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Live Photos + Review: Deep Dive Festival 2020 - Whammy Bar, Backroom & The Wine Cellar, Auckland

Live Photos + Review: Deep Dive Festival 2020 - Whammy Bar, Backroom & The Wine Cellar, Auckland

Photography: Connor Crawford / Review: Ali Nicholls / Chris Knox bonus review: Daniel Smith / Monday 27th July, 2020 10:28AM

Tāmaki’s Karangahape Road is a cultural institution like no other. Locals and outsiders alike know it to be the creative fermentation station of the arts community, with a space for everyone that is looking for a way to challenge the status quo. But in recent years, the gentrification of the neighbourhood has given seed to a cultural shift that is slipping through the careful hands of local artists.

Growing interest from property developers and corporates has driven up rents, and forced out even the most long-standing locals. Local businesses are forced into an economic competition that cannot be won, and those that manage to stay afloat do so by the skin of their teeth every single day. The expansion of high profile real estate interest leads to the constant drone of road works that leave huge areas of the street inaccessible and create as much social tension as physical disturbance. People are packed into smaller areas with fewer resources to share inspiration. Our street whānau are pushed out of neighbouring suburbs, and the constant environmental turnover causes stress and agitation. When this leads to aggression or violence, both police presence and fear increase, particularly in light of recent instances of police brutality in our neighbouring communities. It seems that the fate of our home is being increasingly woven into the very institutions that K Road has always challenged and rejected.

But while the changes seem to pick up speed around us, tugging at the frays like a tornado, at its core is the same resilient community that has kept the womb of K Road fertile for generations. A community as determined and creative as ever, pulling together to find a way forward that reflects the legacies passed onto us.

On Saturday night, Whammy Bar and The Wine Cellar hosted a phenomenal line-up of leading musicians and creatives for the annual Deep Dive Festival. Bringing together audiences from the many diverse pockets of the scene for a night of celebration, seventeen acts had the chance to show just how much they had to offer, and not a single shot was wasted.

Opening the night in the Mainroom was Durham Fenwick, Whammy sound tech and mind behind the atmospheric vision Green Grove. Flying solo to establish the night, punters were slowly drawn into the cavernous main room to mingle in the intergalactic Plantasia-like ambience of Fenwick’s set. Jazmine Mary brought their gut-wrenchingly honest and sincere country sound to The Wine Cellar to follow as the crowd picked up. Suddenly, the Mainroom is packed to the gunnels, and the founding father of Aotearoa’s underground scene takes to the stage. Chris Knox, a decade on from a major stroke resulting in aphasia that limited his lingual vocabulary to roughly twenty words, showed his expressionistic genius in a solo spoken performance that brought together a lifetime of admirers whose own work whakapapas back to his groundbreaking time with the Flying Nun record label. [Scroll down to read more about Knox's influence and legacy via Daniel Smith's special bonus review]

Solo garage-pop figurehead Roy Irwin opened Backroom with their intimate set. Dreamgaze guitar backed the soft textured vocals that have gently ushered them to prominence over the past decade, which has seen their sound refined to the gorgeous and earnest performance they gave on the night. Next up was Disciple Pati in Wine Cellar, bringing an extraordinarily tight set swimming in funk and contemporary RnB influence. Backed by a band stripped back to the essentials (bass, guitar, keys, and drums), Sapati Apa-Fepulea’i started with a crowd easing into the night and ended with them begging for more as she rolled out banger after banger.

Hans Pucket drew in a throng of Flying Nun enthusiasts so strong that the constant influx of fans created a swirling wave around the central dance pit. Their old school sound harks back to the Dunedin days of punk, with a sprinkling of influence from their Wellington days, that delivers an uplifting sound fit for the rowdiest house parties. The crowd loves it, and they shift the energy from focused appreciation to an arm-flailing, hair-down ruckus. Guardian Singles threw their post-punk set down to a thirsty Backroom crowd that kicked and shook their way through the performance. Merging the classic Dunners melodic sound with shoegaze guitar and rolling drums, they carry on the top banter energy of Hans Pucket with a gripping, abrasive edge.

The Wine Cellar slowly packs in as Dick Move take to the stage. The feminist hardcore punk get-up slam out their set with such ferocity that they end with five minutes to spare, spontaneously revisiting a cover of ‘The Chapel of Love’ once performed at a mate’s wedding. The mosh at the front is dominated by women unleashing their frustrations with the band, revelling in the direct and celebratory delivery of a set that busts down patriarchal doors one minute-long song after the next. Meanwhile in the Mainroom, recently relocated from Wellington to Auckland duo Earth Tongue unfurl their sludgy psych rock sound like tendrils into the audience. Striking a delicious aural balance between grotesque dystopia, psychedelic soundscapes and powerful vocals, their show brings a taste of the Pōneke underground to the Tāmaki palette. It’s refreshing and exciting, and a tough act to follow.

Fortunately, producer and DJ Leaping Tiger is up to the task, easing the crowd away from the thus far analog sets into their intricate electronic sound. Taking it further still, legendary live house pair Two Farben take off on a quintessentially streamlined set that opens with Julien Dynes’ cut-back drums and doesn’t stop to breathe until its closure. Slowly incorporating synths and drum machines into their line-up the sound climbs higher and higher into the realm of house until the audience, collectively pulsating with the constant heartbeat rhythm, seems to merge into a single monolith of movement. For the final punk act of the night, Echo Ohs smash out a thumping garage rock performance with strong psychedelia influences that give out one last thundering adrenaline wave before the DJs settle in 'til the early hours.

In Backroom Amamelia’s hardcore trancey set is followed by Totems, who dishes out a tasty helping of breakbeat and techno. Aw B rounds out the night with a mix of them all, showing her expert skills for genre-bridging across a huge range of electronic styles. Meanwhile in the Whammy Mainroom, Native Bush brings a signature organic techno that strikes out in pulses of rich rhythms, leaving the sharper edges of the genre to the side for a throbbing set. BBYFACEKILLA follows with a queue of tracks that credit their rapidly growing reputation for physically demanding, insatiable beats that pop and clap with relentless ferocity. Ending their sets with a back and forth conversation on the decks, their intertwined styles close the night with a perfect nod to the artistic symbiosis inevitable when a community as tight knit as this has the space to get together and challenge one another to push the boundaries of their sound.

Throughout the night, St Kevins Arcade is a fluctuating dance of conversation between band members, Whammy regulars, sweat-drenched fans, hopefuls waiting for the coveted 12am door-sales, locals, and passers by. It’s a reprieve from the humid dance floors and a chance for conversation to be had at less than 100 decibels. There are long-awaited reunions, hurried logistical plans, and reassurance for those of us genuinely worried about blowing out an eardrum by standing too close to the amp.

Events like Deep Dive in institutions like Whammy and Wine Cellar are crucial to the survival and empowerment of our arts community. There’s no better place to see what is leading the way in the underground culture of Tāmaki. This is the culture that will persist and grow, and change the future. These are the places to be, to see it all in action. Huge congratulations to Deep Dive's Taylor MacGregor (Moral Support) and the organising crew for putting together such an inspiring and exciting night, and to every musician that breathed life into our essential and extraordinary scene. – Ali Nicholls

Bonus review - Chris Knox (Whammy Mainroom / 8.55pm)

It must be strange to be a living legend. To know that your entire artistic career is general knowledge to many. When you face a crowd you know that they know you, and you know that they expect something special.

So when Chris Knox began his set by mewling softly into the microphone for five straight minutes expectations were subverted to say the least. The crowd stood quiet and restless, unsure of how to respond to seeing a true blue kiwi legend reduced to this state.

Then Knox’s eyes became downcast, his lips brought into a frown. He spoke the word that a few may have been thinking, “sad”. The crowd was stunned. Knox said it again, this time drawn out and moaning, “sad”. Behind his frown was a mischievous glint in his eye. He was fucking with us.

Chris Knox then proceeded to bring the house down in a masterclass in non-verbal communication. His voice was in turn both guttural and pretty. He made sounds running the gamut across high-pitched whinnying, animal growling, Bela Legosi—esque wailing, teeth clacking, unrestrained screaming, mouth pops, melodic doo da doos, breathy grunting and so much more. Chris Knox’s stroke didn’t stop him from putting on the most punk performance that I have ever seen. He used his own body like a much loved but ill-repaired guitar. The strings may be rusted, and the pick ups stuffed, but by god it can still wail loud.

But a poet to the last, Knox’s performance wasn’t just senseless noise. He was passing on a message. Don’t conform to expectation, find people who understand you, love and cherish them. One of the great performers of our age showed a modern audience exactly why he is the patron saint of being weird in New Zealand. – Daniel Smith

Click on the thumbnail images below to view a gallery of Connor Crawford's snaps of Deep Dive Festival 2020...

Native Bush
Native Bush
Native Bush

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