Concert Review: Fly My Pretties

The Fly My Pretties women sing Angels
The Fly My Pretties women sing Angels

If anyone were to need an introduction to New Zealand’s best musicians they should head along to a Fly My Pretties show. These performances showcase the best array of sounds in the most special of ways.

I’ve been to a few FMP shows over the years and there is nothing else like them. The general idea is that a number of Kiwi musicians, from an array of genres, come together and play each others songs as a collective. These shows are so special in the way they introduce up and coming artists, showcase new songs from much-loved stars and bring old favourites back into the mix. These gigs bring together the best in the country and seeing what collaborations they’ve come up with each time round is incredibly exciting. Obviously, the result is generally pretty stunning.

Last night, as I watched Fly My Pretties perform at the St James in Wellington I realised, I’ve never seen artists as happy on stage as this crew. They’re alive with energy and look to be having the times of their lives as they belt out a song, play a funky solo or simply just take up the backing vocals.

After their own offering, the musicians proudly introduce the next performer with a sibling-like endearment. They swap instruments and positions on stage with each other like they’re having a jam in someone’s garage, yet at the same time, they own the stage like they’ve done it forever.

This project is the brainchild of Barnaby Weir, best known for his work as front man of the Black Seeds and last night he lead the current 15-piece group in what was an amazing warm-up show before they head to play Byron Bay Bluesfest in April.

Here are my picks for the best moments of the night:

Anna Coddington smashing every song she played. The first song of the set was Bird In Hand. The gang were straight into it with this one and it was spine-tingling stuff. Coddington’s vocals were flawless and the funky bass line, drum beats, piano melodies, violin solo and guitar riffs were rousing. Of course one of the real highlights of the night was Garden, my favourite from FMP’s A Story tour. It’s the most beautiful song and when performed on this scale with so many wonderful musicians, the elements are chilling. Coddington’s vocals flowed perfectly from soft to grunty as the tempo quickened with Ryan Prebble’s brilliant guitar picking, then came Eva Prowse’s violin solo and I was spellbound. Such a magnificent song.

LA Mitchell just being her legendary self. Seriously this woman is amazing, there is something about her that means you can hardly take your eyes off her as she performs. She has the powerhouse voice everyone dreams of having. While singing a note that I think would physically kill me, she looks like she’s barely trying. During I’m Alive In The World the crowd was completely captivated, same again when she led the women in a version of Lisa Tomlin’s Angels and her own song Apple Heart. Each of these tunes were highlights for me last night, LA Mitchell is New Zealand’s soul queen and backed up by such spectacular musicians and singers her songs were clear standouts.

Fly My Pretties. This song went down a treat in Wellington, as it should, it is written about our marvelous city after all. It’s a rather poignant song as it talks about creative musicians needing to leave the city to try and make a few bucks in a bigger place like L.A. But it’s special in that Barnaby Weir sings about how it’s ok to leave, “as long as you come back some day”, something that many Wellington musicians have done.

Ria Hall and Bailey Wiley’s sass. From these gals we got some much needed flare and funk. Hall’s Where Did All My People Go was upbeat, quirky and alive. With backing vocals from all the other women on stage, it had real spine-shiver moments and had me completely captured. Wiley’s After The Tone, provided some RnB feel, with shades of Ladi6, as she moved on stage saucily and sensually while singing with stunning quality.

– Quiet Girl. How awesome to have the Phoenix Foundation’s Samuel Flynn Scott back on stage with the FMP crew. He waltzed around the stage throughout the night in an hilarious manner, with his scarf wrapped around his head in many different forms. That in itself was entertaining but of course it was best when he took centre stage to play Quiet Girl. He epitomized what FMP is all about when he talked about how about 12 years ago he had a half written song he didn’t quite know how to finish, until the guys on stage helped him. And what a song it is, it was an awesome watch and night highlight.

– Ryan Prebble and Kara Gordon – What a formidable force! These guitar geniuses were absolute show stealers last night. Leave This Town was an amazing song from Gordon. His training at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music was obvious during this smashing number. He absolutely killed it in a Hendrix-like manner with Prebble backing him up brilliantly. Prebble’s tune Real Calm, which appropriately was so far from a calm-sounding song, was outstanding. The FMP legend was in fine form as usual last night, dominating every song with his amazing guitar contributions, singing with such grungy passion and just generally looking like he was having the time of his life. Every time Prebble and Gordon played together it was compelling. The two rockers were in fine form.

 Let’s Roll. This song was the Live At Bats song I was waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. Barnaby Weir was in his finest form during this tune. It’s such a catchy song that builds up in the most magnificent fashion throughout. Layer upon layer of electric guitar riffs and drum beats you can’t sit still through meant the rock track was an obvious crowd favourite last night. And how awesome to see Anna Coddington up there rocking out on electric guitar with all the boys.

Thank god for Barnaby Weir having the brains to pull this genius idea together. I can’t believe anyone in the audience last night would have been bored for a moment. Fly My Pretties have done it again.

Cast:

-Samuel Flynn Scott

-Bailey Wiley

-Anna Coddington

-LA Mitchell

-Eva Prowse

-Mel Parsons

-Ria Hall

-Barnaby Weir

-Jarney Murphy

-Kara Gordon

-Iraia Whakamoe

-Mara TK

-Mike Fabulous

-Nigel Patterson

-Ryan Prebble.

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The Falls Festival Awards

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the last month.

I’m back at work now after a wonderful three week holiday and as the dust settles I keep remembering my trip away.

I spent New Year in Byron Bay, Australia and attended the Falls Festival.

It was a great event, although a bit too hot for my liking, the musicians were outstanding and the vibe was wonderful.

