Covid-19 Alert

NZ moves to the Traffic light system at 11:59pm on Thursday 2 December 2021 with Auckland at RED. The rest of New Zealand level is still to be decided.
Scan QR Codes & get your Vaccination Pass | Save Lives | Be Kind

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

WOMAD NZ attendance near record

Photo : McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

As the much-loved festival signs off for another extraordinary year; the ripples of the good vibe continue as 11 albums from WOMAD artists enter the NZ Top 40 Chart, the dates for 2017 are unveiled and the contract renewed with WOMAD international.

Over the 54 hours, WOMAD festival go-ers were treated to 32 acts from around the globe in the gorgeous setting of Taranaki’s Brooklands Park and TSB Bowl of Brooklands. Alongside the musical performances, Nova Energy Taste the World cooking demonstrations and  artists workshops, artists also made time to meet their new fans at the CD Signing Sessions. Fans queued, purchased CDs and merchandise with the happy result of 11 WOMAD artist albums making it into the Official NZ Top 40 chart.

First time in the NZ chart for Canadians, The Jerry Cans (no.7), Ukrainian crowd favourites Dakha Brakha had two albums enter at no.10 and no.14, UK dream folk fiddlers, Spiro, took out no.17, explosive maverick blues-folk-jazz fusion band Hazmat Modine in at no.19, Mali’s desert blues maestros, Songhoy Blues took out no. 20. Other first timers for the NZ chart included: soul sister Ester Rada from Israel (no.24), U.S. baritone John Grant (no.27), Iranian sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat (no.34) and re-entry into the chart for Louis Baker’s E.P. at no.35 and after his electrifying set, French musician, St. Germain's latest album came back  in at no.39. The WOMAD 2016 compilation CD rose to no.2 on the RIANZ Compilation Charts, which is an outstanding result for an album with mostly artists no-one had heard of in New Zealand a mere two weeks ago.

2016 was extra special, as WOMAD International re-signed the deal with Taranaki Arts Festival Trust for another three years, which at the end of the new term will be a staggering 15 years of partnership. Head of WOMAD International, Chris Smith commented, “Every time I come back here, I am blown away by this amazing setting and how beautiful and custom made it is for the WOMAD festival."

The next WOMAD dates are March 17th – 19th, 2017.

WOMAD 2016 was the third most attended ever in New Plymouth in this, its 12th presentation of the festival. At its peak, on Saturday, there was near 16,500 people on the site made up of the near sell out crowd of 12,000, 3000 free children, plus traders, volunteers and staff.

Suzanne Porter, Taranaki Arts Festival Trust CEO reflected on the 2016 festival,  “This year’s festival has had a particularly chilled and relaxed vibe on site, and our audience were really well-behaved. The site was still flowing really well at peak times and we couldn’t be happier with the feedback from both our audience and our artists.”

The treasure of  WOMAD is more than a ‘show’ - it is a communal give and take and has the power to move not only the audience but the artists also. Middle eastern group 47Soul, hailing from Palestine, Syria and Jordan were visibly brought to tears at the Welcome Powhiri held at Owae Marae after their arrival. De La Soul described the wave of love coming to them over the TSB Bowl of Brooklands lake as “palpable” and WOMAD first timer Bic Runga sent a thank you note ‘I felt really lucky to be a part of the festival… the bands I saw and the atmosphere really blew me away”.

Photo: McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

WOMAD 2016 - Another Successful Weekend

Photo: Trevor Villers
Event organisers announced during the opening of this year's festival that they've just signed a deal with WOMAD UK for Taranaki to remain the home of the New Zealand leg of the festival.  Taranaki Arts Festival Trust chief executive Suzanne Porter said she was very happy with the deal and planning was already under way.  Tickets this year came in only a few short of a sell-out (12,000 + 3000 free children), although with volunteers, vendors and crew this number swells to about 17,000.  Still, it was their third best WOMAD, so far.  With an older crowd, many returning, and calendar threats from the Auckland Festival and the new Auckland City Limits Festival there’s a number of challenges but Porter was confident that Taranaki's special brand of WOMAD, a family friendly-all ages gig, was unique and the prime reason why audience loyalty is still so high.  On the ground, the numbers felt a little smaller, especially on the Sunday, but this could have been due to the fantastic weather.  All three days hit the mid 20's so many gig-goers probably opted for a swim or a walk on New Plymouth's fantastic boardwalk before heading to the festival site.  Speaking of weather, Thursday’s torrential rain nearly killed off the whole weekend but as luck would have it the clouds vaporised and held back right up to the end of Sunday. 

