I really wanted to watch the Smokefree Rockquest live stream last night, mainly to see one of my favourite new acts Courtney Hate and high school stablemates Big Gus. I have yet to check it out, but I’m disappointed they came away empty handed. Rock music is not exactly overwhelmed by all girl bands, and in New Zealand the all-girl thing has largely been confined to celeb vehicles doing song book covers. I love the way the Courtney Hate girls combine a hard-out attitude with ethereal melodies and sparse-but-rich harmonies. No more on that till I check it out proper.
Meanwhile, we went to Lot 23 to catch solo acts by Julia Deans and Shayne Carter. They performed in a cabaret format in a new venue for me: a gallery/cafe/venue combo that is all class. It’s tucked away in that part of Eden Terrace with lots of photographic studios and whatnot.
The girls at the table next to us said “we’re just massive Julia Deans fans. We first saw her in Jesus Christ Superstar last year.” They thought it was hilarious when I said I’d first seen Shane Carter in Dunedin in 1987.
I think I must have had my head in opera or maybe a masters thesis or something like that when Fur Patrol were doing their thing. So I guess I can file Julia under Big Late Discoveries. She played a set of transcendent songs of love and hate and life and death, and fire, and cars … and … it felt like the grit of PJ Harvey and the dexterity of Nina Simone, and a ton of her own vocal beauty. Bring on the album, early 2016.
I’ve enjoyed Shane’s solo stuff lately. Great renditions of back-catalogue hits like Rubber Ball, Randolph’s Coming Home and the more nebulous, but just as memorable Dimmer numbers. He plays a pick-up acoustic with strings that sound like mouldy cat gut, and when he winds it up, it’s like he’s channeling the ghouls of delta blues, roughed up with post-punk sonic waves.
In this mode, Carter doing Hendrix’s If 6 were 9 as a modern day, TPPA-era protest song is invigorating as hell. Taking it in live, my mind went back to another 70s American cover that Carter made famous-in-New Zealand: Leonard Cohen’s So Long Marianne. There’s no sign of that kind of nostalgia these days though. Carter talked a lot about how pissed off he is: the flag, the All Blacks “and whatever else they’re serving us up for breakfast.”
I’m going up the road to the Going West writers fest twice this weekend. Today it was Geoff Chappell interviewing Rachel Barrowman on her recent biography of Maurice Gee. Tomorrow it’s Roger Horrocks on his (latest) biography on Len Lye.
Yes, I like biography. Let me know your favourite New Zealand one, or your favourite artist biography. Or both.