Baths, Whammy Bar Wednesday 15 November 2012
After arriving pretty early at Whammy (it was a school night, ok?), we were kindly informed by the ubiquitous promoter Matthew Crawley that the show would be running late to account for a clash with SJD, playing nearby. So we got a bottle of Bushmans* and settled into a booth.
The first act was Foxtrot a one woman act with looper pedals facilitating playful vocal beat-setting, overlayed with her ethereal moan. It was a polished, though somewhat dull performance. A bit Grimes-y, minus them badass beats. Get some badass beats I say!
Next up was kiwi electro duo Black City Lights. Now Calum Robb knows beats, and singer Julia Catherine Parr’s impressive vocals carried the dark electro into pop star territory (in a good way). A charming highlight was their discordant mashup cover of the Fugees’ Ready or Not, TLC’s No Scrubs, with just a touch of Rihanna for good measure.
Now for the main act: Baths’ warm, mellow electro seemed much more dynamic live than at home, and I was dancing to every song. The sound was rich and layered and the whole crowd was into it. His banter was a little obnoxious, from state-the-obvious intros (‘this next song is pretty dancey’) to the bizarre (‘this one is a bit gross so dance gross’). Besides this the show was great, with some sneak previews of tracks from his yet to be released album and lots of crowd pleasers from 2010’s Cerulean. Now if he could just keep his mouth shut…
*hot tip: this is by far the cheapest beer at Whammy- $8 for a massive bottle, and it provides the added bonus of the illusion of small hands.
We had a total blast last weekend! Camp is an independent music festival where most of the bands are camping with everyone else. There is a big freezing cold lagoon where the pool parties rocked each afternoon. Most of the musicians you have never heard of before (except the ones who are your flatmate’s girlfriend’s band, for example), but you always come away with a huge list of new bands to follow, and a couple of sweet band t-shirts, if you’re lucky.
I saw, and made notes on, around 30 bands over the 3 days, so I shall give you but the highlights only.
Thursday night: pre-party tantrums
Not officially part of the camp program, Thursday night is a bit of an impromptu party night and this one was pretty bloody fun. Dan Deacon hit the decks, oh wait, I mean his iPhone, and was killing it with 90s dance hits. All was going blissfully until one too many people requested a song (I heard the phrase “can’t you play something actually good, not ironic?”) and Mr Deacon threw his toys right out of the cot. “I’m just some guy from America, playing some music on his phone, man”. He diva’d off the stage, presumably to have his ego massaged for 8 or 10 beats and back he came, gut proudly erect, ready to play a few more TLC numbers before bedtime.
Improv rapping based on the ‘hilarious’ suggestions from the crowd takes a certain calibre of rap talent and confidence. Thankfully Megalex was incredibly quick and finding rhymes mid rap and managed to be funny and clever at the same time. I especially enjoyed this shout-out mid song: “oh hi Carmel! I haven’t seen you in ages!”. Yussss. Off to a good start.
Wintercoats ★★★★ 1/2
The first of many one-person acts at camp, and the first show we saw at the Forest stage (yeah, it’s in the forest, totally lush), Wintercoats was just lovely, in a haunting, eerie kind of way. Combining looped violin parts with a pretty deep bass and 80s emo vocals, he was absolutely engaging. The cover of ‘No Scrubs’ clinched it- the way he performed it, one might think Scrubs were ghouls coming for your baby sister in the night. No scrubs, please! For the love of god, no scrubs…
Assassins 88 ★★★★
The drummer sings with a tiny microphone duct taped to his face. I stumbled upon this band in the Noisy Room (so descriptive) and I was in that tipsy state, and it was some kind of alchemy. Melodic, garage rock at its best with little 60s touches, this was the only rock’n’roll at camp that really got me. By the way, did you know the Sonics are playing in Auckland next month? Bamm!
Sexy Merlin ★★★★★
Totally psychedelic spooky drummerboy from Toronto. At times a pretty ghostly feel, Mr Merlin’s deep melodramatic vocals kept the crowds a shakin’ and a screamin’ with the help of those tropical beats. Got the t-shirt.
Full disclosure; Sexy Merlin is my boyfriend’s brother. Ok, I’m biased. Wanna know a cool story? I emailed Blink (camp organiser) when I was still living in Canada and told him about Sexy Merlin and ages later he was like ‘Yeah! He rules, let’s get him over here!’. So awesome! Extra credit goes to the lady friend of Mr Merlin who made from scratch the most original, magical and comfortable t-shirts in the merch tent. They sold out so if you have one, you be lucky!
Gutter Parties ★★★★
Shoegaze pop with, at times a bit of a calypso feel. Very nice indeed.
Spring Break ★★★1/2
Hilarious 80s synth pair in matching lilac shirts. Got naked during set. Completely circumnavigated the lagoon during their set.
Jon Lemmon ★★★
Pretty uplifting dance/power ballads. There is hope in dancing to electronic anthems in a forest. Right?
Terrible Truths ★★★★
Australian band that includes the woman from Rites Wild (for the record, I gave that one ★★★). Very much enjoyed this dreamy shoegaze set from the banks of the lagoon defrosting after a dip.
Brian Borcherdt ★★★★1/2
Another Canadian (also in bands Holy Fuck and Dusted), Brian’s set was a testament to the well written song. Oh it helps that he has that lovely gravelly voice, he can play and yeah he is charming as hell, but god those songs were beautiful. Accompanied, at times, by fellow talented Torontonians Sexy Merlin on drums and Anna Edwards on guitar, these understated sets (he played twice over the weekend) were true highlights of camp.
