Blog on the Tracks
Well, the other day I shared the best gigs I've seen in 2015 - so you know what has to follow...the worst.
I know, I know, we're supposed to just shut up about the bad gigs. They never happened. They were either wonderful - or they just didn't actually happen. Especially when you're a reviewer. There is an obligation to say positive things only. This fact was established by Marty Duda on National Radio just recently. It was an important thing to learn. Free tickets come at a price. And so positivity is required always.
Actually, I've been to more great gigs this year than bad ones. The way it should always be. That's what you hope for. That's how it's been for me every year as a reviewer actually. More good gigs than bad.
But there are always some stinkers - ones that I didn't enjoy. That's my opinion. That's all this is after all...
So, as with the best gigs, there's a chance with a few weeks left in the year that one or two of the gigs I've lined up to go to before Christmas could make this list, but fingers crossed they don't.
Ed Cake - or Edmund Cake - among the handful of monikers that Edmund McWilliams has made music under. I first learned about him via Bressa Creeting Cake (originally Breast Secreting Cake - that album is one of my all-time favourites, more on that some other time perhaps). I interviewed him once, when he was working under the band-name/project-title Pie Warmer.
There are only a small handful of recorded projects traced directly to Edmund Cake/McWilliams.
The Bressa album, the Pie Warmer album, he also worked with Neil Finn to make the score to RAIN, a wonderful soundtrack to a decent movie (from a great book). And to this day he's there in the background as session guy and producer, as an architect within and around the sounds of others. He's helped out Anika Moa and Don McGlashan, The Brunettes, Duchess and The Chills. And many more...
When Bressa Creeting Cake broke up - in the mid-late 90s (and they have reformed, I was so gutted to miss the reunion shows) - Ed Cake disappeared into the studio and formed a bunch of songs slowly, surely over a half-dozen years.
The result was Downtown Puff. The one Cake solo album (to this day).
There are a few more gigs to go for 2015 - and chances are one or two of them will deserve to be on a best of the year list (UMO most likely, also The Overdogs perhaps...) but I'm going to give you a run-down of the best shows I've seen this year (so far). In each case you can click the link to read the full review.
Nas at The James Cabaret - I miss the James Cabaret. Such a great venue. Well, the best we had going in Wellington anyway. It has its problems...but when it's packed and a great act is on it's one of the best places to be. And so it was early this year when Nas played his classic debut album in its entirety. And an encore set of other favourites. Just Nas on stage with a DJ behind him. Songs that are 20 years old and sound as fresh today as when we first heard them. And he's a great performer.
Little Dragon at Shed 6 - I don't miss Shed 6. It's the worst (new) venue in Wellington. But Little Dragon played a ripper. I'm not a huge fan of the band - I like some of their stuff, but it was a great live show. The songs seemed to really sparkle in this live setting. Of course I mentioned that the venue is a toilet, dank sound, makeshift bar - and I was promptly banned by the venue - Wellington City Council only like an honest review if it's praising their "hard work". They need to work smarter, not harder. Find a better venue. This one stinks.
Peter Hook & The Light at Bodega - Wasn't expecting to like this one so much. Yes, yes, a nostalgia-fest, and it was Peter Hook doing two New Order albums as well as a selection of Joy Division songs too. It was a long show - but it was fun. And good. Very, very good. A celebration. Those New Order songs were great. I left far more of a fan of New Order than I had previously realised.
Neneh Cherry at The James Cabaret - Before the show I had interviewed Cherry, I was also a huge fan of her "comeback" album. And on the day of the show we got to meet her, she was so very kind to Oscar. All of that sets you up for a good show, sure. You hope it's going to be good. But this was really magic. Great use of lighting to create and control moods, and loved the band behind her, RocketNumberNine. Their stuff is worth checking out too. But it was also a very special show because way back when I was at intermediate it was Guns 'N Roses and Beastie Boys and Neneh Cherry that were the first three acts I felt like I discovered on my own, away from the music my brother and my folks played at home. It was ticking the final name off that list in terms of live experiences.
Mogwai at The James Caberet - A tricky one this. I walked out. Couldn't take it. The noise was too much. It killed the music. It wasn't right. But the sound they were making - before it was ruined - was incredible. Also Mick Turner was a great opening act, I considered it a double-bill. So it was a great shame to walk. But I had to. So simultaneously one of the best and worst gigs of the year.
I often give plugs to shows in Wellington (since that's where I live and there's a chance I'll be attending the show) and when people ask me to - or alert me - I've given mention to shows around the country too, but it's usually Auckland and sometimes Christchurch. I should mention the provinces more. Right?
Well, this weekend The Julie Lamb Band is spearheading The Bungee Tour, a couple of shows in Masterton (Friday) and Napier (Saturday). The full line-up features opening sets by Vorn and the Spines. Well that's two of my favourite local acts right there. So there's every chance I'll attend both shows.
Vorn is one of Wellington's hardest working musicians - he appears in something close to 137 bands and busks and performs in various duo, trios and as a solo artist. You can hear Vorn singing sea-shanties and polkas, performing almost any cover you care to request and then of course there's the fact that he's a great songwriter - one of the underrated, underappreciated songwriters in this country.
We're at end of the year Best Of time. You might not have known that - because you perhaps read the lists over your summer holiday, or when you buy the December issue of the magazines (if you still buy the magazines). You read about it one day sometime between December 1 and December 31. Or scan it in the New Year.
But the writers have put those lists together already. In most cases. They've had to miss out on evenmentioning one or two of the albums that might yet turn heads, twist ears, change perceptions. They've had to take that chance - figuring that the list they have now is the list they'll stick with right up until December 31.
And how a record released in December suddenly gets to make a best of the year list - as happened in a lot of cases this time last year when D'Angelo finally spoke up after a decade+ break - never seems quite fair does it?
Similarly, those amazing albums released right near the start of the year don't seem to stand a chance - they're all but forgotten a few months on. Rosanne Cash made one of the best albums of 2014 - I was sure of that. But she released it in January. It might have made a few more end of the year lists if it had been readied for a June purchase.
I wrote about the best albums released in the first quarter of the year. They were piling up already. I needed to get some of them down on a list.
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