Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: It's good to let music make you cry

If you haven't watched John Campbell having a moment when Sharon van Etten plays a song just for him on a surprise live cross to the Keng's Arms, you might want to take a moment and do so.

On one hand, it's a testament to the culture of Campbell Live that they'd do this as a treat for their host – a passionate van Etten fan who couldn't make her first New Zealand show because he was hosting an event last night – even to the extent of switching his autocue script at the last moment. Nice one, team. And on the other, it's a lovely, honest acknowledgement of the role music can play in our lives.

As it becomes clear to him what's happening, John has to wipe away tears. "Music keeps you afloat sometimes," he observes to himself as much as his audience.

Yeah. I cry a lot more than when I was 25. I think it's a matter both of having more to cry about – a richer stock of memories to touch in the moment – and of understanding that there is generally no reason not to cry.

And I cry sometimes at gigs. The first time I saw Lucinda Williams play, she and her band completely undid me with 'Right In Time'. When Lawrence Arabia and his band last year wound up one of his "plays the albums" shows with a version of the Velvet Underground's 'I Found a Reason', I wept out of surprise and recognition and because it was so damn beautiful. In both cases, I spent the next week playing the songs over and again. They had been enriched for me by the human experience of hearing them performed and being moved.

Shedding a tear isn't the only human response to music, of course. It's just as good to be happy and to dance if the music moves you. And John Campbell has form here too: readers and viewers may recall him whooping like a loon off-camera when another of his favourites, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, played at Laneway. For me, there's not much that can touch the sheer joy of a good dancefloor, where the dull cares have melted away and the music is all that matters.

Having started this thought, I'm not quite sure how to finish it. So I'm going to hand over to Bob Marley right here ...


It was clear to me on Wednesday night that my talk for the Christchurch Art Gallery on Christchurch Music in the 1980s, part of a series the gallery has been running on that decade, also stirred some emotions. Although by no means everyone in the room had been at the pubs and dances I talked about, quite a few had, and it was nice to know that fitting my feelings about the time into the intellectual structure of the talk was the right thing to do.

A number of people have already asked about whether the talk could be shared. Happily, yes. I'll work out with the gallery whether it make more sense for them or me to publish the text and its accompanying images and let you know when it's done.

There is, of course, music still being made in Christchurch and I'll look more closely at some of that in the next week or two. But for now, out this week, a stripped-down new EP from Blair Parkes and Hayden Sharp as Range. In my talk, I noted the importance of old, informal spaces. This is made with one microphone in a shed and it's quite lovely:

There's also a re-release of Range's 1999 bNet-nominated album All the Way to Lunch.


While Shayne Carter was in Dunedin to play his part in the Southern Sinfonia spectacle, he also did a solo gig at Taste Merchants. Ans this mroning, the Flying Nun Vault posted a recording of the version he played of 'Randolph's Going Home'.

The best response seems to be to link to the story I wrote from the last time I interviewed Wayne – the last time anyone did – which concluded with Wayne saying the following. I think it's relevant to what I wrote at the top of this post:

“There have been Doublehappys gigs that have just been absolutely magic. Where there’s been this feeling – it sounds like a load of shit – times when I’ve stopped playing and I’ve thought ‘That was magic, that was wonderful.’ That’s the sort of thing that makes me want to waste my time getting up on stage with a band and playing guitar. It really is really good. It’s not a pose, it’s not fucking anything – it’s a really good wonderful feeling.”


Meanwhile, Wellington's Riot Radio blog has this ironic but oddly useful guide to making a playlist, which ends thus:

In any fair society, people are judged on what they listen to.  It also isn’t as simple as ‘Bad people listen to Slipknot and good people listen to Pharoahe Monch’ because, while this is certainly true, there are nuances to it. You can send messages about yourself or what you wish to say by the choices you make and then play to your public.

You may want to impress upon people that you’ve ‘been raving for years mate’ by stacking your playlist with lots of early nineties breakbeat hardcore. You may want to impress upon people that you really aren’t a racist, so you add lots of Black Milk or Public Enemy tunes. You may wish impress upon people that you are a boring dickhead and thus you add several Mumford & Sons songs.

Music is a tool of communication and not solely one that’s wielded by its creator alone; it can also be wielded by the selector. Or ‘selectah’ if its ska.

And that’s what its all really about isn’t it. Communicating with our friends. Sharing.

Give me a hug.


We'd best get to the tunes, because the day is rushing past.

I know I seem to be pushing a new Janine and the Mixtape tune at you every week lately, but this one is really new. It's the first glimpse of her next recording project:

Aucklands Coco Solid features on this remake of the Detroit techno classic 'Transition' for International Women's Day. It's a free download, it features vocals in English, Portuguese, Spanish and Maori and it's a fucking banger:

The brilliant RocknRolla Soundsystem have gone deep with their latest rework, fishing up the groove in Van Morrison's psyechedlic epic 'TB Sheets'. Free download:

A finally, nice edit of Bobby Womack's version of 'California Dreaming', also, you guessed it, a free DL:


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