Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music! It's us, as culture

Last night, we went to the opening of Auckland Museum's exhibition Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa. As I've noted here previously, the very fact of this exhibition is an endorsement of popular music as culture – our culture – and Mark Roach, the man who proposed the idea two years ago and has worked on it ever since, had every reason to be standing at the door beaming as the guests streamed in.

It's a modern museum exhibition, which means that alongside key objects there are interactive features which will be particularly good for kids. So you (or your kids) can magic yourself into the set of C'mon, or have a crack at remixing Che Fu's 'Fade Away' under the video tutelage of Sir Vere. Everyone gets a laminate on entry and it can be used to tag various exhibits to collect Spotify playlists (Spotify partner Spark is the corporate sponsor) then redeemed for emailing to the holder.

An opening where hundreds of people descend on the exhibition at once isn't really the best way to experience something this big and I'll be going back at least once once on a quiet weekday afternoon. But last night there was still plenty to gaze at and dream on.

There was this – New Zealand's first homebrew synthesiser, built by Paul Crowther of Split Enz in 1973. Wow!

And this, one of the Chicks' tunics, by Annie Bonza:

And that time that Jon Toogood from Shihad crossed out a shit opening line and wrote in a classic one.

For what is perforce a mainstream exhibition, Volume is notably adventurous in its reach: punk rock and its objects, student radio, Pacific hip hop and Chris Knox's famous TEAC four-track all have their place. In a sense, the wilder reaches are present because they've gained admission to the music industry narrative, and that's fine. But I came away thinking of niche projects that could take a cue from this.

The art of music posters and covers is an obvious one – there's more than enough to fill a separate exhibition. Ditto for a dedicated show of photographs or a look at hip hop street art. And whatever happened to Jac Dwyer's model for the cover of the Headless Chickens' Stunt Clown, or the backcloth for the 'Cruise Control' video? What of the deeper social histories behind club culture? This isn't a criticism but an observation that the culture is too big to be fully captured even in an exhibition as prodigious as this one. There's a lot of it – a lot of us.

But for now, Volume is on for the next seven months and if you live in Auckland or will be visiting in that time, you really should go and enjoy it. It's quite a thing.


There was, of course, a party on too and Jackson Perry and I got a few pics of that. Here's Mark Roach, looking pretty much how he did all night:

Aroha as the DJ (Jackson):

Tami Neilson and Silke Hartung (Jackson):

A Hallelujah Picasso in a museum! (Jackson)

The all-star band that played a half-hour medley brought it home emphatically with 'Poi E' as I took this picture – I love the juxtaposition with what's on screen.  (I could really have done with them doing a few of those songs at their full length – Chip Matthews' bass playing on Straitjacket Fits' 'Done' was gorgeous.)


The other preview I got yesterday was a walkthrough of the new Laneway festival site – and and around Albert Park – with the promoter, Mark Kneebone.

Let's take a moment to appreciate entertainment promoters. Theirs is a gig that embodies a high degree of risk by its nature. More so in the case of festival promoters, who face financial risk, especially early in the life of a franchise, along with the risks of being responsible for a very large group of people of less-than-sound mind. Oh, and the weather.

It's also really complicated. I've written previously of the effort that CRS went to in securing consents to hold the Big Day Out and Auckland City Limits at Western Springs. I'm wondering if Laneway's job in sorting out the Albert Park precinct was even bigger.

Two of the four stages will have to be customised – built as modules and shipped on site – because they're in a park full of heritage sites and trees and standard staging won't fit. The whole park will be fenced, meaning a doubling of onsite security staff. Three streets – Princes, Alfred and Wellesley up from Queen – have to be closed. And there's a rather large university in the middle of it all. That will be fenced – while being kept open for staff and students – too.

But, you know, it looks great. This year, down at Wynyard, I chose not to arrive until 6pm, because I just couldn't face being baked on the asphalt. The new site has hectares of grass and a lot of shade and the promoters are looking for people to spend longer on site. There will be more bar space, more food and, on this part of the park, a bar offering $9 glasses of boutique wine ("Nothing that's for sale in supermarkets", apparently).

Stage 2, accommodating a crowd of 4000-5000, will be at the south end of the park, by the old toilet block. It's one of the bespoke stages:

This is Mark pointing to Stage 3, a smaller stage in the middle of the park:

Stage 1, where Tame Impala will close, will sit at one end of Princes Street, facing this way:

And the old Thunderdome will be replaced by a stage looking back at the park from Alfred Street.

If the stage names seem a bit functional to you, they're not permanent. The public will be invited to name each of them in December.

Mark was frank about the fact that they're not yet clear how how the stages will interact and how good sound separation will be. (He can probably console himself with the thought that it could never be as bad as the infamous back-to-back stage at the original Auckland Laneway in Britomart Square.)

The first show on a new site is always a bit of an experiment, but on the basis of what I saw yesterday, it's hard to see how they could have prepared better. This will be a show that's in an urban location and a park setting that offers space and shelter. I wil certainly be there.


In other summer festival news this week, Splore made its second lineup announcement, adding Blackalicious, Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey of Morcheeba and more.



Greg Fleming launched his new album To Hell With These Streets last night – it's urban alt-country, if that makes sense. Here's the title track:

Teeth, a band including Luke Buda which is not The Phoenix Foundation, recently released this way-dreamier-than-the-title-sounds single. You can buy it here on Bandcamp. (They're also taking a month-long residency in at Meow in Wellington.)

Whoop whoop! Original 1978 disco banger alert! (Reshare to download from HearThis.)

Aaaaaand nearly three and a half hours of RocknRolla Soundsystem at a gig this week in Gronigen, to freely download. Gotta love that. (Click through for track listing.)


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant