Passion Pit pull it off

Passion Pit live at the Powerstation in Auckland.
Passion Pit live at the Powerstation in Auckland.

American indie-pop band Passion Pit played Auckland’s Powerstation this week and the gig was a raging success. Frontman Michael Angelakos has recently spoken out about his battle with bipolar and how it almost meant the tour didn’t happen. But unless you listen closely to the words of each song you wouldn’t know the latest album Gossamer is a tale of testing times, because the man who appears on stage seems as happy as can be.

Passion Pit burst onto the scene in 2009 with their hit album Manners and quickly picked up a large following in New Zealand thanks to a high placement in that year’s Big Day Out lineup. Their gig at the festival, however, left me somewhat uninspired for the first 40 minutes until sound troubles were sorted out. So with only 20 minutes of Passion-flavoured-mayhem under my belt I knew I needed more and got very excited about their return to New Zealand.

I wasn’t disappointed. Not only did the crowd get to hear all the goodies from the first album, they got to hear the even better, more defined and crafted songs from Gossamer. This album isn’t all the screeching falsetto the band is well known for – that’s still there but now it slots in nicely beside some more mellow tones from Michael Angelakos. It was these songs that really came to life at the gig and I’m sure will attract a wider following.

The album’s first single Take a Walk had the crowd marching and stomping on the ground like a stationary army, while catchy tune Carried Away had everyone immersed in a singalong, turning to their friends to scream the words in their direction like they might actually stand a chance of hearing them.

Then came Constant Conversations and that’s what had me giggling excitedly like a 14-year-old girl at One Direction. The song has a bit of everything and when tied together it was musical heaven. A matured chipmunk-sounding line loops in the background while a repetitive rambling of the simple yet effective lyric ‘oh’ has the crowd singing in perfect unison and actually sounding like it’s hitting the notes. Then they throw in fantastic lyrics like “now I’m drunker than before they told me drinking doesn’t make me nice” and get every person in the crowd to carry out a perfectly timed side-to-side wave as the song builds to a stunning culmination of all factors. In my mind, it was four minutes of pure joy.

The band’s first big hit Little Secret finishes the gig with the whole puppet-audience jumping “higher, higher and higher” as instructed. Then back for a short but effective encore with number one hit from the first album, Sleepyhead. I think it’s safe to say everyone in the crowd was the opposite of sleepy after that. (Pity it was a Thursday night.)

Overall, it was a fantastic gig. A glorious combination of modern music technology pulled off seamlessly thanks to good performers and a grungy bass beat. It’s one of the best dance parties I’ve been too. I even have the sore calf muscles to prove it.

It’s a glorious day – Big Day Out is returning to NZ

The main stages at Big Day Out 2011 at Mt Smart Stadium
The main stages at Big Day Out 2011 at Mt Smart Stadium.

Neil Young, The Killers, Muse, LCD Soundsystem, The Violent Femmes, Iggy Pop, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re just a small selection of the world’s most famous bands I’ve added to my ‘Seen in Concert’ list thanks to Big Day Out.

When it was announced last year that the 20-year-old festival was no longer going to be held in New Zealand, I stood up and kicked the wall while screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” (no exaggeration). The pain I was experiencing was made three times worse a couple of weeks on when the line up for the Australian shows was announced. I’d been to every Big Day Out since I turned 15 and my mum finally gave into my begging. But this, this was the best line up yet and I wasn’t going to get to go!

I couldn’t hack it, I got on the phone to friends straight away, found one willing to splash a bit of cash and within weeks we’d booked our tickets and flights to Brisbane for the Gold Coast concert in January. The experience was great! We had a blast at the Aussie gig but the state of my bank balance afterwards told me I couldn’t do this every year.

So you’ll imagine my relief when it was revealed Big Day Out was making a return to New Zealand in 2014. Today brought the best news of all – a venue change from Mt Smart Stadium to Western Springs has been given council approval. This one small move is going to make the concert an even better version of itself.

The key to a festival with many stages is access between the different areas. I went to Wellington’s Homegrown in its first year, excited at the prospect of the water front gig showcasing Kiwi artists. But after missing the start of every band’s show by at least 15 minutes because it took so long to walk between each stage, I never wanted to go back. Logistically Homegrown was a nightmare.

In comparison, Big Day Out was much better but there were still a few issues at the previous venue of Mt Smart Stadium when it came to entering and exiting the main stage. It was set up on the rugby field and only accessible by stairs, which overflowed with fans pushing to get to the next act. Considering myself a bit of a ‘BDO regular’, I always attacked the stairs with my elbows out and ready to push. But if you were unaware of how to tackle the crowd, it could become an almighty struggle.

At this year’s Gold Coast Big Day Out the venue, Parklands, was fantastic. The three sets of stages were a close distance to each other and on the same level of ground thus avoiding the awful stairs. Yet the sounds didn’t overlap and food stalls and toilets were nicely scattered in between. The park setting worked perfectly, as will Western Springs, which is of a similar layout. I’m even prepared to push aside my fear of birds to dance with the swans if it means five more minutes with my favourite band. So sayonara Mt Smart.

Not to mention that by taking the festival away from the industrial part of Auckland with little public transport in place, bringing it to the city and it’s the perfect recipe for happy concert-goers. No more waiting in the rain for 45 minutes to get on the train feeling like your feet are going to fall off at any minute and your eyes physically can’t stay open. Now for most, it will be an easy walk home or an easy walk to a number of methods of transportation.

It’s a good day for Kiwi music junkies like myself now that we’re welcoming the return of Big Day Out and a revamped version. Organisers have figured out how to make the concert a logistical success so now we just have to hope the line up of acts is just as good.

