The gig originally posted as “Erica Freas live at Moturiki Island” was to have originally kicked off on Sunday the 22nd of March at 2pm and was to have taken place on the beautiful outcrop of land known to locals as Leisure Island, Mount Maunganui; unfortunately the event had to be diverted to a covered area under the Tauranga Harbour bridge, but not because of the natural forces of nature at it’s worst, but because of two security guards who had been posted at the start of the walking track to stop the event.
Mitch Cookson, event organiser and singer of “The Prophet Motive” was informed that Tauranga City Council had been informed of the event and as Moturiki Island was deemed to be Tauranga Council property they were using it without the correct authority; a very sad state of affairs considering all the musicians were from outside the Tauranga area, two were accoustic singer/guitarists and the rest were in two bands powered by a small, and very quiet, diesel generator all done for FREE. The event was coordinated with the Tauranga Music Sux crew whose gigs, of which I have attended numerous, I have never witnessed a single act of violence or property destruction(not many promoters could say that !)
The event eventually got under way under the bridge at around 4.30pm kicking off with the amazing folk-punk fusion of The Prophet Motive. Like Billy Bragg on steroids, Mitch vents his frustrations, both personal and political, with wit and intellect on his trusty accoustic guitar. His songs, like the man in person, are entertaining and enjoyable to be around and have that feel good sing-a-long feeling. His ode to Temuera Morrison, a crowd favourite, encompasses just about every four letter word in the book, but you’ll be singing it with him as soon as you hear it. Buy his album “Manifest Density” , check out some of his newer tunes on Bandcamp, and play it loud and often- just not in front of the kids! Go and see him play live, he’s moving from Rotorua to Auckland soon but promises to come back regularly. Check out his facebook page for upcoming gigs!
Second on the bill were Auckland band Future Theft, well practised with that full-on five piece sound. Pure punk rock energy but with those poppy hooks which get your toes tapping and your bum wiggling. Vocals were delivered admirably by lead singer Jordan and lead guitarist Matt. The duo harmonised well together and also had that rough/smooth, male/female dynamic which further enhanced their delivery. The dual guitar work with rhythm player Kelsie had a similar effect by consistantly playing around each other rather than just thrashing away with the same chords all the time, boucing off each other then blasting through the choruses in fine unison. The rhythm section, consisting of Jack on bass and Dave on drums, kept the monster snarling with beautiful percussive tightness worthy of such a fine unit ! The only downfall in the band’s set was a runaway drumkit caused by smooth, slightly sloping concrete. Remember drummers always take your magic piece of carpet with you! Apparently this was one of their last gigs, such a shame I would have been happy to part with some of my hard earned cash to witness them in a more controlled indoor environment!
Auckland band Slug Hugger were up third and what a fine three piece they turned out to be. Although initially lacking a little in confidence the three ladies soon took off once the applause of onlookers boosted their spirits. The powerhouse drumming really kicked the trio into overdrive and laid the foundation for a feast of sound which varied between tight mid-era catchy Husker Du like numbers to semi psychedelic excursions then on to neo-metallic hardcore tunes. The dual vocals with Guitarist Kelsie (also of Future Theft) worked wonders whilst the solid and capable bass playing kept the beast chugging along. What a kick-arse collection of songs, the band left me thirsting for more, hopefully not before too long. (please excuse lack of names for the drummer and bass player as unable to reference from the internet)
Last on the bill was the amazingly talented Erica Freas all the way from the U.S of A; she was funny and heart-warmingly natural in front of a crowd and made every song feel both personal and poignant. Armed only with her voice and an acoustic guitar she worked the crowd like a true pro, throwing in little references to what the songs were about, but not talking too much either. Her unique style entranced with a kind of punky-folk crossover, but delving into a myriad of genres. Starting with simpler songs she soon moved into more complex rhythms, weaving a finger picked tapestry of words and music. The crowd ate up her charming performance and many stood in line to thank and congratulate her afterwards leaving as if they had made a new best friend. I had neither seen nor heard of Erica Freas before that day, but became an instant fan, walking away with a smile and a new cd. Who needs to steal internet music when you can buy the real thing for ten bucks-phenomenal value!
Days like this remind me of what a truly fantastic thing music is, crossing age, colour, gender and race, whether at a huge gig or under a small bridge – i’m still smiling writing this review! As a reviewer I had very little to fault on the day apart from the poorly advised actions of the council- stopping young people from playing music, come on guys is this beautiful NZ or a russian state. The whole ordeal felt like watching the Pussy Riot fiasco. A short time ago I witnessed local Councillor Matt Cowley talk at an ArtBop meeting at The Incubator (Tauranga Historic Village’s art hub) where he discussed possible changes to Tauranga’s arts policy, which Rotorua has favourably adapted. Could the two security guards not just have kept an eye on proceedings rather than just say NO to the event, they would probably have enjoyed it as much as the rest of us, but then this is Tauranga, where it’s not the music that sux – just the beauraucracy !!
WORDS & PICTURES By:
My name is John Baxter but I frequently use the pseudonym Johnny B, for fun, in artistic and musical endeavours. I am the bass player & back up singer for local alternative band The Carradines and guitarist and back up vocalist for Tauranga punk band Liberated Squid. As well as having played, written songs for, and sung in numerous other local bands I am an artist, prop maker and photographer at The Incubator art space at the Historic Village, Tauranga. I have been involved in the Tauranga music scene ever since I left school (a long time ago) and still love being a part of it whether playing or attending gigs. I would say the local scene is in a better state now than it has ever been due to the awesome underground gigs happening with greater frequency around the city which in turn helps attract bands both from other areas. The number of bands I have seen or heard over the years would be into the thousands, but I still get a real buzz from hearing new music and especially from seeing bands and solo artists play live. I try to be as truthful as I can be with my reviews, but not be rude; I will try to be constructive and helpful with any criticism (but if you truly suck I will let You know!)