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Photo: Shelley Te Haara
Photo: Shelley Te Haara

Pop CultureSeptember 2, 2019

Review: The Others Way tells us something about the state of NZ music

Photo: Shelley Te Haara
Photo: Shelley Te Haara

The K Road festival, which turned five on Friday, has reached mainstream-level popularity without compromising its local acts focus. While the old-timers encamped in The Studio to sing the Flying Nun classics, Josie Adams went exploring. 

Not even the most determined and fleet-footed fan could hope to make every one of the 46 acts across 13 venues at Friday’s Others Way festival. But we did our best, darting between shows spread around Auckland’s Karangahape Road, snacking on the musical treats.

We started with Soaked Oats at the Mercury Theatre, a stage that’s never been used as an Others Way venue before and probably never should be again. It’s got one of the biggest capacities of any venue but it’s entirely seated, and that is entirely not the buzz.

The good Oats were decked out in top hats and coats and tails. They committed to the bit, refusing to remove the outfits no matter how hot the plush-lined venue got. This added to their post-show look when they removed their hats to display sweat-flattened hair, smoother than any gelled cowlick.

On to Neck of the Woods, where indie-pop darlings Being were playing a luxurious set interspersed with poetry from lead singer and guitarist Jasmine Balmer. Being’s extremely experimental percussionist was one hell of an experience. I was less overwhelmed by the poetry.

One of Being’s percussionists changed instruments every song. Photo: Shelley Te Haara

Next was Randa. The Auckland-based rapper was replacing Bailey Wiley, who pulled out due to being very pregnant. Randa is nowhere near the same genre as Wiley, but is just as talented. They blend computerised hip-hop beats with some of the wittiest lyrics ever written in our humble nation. 

You know we get down with all the cyber moms / One of them told me I was hot right now like Tiger Balm

We lost our shit. This was poetry. Poems, as an art form, tend toward being sad and introspective. These are not vibes I have ever looked for in a night out. Randa’s raps are light even when they cover heavy material. They’re one of the strongest musical artists in the country, and deserve superstar status.

Hans Pucket was next on the agenda. This year they escalated their alternative cred by adding a horn section that was bigger than the actual band. The catchy tunes were drowned in brass. It sounded pretty dope, but the Mercury Theatre seats sapped my energy. Seriously, this is not a good venue.

Looking for somewhere we could stand and get crushed into strangers’ armpits, there was only one place to go: Whammy. The Echo Ohs were filling the dark underground bar with one of their noisy live shows. It was warm and loud, like an unholy womb, and everyone in there loved it. Never change, Whammy.

To chill out after a St Kev’s heaver like that, we checked out Troy Kingi. Samoa House was filled with smooth grooves, space funk, cosmic soul belting from the Rotorua-based blues musician and his back-up singers. Samoa House was taking me to church, the antidote to the sin pit that is Whammy.

Troy Kingi performs at Samoa House. Photo: Shelley Te Haara

Our beloved Toby Morris was lucky enough to see Cortina, who wore wraparound sharkies and children’s Weetbix triathalon shirts. He described the outfits and the set as “ramshackle chaotic energy”, which is a brilliant review. “Bek Coogan, still one of the best front people you’ll ever see, snarled and grinned and prowled and generally confused and charmed and terrified the growing crowd,” he said. “Are you art enough?”

Music-lovers not as arty as Toby and more set in their ways set up camp in The Studio all night swilling beers and packing out nostalgia acts: The Chills, Blam Blam Blam, and Straitjacket Fits. New Zealand will never let dad-rock die, and that’s fine. 

The night ended at Galatos, one of Auckland’s least-appreciated music venues. It’s basic, but it does the job: a small bar bottlenecked the incoming crowd before releasing us into a sprawling mass jumping around to Church & AP like they were Drake, and honestly – they’re better.

The young duo are set to go international, with mega hit “Ready or Not” quickly approaching three million Spotify streams. The young hip-hop kings ended on “Dandelion”, an oldie but a goodie. As the set ended, a torrential rain came down on the heaving mass of hipsters and hip-hop fans pouring out of Galatos. It was the last gig of the night, and the rain washed away the sweat of a thousand armpits.

After five years, The Others Way has established itself as an Auckland institution. It sold out, it added new stages, and had a more varied and numerous line up than any City Limits or Laneway festival.

There’s demand for this from music-lovers and musicians alike; everyone wants to go, and everyone wants to play. The grassroots, “alternative” music festival has mainstream-level popularity without compromising its local acts focus, which can only mean one thing: New Zealand’s music industry has never been better.

Keep going!