As always, the show was run with clockwork precision.  A few backstage grumblings came from the stage crew, many who are return volunteers.  Their standards were so high that even the tiniest issue unnerves them.  Getting it perfect was very important.  All onsite staff were helpful and friendly, right down to the recycle team who assist punters to dispose of their rubbish in the right bins.  There must have been a competition to customise their team tees.  Many had slashed, cut and remodelled them into new fashion items, vastly improving their usual androgyny.
Camping, motor homes, glamping are all part of the experience, too.  The adjacent racecourse holds at least half of the ticket holders.  Waking up with the vista of Mt Taranaki peeking through the canvas opening is a truly magical experience, especially on WOMAD mornings.
Photo : Trevor Villers
The 12th WOMAD officially Kicked off with a speech from Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry and welcome from kapa haka group Te Kapa Haka O Te Whanau A Apanui on the TSB Bowl Stage whilst Mali quartet Songhoy Blues got the party up and going on the Shell Gables stage.
Once again, Event Director Chris Herlihy and Co-Artistic Director Emere Wano’s mix of international and local acts covered the bases well, catering for the younger and the older ages and I was reminded by Posdnuos (De La Soul) that many of these groups have inter-generational fan bases (the hip hop act's been going since 1987).  To me this year's local fare looked unremarkable and once again I was proved wrong.  Tami Neilson was an exceptional show woman, only eclipsed by the D.A.I.S.Y age-ists in the Saturday night slot.  But it was the individual and joint performances of Louis Baker and Thomas Oliver, who later teamed up with Warren Maxwell for a "Pass The Gat" session that proved the most nourishing with a sweet mix of harmonies and laid back soul. On the surface you could ask what the ethnic or cultural connection was to WOMAD but looking deeper this Auckland and New Zealand Festival show is really a roots reminder of the campfire ritual that all Kiwis hold dear. 

Internationally, the big hitters were St Germain (France) and De La Soul (USA) who both brought classy live bands to flesh out their usual samples and beats.  For St Germain, his French African ensemble added additional layers to favourite tunes from 'Tourist' and the recently released self-titled albums.  The Senegalese musicians particularly cleverly wove Kora and horns into funky sampling and deep, repetitive grooves - nothing too challenging but satisfying to get down to.  For De La Soul, it was on Posdnuos and Dave representing - Maseo was held back in the States due to his son's legal troubles - but despite a late start the crew found their rhythm and rocked the house show and style; cutting in and out of rhythms and jams with ease and aplomb; name checking rap milestones like Run DMC and Aerosmith and their own ground-breaker Three Feet High And Rising.  Sadly, no time on the turntables.  ‘Jennifer' and others were reworked as 'De La Lounge' with their very capable show band.
Photo: Trevor Villers
The party continued with Palestinians 47 Soul, who mix conscious grooves and middle Eastern horns with digi-tracks, proving they were showmen extraordinaire, whipping the crowd to a revolutionary frenzy before dive bombing them with Gaza Helicopter patrols and electro hard core. In cultural contrast Israeli actress Esta Rada showed us a great soul show, drawing deeply on American acts like Nina Simone (“See Line Woman”) for inspiration.  She was also a class act and a magnificent voice.  The most surprising act was Mongolian blues duo Telegur.  Their stilted, stage geeky banter was surprisingly funny and warm-hearted.  With a simple guitar and box drum set up they play with astonishing energy and charisma.  Anyone who's familiar with Robert Plant's recent desert blues projects will identify with their sound.
A common trend at WOMAD is the inclusion of crowd pleasers like Katchafire and Bic Runga, who pulled in good crowds, but delivered pretty mainstream sets.  I do wonder how much they compromise the integrity of a 'World/ethnic programme'. 