So here are my 2014 Falls Festival Byron Bay Awards.

Falls Festival Byron Bay
Falls Festival, Byron Bay

The ‘best of the best’ award:

alt-J

For the whole hour long set I was in heaven. I never imagined this band could sound quite so good live! I have to admit I thought their voices just wouldn’t compare in real life, I imagined they were rather computerised. Boy was I wrong. Frontman Joe Newman is a singing legend. His tone, pitch, energy and even annunciation were perfect, add into the mix his unique sound and you’ve obviously got a winning combo. His voice echoed across the Valley stage and filled you up with a sense of awe. alt-J rattled through the hits from their first record like Breezeblocks, Matilda, Tessellate and Taro and everyone in the audience was in music heaven. They brought to life every song they played off their new album, Hunger of the Pine was spine-tingling material, Left Hand Free was a massive singalong and Nara was mesmerising. I was completely spell-bound. Newman and his gang were kind performers who had a lovely rapport with the crowd, played the songs everyone wanted to hear in stunning fashion and just generally kicked ass. It was such an amazing concert I still don’t know how to best describe it other than to say it was incredible. If you haven’t seen them live yet, don’t miss tickets to their next show.

The ‘next big thing’ award:

George Ezra

When I took a look around the crowd at his set and saw a mass of people, most of who were singing every word to songs from his debut album Wanted on Voyage it was evident everyone around the world has fallen in love with George Ezra as fast as I have. This was the third time in six months that I had seen Ezra play and in that time he’s already learnt to act like a superstar who’s been performing all his life. He started the set sending shivers down everyone’s spine as he came on stage and sang the intro of Did You Hear The Rain unaccompanied. Ezra sounded as good with no backing as many artists would with a full choir behind them, his voice was simply beautiful. I spent most of the hour dancing to a number of tracks from his album like Blame It On Me, Listen To The Man and Cassy O’, the songs were energetic and upbeat while still being pretty darn breathtaking. Of course hit first single Budapest drew in a big crowd and was very popular, and despite me knowing his album and E.P back to front, he still played new material and it was fantastic, so there’s a lot more to come from him! It is clear watching the 21-year-old that he is going to be around for a long time and is going to go a long way.

The Forest Stage
The Forest Stage

The ‘electronica god’ award:

Asgeir

The Icelandic singer-songwriter was such a great act to watch on a sunny afternoon, lazing on the grassy banks of the Forest stage. He started the set slowly, playing some more laid-back tunes which reverberated across the crowd and had everyone toe-tapping and nodding in time with the beat. It was such a relaxing vibe and I was loving it but the best bit came when he stepped it up a notch with a rousing cover of Nirvana’s song Heart Shaped Box. Within minutes the crowd was more attentive and singing along, captivated by his sassy falsettos. Going Home was another highlight while King and Cross blew me away and has been playing on repeat on my iPod ever since. The song was electric, the audience was buzzing and Asgeir absolutely killed it.

The ‘impossibly fun’ award:

Bluejuice

This was the well-known Aussie band’s second to last performance ever. They’re heading their separate ways shortly and everyone at Falls knew this was a gig you didn’t want to miss. One thing’s for sure, you’d be kicking yourself if you did. The Sydney boys put on the show of a lifetime. The Forest stage tent became a sweaty pit of people dancing and screaming so hard they looked like they’d faint, I certainly felt that way, but it was worth it because I had so much fun enjoying every minute of their set. They had a contagious energy which spread across the crowd and seemed to take over peoples bodies. Songs like Act Yr Age, Vitriol, Ain’t Telling the Truth and their spaced out cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games were all brilliant. The finale of Broken Leg was on a whole other level. It was impossible not to grin with a feverish happiness during the whole hour. I loved it and so did everyone else, the Bluejuice boys were the talk of the festival.

IMG_4072_2

The ‘ones to watch’ award: 

Milky Chance

This German folk duo was a real joy to watch on stage. Their music is such a fresh sound in a time when a lot of songs sound the same. Singer Clemens Rehbein has a voice like no one else. He croons with a fierce energy and his vocals echoed out across the Falls valley magnificently. He’s supported wonderfully by Philip Dausch whose production cleverly changes the songs from being a laidback acoustic to a more electronica sound which is hard to resist. The pairs tunes are funky numbers, something which seems to stem from their background in jazz music. I highly recommend checking them out.

The ‘surprise superstar’ award:

La Roux

I’ll admit, La Roux wasn’t exactly on my list of acts I was desperate to see so when my friend and I went to check her out we were quite literally blown away. She was such a great performer. Her stunning voice was pitch perfect, powerful and punchy. She ruled the stage like she’s done it since she was a child. There was not a single person in the audience not dancing and singing up a storm and it was so much fun to experience.

The ‘so good it makes you cry’ award:

John Butler Trio

I don’t know what it is about this man but he has an incredible ability to make me cry. I’ve seen him in concert many a times and he’s a brilliant musician I’ll never tire of seeing. In a set with the John Butler Trio you get a taste of everything a concert should have. The songs so bouncy you can’t physically sit still, the vocals that strike a chord with you, the lyrics that make you laugh as you sing them (or try to keep up with him singing them in his case), the kind of crowd interaction that keeps everyone focused and silent and of course, the mind-blowing guitar playing that brings tears to your eyes. John Butler slowed things down a little mid-set and played Ocean, his twelve minute instrumental on an eleven-string guitar. It’s a song that he adapts slightly each time he plays and there is not a person in the world that wouldn’t be blown away by this song, especially when watching him play it live with such incredible passion. Check out the video below to get some idea of how amazing he is and how perfectly Ocean showcases his talents.