Monday, October 9, 2017

Rockin’ For West Papua 2017 – Audio Foundation October 7, 2017

Rockin’ For West Papua 2017 – Audio Foundation October 7, 2017

By The 13th Floor - October 8, 2017

To put it mildly, the world is in a bit of a state nowadays. It finds itself in the middle of massive intersectional social problems, from devastating natural disasters driven by climate change to the refugee crisis, inequality levels that stretch a myriad of ways and the rise of white nationalism.
Now more than ever, there is a need for widespread social change which includes changing the way we collectively live if we are ever to truly address any of these issues. If we find ourselves in a position of privilege, using it to shine a light on issues that would otherwise be overlooked, to speak for those who cannot is of utmost importance.
From Bob Dylan and Joan Baez lending themselves to the American Civil Rights Movement to Killer Mike and Napalm Death, musicians have long used their skills and social standing to bring attention to a wide range of issues.
Last night, Audio Foundation hosted the New Zealand leg of Rockin’ for West Papua 2017. Between 6-8th October, bands from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, England and Scotland will be performing in cities around the world. Organised by Ash Brennan  the director of Punks for  West Papua, an award-winning documentary, this global event is seeking to raise awareness of the plight of the West Papuan people. For the last 55 years, their basic human rights have been violated on a daily basis. More than half a million have been murdered, and they can face up to 15 years in jail for flying their own flag.
The Rockin’ for West Papua- Auckland Gig One comprised of The Biscuits, Hollow Grinders and Stefan Neville+ Hermione Johnston. With its ability to host avant-garde offerings yet remain warm and welcoming to all who come across it, Audiofoundation was the perfect venue.
Stefan Neville and Hermione Johnston kicked off proceedings. Stefan is best noted for his work in Pumice and involvement in Chris Knox and the Nothings, while Hermione is an Audiofoundation regular. For 20 or so minutes the duo created an improvised piece using a prepared piano with chopsticks strategically placed in-between the piano strings and a drum kit. Both were technically good musicians who created an artistic dischord that was undercut by the surprisingly eerie sound omitted by the chopsticks. It was avante-garde in the purest sense. While it wasn’t something you could or would chuck on to listen to in the privacy of your own ear-buds, to consider it in that way would completely miss the point of the this expressive and physical performance.

At times, the piano completely overpowered the drumming but the price that comes with improv is that it is a constant push-pull to mold your sound together on the spot. It was a hefty listen that could have been cut by five minutes.
Auckland-based band The Biscuits were up next. Their set was equal parts noisy punk  songs and sprawling psych-rock. Regardless of sound, there was a surreal banality to each song that made them a joy to watch. “This is a song about my son getting a haircut” said front-woman Indira.

Neville before launching into some raw fuzzy goodness. The Biscuits started because Indira wanted to learn how to play guitar, and so, to cite an interview with The Fridge, took the Jesus and Mary Chain approach; jumping into a band feet first. It was a smart move on her part, because this trio works so well together. I hope they have more performances lined up soon.

The Hollow Grinders made their way up from Hamilton to close the night. I’ve seen them perform a couple of times and have been consistently impressed. The best description I’ve heard of their sound was overheard late one night in Biddy Mulligans when someone slurred “They sound like Quentin Tarantino” which was remarkably accurate. The Hollow Grinders are a surf band who ride a very early 1960s lo-fi instrumental wave without a Beach Boy in sight. Despite the distortion that is inherent to the sound, it’s a style of music that requires a lot of precision from those who play it. The Hollow Grinders pulled it off with aplomb and got the small but enthusiastic crowd dancing, which was a fun end to the night.
Kate Powell

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