Backstage, Bic and new baby were very happy to be there, though.  She described her first WOMAD stage experience as "magical", and was very impressed with the artist's care and the festival atmosphere.  That was a common theme amongst many of the bands I talked to, including nu-folkies Spiro, who'd been to the artist Powhiri the day before and were keen to learn more Maori language and culture and the Talegur were totally basking in the festival love – especially during the CD signings.
One of the go-to bands this time was Inuit North Canadian folk rockers The Jerry Cans who got the crowd on their feet with their unique, but accessible blend of traditional and Celtic contemporary music.  Later they hosted throat singing workshops and made a caribou stew in Jax Hamilton's “Taste The World Tent.  I can vouch that it was deeee-licious!
During day two I had a chance to talk to French composer Carlos Roble Arenas, who trades as Orange Blossom.  His band recruited a wide range of ethnicities from Northern and Southern Africa to produce his crazy, border less mash, drawing a massive audience at the Shell Gables Stage.

If there was a regret it was missing Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha, of whom reports were stunning.  I did finally mange to catch South Korean group
[su:m] who made sweet, delicate, almost trippy music from a bizarre collection of traditional instruments, including a multi trumpeted horn pipe.  Sean Kuti and Egypt 80 should have been a highlight but didn’t really fire this time.  Also returning, Arizona’s Calexico had a great presence but the fresh shine was a bit buffed this time. 
Photo: Trevor Villers
One thing really missing from the festival was Nick Bollinger’s Artists in conversation, which allow the audience to get deeper with the world artists in particular.  This was universally missed by everyone I talked to.  On the other side the talking book, people who shared life experiences, proved very popular and getting into a session was a real challenge.
Over all, WOMAD has a brilliant formula.  It doesn’t change but it does work.  The music element is still the biggest draw card with performance art and dance components completely absent these days.  That’s a pity and it would be great to see their return.  That said, performers like John Grant, who sold a totally brilliant performance on Sunday night to all new comers and sceptics, show what the power of music can really do to bring us all together.  It’s a festival for the open minded, the family, the friendly and the explorer.  As one punter said, “If everyone lived and thought like a WOMAD crowd, war, racism, and bigotry would never exist.  
Why can’t the world be WOMAD?”
Photos by Trevor Villers -

Photos From WOMAD:18 - 20 March - New Plymouth

Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Photo : Trevor Villers

Edma Castneda / Photo : Trevor Villers

John Grant / Photo : Trevor Villers

Postnuos - De La Soul / Photo : Trevor Villers
CoffeeBar Kid interviews Edma Castaneda  / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Songhoy Blues / Photo : Trevor Villers

Tiny Ruins / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Tiny Ruins / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Tiny Ruins / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Cigar box Guitars / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

St Germain on the Bowl Stage / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
숨 [su:m] / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
숨 [su:m] / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Bowl Stage Crowd / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Calexico / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Funky Hats / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Face painting / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Grua
Face painting / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Kidspace / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Kidspace / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Orange Blossom / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Orange Blossom / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Diego El Cigala / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Julia Deans / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar
Kid's Parade / Photo : Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: NZ Festival 'Sorceress' - Shed 6, 15 March 2016

Wellington-based band Sorceress: Myele Manzanza (drums), Marika Hodgson (bass), Rachel Fraser (vocals) and Isaac Aseili (loops, laptop wizardry and bongos) put on a fantastic show last night - a taster to their upcoming feature at Glastonbury, the main stop on their two week Blighty tour.  That's a tall order but the band were definitely in their groove.  Despite the smallish audience, the band were playing to their strengths.  The youngish crowd were well keen to get on their feet early and as soon as the slow songs were over they did. 

This is a smaller version of the band, having stripped of a couple of players but the core is still there.  Rachael Fraser, in particular, has a powerful, deeply intense voice, with roots that reveal her own East Coast whakapapa.  I love her own Maori twists in amongst this gumbo of Afro Cuban hip hop and modern urban soul.  They've been around in various forms, especially as Funkcommunity since the early 2000's but the shills have now been well honed.  It was also a great warm up to the d'Angelo concert tomorrow night.  Their tunes are addictively funky in places but also conscious in topic.  A definite highlight was the drumming duel between Aseili on bongos and Manzanza on the kit, who really revealed his skills and jazz training.  Despite the heavy mix of digital backtracking the instruments were still upfront and it never once felt like Karaoke.  Fraser was powerful behind the mic, a keen advocate for her rhymes and lyrics.  Towards the end she wears the current NZ flag, reminding all that it's a symbol of the Crown's protection of Maori (The Union Jack) and the navigational stars of the Southern Cross, of which Kupe had followed.  I'd never looked at the flag in that way before.  So thank you, Rachael, for opening my eyes.  If you get the chance, check out this band - worth the ticket price.  If they ever come back from the UK, that is.