The Great Gatsby Review

The Great GatsbyI know this isn’t about music – but I couldn’t resist having my say. Hope you enjoy.

“You remind me of a rose, an absolute rose.”

I still remember my sixth form English teacher prancing around our classroom gleefully reciting this line.

I also vividly remember loving studying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby but hating Jack Clayton’s 1974 film adaptation.

Usually the part in English class where you get to watch the movie of the book you’re studying is everyone’s favourite lesson, but this time round, not so much.

The old-fashioned flick failed to excite a bunch of 90’s born teens, despite Mrs Crawford’s many attempts to try and instil excitement in us about Mia Farrow playing Daisy Buchanan.

Mia Farrow? Who’s that, we asked.

Now six years on, my old classmates and I rushed to the movie theatre to check out Baz Lurhmann’s modernised version of the American classic with high hopes.

Having been a fan of Lurhmann’s earlier works Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet I braced myself for a slightly off-kilter from reality version of the story, and it’s just what I got.

The story is brought straight into modern day with a loud, hip-hop theme soundtrack which to my puzzlement works surprisingly well with the flamboyant costuming of 1920’s attire.

The fashion was a highlight for me. Catherine Martin, the woman behind all the glitz and glam, has done a stellar job of making you want to get your glad rags on and jump straight into the party.

Lurhmann moves scene to scene with a mixture of filter fades and typewriter text transitions which helps the flashback style of the book flow in movie format.

But it would all be nothing if it weren’t for the brilliant cast.

Carey Mulligan is a stand out as Daisy Buchanan. What Mia Farrow made cringe-worthy she makes effortlessly chic. To put it simply in Daisy’s words, she always looks “so cool”.

Isla Fisher is a hilariously flamboyant Myrtle Wilson, Joel Edgerton is a slimy Tom Buchanan and Tobey Maguire brings the rather boring narrator role of Nick Carraway to life.

But then comes Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and right from that very first glinting smile appearance with “I’m Gatsby” he’s got everyone in the audience won over.

I’m sorry Mrs Crawford, I know you think Robert Redford was a handsome Gatsby but he’s got nothing on Leo, especially when it comes to that pink suit.

The action packed drama in the last 20 minutes unfolded with many a gasp in the theatre and plenty of tears from one of my neighbours.

A thrilling finale before the film wrapped up peacefully with that famous monologue about the green light, the orgastic future, running faster and boats against the currents, the perfect end for a ‘great’ film.

The film’s had mixed reviews, I think Lurhmann’s style is the reason for that. Many of my friends thought the style didn’t gel with the classic story but when taking a story set in the Jazz Age and releasing it in 2013 I think it had to be a director a bit radical who took this on.

The flick will be a useful tool for the modern day English class, all the theme studies about the American dream, the symbolism of the green light at the end of the dock and the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are just as important in Luhrmann’s rendition as Fitzgerald’s novel.

I just hope now that Mrs Crawford will give her class the pleasure of Leo and Mulligan and wave good bye to her dear Farrow and Redford.

Fleetwood Mac are coming to NZ – get excited!

Me and some friends at Fleetwood Mac at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth 2009
Me and some friends at Fleetwood Mac at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth 2009

If you could be any singer, alive or dead, who would you be?

It’s a question I like to ask people. For a music junkie like me, how one answers this question tells me a lot about them. I mean how seriously are you going to take a guy who says he would be Justin Bieber? Maybe there’s something attractive about having a pet monkey, but wouldn’t you rather swoon like Paul McCartney – one of the greatest artists of all time?

So one Easter as I sat in the car on the Auckland motorway, bumper to bumper, barely moving and cringing with distaste at how many hours longer my trip home to New Plymouth would take than normal, I turned to my passengers and asked the question. They’re my friends for a reason. Their answers were Adele, John Lennon and Cat Stevens.

What’s my answer you ask? It’s easy. Stevie Nicks.

So you can imagine my excitement yesterday when Fleetwood Mac announced they’re returning to New Zealand in December to play Auckland’s Vector Arena. Now I’ve calmed myself down enough to write I have four words for you. YOU CAN’T MISS IT!

The band was last here in 2009 when they played New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands and boy oh boy what a concert. I fancy myself as a bit of a concert connoisseur and this gig was easily at the top of the list.

It was a miserable December night for an outdoor venue but the faithful fans gathered in a sea of blue and yellow plastic rain ponchos. The rain never let up and the natural grass amphitheatre quickly became mud. But no worries, the crowd never lost faith and they had good reason to put up with the conditions because as soon as Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood hit the stage the weather was the last thing on their mind for the next three hours.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. Starting off with Monday Morning, The Chain and Dreams, the crowd was whooping and singing every word within seconds. And it didn’t let up the whole set. Nicks is exactly as you’d imagine, wearing a sparkly ‘gyspy’ dress and shaking her body like a true hippy. Buckingham has amazing stage presence, strumming that guitar like his life depended on it. Often the drummer gets lost on stage, but not Fleetwood, he’s as much a part of the performance as the others.

They sang the classics and backed each other up in their solo pieces. Tusk, was perfectly timed. As the sky opened up people stomped their feet in the mud dancing like mad, every time one slipped onto their bum the people around cheered louder and sang louder.

Everyone stood dead still as ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham sang a chilling rendition of Landslide, a song Nicks wrote when their long relationship was coming to an end, to each other from separate ends of the stage. All before coming together and wrapping up with upbeat crowd favourite Go Your Own Way and power ballad Silver Springs.

It took about three days to wash the mud out of my clothes, but every scrub was worth it.

Fleetwood Mac are a must see in concert so take my advice and go, I’ll see you there!