Mercury Music Festival - Part 2

By Ben Doy & Janine Swail

Date / Venue: June 3-4: Village By The Sea, Whitianga

Day Two

After a good night's sleep it was time to get the festival underway for Sunday. After such an entertaining performance on the Saturday it was again time to see The Nukes perform; this time at the Town Hall. Once again they didn't fail to disappoint, they had the audience hooked and I made sure I added a couple of the boys’ albums to my playlist.

Towards the end of The Nukes’ set we ventured across to the hotel, where upon arrival we were informed that the entire town had been hit by a power cut. Crimson Coast were on stage and like true musical professionals they did their best to entertain this relaxed crowd with an acoustic set, throwing in a few Beatles songs for good measure and encouraging a good aul’ sing-song.

Shortly after their performance the ‘Corona’ stage sign flared back to life (which must have been a little irritating for Crimson Coast) but we wanted to check out the festival’s third venue – The Firehouse so we moved on to catch the earthy tones of local lass Toya Fleetwood. Her soulful, authentic voice certainly suited the ambient setting of the Firehouse, as she performed both covers and songs from her own catalogue.

Comfortable in the Firehouse, just missing the open fire and glass of wine, we were intrigued to hear the talents of most likely the youngest of the festival’s performers, Waiheke Island high school students Jaz Caitcheon and Jemilah. Their sets were sweet and acoustic, and there was no denying the talent that these two had to offer. No doubt they will be Kiwi talents to watch out for in the future and we can say, ‘We saw them first in Whitianga!’ 

Having only caught the second half of the Louie Shelton Band yesterday we had to head back to the Town Hall to see the full show. Another masterclass, if you weren't up the front dancing there was a definite bit of heavy toe tapping and hip-swinging going on. And you can't beat a good version of The Beverly Hillbillies theme!

Jed Parsons & His Friends were on back at the hotel, so this seemed the perfect time to order some dinner and a few drinks while checking their brand of rock n roll. This likeable Christchurch band, Parsons and ‘Friends’ were a good fit for the festival with their own style of folk-inspired indie/rock and brought a good upbeat vibe. One to check out again in a bit more detail for sure.

The Sushi Cats took to the stage next. This funk rock band made a good impression and are equipped with most of the tools to become a superb live act. With influences such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Parliament and Janis Joplin, it was a fun set. Perhaps just a bit of fine tuning needed for the stage act.

The festival was drawing to a close, so it was time to head back to the Town Hall for our last two acts. Darren Watson had just started. Perched on stage with guitar in hand and a red foot tambourine apparently donated by his granddaughter, he delivered us some entertaining blues once more. Performing 'Planet Key' again, he explained to the audience that he always sees a few raised eyebrows after playing the song, but that it's the freedom that artists should be allowed to express. Once again Watson went down a treat and you could see he was enjoying it too!

It was now time for the finale, Miho's Jazz Orchestra. The Auckland based outfit have been around for a few years now, but this was the first time we'd had the opportunity to see them perform live. Miho and the band have their stage show down to a tee, and all of them are masters of their instruments. A combination of jazz, blues, folk and experimental music, Miho displayed her flute and saxophone skills while also charming the audience with her witty anecdotes and endearing stories of how she created her rhythmic delights from ‘Tui Song’ to ‘Big Sleep’. All of the band got a chance to shine, and even swapped instruments at one stage to show off their instrumental mastery. At one point, Miho joined the dance floor and grabbed one of the local lads for a quick waltz, much to his embarrassment but to the delight of his mates.

And with that the festival was over. Upon returning to our bach that night, we all agreed it was a success and hoped it will slowly grow year by year. The weather gods shone on us (after terrible weather was predicted), locals were friendly and the town had a relaxed, party atmosphere. The next day before heading home we went into town and the whole place was eerily quiet compared to what we experienced the two days before.

We hope, now established, this musical treasure will be back next year as we'll be there and most likely with a few more friends too!