented guitarist Joe Sampson letting his fingers do the talking.

I didn’t get to see a great deal of Adelaide act Terrible Truths at the lagoon, but Wellington musician Jon Lemmon (playing as a duo with supplementary vocalist Ben Bro) brought a smile to my face playing a set of dancey, blissful numbers in the forest. Dressed in all white and with long hair, Lemmon led the crowd through his songs like he was commanding his faithful (‘I love it when you sing along!’ he proclaimed). His recordings and also appearances with former Christchurch act Wet Wings, never cease to impress me.

The Shocking and Stunning at Camp A Low Hum 2012
The Shocking and Stunning at Camp A Low Hum 2012

After a more conventional minimalist dub performance from Melbourne’s Absolute Boys and a couple of songs from ‘Holy Fuck’ vocalist Brian Borcherdt, I made my way back to the forest to catch (ex-Christchurch) Wellington sorta-prog duo The Shocking and Stunning. With Sam now possibly New Zealand’s finest drummer, and involving, enveloping keyboards from Jack Hooker they really do live up to their name.

Rackets at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Rackets at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Sydney downbeat R’n’B producer Guerre was next on the lawn, with some tasty, smooth songs with a real understated quality. Understated is something that popular auckland rock group Rackets are not – their songs are full of big, catchy verses and punky bravado, but I was surprised at just how pop and accessible they’ve become recently – they could very well be New Zealand’s next big thing, and if the attention they’ve been getting of late is anything to go by they’re well on their way.

The Phoenix Foundation we’re probably the most prominent name on the festival’s bill; making their first appearance at the festival since 2008 to a large audience on the big stage – which included their children in the front-row. The group ran through a familiar set of songs, stopping only for some somewhat awkward between song banter. I got a little tired and wandered off for some food, stopping off at the ‘Karaoke Dick’ van; a rolling Karaoke machine set up near the camp kitchen. Witnessing Teen Wolf’s Bradley Artesque run through his own take on Biggie Small’s ‘Juicy’ was a delight!

All Seeing Hand at Camp A Low Hum 2012
All Seeing Hand at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Things got very very fun from this point on; I was glad to have stuck to all water! Melbourne dance-duo Forces absolutely tore up the forest with their authentic retro house tracks; I swear for a period I was witnessing Bomb the Bass the beats and bass were so catchy. With my eyes wide open and my heart racing I was enticed into the noisy room where an intriguing trio had set themselves up in the middle of the room. With Alphabeathead adding colour on the turntables, All Seeing Hand are based around bombastic drumming and truly absurd vocals, the crowd simply lapped it up.

Wellington metal crew Beast Wars showed that camp isn’t all about skinny indie kids. Dominating the big stage, vocalist Matt Hyde couldn’t resist joining the dozens of kids that flung themselves into the crowd. After watching a rather under-whelming Vice Cooler in the forest running through Hawnay Troof material I stopped by the noisy room and witnessed an odd site – Brooklyn duo Prince Rama leading a small crow through their own home-filmed Yoga excercise video!

Beast Wars at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Beast Wars at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Auckland group Poor You Poor Me advertised themselves around camp as containing ‘the least interest members from…’ a variety of New Zealand groups; but I really dug their very later performance at the lagoon. With violin and gang-vocal singing, they had a nice party vibe going to keep the late-night punters warm. I ended the night with a repeat performance from Spring Break – this time crammed into a sweaty noisy room. Things got a little dubious towards the end of their set as clothing went flying and the crowd hit the stage, all great fun though. What a terrific day!

Click here for more photos. Days 3 to come.

[published in an edited format for the Christchurch Press 24/02/2012]

Chris Knox

Biography

I’ve had a hard time starting this profile.

A man who’s done so much for New Zealand (underground) music that it wouldn’t really be the same without him – Knox was responsible for so many changes in the way we think about music here in New Zealand.

In The Enemy he proved that New Zealand underground music was indeed a viable and precious quantity, absolutely illuminating the Dunedin punk scene that had sprung up around his quirky (and utterly convicted) troop.

When The Enemy became Toy Love they located and conquered Auckland, but were ripped apart by the complacency and vindictiveness of the big-label music scene (and apathetic Aussie crowds) in Australia.

