By Mark Derricutt
Date / Venue: Saturday July 4th, Kings Arms, Auckland
Choosing the right lineup for an event can be a daunting task which can easily make, or break the flow of an evening - when it works, everything flows and your crowd is propelled forward, leading them toward the headline act; other-times however it can feel awkward, a little bit laboured, and somehow ever so slightly off.
It was like that for the release of Rackets new album 'Walking The Skeleton' last night at the Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland - with a lineup that started well, but imploded somewhat when a punk/rock show turned jarringly into a rap show, only to be rescued by the headliners.
Earlier in the evening I'd been informed we were in for a punk show, so with that in mind I entered the Kings Arms with an self-given expectation of a raucous crowed, an energetic mosh pit, flying beer bottles, and an musical adventure spanning the likes of Husker Du, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and maybe The Exploited for good measure - the punk of my youth...
We had the crowd - check!
We had the flying beer bottles - check!
We definitely had an energetic mosh pit - check!
What I found missing however was an actual punk show... To these ears it sounded more like a rock show, with a hint of punk sprinkled on top. It should also be noted that the raucous crowd was also strangely absent of punks, instead sporting guys in tweed jackets and woollen jumpers, and young girls dressed for clubbing - something... didn't quite feel right.
The evening started with Wormhole / Alex Angryman, a two man guitar/drum duo playing what I would call more alternative rock, musically I enjoyed the set, but found the vocals didn't work for me - a little monotonic and lacking passion/confidence. I suspect this may have been a first gig for the guys (maybe?) so kudos for getting up and performing - will definitely be interesting to see this group grow.
Next up was Surf City and again I'm not really feeling the "punk" anywhere, there was a definitely surfer rock/surf punk feel here but the energy I was hyping myself up for just wasn't there - we were however treated to tight musicians who were confident in what they were playing so all was not lost with an enjoyable, well played set. You could see this reflected in the gathering/growing crowd - the vibe of the venue was starting to flow and the night was finally off on its feet...
...and then it stopped.
As quickly as Auckland hip-hop group Supervillians RMC took to the stage with insane amounts of bass, large swaths of the audience appeared to exit the building to loiter outside in the cold. From all accounts the Supervillians were a tight, well orchestrated crew of rappers - but as far as punk is removed from my genre of choice - rap is about as far removed twice again - unfortunately I can't really say I enjoyed, or disliked their performance as I somewhat checked myself out and enjoyed good conversation with those around me.
Finally it was time for Racket's to hit the stage and I was both curious, and hopeful as to what delights my ears would be given - being somewhat unfamiliar with the band, I diligently did my homework earlier in the afternoon (Facebook says they're stoner rock whilst Bandcamp lists their previous albums as punk) and after listening to the recorded material I was looking forward to the live show.
The opening song left me feeling somewhat disappointed, wondering why someone would ever call these guys "punk", but soon enough they warmed up, stripped off, and kicked things up a notch with some high energy rock, teetering on and off the punk end of the spectrum, slowly edging themselves off the cliff.
Soon enough bodies were flying around on and off the stage, whilst the band members threw branded bear bottles from the stage - all between effortlessly rotating themselves between instruments: with singers jumping behind the drum kits, and drummers picking up basses and guitars, and guitarists also jumping behind the kit - with transitions between positions Rackets were a pure joy to watch and listen to - with each variation of band setup bringing with it ever slightly different songs - some more punky, some less so.
All in all - Rackets were finally delivering the punk show I expecting to see which unfortunately seemed to end way to soon after the evenings slower, disjointed beginning.