Great Sounds Great – 10th December 2022, Cuba Street Precinct, Wellington

Auckland has The Others Way and other cool indie smallfests and have done for some time. We, down here in Pōneke, have been just a little bit envious of that. But, finally, thanks to independent Eyegum Music Collective, we have a party just for us.

Called the GREAT SOUNDS GREAT (no doubt after the infamous Clean album) this inaugural event has whipped together a veritable smorgasbord of local, tightly packed into one hour sets across five venues, with the tried and true one band on stage, one setting up festival coordination approach. Given the spread of gigs, across Cuba, Garret, Edward and Vivian Streets (San Fran, Valhalla, Meow, Rogue & Vagabond and Bedlam & Squalor). I was keen to see if this was actually manageable, for an average punter – with roller-skates and a rocket pack!

There was certainly enough to pull you in all directions – Nadia Reid, Na Noise, Imugi 이무기, Hans Pucket, Ben Woods & Linen, Memory Foam, Earth Tongue and Glass Vaults – amongst others.

The night kicked off early with Ms Freyja and her band of young and keen players at Valhalla and Hemi Hemingway at Meow. The former reminded me of Vera Ellen, with all the hiss, roar and fire of a determined new songwriter. Keep your ears on her, she’s going places.

The latter, Hemi Hemingway, with his Elvis at Vegas-styled leather jacket is a writer of shimmering 60’s croon-pop, which you can hear on his rather brilliant ep called ‘The Lonely Hunter’. His own press sums up better than I ever could: “timeless lovesickness of The Ronettes, The Shirelles, and The Shangri-Las – subtly subverting it to focus on modern relationships, masculinity, and his own roots as a New Zealander.” Time spent with songs like ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye’, ‘The Lonely Hunter’, ‘Move Over Darling’ and ‘Hemi’s Lament’ were definitely worth the investment. Tonight he had no band, “just my guitar and this lil’ guy (referring to a laptop)” But no matter. His performance was all drama and class, cutting a figure like a more attractive Nick Cave, with the charm machine turned all the way up to ‘11’ and his voice melted a million hearts.

Tahini Bikini are not quite the new kids on the block, they’ve been on the scene for a little while. But most of us haven’t had the chance to seen them yet. Tonight was a great opportunity to enjoy their cynical funk grooves and shake off the grime of the work week by getting down early in the evening. I especially enjoyed their breakout hit ‘Bad Karma’, which had everyone at the tiny Rogue and Vagabond bar steaming up the windows.

A while back I reviewed Memory Foam’s album ‘Steel Magnolia’. They are a Japanese/Māori/Kiwi Indie-Noise punk band from Tāmaki Makaurau with an agenda constructed from pure confusion. Half the experience was endurance and the other half, bemusement. They were difficult to photograph and even more difficult to listen to. Crazy, angular walls of noise and sonic distortion, hanging by the finger nails off some frighteningly steep cliff-faces of pop melody. I didn’t know what to make of them then and that sentiment remains. And of course, that’s why I loved their set.

Singer Yuko Miyoshi was so sweet and polite as I chatted to her prior to the gig. But once the music started the demon was unleashed with a tirade of expletive, unpronounceable lyrics in a tirade of catchy hooks and face melting psyche punk. I needed more than a cup of tea and a lie down after that!

Kane Strang’s new trio all nervously ventured onto the stage at San Fran for their set, as Office Dog. They dutifully delivered some fine geek-pop including two freshly minted singles, out this week. The first was ‘Tight Rope’, a stumbling, jerky affair with no real direction, followed by ‘In The Red’ which is an equally awkward shoe-gazer.

Offsetting that was Kane’s admission that he’d done some karaoke the previous night, taking off the Sugarbabes. So the rest of his gig was intersperse by requests for ‘Push The Button’.

Nadia Reid needs no introduction. Just back from a small tour of Aussie playing material from her ‘Lockdown’ infected album, ‘Out of My Promise’. Our reviewer, Alexis Brook, once described Nadia’s voice as “like a chocolate fountain – so rich and sweet”, and you can’t argue with that. Every time I see her, she just gets better and better.

During her set she told us about work on a new album and her upcoming UK tour. She also debuted a couple of new songs, including one she performed on the electric piano, despite her own protestations that she can’t really play. I’m not exactly sure what the title will be, but guessing by the chorus, ‘Baby Bright’ seems a likely contender. There were a couple of lesser know songs – the delicate ‘Emmanuelle’ the vulnerable, yet compelling ‘Woman Apart’. Along with those were the popular ones, such as ‘High and Lonely’, ‘Oh, Canada’ and ‘Heart To Ride’. And to finish she also included a very sweet version of Mazzy Star’s Fade into You’, which won over the whole house at Meow bar.

Up at Valhalla, I caught a couple of tracks from three piece Straight Up And Down, who do exactly what it says on the tin: no nonsense, yet faithful meat and potatoes grunge rock with catchy melodies that remind me of Hunters and Collectors in their early days.

Ōtautahi musician Ben Woods is a master of his own sound, his vocal, his guitar timbre, even the feedback or distortion is very intentional, as a mixer to his predominantly brooding musical palate. Tonight’s set showcases his new release, ‘Dispeller’, with its intentionally jarring listening experience.

Tracks like ‘The Strip’, built around shuddering tremolos and ghosting piano tones and the even more haunting drones of ‘Trace Reel’ stand out for me.