Oh just a little downbeat electro r’n’b to get you through the day. Distorted vocals, a dreamy ethereal feel took this music way way far away from the expected. Beautiful set with the sun setting behind the hill.
Kirin J. Callinan ★★★
Super eccentric throaty voiced creeper. His drama filled act dragged a little but he is included this highlights list as he had excellent personal style: black gloves, big weird sweater, little shorts, John Waters sneer. A bit of a fruitloop, and gosh don’t we need more of these?
If you wonder why my scores are pretty high, I didn’t want to harp on about the bands I wasn’t really into. So negative! Don’t waste your time reading about bands that are a snooze, waste your time looking these ones up instead!
Here is my round up of Laneways 2012 - Auckland edition 2012.
Chronological order, of course.
EMA ★★★ 1/2
Lead Erika M Anderson (whoa that’s why they are called EMA! yeah I didn’t know that either!) was a great combo of weird/diva: gesturing to her crotch more than once and a choreographed gun dance during that song that says gun a lot. I also enjoyed the dork-punk aesthetic of the band’s getup. Oh so refreshing.
Flanked by magical faeries, lead Katie Stelmanis was almost out-charismaed. Even keys fella had robocop+chain shades plus short shorts and chest baring floppy waistcoat thingie. Sound was great, but it was the theatrical performance that earned Austra that extra star.
Cults ★★ 1/2
Kicking off their set with terrible sound and a mic not even turned on for an entire verse, it was a pretty disappointing start for NYC’s answer to the Brunettes (bet it’s never been compared THAT way before). I have seen them four times in the last year so this show held no surprises. They haven’t really changed or grown in any tangible way (unlike Austra whose show was 100% better than the last time we saw them in Montreal). I am always quite distracted but the singer’s tendency to look like she is gonna burst into tears when she is singing, charming though she is otherwise!
Girls ★★★★ 1/2
Love that Girlfriend song! Best dancing of the day thus far, charming and funny band members, great great set. I am crazy for this band! Here is a not great quality pic:
Long wait but oh so worth it.
Pains of Being Pure at Heart ★★★1/2
Played at the small stage, almost didn’t go as their last album felt a bit dry to my ears, but man, they were great! Lots of energy and quite charming.
Nice Block ★★
When the heat was going strong I knew it was popsicle time. The charming and trendy Nice Blocks have been getting pretty popular but when I went to try my first one, only orange was left (they have waaaay better flavours than that). And the juice had separated while freezing so the first 1/4 was just ice! Pfft. Pat got a strawberry and lemon one later which was way nicer.
Pajama Club ★
I wanted to like this band (ex Split Enz/Crowded House-er Neil Finn, his wife Sharon Finn + friends) but they were a total yawnfest. Bill Bailey lookalike was abusing the spacey sound machine. Neil Finn said fuck. No me gusta. On the plus side, a pretty great cover of a Bowie song - we think it was Moonage Daydream but comment if you know better. Hot female aussie drummer.
Washed Out ★★★1/2
I do love a swelling synth so Washed Out satisfied me on that count. A shame about the odd Ernest Greene: ‘Get those hands UP!!!’ Oh well he gave us the laughs.
Twin Shadow ★★★1/2
Winner: best personal style. Toughest keyboard player of the day. Ha she should get in a fight with the Horror’s keys prepster. I’d pay to watch that. George Lewis Jr. had his classic marvelous swagger.
Sassy as hell and for sure the best engagement with the crowd, our dear friend Feist managed the complete tech failure of her guitar and mic with aplomb. When we were back on track she threw out loads from the new album, Metals, but also a wonderfully rearranged Mushaboom, with a finale of the hyperactive Feel It All. Interesting were her dowdy back up nymphs - costumes in a sort of woodland creature sack, Feist herself as a sexy version. A wee bit paranoid bride, if you catch my drift.
The Horrors ★★★
Tight, just like their jeans, the Horrors were a just a little disappointing. They have sure toned down the gothy creeper attitude, but is that for the better? Style notes: Circa first album the band wore the all black plus hairspray and eyeliner uniform. They are now allowed to dress themselves and so we had a delightful mix of the aforementioned keyboard playing preppy, bass player a sort of Jarvis Cocker meets Suede, guitarist looks like the teenage boy at the comic book store, and singer had a certian Vincent Noir going on. Sorry drummer, can’t remember your steez.
I will let my notebook speak for itself:
I wish I could say that was the end of the fest, but unfortunately there was…
The animations were pretty great (that was the one full star), and ok, I’ll admit it, I really really like that song he does with Kimbra. He made the crowd sing her part cos she wasn’t there and lordie the crowd knew it. Otherwise, this is NOT a good band. Do not see live. I used this set as an opportunity to scratch my nail polish off. Yes. It was that bad.
There was space to dance! A great sized (read: small) festival with almost everything good in one place and very few clashes (sorry Sbtrkt, I missed you). People were good and nice to each other! Also- how come it seems like all of a sudden everyone in Auckland has great style and cute haircuts. Do they live in Papatoetoe and just come to town once a year?
Show companions Pat, Gemma, Anna and Tim all contributed to this being one of the best festivals I’ve been to. Aces!