Review: Bad Religion, Nofx, and Pour Habit, Auckland Town Hall, 04/10/09 by underground

New Zealand doesn’t get too many bands visit from overseas, let alone two heavy-weights at one single show. So when news broke earlier this year that Bad Religion and Nofx would play the Auckland Town Hall together, the punk scene was stoked.

Name any modern punk band and either Bad Religion or Nofx influenced their sound or gave them their break. Both bands born in the earlier 1980s, they have led the way for countless other bands, and are still going strong as Nofx surpasses 25 years and 30 years beckon for Bad Religion.

One of the hordes of bands who owe a lot to these pioneers is Pour Habit, a recent Fat Wreck Chords signing, who opened the Town Hall show. Hailing from Compton, CA, Pour Habit is really unlike most punk bands we see on our shores. Soundwise, the vocalist, an acrobatic African American, reminds me of early Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), and the band is heavy, with souring Strung Out-esque guitar solos and thunderous drumming.

Considering punk is usually about equality, acceptance and (sometimes) inclusiveness, it is a shame the scene isn’t more diverse. Hopefully Pour Habit will break more stereotypes and entice more non-whiteys away from rap and RnB and towards punk.

On to the main show, and the self-proclaimed “Sultans of Slander” took to the stage. Well known as a band who talk a lot between songs Nofx did not stray from convention, with more talk than Muammar al-Gaddafi at the United Nations before they’d even played a note, with Fat Mike quipping the instruments were “props”. Apart from a few exceptions the band played a very different setlist than previous visits, which would have pleased those who had seen them before, but likely disappointed new-comers to the band. Nonetheless the band played with enthusiasm and got nothing less from the packed crowd, with mayhem on the floor and the balconies.

With all the banter and a few rubbish songs performed, Nofx could have thrown in The Decline or a few other crowd pleasers, but with Nofx, fans should understand to expect no more than 70 or so percent.

Bad Religion took up their positions on the stage and got right into Los Angeles is Burning. They sounded flat and unenthusiastic. The single was followed by much debate and a hasty sound check. The crowd got restless but the work was worth it, as the sound was greatly improved as was the attitude of the band. Bad Religion came to please and so wanted the best sound possible. Many songs were made heavier, with the guitars producing the heaviest-sounding palm-muting imaginable, which gave the songs extra fury. Drummer Brooks Wackerman was a marvel, beyond describable. Surprisingly Bad Religion only played one track of their latest album New Maps of Hell (2007), instead playing several from Recipe for Hate, the Grey Race and many from the early 1980s.

Next year should see a new album from the world’s greatest band, and if we’re lucky, having found a shores for the first time in only 2007, Bad Religion will be back. If they do, don’t miss it for the world, as they are one hell of a fine live band.


Review: Auckland Big Day Out ’09 by underground

A notably smaller crowd filed its way around Mt Smart Stadium on Friday January 16 for Australasia’s premier music festival. Headlining this year was veteran rocker Neil Young, a surprise choice which aimed to pull older music fans, but risked deterring younger fans. As it turned out, Young was one of few highlights as unenthusiastic bands struggled to impress an uninterested crowd. Well that was my take anyway!

Most the early bands were unremarkable, although Clap Clap Riot were an early highlight, with catchy upbeat songs. The Naked and the Famous were the first of many indie bands to disappointed, particular as the sound was so poor. For many bands of this genre the bassist had an awful distortion effect on their set up, while the guitarists abused a lineup of pedals. Either that or the sound guy hates indie bands. What might work on a studio recording doesn’t necessarily sound good live.

Not just awful on the radio, the Ting Tings were best avoided live. With few options we headed to the main stage to check out Welsh metallers Bullet for my Valentine. An unexpected breath of fresh air, Bullet for my Valentine offered a reprieve from the uninspiring indie bands that dominated the event’s bill. The sane were safely tucked away in the stands, far from the mayhem in front of the stage. As if possibly the largest circle pit ever wasn’t dangerous enough, for the final song the vocalist asked the crowd to part through the middle, before giving the word for the insane to close the gap in a hail of fists and feet.

