By Jake Ebdale
Date / Venue: Saturday March 23rd, The Oval - North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
A beautiful Saturday at North Harbour Stadium's The Oval proved the perfect setting for Tuborg Sounds On, an environmentally minded, completely Kiwi music mini festival. The first of its kind in the North Shore, Sounds On boasted a plethora of food and merch, mini bars and rides - you could call it the green equivalent of Wellington's Homegrown. Their Facebook page talks about beach clean ups amongst other things, which is a great initiative. I was there for the music.
The most attractive thing about this new show was the level of talent present in the line-up - Homebrew, Trinity Roots, Tahuna Breaks, AHoriBuzz, Katchafire, Tiki Taane, David Dallas and the Black Seeds to name a few, plus a host of new talent to fill in the blanks. As it was an absolute scorcher, I was hoping the sets (on average 45 minutes an act), were varied enough to hold attention. Some did, some didn't.
Here are the highlights:
Homebrew were antagonistic and bombastic - rousing performances of ‘Benefit' and ‘Alcoholic' made a great start to my day, though the "wave your middle finger in the air" mentality grows a bit tired. The relatable Tom and Hazprovided some solidly funny stage banter. Apparently they really don't like John Key.
Trinity Roots were a welcome addition to the bill, and the most sophisticated act present. ‘The Dream' is a walloping reggae beast, enough to wake an entire stadium from idle chatter to full on skank mode. A particularly poignant version of ‘Home, Land and Sea' was a fitting anthem for the day - a song that never loses its power, no matter the setting. For many around us, this was their first experience of Trinity Roots since they had reunited, and their first look at not so new drummer Jean Pompey.
Surprisingly, the best act of the day was Aaron Tokona's outfit, AHoriBuzz, which HAS featured ex-Trinity drummer Rikki Gooch. The banter from Tokona is genuinely hilarious - "wha cup" and "have a cum" weirdly resonating with the audience. His prowess on the guitar, which was beefed up with additional axe-work fromLaughton Kora, made for a massive psychedelic rock party. One of the two songs AHoriBuzz have released,‘Turnaround', which sounds like Prince greasing over ‘Superstition' spliced with reggae, was by far the day's highlight. Their cover of ‘Foxy Lady' was the icing on the cake - a debut LP from these guys is hotly anticipated.
Later in the night, Tahuna Breaks were a welcome jolt of energy, buzzing off the back of their new album ‘Shadow Light'. These guys have done reggae, they've done the funk, and now they're embracing club music - in fact after a few beers I thought I was listening to a Kiwi Chromeo. Though they might have a bit of a perpetual identity crisis, they were a solid, fun act, especially when playing to their strengths with recent songs ‘Moves' and ‘Fearless'. ‘Giddy Up', their James Brown/Funkadelic homage, was another of the day's stand outs.
By far, these aforementioned bands towered above the rest. The other big crowd pullers - Katchafire, Tiki Taane and the Black Seeds - were doing carbon copies of previous sets. Opener Che Fu was embarrassing - a man suffering from D'Angelo syndrome (so much talent, so little to show for it). For those others: I can safely say I never have to hear ‘Always on my Mind', ‘Get Away' or ‘Cool Me Down' again. Simply going through the motions.
Besides the usual first festival kinks, like everlasting lines, an annoying wristband payment system and pushy security, Sounds On was enjoyable. There were hardly any boisterous drunken punters, and the vibe within the crowd was friendly. Hopefully it becomes an annual Auckland event, to fill the gaping void of Big Day Out.
P.S. If you haven't heard ‘Turnaround' by A Hori Buzz, listen to it - and get ready for the next time they play.