Hard News by Russell Brown

63

Friday Music: I'm Over The Edge

I still can't decide whether James Blake is a niche, or whether most pop music is going to sound this way in three years' time. But either way, his Auckland Town Hall show last Friday was quite an experience. It seemed much more built for the dancehall than what I saw online of his Coachella and Glastonbury sets -- although I wonder if that was partly because downstairs was all-standing. His shows in Sydney and Melbourne seem to have been much more sedate, but the room went pretty much nuts at times in Auckland.

Samantha de Silva put together a YouTube video of snippets from the show, which captures the sound and light but inevitably doesn't do justice to the intensity of being there.

I particularly liked way they cut loose into some freestyle rhythm in the middle of 'Limit To Your Love'. It's an interesting place for "dance" music to be when the dancers are often moving at twice the tempo that the music is, but it's a pretty cool place.

You know what wasn't good? The management of the council's venue company, The Edge, was having one of its periodic Town Hall security panics and channelling everyone through the side door to the concert chamber for searching. Result: a queue up Queen Street to get into a venue that has perfectly good access. I'm fairly sure the Sydney Opera House didn't bother with this when Blake played there a few nights before.

Inside, the security was over-manned and antsy. No one seemed quite sure what to do. And wasn't just bags being searched for booze. I wandered through without a bag and was confronted by a security guard who demanded that I go over to a table and turn out my pockets (and he was very insistent about it being every damn pocket). I gather I'm far from the only one this happened to. A friend's husband had to stand by while another guard shone a sodding torch into his tobacco packet.

Seriously, The Edge management: you are running a concert venue, not a nightclub. People have paid good money to attend a concert for a couple of hours. To what actual end are you searching those people's pockets?

For drugs? You're not the police. The subset of the crowd doing that has either taken its pills or, seeing the queue, stashed its pot in its socks or undies (and please don't suggest your hired hands should go looking there). But mostly, it's none of your business.

I did think about making an issue of this unreasonable request, but I just wanted to get in and get a beer and see the show. So, I turned out all my pockets and put all my personal stuff on the table, politely pointing out the absurdity of what was happening. I felt angry at myself for caving and it took me a good half hour to cheer up again. So thanks for that. And fuck you very much.

Fortunately, inside the venue, security, if equally numerous, were far less assertive, perhaps because they sensed they were a bit redundant. This was fortunate, because I discovered another Edge Fail on finding my seat. The original plan had been to go with Fiona, who thought she'd rather sit upstairs. So I booked a couple of circle seats looking down the room, via The Edge's online booking system. Which failed right at the end of the process, leaving me with no tickets.

So I called The Edge's box office, where a young man was able to confirm that he had my booking -- but then told me he could move us to "even better" seats. Well, okay, I said ...

It turned out that the seats, front row along the right-hand side, had been bypassed by the "best available" algorithim for a reason. It was completely impossible to see the named performer from them. He was playing on the far right of the stage. So my friend Chris and I (Fiona having slightly fractured her ankle) stood up upstairs and then just went down (where they'd already stopped checking wristbands) to join the throng.

Hey, The Edge: maybe you should put less into hapless crowds of security guards and pointless, invasive searches, and more into a robust bookings system.

Update: You'll note that the first comment for this post is a report of Town Hall security seizing chewing gum. Is this part of a strategy of insulting paying customers by treating them like children?

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This little number shot to the top of the Hype Machine chart yesterday. It samples Charlie Chaplin's 'The Greatest Speech Ever Made' from The Great Dictator against a fluid saxophone lick and a solemn, rolling bassline:

That led me to the Soundcloud page of its creator, Thomas Jack!, aka 20 year-old Australian Tom Johnston. And it turns out it's not even the best thing there. This kid is extraordinary. Take this gorgeous deep house track:

There's a highly assured Rodriguez remix:

And he even has a big, bouncy take on 'Royals':

Thomas Jack!: compulsory Soundcloud follow and one of my finds of the year. I suspect we'll hear a lot more of him.

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I attended the premiere of Simon Ogston's Skeptics film Sheen of Gold last week. It's great: a classic fan documentary grounded, inevitably, in the event that ended the band, the death of singer David D'Ath. There are a number of truly touching moments, including a visit with Chris Knox.