Monday, March 14, 2016

WOMAD is nearly here!

As a celebration of the upcoming festival, Groove will feature a 2 hour show brought to you by the CoffeeBar Kid.  Tune in from 8 PM this Wednesday 16 March.

Below are 5 bands you must check out ...  
 [su:m] (South Korea)

Initially formed in 2007, by traditional musicians, the group expanded to include a Piri-Bamboo Oboe, Mouth Organ, a 25 string Gayageum-Zither and a steel string Gayageum.  TheIr manifesto was to 'start a new era of Korean traditional music that sheds light on contemporary spirit by addressing in musical sense sentiments and lessons learned from living a modern life'.  On vinyl, their sound is a mashup of the old and the new influences of western classical harmonies which will make Korean music not only more palatable but hopefully convert a few new followers in the process.
ORANGE BLOSSOM (France / Egypt)

This is one of those bands that is a result of living in a multicultural city, with all the tastes and influences of exotic and local flavours.  Orange Blossom are a musical concoction that marries suspense-heavy electronica with Arabic rhythms – Portishead relocates to the Maghreb, if you will.  Robert Plant's a fan, having toured with him.  They've been in hiding for a while making a new album, 'Under the Shade of Violets', a record that draws from all over, but especially Egypt, with an urgent sound these days, underscored by a refusal to stand still, a clear message about living today: “You have to travel,” they say.  “You have to move”.
They've been refenced as a Talking Heads funky…growlingly bluesy…contemplative and hypnotic…A triumph" : The Guardian

Songhoy Blues formed in 2012 after the group fled their homes in North Mali due to growing unrest and a ban on music. The four-piece have since collaborated with Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the Africa Express project, released their debut album to critical acclaim and have been in high demand on the international touring circuit.

With the band citing influences ranging from Malian greats such as Ali Farka Touré and Baba Salah to Jimi Hendrix, Songhoy Blues unique blend of traditional and modern sounds has been described as everything from desert blues punk, R&B, to the love child of Ali Farka Toure and US Bluesman John Lee Hooker.

‘The sounds that hit you first are sounds that you are familiar with; they sound folky, but once you start listening to the music and how it’s composed you hear elements of systems music – people like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, dance music. All sorts of musical influences are woven into this very contemporary music. This is soulful music, passionate music and I love it.’ Peter Gabriel

Signed to Real World Records by Peter Gabriel after years in obscurity, Spiro redefine English folk music with their very special blend of Northumbrian traditional tunes and systems music.  They have since performed at festivals in the UK, Europe, Canada, India and UAE, and have toured throughout the UK in support of four albums on Real World Records.  They attract fanatical enthusiasm from their increasing audiences who to follow their performances with an almost religious awe.  Their approach to their music is unique, breathtaking and seems impossible, even as you watch it.

‘We’re like a string quartet, but the most driving and exciting string quartet that you could imagine.’  Jane Harbour, the violinist of Spiro, is trying to put a neat handle on the essence of this instrumental four-piece.  It’s not an easy task.  Despite the group’s folk-friendly tools (violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin and accordion), they’re something of a slippery beast when it comes to being contained by mere words.  Guitarist Jon Hunt has a go.  ‘We’ve got more to do with minimalist classical and dance music than we have with folk.  Even though we use folk tunes, they’re raw materials that the rest of the sound is built around.  There’s no ornamentation to attract attention to one particular instrument.  In fact, there’s that feeling that each member of the band isn’t just playing that instrument, they’re playing the whole thing.’  This is what Spiro refer to as “the mesh”, the locked-in ensemble sound that’s a relentless, wonderfully overpowering assault on the eardrums.

