Wellington bands rock A Day on the Green

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012
Barnaby Weir
BARNABY WEIR: Black Seeds frontman and Fly My Pretties' ringmaster.

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Fittingly timed for the second weekend of summer, the Kiwi edition of A Day on the Green lands at the Alana Estate in Martinborough on Saturday with three of Wellington's biggest acts.

Fly My Pretties, the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and the Black Seeds will perform outdoors. Hopefully to the backdrop of an amber sunset.

Grab the jandals, slap on some sunscreen, pack a picnic and don't forget your jacket ("just in case"), urges Barnaby Weir, Fly My Pretties' ringmaster and Black Seeds frontman.

A Day on the Green, an Aussie invention that first hit these shores in 2008, has proved popular with Kiwis who enjoy the combination of a picturesque outdoor location and great music - with the bonus of being able to eat and drink.

Surprisingly, it's the first A Day on the Green outing for Wellington eight-piece The Black Seeds. Rolling Stone recently boldly alleged they were "the best reggae band in the world right now".

Just in time for Christmas, the group have released a deluxe version of their latest album, Dust and Dirt, which debuted at No 1 in the New Zealand album charts.

"The Black Seeds have never played with Fly My Pretties. It seemed like a good combination. We're not doing too many gigs over summer. We've had a busy year and we're trying to have a bit of down time," Weir explains.

Next year, the group will tour Europe again, he says, with gigs in South America on the cards.

Weir is also the ringleader and founder of "showcase" outfit Fly My Pretties, which began in 2004, so it's a double gig for the musician.

"I'll get warmed up with the Pretties before the Black Seeds. I'll just need to change costume."

The Alana Estate concert features a "best of" version of the Pretties' lineup - a 20-strong cast that will showcase past members from all four incarnations with new additions. "Ria Hall joins us for the first time. We've never worked on anything together before. She's got a great voice and complements what we've tried to do with Fly My Pretties from the start."

Weir says although Fly My Pretties has been flying for eight years, some people still can't get their heads around what it is.

"I think Fly My Pretties is a concept some people find hard to understand. They think it's a band. We play music together but we're not a band, we're not a collective either. It's a showcase of different music as opposed to a travelling band."

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Lauren Anne (L A) Mitchell agrees. In the cafe where we meet, a Fly My Pretties fan greets her instantly and shows her the Fly My Pretties fantail tattoo on his back. Mitchell was there when he got it.

"In a way the Fly My Pretties issue is the same one I have. People don't know what I am or how to define me. They know me as one of many things, whether they know me because of the Dukes, my solo albums, touring with Dave Dobbyn, Fly My Pretties or from AHoriBuzz," she says, her piercing blue eyes animated. The multi-talented musician first carved out a name for herself on the soul, jazz tip in 2004, known as the petite feisty woman who played keys with visible passion and a fiercely wriggling shoulder. She self-funded and self-produced her first two albums, 2007's Debut and, with her band of the time, Nativa, Live At The Matterhorn the following year.

Her song, Apple Heart, which had its debut during the Fly My Pretties nationwide tour in November, is a love song for her fiance, Matt Barus, songwriter and frontman for Dukes. Her summer performances fit in around a January wedding.

Having spent a lot of time on the road with Dave Dobbyn or Dukes (some call them "that Vampires band"), AHoriBuzz, Fly My Pretties or solo, Mitchell's clocked up some impressive support gigs for such big names as Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie and The Pretenders. ("Chrissie Hynde came up to us after our show - the woman is so skinny she's held together by those leather pants - and said, ‘You guys rock'.")

Mitchell also recalls fondly the time she and manager Lorraine Barry bumped into Mick Jagger in Surrey. After her gig, which Mitchell persuaded him to attend, he gave Mitchell a hug and said she was "amazing".

"I really enjoy the process with Fly My Pretties," Mitchell says. "It's getting together with like-minded people and seeing where the song takes you.

"I also like that there are multiple women on stage, it's not often that you see that."

- A Day on the Green with The Black Seeds, Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and Fly My Pretties, Alana Estate, Martinborough, December 8.

- The Dominion Post

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