NZ Music Month: Best by 2009

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014
Doprah

GREAT TALENT: Christchurch band Doprah

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Vicki Anderson argues that it's time New Zealand Music Month became New Zealand Musicians Month, Unheard Music Month or Non-Mainstream New Zealand Music Month.

New Zealand Music Month wheezes to a halt this week. Did it make a difference to you?

In previous years the event was launched with much fanfare, T-shirts and gimmicks. This year's marketing campaign seemed to mostly consist of whispered gig announcements and defensive tweets.

Only four years ago I was dispatched at 6am on a Saturday morning to Christchurch Airport where Opshop was playing one of 10 gigs in one day around the country to mark music month.

Perhaps it was an omen when their plane encountered a bird strike and was grounded.

This year's Christchurch launch was discreet by comparison.

Marlon Williams headlined a gig at New Brighton Library.

Beforehand I asked him if he believed celebrating music month was necessary.

"It seems like a good thing in terms of awareness but it often does turn into a novelty showcase. It's a weird way to quantify music. I'm on the fence. It's just another gig to be honest," he said, eloquently summing up the way most musicians feel about it.

New Zealand music has developed to become an essential part of our national identity. In all genres of music in New Zealand, we have musicians who have achieved national and international recognition.

While it has undoubtedly achieved its goal of increasing mainstream awareness of local artists since its inception in 2001, the current form of NZMM is past its use-by date.

It was established in 2001 by the New Zealand Music Industry Commission (NZMC), a charitable trust. The Government established the NZMC in 2000 to foster New Zealand popular music composition, performance, recording and marketing, and to promote New Zealand music here and overseas.

In the beginning it was about having New Zealand music "everywhere" in the month of May "every year" - but over a decade on it's become a bit stale.

Every year the same established artists are dragged out and paraded around for a bit, alongside new current industry favourites with cynically timed new releases who are touted as "the next big thing for now".

It's all so boring and predictable.

I've come to the conclusion that the problem with music month lies largely at the feet of those in the "industry" who suck an income from musicians. Music month needs a makeover. It needs to have the "industry" around it surgically removed in order to survive.

What about renaming it NZ Musicians Month or Non-Mainstream NZ Music Month?

Money which currently goes to fund industry teet suckers could instead be put into an artists' fund. The public could democratically vote on which musicians should get, say, $10,000 each and these nominated musicians would become an artist in residence for the year.

What we have now is a little like Valentine's Day - it is the musical equivalent of overpriced roses. You know you should show your love every day but Hallmark (or, in this case, the NZ Music Commission) likes to hit you over the head with a yearly reminder to make a cheesy gesture.

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Some of these industry people spend a year and tens of thousands of taxpayer monies planning music month while the very musicians they claim to be supporting contemplate the sale of vital organs just to get enough money together to buy petrol for the next tour. It would be laughable if it wasn't true.

I met a North Island teet sucker from the music industry while judging the final of the RDU RounDUp band competition last Friday night.

I nicknamed him comic book guy.

For a brief period I saw Christchurch music through his industry eyes. As I did so I felt as if I should have had a piece of straw dangling from my mouth.

He didn't dance. Instead he stroked his chin.

He said things like: "This is rather Christchurch" (not in a good way) and "I bet this band read Pitchfork".

"It's nice to get down here occasionally and see what's happening in Christchurch," he said, looking around somewhat disdainfully.

He had been hoping that Christchurch musicians would be feeling a little angrier post-quake. He felt the Christchurch scene was "anaesthetised".

"Doprah, Salad Boys, Zen Mantra, Aldous Harding, Melted Ice-Cream, Yumi Zouma," I shouted at him above the noise of the crowd, before drawing breath. "Asian Tang, X-Ray Charles, Delaney Davidson, Ahoribuzz, AOS, Tiny Lies, The Eastern. . .".

But he was too busy talking about how much better Auckland bands were to hear me.

We all know that judging art is impossible and band competitions are not created equal.

In many ways such competitions are a microcosm of the wider industry.

Everyone who peddles the industry of music is looking for the right band that will fit their so-called "right" format.

I believe that in a band competition the best band on the night should win, regardless of what genre pigeonhole someone wants to shove them into.

Music is heart. Music is soul. But for those in the industry, music is money.

Sparkle Kitty won the 2014 RounDUp band competition.

Four out of five judges voted for them. I congratulate them on their win. I like their liberal use of glitter as much as the next girl. They were fun, quirky and they made me dance.

But I was the only judge who didn't vote for Sparkle Kitty.

When it became awkwardly apparent that I was not going to have my mind changed by a uniquely weird type of music judging peer pressure, comic book guy patronisingly suggested it was time I went outside and had a cry.

You know, because I'm a chick.

Kudos to RDU and Dux Live for continuing to stage this event for rising musicians - this is what music month should really be about.

For me the winner on the night was the consistent The Near Veddar, a bunch of 18 to 21-year-old jazz school students whose rock songs - Suffocate and Nausea - I am still humming several days later. Come to think of it, I should have told comic book guy to "Get Outta My Face".

The Near Veddar are a super-tight band with memorable songs. I look forward to watching their career develop. Cough. After all I remember the year Shapeshifter placed second in a RounDUp final.

Villain were another favourite, they had me floating in a Sonic Youth-type soundscape. Foldback galore, wink. They have a live album coming out in a month or so - I suggest you grab it. Terror Tapes put on a high energy show, as did pop punk outfit This Disaster (find their EP on iTunes) and Apollo Suite were sweetly groovy.

Music month is over for another year which means we can all get on with the business of enjoying music free from any lame industry-applied expectations.

No matter what the Government appointed "commission" says, it's always the right time to go out and support our phenomenal live music scene, from the established artists who don't get radio play to the rising stars and the venues who provide the spaces for us to appreciate it.

You never know, you might just find your new favourite band in your own backyard as I did last week.

THE DETAILS:

This long weekend go and hear some great Kiwi sounds: Tonight: Tahuna Breaks at Dux Live. Saturday: Sherpa with X-Ray Charles at the Darkroom; AHoriBuzz at Winnie Bagoes City; One Waka at the Brewery; Jordan Luck Band at the Ferrymead Speight's; Barry Saunders, Lindon Puffin and Matt Langley at the Wunderbar. Sunday: The Chills at Churchills.

- The Press

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