Simon interviewed me for the film, and I felt a bit embarrassed about not having much to give him, but there's a brief part from the interview that Simon Sweetman thought was worthwhile in his review of the film, so that's okay.

The film focuses on the Wellington years of the Skeptics and a version of the band I never saw play live (neither, remarkably, did Ogston) because I was out of the country (ironically, I had some great adventures with the band's erstwhile soundman, Greg Smith, in London, and also saw a bit of bass player Robin Gauld after he left).

The one story I thought I had worth telling thus didn't fit Simon's focus. It relates to touring (all the way from Auckland to Dunedin) with Children's Hour and stopping off in Palmerston North to play at Snailclamps the venue the Skeptics set up and ran. It being the old days, the venue was also the accommodation: we slept on the floor.

I will never forget opening my eyes the following morning to see David D'Ath and Greg, shirtless on the stage under a wash of red light, going through their morning tai ch'i -- while the soundtrack of Apocalypse Now played through the PA. You actually don't forget things like that,

Simon Sweetman's review describes John Halvorsen (who moved throgh the Skeptics en route from The Gordon to Bailter Space) as "a fascinating presence – echoing his strange, powerful sound that he added to the band. There’s a shyness and a deep intensity to this man in conversation as there is in his music."

It might also be said that Bailter Space doesn't quite feel like Bailter Space without his thunderous presence. And, hey look, on the heels of last summer's Laneway appearance, here's the first taste of a new album, trinine, with Halvorsen on bass:

Actually, it's not new as such. The New York recording predates the last album, Strobosphere, which didn't feature John. I'm quite sure no one's complaining about it seeing the light of day.

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Matthew Bannister's Evolver album, which I raved about last week, is now available for online purchase from Powertool Records. CD-only at present, but there has been an interesting discussion under last week's post, concluding that Sony/ATV's edict that Matthew cannot release the album as a digital download is wrong and unenforceable.

Also among the new releases at Powertool: Brother Love's 20 Years in a Rockin’  Boat, a compilation of the cult supergroup's work. A Brother Love lineup featuring  Marty Henderson (Axel Grinders, Brother Love), Dwayne Zarakov (aka Patrick Faigan, ex-King Loser, Axel Grinders), John Segovia (Axel Grinders, Shaft, Don McGlashan & the Seven Sisters) and George Henderson (the Puddle) plays the Lucha Lounge tonight and the new UFO, 9 Veronica Ave New Lynn, tomorrow night.

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Over at TheAudience, star vocal turns from Tom Scott and Tyna Keelan have unsurprisingly seen choiceVaughan's 'Eat People' shoot up the chart this week:

An interesting bass tune from Swaren Veygal. His Instagrams tell a story:

Bevan Smith (formerly of Signer) has teamed up with Amber Johnson as Waterfalls. This scoots and skips and pulses and is quite lovely:

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Bill Callahan... in dub? Yes. He's taken the intriguing step of previewing his forthcoming album Dream River by posting 'Expanding Dub', a version of an album track called 'Javelin Unlanding'.

And it's going to be a single, along with another dub track. If you tell me you saw that coming, I'm afraid I won't believe you.

A sultry re-edit of Ike and Tina, from a forthcoming Leftside Wobble release:

One for me and Simon Grigg. An acid classic nicely reworked:

I've started following the Japanese label Jazzysport on Soundcloud, after coming across this beautiful solo piano work by Takumi Kaneko:

There's a video to match, too:

Not usually my thing, but, wow.

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You know what you could do this weekend? Have a wander through Audioculture, the noisy library of New Zealand music. There are new articles and additions to existing entries every week. One of the most significant new entries is Josef Shaw's essay on the Daniel Bolton, aka Darcy Clay. It contains both things I hadn't known before and one particular thing almost no one has seen before: the original, handwritten lyrics to 'Jesus, I Was Evil'. Amazing.

Also, the latest in a series on the great venues: The Captain Cook in Dunedin, featuring an excellent telegram to Toy Love.

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And, finally, I'm playing some tunes tonight with Damian Christie, from 6pm to 10pm at Racket bar off Britomart. It'll be a sweet scene. Come on down!

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