Tulegur, a modern nomad group, rooted in traditional tunes of Inner Mongolia and influenced by rock music. Their sound is a great mixture of traditional music, rock, throat sing (Khoomei, traditional throat singing of Mongolian) and Mongolian and Chinese folk. This combination results in a unique style that is being called“Mongolian grunge” or “nomad rock” by the artists themselves.

Gangzi is the soul of Tulegur, educated in traditional opera, his voice can reach the lowest tone of throat singing. Attracted by modern music, Gangzi moved from Inner Mongolia to Beijing to perform and compose. A year later, he returned to his hometown, Hulunbeier, where he spend time with local farmers to learn Khoomei. This nomad experience became a revelation in his life and helped him to discover his own musical style. After years of solo
performances, Gangzi has achieved remarkable success all around China and in the world.

In the end of 2014, percussionist / guitarist Zongcan joint Tulegur’s new bigger picture. As an experienced guitarist and percussionist, Zongcan has travelled to many places both in China and other countries. He has special ways to embrace different cultures and combines them with his music.
For more go to

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brass Poppies, Shed 6 March 3rd – 6th

Vincent O'Sullivan
Music by Ross Harris, Libretto by Vincent O'Sullivan; featuring James Egglestone, Sarah Court, Robert Tucker, Anna Leese, Jonathan Eyers, Madison  Nonoa, Wade Kernot, Mary Newman-Pound, Andrew Glover, Stroma conducted by Hamish McKeich. Director: Jonathan Alver, AV Design: Jon Baxter, Lighting: Jason Morphett, Costumes: Elizabeth Whiting.

Recently, I saw John Psathas' 'No Man's Land' a very powerful reflection on the far reaching implications of WWI, which reached virtually every nation and deeply infiltrated the soul and culture of a hugely diverse cross section of humanity.  It was a global take on the Great War.  'Brass Poppies', by comparrison, is also deeply personal but it has a very small agenda.  It is a more simple tale of a few affected by much.  The story follows the Wellington Battalion at Chunuk Bair while simultaneously showing Wellington women at the Home Front, back home in Aro Valley.  Librettist Vincent O'Sullivan delights in namechecking long forgotten places of interest like Mitcheltown, once a thriving, independent community or walking up Brooklyn hill for the view.  A feat seldom undertaken by anyone - except students who'd missed the last bus.

Composer Ross Harris wanted his audience to leave with a deep human experience, so his snapping score is all about delivering emotional snapshots, something he achieves effectively throughout.

O'Sullivan intended to portray the impact of war, "one by one by one", which he does by revealing vignets of individual characters and the effects on each.  Their doubts, fears and elations, boredom and sorrow.  He shies away form the 'glory' cult of the fallen, so prominent in the RSA rhetoric and allows each character to fully question their role and situations.  .

"What we are trying to convey musically and dramatically is that war is always about one person at a time.  The real centre of war is an individual, or two people; husband and wife."

Brass Poppies focuses on four Wellington couples, depicting the men leaving for Gallipoli and engaging in battle, and the women waiting back in Aro St.

The writers were careful to avoid sentimentality and flag waving.  O'Sullivan was clear about this in recent interviews: "There's nothing to be sentimental about. These people aren't coming back."

The Turks don not get much voice in this production, however represented only by one figure, and one instrument (the dumbek, also known as the goblet drum).  Andrew Glover plays the part of the ever present spectre, the elusive enemy, hovering around in the early ecstatic recruitment days, as a an early warning - and later as a reminder. A sort of 'I told you so'. 

Musically, the show sits mainly in the category of 'singing speach'.  There are no arias or bacharoles to hang your hat on, as such.  Which is slightly sad, in a sense because whilst the story is rememerable the music, that there of, is simply a mechanism of which to deliver the text audibly.  Nevetheless this 70-minute, one-act opera is pretty punchy, without overbloated and protracted scales reconfigurations.  Also, importantly, is the deft use of white Pakeha 'Nil Ziland' colloquialism, al be them completely mangled in their artistic delivery.  That was a point of contention at tims when perfectly ordinary sentences got smashed up, into single words and expression, forced apart, beyond the single comma-breath like war torn children.  However, that said, it's still cleverly close in interval to the tonality of the everyday cobber.  And that goes for the orchestra, too, who are on stage for the whole show, in their khakis.  Their writing is witty, light, and ever so slightly 'clunky' - reminiscent of any amateur Edwardian band of the day. 

