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Live Photos & Reviews: Voom, Reb Fountain, Vera Ellen - Nationwide Tour

Live Photos & Reviews: Voom, Reb Fountain, Vera Ellen - Nationwide Tour

Photo credit: Rosa Nevison / Photo galleries by Amy Hollands, Kristina Simons, Tasha Tziakis, Rosa Nevison / Reviews by Rosie Leishman, Lily Jane, Josh Dominikovich, Kaitlyn Ratcliff / Wednesday 5th June, 2024 3:35PM

SRN member stations 95bFM, RadioActiveFM, Radio One 91FM and RDU 98.5FM sent along reviewer and photography teams to cover all four dates of Voom, Reb Fountain and Vera Ellen's nationwide tour during King's birthday weekend — in Ōtautahi, Ōtepoti, Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Tāmaki Makaurau — presented here in partnership with UTR.

Thursday 30th May - James Hay Theatre, Christchurch / Ōtautahi
RDU 98.5FM review by Rosie Leishman / Photography by Amy Hollands - view the photo gallery HERE

On Thursday evening, an indie rock trifecta took Christchurch’s Town Hall for the first show of their nationwide tour. A mix of attendees waited for their favourite of the lineup, from eclectic Vera Ellen listeners, soul-searching Reb Fountain fans to long-time Voom patrons.

Starting with a lush piano intro, Vera-Ellen created ethereal energy with her song ‘Carpenter’. The stripped-back opening showed Ellen’s raw vocal talent and the synergy between her and her bandmates. They look like they’re having the time of their lives as Ellen flipped her red hair and pranced around the stage in socks.

Through the set, it became evident how versatile Ellen is. One song was soft, showing off her vocal capabilities and the next shifted seamlessly to rock. From 'Lenny Says' to 'Fake Milk', Vera played guitar and bass while bringing a free-spirited and engaging stage presence.

“Set is going by so fast, I’m sad!” Ellen says.

Seamless skill shone through in her multi-instrumental band, who frequently swapped musical roles. Some songs were melancholy spoken word, others had groovy guitar riffs. Ellen’s set was refreshing with the crowd lapping up her confident rock performance.

Next came Reb Fountain. With haunting strings that brought a folky, darkness to stage — it felt quite the opposite to Ellen. Fountain had a powerful, interactive presence that created an eerie atmosphere. The combination of her evocative voice and lush instrumentation mesmerised the audience. 'Beastie' brought a soulful groove to get the crowd moving. In 'Lacuna' her impressive vocals soared alongside the heavy guitar riffs.

Reb Fountain's ability to effortlessly convey emotion in dynamic vocals catered to an engaging live set. Her voice resonated in the space when she intimately performed 'Hey Mom', which made the crowd fall silent. A standout was her cover of Kiwi classic ‘How Bizarre’. As OMC’s iconic guitar riff played, the warmth of her voice comforted the crowd who sang along to the melancholy version of a timeless hit.

“What a fucking great song that is!”

The infamous 'Don’t you know who I am' demonstrated Fountain’s introspective musical prowess. Fountain’s set was hearty and immersive as she created a bewitching performance.

Finally, in his colourfully coordinated pink knit and pearls, Buzz Moller took the stage. “I forgot how hard it is taking good bands on tour cause you got to come on after them,” laughs Moller.

Live, Voom sound carbon copy to their records. It’s impressive. Playing their greats, including ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Relax’, Moller’s vocals are distinctive and nostalgic. With its catchy chorus, their latest release ‘Everyone’ reflects Voom’s signature style. It’s uplifting and fun with a strong melody and tambourine feature to top it off.

Throughout the set it became clear Moller is a wonderful storyteller. ‘We’re So Lost’ was prefaced by Buzz saying it was written on “the worst day of my life,” but over the year crowds have redefined it and now he sings it with a smile. 'Magic', written over Skype sessions with Ōtautahi-based Fazerdaze, demonstrated the knack Voom has for crafting and performing a catchy tune. Finishing with standout track 'B Your Boy”, Voom makes performing look easy by bringing a playful, easy-going charm to Christchurch. With Reb Fountain and Ellen dancing side of stage, it was a joy watching these alt-rock legends do their thing.

This classic kiwi gig concluded with the trilogy singing Chris Knox’s ‘Not Given Lightly’. It was spirited, impromptu and spread an infectious good energy that left a lasting impression.

