We don’t know how lucky we are. The music that means the most to me from New Zealand artists is barely ever the product of a funding body, doesn’t have corporate sponsors, isn’t major label-endorsed. It’s the battlers. It’s about brave hearts and (sometimes) troubled souls. It’s about an energy. An anger. A feeling. It’s the vibe…
There are people in other countries clinging to their collections of Kiwi music and dreaming of seeing just some of what we have to offer.
We don’t know how lucky we are.
Sometimes we get a pertinent reminder.
On Saturday night I fought with inertia and made it down the hill to see some of the bands at The Others Way: Wellington. I doubt we’ll see The Others Way in Wellington again. It was about as successful as the time they tried to do “Laneway Presents” as a sideshow/showcase.
But I saw Purple Pilgrims do something pretty cool – they basically lurked at the Enya-end of the Cocteau Twins spectrum. And it was nice. And polite. And I want to see them do that again. And hear them on record.
I watched most of Mermaidens. A very good band. Always good.
And I saw The Chills. It is the longest running version of the band – but it is still about the 400th distinct line-up. Which means that Martin Phillipps wasn’t always easy to get along with, though the recent documentary explains that and has him atoning.
I’ve met Martin – spoken to him at length – I correspond with him a bit. We talk about nerdy things like Randy Newman. I like Martin. And I love the best of his music. I’ve seen The Chills and I’ve seen him solo but on Saturday night I was struck by how lucky we were, how lucky I was to hear songs like The Male Monster From The ID, Doledrums and of course Pink Frost, Heavenly Pop Hit and Leather Jacket. All in a row and sounding fresh, vital.
Just line them up and knock them out. Such great songs. Could they have come from anywhere else in the world? Not a chance.
Early the next morning and I’m meeting Don McGlashan for the very first time and talking to him for an upcoming episode of the podcast. Don was in town because Blam Blam Blam reformed for the (I gather) far-more-successful version of The Others Way (up in Auckland).
The Blams decided to warm up and warm down from The Others Way by visiting a few spots around the country. They were only shining stars for a bit. But they burned so bright. The Blams and The Swingers. On the road in the early 1980s. When I was too young to even know about them let alone go…
But just as I grew up with Phil Judd’s music meaning so much to me I also knew There’s No Depression In New Zealand and so many of the things Don would go on to do. And then back to the Blams to learn that there was most certainly democracy in that band. All great players and writers and singers. All pushing and pulling and tugging at the muse.
Last night, just one night after hearing Martin sing his songs from the south and the soul, I saw and heard Don and his euphonium knock out Marsha. I’ve heard Don do that with The Mutton Birds and solo but never as part of Blam Blam Blam; never where it truly belonged. And yes they played No Depression. And so many other great songs too. Luxury Length and Battleship Grey. And the bar was full. Full of emotion and energy and nostalgia. But this wasn’t just a nostalgia-act. This was a band sounding vital. Ready, perhaps, to record again, to write future classics. Well it felt like that.
What an amazing weekend.
Low-key. She’ll be right. No dramas. Your name’s on the door mate. Come along. Check us out if you’re not too busy.
How could you be too busy to feed your fucking soul with the songs you know and love and that feel like part of the collective DNA of the country?
We don’t know how lucky we are. Or we do. And we try to shout it from the rooftops. And sometimes it feels like not enough people care.
Last night and over the weekend it was good to not feel so alone.