O'Sullivan, a long time local champion, clearly shows that this is very much a Wellington story.  Jonathan Alver's set fits well into the warehouse space. 
Long projection screen strips where images can be portrayed of battle scenes flowers and, of course home: Aro St. On stage, the cast who include James Egglestone, Sarah Court, Robert Tucker, Anna Leese, Jonathan Eyers, Madison  Nonoa, Wade Kernot, Mary Newman-Pound and Andrew Glover Are all convincing.  Their characters are quite nuanced given the limited spectrum they're working in, which all adds more depth to this thoroughly classy production.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Swing Symphony No. 3. - Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Residency and The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Michael Fowler Centre - 10 March
The night kicked off with 'the opening act', the NZSO, running through their own erratic but yet pedestrian medley of Bernstein, 'West Side Story', and oddly, Copeland's Appalachian Spring (which Mingus would have easily worked up into a fine jazz piece).  For the programme in general, it all seemed completely out of step and unnecessary.  Given the theme of the night I would have thought there was more appropriate available.   

Another disappointment came when the second half kicked off and the NZSO were accompanied on stage by eleven members of New York's JLCO, who squeezed in amongst the over-bloated ranks, but yet there was no sign of Marsalis.  Finally in the second movement of Swing Symphony No,3 he rises, with famous buffed brass in hand, to deliver an all too short, but blissfully sweet solo.  Other New Yorkians call and reply through the piece with a vast array of brass, alto and tenor sax and flutes. 

I have no doubt that for musicians this was a wonderful opportunity to play alongside the master in the low rains but for me I was somewhat disappointed not to see Marsalis out front, at least once in the show, given that he's returning after a long hiatus.  That opportunity may come on Saturday night. 

Critiquing music that was derived from one form and reinterpreted to another and then to another again is an interesting process.  Marsalis' homage to the big band era is an interpretation of juke joint jive, Basie orchestra strut and Gershwin.  Delivered in four distinct movements it comes across as a mash-up meddle of familiar references and touch points. Whilst the work doesn't follow any specific sonata format there is a certain structure about it, returning to themes and landmark points along the way, its best described as musical journey.

Any attempts to find out more about the work were scuttled.  The programme contained a lot of words, but little substance.  Much like the schedule, this left Marsalis’ actual appearance as an ambiguous event. 

However, the collaboration between the JLCO and the NZSO was flawless and the fifteen guests found air in the orchestral onslaughts to give us short but stunning solos.  One unanswered question was if those solos were 'scripted' in to the work or whether Marsalis left room for improvisation.  Either way, they were highlights.

The Wolf is coming…

 “Treachery exists in many forms. We can see the evil, the injustices, the crimes, and their sources can be located and defined. We identify the darkness in neglect, denial, misjudgements, dismissal of rights, the injustices led by Governance systems, insurance companies, thieves, bad neighbours, and those we know. But it's closer than that. It's not there: it's here. It dwells in our institutions, our systems, our families, friends, and ultimately in us. The lies we tell ourselves, live by, defend and act on are where it starts. The Werewolves we need to fear are very close. – writer Tim Barcode. 

Wolf; the tale of trust, betrayal, alienation, duplicity, secrets and lies, set against the background of the earth, the council, insurers, and the government, turning against earthquake hit residents in Christchurch. Oh and wolves. You can't ignore wolves.

L to R: Sam Fisher, Talia Carlisle (Cushla),
Susannah Donovan (Cassie), CoffeeBar Kid
Following a successful season in Christchurch in 2013, Oily Rag Theatre is bringing Wolf to BATS in time for autumn and Easter 2016. Be lulled into a civilised illusory bubble before the true nature of the world rips through to get you.

From Tim Barcode, writer of successful plays, including: Location Location; Triffic Travel; Cafe Dement; Interviews and other lies; Geeks Bearing Gifts; The Adjudicator (NZTF One Act Play winner).

WOLF, about betrayal that starts in the crust of the earth but spills into people’s lives and a world turned inside out and evil that lurks.

