Hard News by Russell Brown


Music: Avantdale is something special

There was a lot on last night in Auckland. Billy Bragg was in the middle of his three-night stand out in Avondale. Chelsea Jade flew in from LA and, by all accounts, played a stunner to a sellout crowd at Galatos. Images from three different end-of-year awards ceremonies shuttled across my social media. Me, I was at the Mercury Theatre.

Avantdale Bowling Club's self-titled debut album combines the fluidity of a live jazz band with the urgency of of hip hop – or, at least, it appears to. In reality, the produced sound is a tapestry of elements: the album's opening moment, the saxophone intro to 'Years Gone By', is actually notes from two different sax players, Ben McNicholl and JY Jong-Yun Lee, recorded at different times and blended together to say one thing. So I was interested to see what kind of stage performance would be spun out of it.

A truly remarkable one, it turns out. This is such a good band. But there's another element there. There were stretches when Julien Dyne was able to sit back and play around the rhythmic lead provided by Tom Scott's vocals. The drummer freestyling on the rapper, like some wicked inversion of hip hop.

But probably the most rewarding thing for me was being in a crowd that was so constantly with the music. It was a little awkward at first. Maybe Tom was having an artist moment when he chose a seated venue, but sitting was kind of a strain. That cracked when they played 'F(r)iends' and people just leapt to their feet and cheered at the conclusion. That song means something to people.

A couple of minutes later, Tom admitted he'd actually prefer it if everyone stood and, soon enough, people crowded to the stage, Tom relaxed on the mic and things just took off.

'Home' (the one from the Avantdale album, not the @Peace track of the same name) was a particular highight. They wove in the chorus from Gil Scott Heron's 'Home is Where the Hatred Is'. And again, the sheer engagement of the crowd was extraordinary. I can't recall the last time I was in a crowd that responded to a song that way.

Hunter Keane posted a little clip of the a capella section of 'Home'. I was far too into it myself to bother messing about with my phone, but if anyone has more any video from last night, link me up. I would like to relive it.

If you're in Tauranga tonight or Napier tomorrow, you can catch the final tour dates and you should go. (If you haven't heard the album, it's on your streaming service, or here on Bandcamp.) There are still a few rough edges to this live thing, and it would be good to hear them through a more expensive PA, but basically, there's something brilliant going on here and you want to hear it.


Audioculture has debuted a fascinating project that's been in the works for quite a while. Gareth Shute has interactively mapped Auckland's music venues, decade by decade, and the first two chapters, the 1950s and the 1960s, are up now. It's a different way to understand what was going on culturally at the time. Clubs that don't exist any more, some of them on streets that don't exist any more.


Real reggae fans will be hoping this doesn't take too long to get there. Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records tells story of the legendary label in a way that looks to go well beyond the customary assembly of library footage and interviews. There's a review here.


If you're the inner western suburbs any time this evening, there's something new going on. Every Friday night till Christmas (except for December 7, when there's a band playing), I and some of my friends will be playing records from 6pm to midnight at Point Chev's Cupid bar (in the front of the old Ambassador theatre. I explained what it's about in this Facebook post.

It starts tonight. See you after work or after hours, maybe? It'll be fun.



Nine-piece rap Auckland collective Fanau Spa have a self-titled mixtape up at a price of your choosing on Bandcamp. The project is marshalled by Coco Solid and some of the voices will be familiar from her own mixtape, Cokes, which has had a lot of play in this house. Here's the opening track, 'Breakfast':

This thing swings hard. (Mildly annoying free download via Artists Union.)

And a great afrobeat mix from the very funky Ronny Hammond:


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