Knox and his fellow burned band-mates returned with a new outlook on the kiwi music way of life. He saw that creation is far more important than clarity, and with a few simple steps (purchasing a four-track recorder, a chance encounter with Christchurch music-enthusiast Roger Shephard) set about defining the ‘Lo-Fi’ (a term yet later sunned) revolution of early 80’s Dunedin.

Knox then set about forming the utterly eclectic and thoroughly low-tech Tall Dwarfs with his fellow former Toy Love buddy, guitarist Alec Bathgate – the whimsy to his destructive element and a high quality song-writer in his own right.

The Tall Dwarfs remained highly productive and totally engaging throughout the 80’s, forming a cult of quirky, dark songs with bizarre narratives and eclectic touches (tape-loops and sound-manipulation became common-place early on), but in the later 80’s, Knox started working on his own solo material (as well as continuing to record and produce a number of his compatriot artists on Flying Nun).

‘Not Given Lightly’ could be called the apex of Knox’s career – his most commercial success and his most oft referred and covered ‘classic’ song, it’s also well-documented as his very first love song (and some would point out that his wife Barbara had certainly deserved one by the time of its release..).

So into the 90’s Knox stride as an icon of the New Zealand music scene, alternating between The Tall Dwarfs and his own solo albums, just as his journalistic side was starting to bloom.

Come the mid 2000’s and Knox is involved at all levels of New Zealand music. He is an acknowledged historic figure in the New Zealand scene (even winning a Silver Scroll for the heart-wrenching ‘My Only Friend’ in 2000), a valued journalistic resource, an archivist and historian, and yet is still finding new avenues to expand his musical vocabulary, releasing a new recording as Friend in 2003 that explores a new, hi-tech alley.

Knox’s life took an unfortunate turn in June 2009 when he suffered a deliberating stroke that left him unable to speak (or sing). After a long period of recovery and with huge support from the local music industry, Knox struggled own despite his own limitations, recording new material (without actually vocalizing words) with Auckland pop-punk trio Rackets under the name Knoxious.

Awards

RIANZ Awards 1994

  • Cover Design of the Year

APRA Silver Scrolls 2000

  • Song Writing for ‘My Only Friend’

Discography

  • Chris Knox Ego Gratifaction Album – Songs For Cleaning Guppies (1982, Flying Nun Records, FN Me001)
  • Seizure (1989, Flying Nun Records, FN125 / FNE30)
  • ‘Not Given Lightly’/’Guppiplus’ 12″ Ep (1990, Flying Nun Records, FN127)
  • ‘Not Given Lightly’/’Face Of Fashion’/’Love Song (Part 1)’ 7″ Single (1990, Flying Nun Records, FN152)
  • ‘Not Given Lightly’/’Face Of Fashion’/’Love Song (Part 1)’ 12″ Single (1990, Flying Nun Records, FN153)
  • Song For 1990 10″ Ep (1990, Flying Nun Records, FN155)
  • Croaker (1991, Flying Nun Records, FN165)
  • Polyphoto, Duck-Shaped Pain & “Gum” (1991, Flying Nun Records, FN249)
  • ‘Under The Influence’/’Stasis’ 7″ Single (1991, Flying Nun Records, FN266)
  • Not Given Lightly Ep (1993, Communion, COMM26-2)
  • Meat (1993 Communion Comm 28-2)
  • Song Of Me And You (1995, Flying Nun Records, FN313)
  • ‘One Fell Swoop’/’Giving Her Away’/’S.O.S.’/’Shrapnel’/’Mother’ Cd Single (1995, Flying Nun Records, FN316)
  • ‘One Fell Swoop’/’Mother’ 7″ Single (1995, Flying Nun Records, FN316)
  • Songs From 1990 Ep (1996, Caroline, CAR7528)
  • Nunfest ’96 Etched 7″ Disc (1996, Flying Nun Records, FN372)
  • Yes!! (1997, Flying Nun Records, FN400)
  • Almost (1998, Dark Beloved Cloud)
  • Beat (2000, Flying Nun Records, FN444)
  • Inaccuracies & Omissions (As Friend, 2003, Flying Nun Records, FN470)
  • Chris Knox and the Nothing (As Chris Knox and the Nothing, 2005, A Major Label)
  • A Warm Gun (As The Nothing, 2008, A Major Label, AMAJ001)

Links