The boiler room leaked onto the main stage with Pendulum reminding non-ravers that drum and bass hasn’t changed much in the past decade. The fluro-clad masses were pleased nonetheless, with a huge hands-in-the-air crowd filling most of the football field getting their groove on.

TV on the Radio was the epitome of what was wrong with this year’s event. Like so many in their genre, TVOTR lacked energy, enthusiasm, and sounded poor. The vocalist was the only band member with any stage presence, the guitarist spending most the time with his back to the crowd. It took several songs for the band to really get going and the crowd, apart from a few die hards, hardly got into it. As an up-and-coming band TVOTR disappointed many fans who had come to the event to see them, playing almost only their new album.

Next year I’m bringing my own food. Following my $3.50 slither of watermelon, I splashed out on a $6.50 “lamb” burger. I should really contact the consumer complaints people, because there was definitely no lamb in the sausage tasting patty slapped between a slice of tomato, beetroot and buns. Needed to be washed down with beer. The beer was good though.

Showing all before him how it is done, Serj Tankian put on a true performance. Having seen System of a Down twice before I had high expectations, although was not too sure what to expect. Like most in the crowd I didn’t know any of the songs, but was absorbed by Tankian’s theatrics and phenomenal voice nonetheless. Two days later, I bought the CD. Brilliant. Would love to see what the Lebanese-born American-Armenian Piha-resident has planned with the Auckland Philharmonic Orhestra in the near future.

The Living End played the “Shihad slot”, performing a typically impressive and entertaining set. Unfortunetly the D-barrier requires fans get in early to see a big band before the enclosed area is closed off, meaning the crowd in front of the Living End were mainly Arctic Monkey fans. Chris Cheney’s attempts to get the crowd involved fell flat on its face with only sections of the crowd singing along. Still the Aussie trio gave their all, not letting an unenthusiastic crowd dampen their spirits.

Those who squeezed past my during the Living End to see the Arctic Monkeys must have been disappointed by their performance or have never witnessed a decent band play. Perhaps because the only song I know is upbeat and danceable, I expected a fast and exciting set, but instead the Arctic Monkeys were laboured and boring. Knowing where to find a real live show, I left early to see the Dropkick Murphys.

All the reviews I have read so far have failed to mention the Dropkick Murphys, which is a shame because the Boston punk band put on one hell of a show. Even if you are not into punk, these guys are worth checking out, as they are arguably the best dance act of the event’s bill. Playing with the passion lacking from most bands’ sets, the celtic-influenced Dropkicks had the considerable crowd on their feet with their folk-punk ditties. I never thought so much Irish jigging was possible until I saw the Dropkick Murphys. Superlatives fail. Extra credit for the lead vocalist’s Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt!

Back to the main stage for the headlining act Neil Young who, as many have already said, showed many of the preceding bands half his age how to perform. I’m not a fan, but I can appreciate and respect the talent of the man. However good Neil Young was though, he clearly wasn’t the crowd puller organisers had thought, with the field and the stands only half full and the D barrier area still open. A year ago Rage Against the Machine had the whole stadium packed and singing (screaming) along to every word. Young simply isn’t most young fans’ cup of tea, and perhaps Young fans weren’t keen on mixing it with young fans.

In the end, despite a handful of special performances the overwhelming mediocrity of many bands ensured this wasn’t the best Big Day Out.

The tranquility of disconnecting by underground
December 10, 2008, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Quotes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s hard to run a blog when you haven’t got internet at home. In fact I haven’t got a lot of things at my new house. Ever since moving to Thames, a small Coromandel town with a population in the tens of thousands, from Auckland, which has over a million residents, I have had to live without a few things.

Some things you only appreciate when you have to go without it. Standing in the shower with my clothes on, I imagine how convenient a washing machine would be. Still, washing my boxers in the shower was marginally better than standing under the house in my flat’s outdoor laundry, washing my clothes with dishwashing liquid like I did the night before. You can’t get grass off cricket pants with dishwashing liquid no matter how hard you try. Still I’d go without a washing machine rather than a fridge. A week of buying ice every day to go into a chilly bin has me yearning for the luxury of a fridge freezer.