Friday 31st May - Errick’s, Dunedin / Ōtepoti
Radio One 91FM review by Lily Jane / Photography by Kristina Simons - view the photo gallery HERE

The first thing that hits you when Vera Ellen walk on-stage is their dedication to the bit. Bob haircuts, baggy dress shirts, matching ties: all giving a beautiful sense of '90s I-Don’t-Give-A-F***k energy. The percussion is heavy, at times contrasting with Vera’s soft vocals, before complimenting them when she wails into the microphone in her signature perfectly-imperfect style. With her ferocious bite, a song like 'Broadway Junction' (the stand-out of her set, by far) becomes a piercing exercise in vulnerability. Vera opens her heart to the audience, and they gladly take it, as they bear witness to the anger building — not only in Vera’s own performance, but in every guitar strum and drum beat. The power of live music is being able to be a collective part of something like that, summed up simplistically but accurately by a fellow audience-member who whispered to me as we cheered: “Gives you goosebumps”.

With an off-kilter violin sending a dizzyingly, spellbinding effect across the crowd over sludgy bass, Reb Fountain takes the stage. She stomps her feet with aggression as her hands dance delicately in the air around her — she performs not only with her voice, her body becomes its own instrument. The lyrics wound you as much as the experiences she’s singing about may have wounded her. Her growling vocals and the haunting, swampy quality of the instruments flawlessly match the ‘witchy’ exterior of the band. When the instruments cut and only Reb’s voice hits the air, the audience goes mute. We are mere mortals compared to her and we savour every little crack in her vocals as she declares; “I carry myself like a f***ing boss”. The musicians' talent can be subtle at times, adding small yet powerful details to the overall sound, but when she compels us to “come dance in the shadows”, it builds to a murkier, dirtier, darker level; becoming an overwhelming noise backing Reb’s intoxicating request. These are the shadows you are now dancing in, and it is glorious. She leaves us with ‘Don’t You Know Who I Am’ and even the most stubborn audience-members are moving now. Reb points her finger across the crowd, her voice and eyes accusing every one of us. Going from delicate whispering to screaming into the mic, Reb’s finale ends in a monumental round of applause carrying on even after the band has completely left the stage.

Voom’s approach to their performance was a departure from the previous acts, immediately obvious from Buzz Moller’s compliment to the Dunedin weather (a quick trick to getting the crowd on your side). The music was, of course, extremely tight — especially the drumming. Scratchy, almost twangy vocals that still held a youthful aggression were encased in reverb and distortion. Most impressive was Buzz’s storytelling. Between each song, he’d give us succinct and witty tales behind its creation, sending ripples of laughter across the crowd. But when the music kicks in again, you feel as though you’re perpetually in the ending sequence of a 2010s-indie flick (in the best way possible). The guitars carry the emotional core of the songs, and the vocals pull in and out as if adrift at sea. Simply, it was a very fun set to watch — especially when Buzz sang ‘Martin Phillipps’ to the actual Martin Phillipps.

Each act delivered something different: Vera’s raw edginess, Reb’s wistful art ballads, and Voom’s tight indie-indie anthems. Yet there is one thing that ties them all together, a golden thread of vulnerability through performance, lyrics, and sound. You cannot come out of this show having not been deeply touched by their music.

Saturday 1st June - Great Hall, Wellington / Pōneke
RadioActiveFM review by Josh Dominikovich / Photography by Tasha Tziakis - view the photo gallery HERE

With an entrance as grand as it possesses, the Great Hall might be better named the Parthenon. This Saturday evening, it was a temple for a triple header of Flying Nun’s best and brightest.

Aside from her Taite Music Prize-winning lyrics, Vera Ellen didn’t say a word until 30 minutes into her set. The band shared talking duties after opening with 'Carpenter' and 'Telegram 2'. They rocked matching ties, Samuel Austin refused to stay on one instrument for longer than a song and a half, Ben Lemi conducted with waves like those you do out the car window, chaos.

Then Vera spoke - “We are Vera Ellen”.

“Dunners was ruckus”, Pōneke’s politeness was appreciated, moreso as Broadway Junction took hold. Words by Vera (individual), Vera (band), Vera (audience). They were sung, screamed, and then Vera Ellen looked the room dead in the eye and spoke into the silence a former self had longed for.

The name Reb Fountain is synonymous with mesmeric, revelatory, shamanic performance. I’ve read the reviews, I’d never seen the show with my own eyes. I can confirm the rumours are true.

Humans do strange things when we’re taken by surprise. I watched 45 minutes of Reb Fountain with my jaw hanging wide open. The guy in front of me played blistering air guitar until his date told him to put a pin in it. Then Reb manifested the voice of an angel while her band crashed through 'Don’t You Know Who I Am'. Not a cute angel with rosy cheeks and seasonal greetings, nah the biblical kind that warns you about shit. I involuntarily yelled. Humans do strange things when we’re taken by surprise.

