Spring Break, Bang! Bang! Eche! and Tommy Ill

Spring Break
Spring Break

Phenomenal show at Dux Live. Check out all of my photos here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fraew/sets/72157629697885704/

Bang! Bang! Eche!
Bang! Bang! Eche!
Tommy Ill
Tommy Ill

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]

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]