Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

The best gigs I saw in 2014

06:23am 12 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

Yesterday I asked about New Year's Eve gigs (and mentioned a couple of sure-to-be-decent ones). So I figure now is a good time to run through the best shows of the year. 

I still head out to plenty of gigs - many because I want to, sometimes (still) because I have to. I'm still reviewing gigs for Wellington's newspaper, The Dominion Post. And sometimes I just go to a show because I want to - even buying tickets when the freebies are not forthcoming (I'm really not a scab, a comp ticket is just a tool of the trade when you're a reviewer, or should be). I usually end up writing about the gig even if I'm not filing a review for the paper because, well, old habits die hard I guess...

So here we go. The best shows of the year in the order as I saw them.

First up Liam Finn at Puppies - he played two nights. He had Lawrence Arabia as his (secret) opening act. There was plenty of brand new material, in fact he was here to showcase material from his then unreleased new album. Liam's put on some great shows over the years, an always fired-up, excellent performer and this gig was no exception.

Just as few days later, at the same venue, The Clean played a great set. Okay, so it wasn't them at their very best, it was a little bit messy, but it was part of the celebrations in winding up the venue, as Puppies signed off and faded away. Also it was special to see Peter Gutteridge up there with the band. (R.I.P. Gutt-man).

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New Year's Eve gigs 2014/15

05:58am 11 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to what's on this New Year's Eve - because I'll be out of the country and on holiday. And though I'm sure there'll be some music involved and some celebration I'll have most certainly signed off from gig-going for 2014.

The holiday - the very thought of it - can't come soon enough. It's been a great year, but I've been busy, I've written about more music this year than any other year since I've been doing this. A bit of time off is certainly required - many of you will be looking forward to me taking a break too no doubt. It's definitely time to recharge the battery.

San FranBut if I was in town and looking for something to do and see this New Year's Eve I'd be at the just-announced gig at Wellington's San Fran. Featuring Bunnies on Ponies and Teeth and then the legendary Hang The DJ set from the wonderful Bill E it's definitely my idea of a great New Year's Eve gig.

Bunnies on Ponies released a very cool album recently - the band features Sam Scott of The Phoenix Foundation with Craig Terris on drums and Phoenix Foundation bassist, Tom Callwood.

Teeth is Luke Buda's new project. It also features Callwood on bass (double-duty for him that night) with Ant Donaldson on drums (he goes back to Six Volts/Front Lawn days as well as being a stalwart of Wellington's jazz/free-improv scene) and David Long (of The Mutton Birds fame - and most recently composer of the fabulous soundtrack to the Ed Hilary documentary) on guitar.Bodega

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The memorabilia you never wanted

06:13am 10 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

We've talked before about signed t-shirts, albums, ticket-stubs; the experience of receiving (collecting) gig/album-related ephemera, of meeting someone famous, or simply bidding on a signed item (after someone else did the work of meeting, greeting and coaxing the signature). But what about the memorabilia you never needed - or wanted...what about when it goes wrong - when someone tries to get you a signed item, or when you yourself figured you should collect a gig souvenir only to realise you don't need it at all...don't want it.ABBA

I thought about this just recently as I still have a signed ticket stub by The Proclaimers. Well, it's not even the ticket to the gig, it's the Ticketek receipt. And the signature's not made out to me, it's for my wife Katy. Except it's not - really - for her, it's for someone named "Katie".

The full story is there behind that link above. But basically I was in a situation where a) I felt I had to get something signed at a rather awkward and forced meet-and-greet (as if there's any other type). And b) it was my attempt at a perverse joke since Katy had left the gig early, not all that interested in ever being there.

Over a decade on this worthless piece of mistimed and meaningless memorabilia has (still) avoided the recycling bin.

I was clearing out a few old CDs in the weekend and found I still have the signed copy of the album from that tour too. This is made out to me. "To Simon", the brothers Reid wrote, wrestling inertia. And signed their names - there emblazoned across the album Persevere, their 2001 "comeback" album; I've had to hold onto it ever since. Perhaps I should try and find a bigger Proclaimers fan than me also named Simon...the first part wouldn't be hard...

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Off The Tracks presents All Apologies: 90s music DJ set

06:13am 09 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

I've been playing records down at The Old Bailey most Friday of late. It's a fun gig. And next Friday, December 19, is my last session for the year - and given it's the final Friday before Christmas, a time when people are starting to knock off work for the year and start their holiday, I wanted to finish by doing something different. Back To The 90s

A couple of weeks ago we had a really successful 80s night there (see here for the setlist and here for a playlist based on the night). So now it's time to jump forward a decade and try a 1990s DJ set.

I'm really looking forward to this one - trip-hop and hip-hop, grunge and Britpop, plenty of great (and a few garish) one hit wonders...lots of top Kiwi music across the decade too (something of a Flying Nun comeback with a new wave of bands like Garageland and Superette, the solo career of Chris Knox. Also there was Darcy Clay). Anyone telling you that the 1990s was a rubbish decade of music has it all wrong.

I Love 90sI worked in a record store (for the first time) in the 1990s. In fact it was just as vinyl was dying out (for the first - and only? - time) and there was the emergence of dance music as a mainstream commodity and we had anthems galore from The Prodigy to Radiohead, from novelty hits to some of hip-hops best albums. Waves of grunge and Britpop brought in plenty of songs (and bands) I still go back to. And yes, sure, as with any decade there was a lot of landfill indie, great swathes of best-forgotten pop-nonsense.

But the idea of structuring an evening around some of the highlights - and something of a personal journey too - is very exciting to me. Particularly now that we're 20 years away from the mid-90s. Enough distance to look back (and not in anger).

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Christmas hits and misses

06:20am 08 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

It's hard to disagree with this list of Worst Holiday Albums - Christmas music is a tough sell to a lot of people and it's usually because of the monotony and insincerity.

Hey, I've done my tour of duty in retail at Christmas time. I even survived working in a Christmas store one year. Made it right up until Christmas Eve before walking out on the rudest boss ever. So I've done my share - and maybe yours too - of listening to Christmas music. I've worked in book stores and music stores at this time of the year - and I've written at least one post a year here about Christmas music (or X-ma-as(s) music as it came to be known in my line of work) usually because it is requested. There's always a few people keen to vent about Snoopy's Christmas. And others that will tell you they love Christmas music, and that there's something wrong with you and your stony heart if you don't.

As I mentioned briefly when talking about Mark Kozelek (and his new Christmas album) last week I've mellowed over the years when it comes to these albums of seasonal, er, favourites. You might like to point out that it's because I'm a father now. I might like to point out that it's because I'm no longer stuck in that retail rat-cage. But everything in its right place and one or two Christmas albums - during the month of December only - can't hurt. That's how I see it, and hear it.

This year's ('new') favourite is Willie Nelson's Pretty Paper (from 1979) - and I've got a couple of others to try too. I also dug out a couple of the free CDs (with either Mojo or Uncut, back from the magazine collecting days) and they have some pretty cool tracks on them (In The Christmas Groove is particularly good).In The Christmas Groove

But there are some real stinkers - and that list at the top of this post, featuring people like Kenny Chesney, Michael Bolton, Justin Beiber and Kenny G - is full of shockers (well most of the music associated with those names is music I'm not interested in hearing).

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