Director Sam Fisher says this play uses the Christchurch earthquakes as a metaphor and backdrop for personal stories, “This is a story set against the earthquakes. The quakes taught people a lot about each other and insurance companies and government, that perhaps they would rather not have known.  The failure of the land and of the institutions is mirrored in the failings of people.  The play is sharp, intense and we believe engrossing. The hardest thing is reproducing earthquakes in a theatre situation.”

For The Birds - Otari Bush - Festival Show

Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby, Kathy Hinde, Marcus Mcshane and Tane Upjohn-Beatson, Johann Nortje and Cameron May, Ulf Pedersen, and Esther Tew England/Wales/New Zealand

In a strange twist of reality, I'm walking down a steep path, lit only by the nearest of LED lamps.  Over head are the squeals and screeches of digital bird calls.  Zooming past at eye level a flashing box of chatter heading off into the darkness like the passing of a No.8 bus.  In a valley suspended above the stream are metalic origami paper cranes, flying in a delicately choreographed formation and in the undergrowth are nests of ping pong ball sized lights that are holding a hug on the future prospects of the Huia.  It would be fair to say that this interpretation of all things avian is quite distinctively different.  The mere fact that nearly all physical material are man made or acquired speaks volumes about how humankind has plundered the natural world and fore sakes the bird's natural habitats, and even their feathers in the process.

This particular project will be immediately familiar to any one who saw Power Plant, their last work, at the 2014 Festival.  Once again, their's a strong thematic presence and a quirky embracing of humanity's need to duplicate the natural withthe artificial.  Early on we encounter bird cages and 'sound machines' that play like ancient music boxes.  A similar technique was used with gramophones reading says mic reports in Power Plant - humanity trying to exploit nature for their own ends.

The themes range from kiwi's to Sirocco the superstar, kākāpō to Angry Birds and Twitter, all in an attempt to reconnect us with our feathered friends.  This is a very different experience from Power Plant but one worth the journey and also a new look at a space we may have taken for granted.  I went to Scouts there about 100 year's ago and have only returned a couple of times but never in the dark.  An experience like this was, for me at least, a welcome reconnection.
All photos by Tim Gruar 
All photos by Tim Gruar

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dunedin Double - The Chills Tuesday 9 March/ The Verlaines 10 March - both at Shed 6. Part of the NZ Festival of the Arts.
By the second week of the Festival the focus changes from the classicals to the classics with the next two nights reserved for the 'Dunedin Double', featuring individual concerts by the Chills and the Verlaines.  These are two bands from the original Flying Nun EP that pretty much kicked off the label's career, their own and, as legend will have it, the 'Dunedin Sound'.  First up are Martin Phillips' crew. "It's pretty odd playing to a seated crowd", he notes, looking around at the room of well heeled mature punter, wearing their pearls, jeans and velvet jackets.  If ever there was a Mastermind topic, it would be on The Chill's lineup, a list longer than the passenger list of the Queen Mary.  But tonight there was some stability with crazy-as drummer Todd Knudson and bassist James Dickinson (who both joined in the early 2000's) and more recent recruits violist/keyboardist Erica Scully and keyboardist Oli Wilson.

Photo fro the Festival Facebook page
Over the years, The Chills have 'suffered' from a mixed level of professionalism on stage and in the studio but tonight's performance was an exceptionally tight. Almost clinical delivery, save for the deranged antics of Knudson behind the kit, reminding us of Jack Black's exaggerated rock star performances in 'School of Rock'. 

Phillips, himself, now 53 and slightly greying, was looking in pretty good shape.  Sharply dressed, but still keeping to his customary black, he was chilled and relaxed on stage.  Signs of his condition (Stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver) and his shy edginess have been all shucked away as he quipped with the band and engaged is a little audience banter.  It was good to be back in the birth town. 

The set was always going to be a crowd pleaser, a mix of oldies and newbies from a huge repertoire.  Phillips is and always has been a prolific songwriter.  However, with the exception of one or two flourishes nearly everything has that same psychedelic, jangly continuity to it - from the latest release 'Silver Bullets' reaching way back to 'Kalaedescope World'. 

