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Live Review
Campus A Low Hum 2010

Campus A Low Hum 2010

Reviewed By
Stefan Reyners
29th March 2010



23-25 January


Review by Stefan Reyners

"What are all these fucking hipsters doing in my neighborhood?" – Bulls resident

Welcome to punny Bulls, the humble thoroughfare just north of Otaki largely unfamiliar to the concept of indie rock. Sitting just out of the town lies the former agricultural college, a site left vacant for over two decades. Last weekend saw the sleeping giant brought to life as 1500 enthusiasts bowed to blasts of noise, sporting colourful ponchos and wide grins. Titled Campus A Low Hum as a cheerful nod toward the high school-esque nature of the place, the festival clung to a distinctly scholastic theme, reconnecting us all with our teenage years of enlightened discovery and hormonal recklessness. Calling upon a range of teachers recognised both nationally and internationally, the stage(s) looked set for an event of mind-boggling significance. In imparting the tricks of wit and humour, the coyly capable Jens Lekman spearheaded the bill alongside spiritual leader Dan Deacon (Beacon) while The Dodos promised to take care of all things whimsically tuneful. Easily Camp’s most glistening triple-header to date, it’s safe to say that the big three all delivered (to varying degrees) though, by and large, it was the roles of those lesser known that made this year’s Camp a truly knowledgeable experience. In many cases, the independent music world has always tried to promote an environment of hierarchical abandonment and one of the key things about Campus ’10 was the way in which it followed this very idea. Aided greatly by the placement of the stages (essentially set out in a star like shape) the venue had a rotational feel to it and getting from band to band would prove much easier than last year’s Camp A Low Hum. This no doubt helped out all those feeding information on to pupils as crowds were evenly scattered among the noise-filled classes.

It seems fitting to begin with a brief critical strip-down of the top three professors. First Jens. For years now Mr. Lekman has been charming us with his teasing brand of wistfully witty self-irony. To some, the Swede was everything they’d imagined; croony, swoony and playful, complete with a bongo playing sidekick and a perfectly executed ‘Postcard to Nina’ refrain. A sprightly affair maybe, though, looking around many of those standing expectant at the Assembly stage, something wasn’t quite right. The insubstantiality of the set was hard to put to one side as Jens’ helpless laptop did its best to give the songwriter a more commanding presence – the performance seemed a world away from Lekman’s larger than life side and it’s a shame he overlooked cult crowd-rousers such as ‘You are the Light’.

Skipping onto Professor Deacon now. The guy had already endeared himself to many of those present on his previous trip to New Zealand so this became an exercise in great expectation once again, only you got to move around more and chances are you were more drunk than at Jens (tip: if you ever get caught vomiting in Bulls, just claim to be ‘bull-imic’). Intoxication aside, Deacon was phenomenal. The electronic music world commonly suffers from a richness in similarity though this wasn’t apparent here as spectators responded excitedly to Deacon’s every move with unceasing intensity.

Do as I do. The Dodos were exemplary. The biggest challenge the band faced at Campus ‘10 was recapturing the hype that earned them a blossoming following in these parts around January of last year but there were certainly no signs of fatigue. A lesson in floor stomping beauty.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Campus ’10 on the live front was the way in which it pushed artists into slightly alien territory. In particular, the pool stage provided the greatest obstacle for many as acts looked to bring the party like never before as talk of Ibiza clung to the walls of the pool. While the likes of Deacon, Daedelus and the Tiger Tones reveled in the deep end, others fell victim to the setting, with DFA’s Shocking Pinks especially disappointing as the occasional “We wanna hear your pop songs” rang out above the languid racket of Nick Harte and co.

Refreshingly, many of the country’s up and comers filled in the odd gaps of inconsistency among some of the bigger names with Auckland youngsters Nice Birds and Sidewalk Meese bringing jangly Malkmus-pop to the Renegade room while Australia’s DZ were hell bent on being the biggest nuisance at the event, playing whenever they could, even getting a two song set in before Bang Bang Eche took the stage. The Aussies were no match for our very own Die!Die!Die! however who gave us a final night sauna to savour. Easily one of the most captivating live acts around today.

OTHER STANDOUT ACTS: Batrider, Cut Off Your Hands, A Dead Forest Index, Toecutter, Seth Frightening, Secret Knives, Pikachunes, Oddball and Chain, East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Orchestra of Spheres, O’Loverly, Thought Creature, Tiddabades, Lol-Fi

Thank you Blink and Bulls

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