So often the memory of a great gig is distilled to a few great moments. Tonight, every moment of Reb Fountain’s performance was imbued with incisive intention and organic connection, excellent and natural in the same breath. Also, one of the best backing bands I’ve ever seen (Dave Khan, Karin Canzek, Earl Robertson).

Voom is FUN. Buzz Moller is FUN. He knows how to spin a yarn, earn the ire of bass player Nick Buckton when he’s got his capo on the wrong fret, and pull off a high-complexity costume change after the first song. Buzz told the story of how his cousin (Martin Kean) was in The Chills (also Stereolab??). He got kicked out, so Buzz wrote a song about Martin Phillipps. It’s a fun song and good trivia — both Martins hugged it out at the Dunedin show the night before. Fazerdaze collab 'Magic' went down a treat (sans Fazerdaze). I woke up with it stuck in my head all of Sunday… I wasn’t mad.

The night ended as it started — Vera Ellen made a surprise (badass) return to the stage to sing 'B Your Boy'. Cue a playfully sardonic “I didn’t know this was going to happen… I was just side of stage rocking out” from Vera.

The still polite crowd FINALLY jumped around. Joy, rock and roll. The song finished, the applause finished, the room momentarily forgot the convention of jibing an encore out of the band. Then they remembered… but it was too late. Phoenix Foundation played over the house system. Bedtime for Gen X. No one’s gonna tell you to stop playing air guitar when you’re dreaming.

A brief post-gig chat with Vera on those mythic steps revealed she was still “coming down from probably the coolest moment of [her] life to date.” I get it. I wasn’t even on stage and I felt cool watching her and Buzz, two kids from the Hutt tearing down the temple.

Sunday 2nd June - Powerstation, Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau
95bFM review by Kaitlyn Ratcliff / Photography by Rosa Nevison - view the photo gallery below

Fairytales and folklore all convey the same philosophy: all good things come in threes. Paper, Scissors, Rock. States of Matter. Third time’s a charm. The power of three is something we are wired to always expect. The most powerful three however may have been Voom, Reb Fountain and Vera Ellen at the Powerstation on Sunday night.

The starting glimmers of piano keys as the Vera Ellen band trickled onto the stage one by one had captivated a full crowd before the first song even began. If there’s anything to say about this band, it’s that you can really tell how much fun they’re having playing onstage. After the first song, someone beside me grabbed their friend and said “that was awesome!” It’s true, Vera Ellen is awesome.

“If you’re talking during this song, you’re gonna feel really bad about that when you find out what it’s about” - Vera prior to performing ‘Broadway Junction’. Looking around the crowd, people hugged those next to them, tears in their eyes. There is a raw vulnerability with this band that touched the large Powerstation crowd. The way Vera thanked each member of her band with a hug during the last song was a really beautiful sentiment of how close the band really are and how immersed they made their audience feel.

Reb Fountain was next to take the stage, with a haunting violin setting the dark, folky tone of the stage. There was something so entrancing about this band. From heavy guitar riffs to the powerful voice of Reb Fountain, everything that happened onstage was tender and heartfelt. They played to the crowd but also solemnly to themselves. Reb’s song ‘Hey Mom’ was undoubtedly a highlight of the evening. This song brought the crowd to a full silence for the first and only time during the night. If there is any NZ artist you should have on your ‘must see live’ list, it’s Reb Fountain. Reb Fountain is an absolute rockstar and something about watching this band to me feels like drinking smooth whiskey. One of the few notes I wrote was “This band is so cool. How do I become a friend of theirs?”

Unlike the two previous acts before them, Voom made their grand entrance 10 minutes before their set tuning their instruments and helping set up the stage alongside the stage crew, a stark difference from what we had seen before, met with cheers when the crowd realised who they were. When they returned to the stage at 10pm, the band were changed from their stage blacks into bright outfits. The show was what Buzz Moller described as “the home-dye t-shirt show tonight!” Voom are practised musicians, their set was tight and full of classics that had the Powerstation crowd dancing for the remainder of the night.

As the crowd cheered for one more song, all three acts came out to perform their rendition of Chris Knox’s ‘Not Given Lightly’, which had everyone swaying side by side and singing along. A moment that felt perfect to finish the tour on, after a group hug from the three.

Something beautiful about each performance by all three bands was the way they allowed themselves to be totally vulnerable with the audience. Each performance felt earnest, like a warm hug pulling you in, or a Sunday roast with your closest kin. The power of three was strong with this one. I don’t think we will ever experience a gig quite like this again.

Click on the thumbnail images below
to view a galley of Rosa Nevison's photos from the Tāmaki Makaurau show...

Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen
Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen
Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen
Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen
Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen
Voom - Reb Fountain - Vera Ellen

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