This weekend, Spark presents Seamless, an all ages show at Auckland’s Tuning Fork. Henry Oliver gathered two of the bands and the promoter in The Spinoff’s boardroom to ask if the kids are alright.
On Saturday night, Auckland venue The Tuning Fork will host Seamless, an all-ages show featuring four young New Zealand bands that are gaining big audiences online, and supporting some of the biggest touring bands from around the world, but find it hard to play their own shows for fans of all ages.
I sat down with all-ages promoter Gabriel Everett and bands Nomad, from Christchurch, and Openside, from Auckland – all only recently of drinking age – to ask about promoting, and playing, shows outside of the traditional bar-venue system.
The Spinoff: So, Gabe, what is Seamless and how’d you get involved?
Gabriel Everett: I’ve been very lucky to be collaboration with CRS and we came together because there’s a fledgling all ages scene in Auckland and we wanted to take it to the next level with a big event with a collaboration between different musical styles, to get heaps of people together and put something on which is out of the ordinary. There are not many shows catered the all-ages market. And there are many shows as diverse as this – we’ve got rap artists, pop, kinda pop-punk – so we’re doing something that I don’t think’s been done before. Especially in Auckland.
So the all-ages scene is thriving in Auckland?
Everett: Yeah, I’ve been putting on all-ages shows for about two years and I’ve got a couple of mates that do as well. We’ve started out from hiring halls by ourselves, getting our own PAs in, then we’ve slowly built up a scene, really. There’s people that come to our shows regardless of the line-up, there’s big crowds coming out, I’ve put on a couple of all ages festivals, so I’m bring in bands from around the country and we’re getting a good scene going.
So do your bands predominantly play as part of that, or are you mostly playing in licensed venues?
George Powell, Openside: Recently, we’ve been doing a lot of supports this year, so they’re usually all-ages anyway, due to the size of those shows, especially in pop music. With other New Zealand acts we admire like Larz Randa, Nomad and Name UL, it’s cool to be able to cater to everyone that might want to come. We’ve always been contacted when we play shows with restricted access by people who want to come [and they say] “the only reason that’s stopping us is our age”. So it’s cool to have something like this for all to enjoy – all ages, music tastes, friends, trends, whatever. It’s purely about the music.
Cullen Kiesanowski, Nomad: We’ve found it hard to find venues that are good venues that can host all-ages. Most of the venues in Christchurch are bars.
Aasha Mallard, Nomad: Not a lot of bars are open to shutting down the bar for the night and not making a lot of money so that all ages can come in.
How have you approached that, Gabe?
Everett: There aare a few halls in Auckland which we can use – Ellen Melville Hall, the Old Folks Association, and now there’s a venue underneath Musicworks on Hobson Street which I’m trying to turn into a thing. But that’s really it. So there’s a really small number of venues that you can use. I don’t blame bars for not putting on all ages shows because it’s a hard industry and you’ve got to make money, but it is really important to make sure that people under 18 are allowed to see the music they love. Whenever a show’s announced, you go onto Facebook and everyone’s asking, “Can this be all-ages? Can I come along?” and the answer is, almost always, “No”. And that’s pretty shit.
You guys all look pretty near 18. Are most of the bands playing all ages shows young, because they’ve had that experience recently and therefore feel for their younger fans?
Powell: I think it has more to do with your listenership rather than who you are as an artist. It’s more about what kind of people you bring out in a crowd. With pop music, a lot of younger people are into it, like young teenagers enjoy it because it’s quite palatable, it’s not like really intense grime rap which attracts a more aggressive nature and caters to older people. Like with NOMAD, it’s really poppy bass music and everyone just likes it – my mum likes it, my sister likes it, so then you’ve got to think why would they slice our potential audience in half?
Have you found that as a promoter, that there are certain types of music that will succeed in an all-ages context?
Everett: With the shows I put on, I find that everyone’s thankful to be there and all the bands that play are really into it. The crowds are a lot different because they appreciate that it’s an all-ages show, that it’s something that’s quite rare. The last show I put on was this big festival and we had people from Australia come in, all over-age, we had a band from Wellington in their late-20s and they can draw their own crowd at a bar, but for an all-ages show, people really appreciate them as well. So some of these kids that are under 18 are really big music fans and they just absorb everything and want to see as much music as they can.
The obvious factor here is alcohol – that’s why the shows are restricted. And alcohol brings people together around music by lowering inhibitions and opening people up, but in this context, it’s the thing that keeps certain people apart. How do you see the connection between alcohol and music?
Everett: You can be quite cynical and see the sinister side of it, like “Oh, they’re only selling alcohol to make money”, but I don’t blame venues at all. Business is business. You’ve got to pay your staff and make a living. It’s just something that people haven’t figured out how to get around. There are some liquor licensing laws which allow you to have some under-age people on site and then ID everyone that comes to the bar, but it’s just hard to get those licences or people don’t know how to do it. There’s just not that market.
What differences have you found playing in situations where there’s alcohol for sale and where there’s not? Is it noticeable people just drinking anyway, either before or on the sly?
Everett: Underage drinking is a thing, and I’ve been to my fair share of over-age shows and I find that the audiences at all-ages shows, even without the alcohol and drinking, they’re really into it, really appreciated.
Mallard: There more there for the music, less for the drinking.
Will McGillivray, Nomad: It’s almost a more pure audience.
Everett: And you go to an over-18 gig and people are often just there because they like the venue or they’re there with their mates and they’re just having a beer, but under-aged audiences are primarily there for the music.
What are the challenges? As a promoter, you have to take care of everything, right? Sweep the floor and get the venue back to a certain state…
Everett: That is the reality. With hall, it’s just a room. Bare bones. You might need to bring in a stage, a PA, you need to provide all the backline and everything. And you need to get there on time, set it all up, by yourself usually, and then bands play, you run it all and then you pack it up and leave in the early hours of the morning. And it is quite hard. Bars, because they sell alcohol, have the money to invest in permanent PAs and equipment for live music.
But you’re driven to do it?
Everett: It happened as just a thing to get my own band playing shows. And then it developed because they saw that there was an opportunity to keep these shows going for these younger people. Because if I and a couple of mates aren’t doing it, there’s no-one doing it. I don’t want to get all high and mighty, but maybe I’m obliged to do it.
With Seamless you’ve got an opportunity with a proper venue. Is that a novel experience, without having to support bigger acts, to do to a more orthodox show, but have it all-ages?
Everett: It’s a good opportunity. We’re trying to get the Tuning Fork more open to do more all ages shows. It’s one of those venues that has a license to do bar and underage as well. They’ve got a full PA set up, and it’s a great opportunity. I guess we’ll find out how it goes. I’d love to do more of them. But we’ll find out on Saturday. This is a test run.