It was good to hear the new stuff sit so comfortably with the rest.  "Silver Bullets", "Eazy Peazy" and "Warm Waveform" in particular work well played live.  An updated version of "Pink Frost" May have been polished up but the core tune still stands up well.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Groove at the Festival : The ACB with Honora Lee - By Kate De Goldi, Adapted and Directed by Jane Waddell

Kate De Goldi is one of New Zealand’s most loved authors, popular with both adults and children. Quirky humour, playfulness and intergenerational love are at the heart of this adaptation of her 2012 novel, The ACB with Honora Lee.
A charming exploration of kindness, patience and acceptance, it follows the relationship between young Perry and her eccentric Gran, Honora Lee, who’s losing her memory. 
As more and more words slip from Gran’s grasp, Perry furiously gathers them up, turning them into an illustrated and disorderly alphabet book, which becomes a gift of love to her grandmother.

This is director Jane Waddell's delicate but unpretentious interpretation of Kate De Goldi's short novel of inter-generational love and acceptance.   It's the story of Perry (Lauren Gibson), a young precocious ‘only child’ who's well-meaning helicopter parents, Mum (Amy Tarleton), an over-bearing psychologist,- and Dad (Nick Dunbar), a typical corporate worker bee, are too focussed on professional solutions for teaching their child and raising her skill standards, not realising that the best opportunities lay right under their nose.   Like many of us, they dismiss elderly parents as cantankerous and superfluous.  So they’re somewhat surprised when Perry insists on spending time with her gran (Ginette MacDonald) instead of taking tennis lessons.  Gran, aka Honora Lee, an ex-teacher and private tutor is becoming utterly eccentric as her mid breaks down.  But to Perry, this is an education unlike none other.  Honora holds fast to her 'old school' tools like 'rote-learning' and quick phrases - ''I' before 'e', except after 'c' or 'pie' in 'piece'.  MacDonald, best known to the outside world as ‘Lyn of Tawa’, is superb as the grumpy, disorderly Honora, and utterly believable, too.  She dollops her empathy subtly, avoiding the heavy handed trowel.  A relationship, which seems all too one sided, ensues between Gran and Perry, who scrambles to scoop up words, like dead bees, and capture them in a book of illustrations before Honora loses them forever.  "What's 'A' for?", Perry asks.  " 'A' is for 'Anything!' ",Honora replies, illustrating De Goldi's love of words.  Throughout the play, this gentle humour emerges and bubbles to the surface. 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

"Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language, it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism." Peter Gabriel

Only 3 weeks til' WOMAD!

Groove will be featuring a special show on 16 March 7.00 PM
featuring music, interviews and info on the festival - stay tuned


A little about the festival : WOMAD - World of Music, Arts and Dance the internationally established festival, which brings together artists from all over the globe. The central aim of the WOMAD festival is to celebrate the world's many forms of music, arts and dance.

At the WOMAD campsite 2015 Photo Tim Gruar
As an organisation, WOMAD now works in many different ways, but their aims are always the same - at festivals, performance events, through recorded releases and through educational projects, they aim to excite, to inform, and to create awareness of the worth and potential of a multicultural society.

Peter Gabriel was one of WOMAD's co-founders: "Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists."

2008   Image: Taranaki Newspapers Ltd
WOMAD festivals are family-oriented, diverse and active musical events; sometimes offering as many as seven stages within the festival site. Since the first festival in the UK in 1982, WOMAD has held more than 160 festivals, creating events in twenty-seven countries and islands all over the world, including: Abu Dhabi, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK, and the United States of America.

WOMAD has presented more than one thousand artists at their festivals, bringing the expression of more than 100 different countries to a live audience of over one million people.

Estere - New Plymouth WOMAD 2015 Photo Tim Gruar
WOMAD New Zealand 2014 was the 10th anniversary for WOMAD held at the stunning New Plymouth site in Taranaki. Prior to shifting to New Plymouth WOMAD NZ occurred twice in Auckland, but now takes pride of place at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth.

This year the line up is spectacular St Germain, De La Soul, Calexico, Tami Neilson, Thomas Oliver, Katchafire, Louis Baker, Hazmat Modine, Tiny Ruins, The Jerry Cans, Ester Rada and a whole host more - for the full story go to

McKenzie interviewing Estere last year