Woods has suggested he is an ‘atonal crooner’, a self-deprecating title he enjoys exploring. One reviewer referred to him as a bit of a ‘Scott Walker’. I think I’m on board with that, especially if he was teaming up with the Velvet Underground. His set, supported by a very competent 3-piece crew called The Linen, which included a parched and throaty alto sax, was just delightful. There was at least one 60’s-tinged free jazz jam in there that took you off on a short astral mind trip for a few minutes. A much appreciated accompaniment to the refreshing craft beers on offer from the bar.

Also on my ‘must see’ list was 95bFM SRN Award nominees Kiwi/Korean pop duo, Imugi 이무기. Their techno-fun funky love songs and relationship frame-ups were great fun. ‘Somebody Else’, ‘Portals’ and ‘Greensmoke’ were standout tracks. Carl Ruwhiu’s beats are stylish and full of prowess while Yery Cho’s vocals are confident, powerful, and sometime vulnerable. Plus she can rap like there’s no tomorrow!

Their whole act is very professional, whilst still remaining Kiwi downbeat casual. It’s a good mix. They completed with a new track called ‘Solace’ a sax and bass heavy dance floor filler which they made in collaboration with Drax Project, with the video literally dropping yesterday.

In a night of sounds great, Na Noise provided some crafty reinvented surf-pop with artistic twinges. It was clear they were having too much fun on stage. K’ Road blazers Harriet Ellis, Yolanda Fagan, a percussionist (whose name I didn’t catch) and Christopher Varnham all make beautiful chaos together that is cathartic, vibrant and downright danceble. I’m not that familiar with their songs but it didn’t seem to matter too much as each ear load of their trademark sonic kaleidoscopics layered over the other. If you could drown in a tsunami of sound then this is the way to go. Their first album was described as the stitching of sonic palettes – a car crash of art rock and 60’s R&B girl groups – on acid!

Going back to Valhalla again, I saw Earth Tongue. That was essential. This Psych-fuzz-doom duo Gussie Larkin (Mermaidens) and Ezra Simons (Soft Bait) blend jarring 60’s garage rock with dark themes of ancient cults, Sci-fi schizz, alien abductions and B-Movie horrors.

Their debut album ‘Floating Being’ dropped in 2019 and was toured elsewhere. But here we never really got to experience it for ourselves here at home. This was a chance to rectify that plus the new single ‘Miraculous Death’, which was delivered with body boiling energy and power. It was incredible how much sound could be released from just two people, especially from the diminutive Larkin, who proves size doesn’t matter when you’ve got a Telecaster and a board full of fuzz pedals under your toes!

It was great to see Glass Vaults (Richard Larsen, Rowan Pierce, Bevan Smith as well as a new percussionist) on stage again. For me the last time was at Coastella on the Kapiti Coast four years ago. Their sound remains strum/guitar based, with sojourns into intellectual bright pop tunes, enlightened by outbursts of arty flourishes. Their newest album, 2020’s ‘Sounds That Sound Like Music’ featured heavily in their set tonight. It was written and recorded at a lake house in Taupō, and then a cabin in Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand.

I didn’t manage to glimpse their set list but I think I heard the dinky digital grooves of ‘Boys On Boys’, the techno grunge of ‘Oils and Perfume’, a new track called ‘Barcelona’ and ‘Brooklyn’ (from 2017’s ‘The New Happy’.)

For me, the night rounded off with the happy go lucky repertoire of the twin brothers act, Hans Pucket. Their frenetic and immediate indie sound is the result of a collaboration between twin brothers Oliver and Callum Devlin now joined by drummer Jonathan Nott and multi-instrumentalist Callum Passells. Tonight Nott was absent, Passells was on the kit.

It was over a year ago, during the Mermgrown fest, in Newtown, that I first experienced their quirky yet exhilarating live shows. They get up to all sorts of mischief, like swapping instruments, jumping around the stage like lunatics and spontaneous bouts of daggy dancing.

Tonight’s repertoire included a fair dollop of material from their brand newly minted sophomore effort ‘No Drama’, made with help from Jonathan Pearce of The Beths. You can’t help being swayed by the brother’s schoolboy/preppy charm. There were plenty who swooned away under their spell in the front row.

The party rounded off with a stonking set from Whanganui-based, Ludus, who explores the extremes edges of electronic music via her laptop.

Unfortunately scheduling meant I missed Crush, Nahbo, Ian Jorg and Soft Plastics. But that’s the nature of these events. Sensory overload is a pleasurable over-indulgence worth the ticket price.

Also worth a mention are the pink vested ‘Safe Space’ support crew, who patrolled this gig. As a festival spread out across 5 individual venues, there was plenty of movement in and out of the alleys and feeders to Cuba, Garret, Edward and Vivian Streets. So it was great to know they had your back if you were feeling unsafe, a bit woozy or threatened by any unwanted attention. This is an important duty of any festival hosts and greatly appreciated. Most of the audience were under 25-30 years, what you’d expect from the Student Radio/indie/Flying Nun label fans. So, it was important to take care and respect their needs.

Huge credit to the Eyegum team for putting this on. After two years of pain, re-bookings, cancellations and crash and burns, it was amazing to see a small fest like this finally hit the ground. Which is what I did all night bouncing between gigs, taking photos, sampling the ales, getting up and getting down. Smiles all around, warmth in my heart and the welcome feeling of sore feet from a great night out. Come back and do it all again next year, please! Cheers, Eyegum Collective!

originally published at

Photos by Tim Gruar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with
%d bloggers like this: