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Primer: Auckland Arts Festival 2021 — Live Music Events

Primer: Auckland Arts Festival 2021 — Live Music Events

Annabel Kean / Image: Reb Fountain / Photo credit: Frances Carter / Tuesday 16th March, 2021 2:55PM

With the Auckland Arts Festival confirmed to be back in action following last Friday's return to Alert Level 1 in the super city, allow me to guide you through the newly update programme's musical offerings and must-sees for 2021. This year's AAF theme is Aroha, and instead of splitting events into categories of dance, theatre, comedy, etc., the shows have each been grouped into one of three aroha offshoots: Aroha ki ngā kōrero (the respect we hold for our stories), Aroha ki te tangata (kindness, compassion and goodwill toward people) and aroha ki te taiao (our love and care for our natural environment). Of course these all intersect, as do the various disciplines showcased in the festival, so it's been a tricky task whittling down a personalised calendar for you, The UTR Reader.  Yes I know Che-Fu was amazing and I should have gone and everyone had the time of their life, but it's already happened so I won't be mentioning it. Here are a few of our hot picks of what's to come on the music performance side of the tracks for AAF— note: some events are now happening on new dates, with more rescheduled shows to be announced...

UPDATE 19/03/21: Reb Fountain and The Black Quartet's Nick Cave tribute Auckland Town Hall event is now happening on 7th April...

Auckland Arts Festival 2021
Extended to 11th April
Live music events programme includes... Chelsea Jade & Deryk, French For Rabbits, Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land, Anna Coddington, HINE!, Delaney Davidson / Shayne Carter / Theia, Estère, Taonga Moana, Carnivorous Plant Society, Reb Fountain and The Black Quartet + more 
Full updated programme and ticket details available at

Wednesday 7th April - Reb Fountain & The Black Quartet: The Boy Next Door, Auckland Town Hall (Great Hall) (tickets HERE)

2021 Taite Music Prize finalist Reb Fountain brings her acclaimed tribute to Nick Cave back to the stage, weaving in her own songs with band and Aotearoa’s premier string quartet, The Black Quartet.

Wednesday 17th March - Chelsea Jade & deryk, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Back from the US, Chelsea Jade takes her outstanding live performance to The Civic Club with fellow pop up-and-comer deryk. Chelsea Jade began the gradual roll out of her next album with single 'Superfan' in April last year...

Thursday 18th March - French For Rabbits, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

The Pōneke-based team of Brooke Singer, John Fitzgerald, Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa, Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots) and Penelope Esplin (Grawlixes, Dam Dans) will preview new material from French for Rabbits' forthcoming new album in the starry surrounds of The Civic Club. Experience an enchanting first taste with their latest single and video 'The Dark Arts'...

Thursday 18th March & Friday 19th March - Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land, MOTAT (tickets HERE)

From a deep interest in Aotearoa's railway system and history grew Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land series, leading audiences along decades old tracks and forgotten train routes before serenading them with his stunning solo performances. Most recently Tonnon sung out about the ongoing tragedy of the Mataura Paper Mill...

Friday 19th March - Anna Coddington, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Taite Music Prize 2021 finalist Anna Coddington (Fly My Pretties) performs songs from her new album Beams plus highlights from her back catalogue, with full band featuring Jol Mulholland, Mike Hall (Pluto), Steph Brown and Fen Ikner (LIPS), along with bespoke visual artworks created in response to the live show by Greta Menzies. Take in Anna Coddington's riveting video for 'Do I Exist' from Beams...

Friday 19th March - HINE! feat. Betty-Anne Monga (Ardijah), HINA, Disciple Pati, Jhasmyne and Emily Muli, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Betty-Anne Monga (Ardijah) performs alongside an all wāhine new generation of rising stars including HINA, Disciple Pati, Jhasmyne and Emily Muli, for a "supreme showcase of musical prowess" at The Civic Club. Experience Disciple Pati's recently released anthem 'Essence' produced by Leaping Tiger...

Saturday 20th March - Spell On You with Delaney Davidson, Shayne Carter, Theia, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Three of New Zealand's boldest voices come together with special guests to put a spell over the audience for one night only. You've likely heard of Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer), and Delaney Davidson from his huge body of work and Marlon Williams collaborations, but get to know the incredible talent of Theia in her live performance of original Christmas song 'Te Kaiwhakaora O Te Ao'...

Sunday 21st March - Estère, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Fresh from the roll out of her latest collection Archetypes, Pōneke powerhouse Estère presents part-album release show, part-performance Into The Belly of Capricorn, blending her Archetypes opus with an exploration into its themes. Dive into the otherworldly visuals for her AAF show title single...

Sunday 21st March - Taonga Moana, Auckland Town Hall (tickets HERE)

Aotearoa's premier chamber choir presents: A love letter to the oceans. Voices New Zealand will take you along an emotional, choral journey, told through the migratory path of the kuaka (godwit), from the Arctic to the Antarctic...

Monday 22nd March - Carnivorous Plant Society w/ Tiny Ruins, Hopetoun Brown, Michael Barker, The Civic Club (tickets HERE)

Cinematic super group and soundscape specialists Carnivorous Plant Society will immerse you in aural storytelling and world building through folk, jazz and pop. Watch the twee / psych animated visuals for their new single 'My Mu Is Proud Of Me'...

Press release:

Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki | March 2021

Auckland Arts Festival/Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki (AAF) welcomes the government decision this morning that Tāmaki Makaurau would return to Covid Alert Level 1 at midday today (Friday 12 March).

It has been a rollercoaster of a fortnight, following the announcement that Auckland would enter a Covid Alert Level 3 lockdown at 6am on Sunday 28 February for seven days.

Due to open on Thursday 4 March, the first section of AAF 2021 was put on pause and the Festival team have worked around the clock to reschedule the majority of works planned for 4-12 March. A full and regularly updated list of show status updates is available here.

A return to Alert Level 1 today allows the Festival to go ahead with its planned schedule, including the much anticipated Che-Fu & The Kratez: Return of the Navigator (Saturday 13 March, 8pm), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial feat. APO (Saturday 13 March, 7pm) and its Community Day activities on Sunday. Taki Rua Productions’ Sing to Me, which had its Auckland premiere last night at Q Theatre according to Alert Level 2 protocols, continues its season with shows tonight (Friday 12 March, 7.30pm) and tomorrow (Saturday 13 March, 2.00pm and 7.30pm).

Due to the timing of the alert level announcement, all shows and events in The Civic Club for 12-14 March will go ahead with the audience seated in the auditorium stalls instead of onstage. Affected shows include Heavenly Bodies, which opens tonight (Friday 12 March, 8.30pm), Open Stage: Scenes from a Yellow Peril (Saturday 13 March, 1.30pm) and Gitbox Rebellion (Sunday 14 March, 4.00pm). Shows and events in The Civic Club from Tuesday 16 March will go ahead with onstage seating for audiences, as per The Club’s original design.

AAF opened yesterday morning (11 March) with a karakia and ceremony to unveil and bless the Festival’s new Mauri stone, attended by representatives of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Festival staff and AAF 2021 artists. The gathering observed the limits on crowd numbers and physical distancing requirements of Alert Level 2. Acts of Love launched with A Figure Exhales in the window of Smith & Caughey’s (Queen St side) mid-afternoon, which continues until Sunday.

Other shows and events that can now go ahead in their intended form include Love to say goodbye (Friday 12 and Saturday 13 March, 7pm), Siva Afi Festival (Friday 12 and Saturday 13 March, 7pm), Tigilau Ness and Friends at the Festival Garden, Aotea Square (Saturday 13 March, 6.30pm) and He Owha Matarua / Hauntology of Inheritance (Saturday 13 March and Sunday 14 March, 2.00pm). Author Pauline Smith and members of the Polynesian Panthers RAPP present an In-depth talk at Studio One, Toi Tū tonight (Friday 12 March, 6pm) in relation to AAF’s Polynesian Panthers 50th Anniversary programming.

The rescheduled events from the AAF 2021 talk series, Living with Uncertainty and Arts + Climate Innovation: Coexistence with our Natural World will now take place on Sunday 14 March at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre. Cian Parker’s one-woman gem Sorry for your Loss plays at Warkworth Town Hall as part of our regional offering tomorrow evening (Saturday 13 March, 7pm).

The important visual art exhibitions The Dawn Raids – Educate to Liberate at Studio One; A Very Different World at Te Tuhi and Papatūnga; Edith and George: in our sea of islands at Corbans Estate Arts Centre; and The Thrum of the Tide at Te Uru had opened ahead of the Level 3 lockdown that began on 28 February.

John Miller and Elisapeta Heta’s Pouwātū: Active Presence was able to open on Tuesday 9 March according to Alert Level 2 protocols, and work began also on Tuesday 9 March on the Educate to Liberate Polynesian Panthers mural, on the corner of Karangahape Rd and Gundry St.

The 2021 Festival is the first of four with Shona McCullagh (MNZM) in the role of Artistic Director. Arts Foundation Laureate McCullagh founded and led The New Zealand Dance Company as Chief Executive/Artistic Director since its establishment in 2012, and joined AAF in March 2020.

“The whole Festival team is deeply relieved and truly energised, after an extremely tough fortnight, by the announcement that we can now press go on our preparations to return to Level 1 presentation of our beautiful artists. We have been frustrated by the delay in the announcement which has meant we don’t have time to realise our The Civic Club venue set-up as it was intended for this weekend, but we are so eager to share the aroha of our Festival with our patient and devoted audience. Kōkiri! Let’s go!” says McCullagh.

Ataahua Papa, AAF Kaihautū Māori joins in celebrating the alert level change stating, “Hurō! E harikoa ana mātou o Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki i te hekenga ki te pae tuatahi! Kāti, me haere tonu te ngahau! Yay, AAF are sooooo happy to be in Level 1. Now, let the fun continue!”

AAF Chief Executive David Inns is also extremely happy with the news: “At a time when the performance sector is in flux around the world, we are extremely grateful to be able to go ahead with Auckland Arts Festival in 2021. The recent lockdown presented its challenges, but the Festival team has done an incredible job of responding to the situation, and we are still confident that we have an excellent presentation in store for Tāmaki Makaurau.”


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