What summer sounds like
It may not feel like summer, but it will start to sound a bit more like it with Sounds of Summer 2017 beginning this Sunday. Carly Thomas has a look at the lineup.
Everyone is talking about the weather. Palmerston North's had a definite shortage of summer and optimistic squinting at the clouds has become our thing.
But maybe it's time we made our own sunshine. Maybe the Sounds of Summer lineup of local musicians is warmth enough.
In its fifth year under the hand of Access Manawatu, the Sounds of Summer has become a much-loved event, turning the Esplanade into a stage for sweet tunes, dancing kids, picnic blankets and kicked-back free entertainment.
Five Sunday shows will roll out and this year they fit into distinct categories – blues and funk, folk, chill out, world and rock. Organiser Fraser Greig says everyone will know what to expect, but there is "different stuff in there too".
"I'm keen to promote that and to challenge a little. Not everything's mainstream."
Ceol Manawatu add a point of contrast with a collective of musicians and a congregation of some interesting instruments. Gaelic sounds float from a bouzouki, mandolin and whistles, which are all grounded by the sonic boom of a bagpipe. Founder of the forever evolving group, Paul Turner says all of the songs and tunes they play are from Manawatu.
"There have been legendary people in our region like Don Sargent. He composed hundreds of tunes and they were really cool and there has been a strong piping tradition in the Manawatu. There is heaps of material here."
The group have just recorded a new album and Turner says they will be playing tunes from that, "hopefully in the sun".
"It's always a great vibe and a great setting. It's all about community, it really is. It's neat."
Talk also turns to the weather when a trio of young musicians huddle over coffees. They are Kokoa Nashi and unlike Ceol Manawatu, who have been on the scene for about 10 years, these boys are the new wave.
All UCOL contemporary music performance graduates, the band started out with Christian Perry and Jimi Afeaki plucking away acoustically on their guitars. Drummer Kahi Bettridge heard their music and thought "that would sound way cooler with drums".
"We use guitar pro, so I took some of their songs from that, added drums and bass to it and they liked it. So we just did it, really."
Bass player Lewis Barker also wandered into the mix and Kokoa Nashi was born. They don't do vocals, but they do some pretty fancy finger picking and guitar magic. Bettridge attempts to describe the sound, which is a hard one to nail down.
"Basically, what we try to go for is like a neutral sound, like not happy, not sad, but it could be as well."
Barker adds in "interesting melodic ideas".
The band have been playing a few gigs around town, at The Stomach, Snails and the Celtic, and they are about to step into the recording studio soon to lay down their first EP. Bettridge says the Sounds of Summer audience will probably be a bit different than their usual one and they are looking forward to seeing people's reactions.
"We have a lazy Sunday kind of a vibe, so it should go down well."
Diamond Sutra on the other hand are more like hitting the wake-up button rather than snooze. They are a driving rock band who have played Sounds of Summer a few times, and as Greig says, are "always welcome on the stage". "They are awesome and Tracey-Lynne's vocals are amazing."
They are four well-versed musos who all play for the pure love of it. Liam Cody and Scott Meyer go way back to playing in high school bands together and Tracey-Lynne Cody is married to Liam, so yeah, there's history there, too.
Daniel Ashcroft is the newbie, having taken over on drums a few years back. He lives and breathes music and fits right in to this rock metal family. He says the music they make is "definitely unique".
"It's very, very theory-based, musical, intricate key structure kind of thing. But at the same time it's very processable for the average listener. It's not generic or contemporary. It's just a good blend."
Having been on the Palmerston North music scene for quite some time, the band also like the community aspect of Sounds of Summer. Tracey-Lynne Cody says she really appreciates that there are opportunities like this for them.
"To have a variety of local music presented to all sorts of people in a cool location is a fabulous initiative. Fraser has always been so supportive."
Greig will be there at every concert with his long-legged stride, his booming Scottish voice and his unfeigned love of music. And if the sun's not there with him, then pack your own in with a picnic because, after all, the Sounds of Summer is run mostly on love anyway and that outshines sun any day.
Sounds of Summer is funded by the Palmerston North City Council.
The Sounds of Summer Sunday concerts start on January 15 at 2pm-5pm and run through until February 12. There are also lunchtime concerts in The Square from January 13 to February 7, 12pm-1.30pm.