The lack of some luxuries allows you to experience life not plugged into the electronic grid. When you don’t have a tv you have so much more time to read. Without internet you find time to enjoy nature, or good company.

Perhaps being deprived of household luxuries is exactly what this 24-year-old needed. Having lived at home with my parents all my short life, I have become accustomed to the luxuries of wireless internet on my laptop and Sky TV on a plasma screen. Leaving the home finally and living outside of Auckland for the first time in my life, I am loving the change of scenery in Thames. Despite its lack of some electronic necessities, my house is a nice wee little set up.

There is a lot to learn and I’m learning it. I made the mistake of leaping into the shower immediately after the power got turned on. I’m learning about bills and the price of milk. I’m learning about how people in small towns are so much nicer than in Auckland. I’ve never said “hi” to so many strangers.

Eventually I’ve caught up with the 21st century. The fridge is running smoothly – no more food poisoning. And the TV I’ve borrowed off my brother works well, apart from the fact we are only getting one channel. Still, the Playstation One plays okay. And I’ve finally got the internet at home. Dial up though!

Still got to get myself a washing machine though…

Lagwagon concert review, King’s Arms, 13 Nov 2008 by underground

Ringing in the ears and a sore throat are indicative of one of two things. Either you have been screaming for your brother to turn down his stereo pumping techno, or you have been singing along to one of your favourite bands at the top of your voice. Tonight I have done the latter, as I have just got home from watching California punk band Lagwagon rock Auckland’s King’s Arms.

A diverse crowd turned up tonight with one singular intention: to see one of Fat Wreck Chord’s seminal acts, a band whose Auckland performance a few years back was, according to many, one of the best punk shows ever on our fine but distant shores. So when I heard Lagwagon were playing Auckland, I had to see them for myself. Continue reading

Where will you be on the 16th January 2009? by underground
September 30, 2008, 9:24 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mt Smart stadium, that’s where! If the first announcements are anything to go by, this should a sweet Big Day Out! Yeah, Neil Young should be cool, Prodigy are kind of cool live and the Artic Monkeys should be fun, but there is one reason why you should be at next years festival.

The Living End!

E-boogie/Second Solution

Continue reading

Tea, Toast and Terror with Bob of Arabia by underground

Foreign correspondent Robert Fisk has interviewed Osama bin Laden three times, witnessed numerous war crimes and atrocities and reported on conflicts from Algeria to Afghanistan and everywhere in between. Paul Harper finds out how and why he continues to report from the most dangerous places in the world.

After the Sabra and Chatila camp massacre of 1982, I actually believed, in my sleep, that corpses were piled on the bed around me. The reason was simple: I had been climbing over decomposing bodies and my clothes smelt of death.

From The Age of the Warrior

If you happen to meet the Independent’s Robert Fisk, you’re best advised not to ask how he copes with what he has witnessed in more than 30 years covering conflict in the Middle East.

“Yeah, look, I think that is bullshit. The only thing that matters when you ask me those [sorts of questions] is how do the poor people cope, who have pariah passports and can’t get visas and spend their entire lives trying to keep their families alive? How do they manage to get through life?” Continue reading

Robert Fisk Interview Hyatt Auckland 9/9/08 by underground

A couple of years back I finished my BA in History and Sociology and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Disillusioned, I spent two years working full time in a book store. I flirted with the idea of secondary school teaching until I read Robert Fisk’s Great War for Civilisation. People had suggested I look into journalism as a career before, but it was not until I read Fisk’s book on the history of the Middle East that I felt compelled to get into journalism. I loved the passion with which he writes with, the attention to detail, the sympathy he has for those who suffer in the troubled region. His knowledge on the area is unparalleled. I found his reporting inspiring. I feel I owe Fisk a lot, so imagine my delight when I was given the chance to interview my hero for Te Waha Nui.

This is the transcript from my 45 minute interview with the Independent’s Robert Fisk. Please forgive any grammatical errors – it took me eight hours to transcribe! Enjoy. Continue reading