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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Summer Music Round Up

Lots of musicians played lots of concerts, or ‘gigs’, over the last summer. Many of them were abominable. Many more were okay…ish. Some were pretty sweet, though. These were some of the latter and neither of the former.

Tom Cosm

Tom Cosm’s set at Canaan Downs proved once again his standing as Aotearoa’s greatest trance DJ. Last year he played the midnight-on-New Year’s set to thousands of trippers under fluoro lights; this year he played the final set to a few hundred dedicated folk, dancing all the sweat from their bodies under the intense sunshine, clad in outrageous costumes as they spun about, grinning mildly and sharing waterbottles. Cosm, who despite gigantic dreads comes across as a sweet lil’ computer geek when he speaks to his audience, mixed in ‘Poi E’ and ‘Bad Boys’ among his own ‘The Sluzziest of Fuzz’. He gives all of his music away for free, and even hosts online electronic music tutorials—check out www.cosm.co.nz for downloads.

An Emerald City

Standouts at both Canaan Downs (playing before Little Bushman on New Year’s Eve) and the Big Day Out (morning in the boiler room), An Emerald City’s 2008 EP heralded their arrival as one of the most interesting acts in the land, playing a sort of instrumental pixie jam with sitars, capes, twigs-in-the-hair and large dancing eyeballs. Imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor without the annoyingly drawn-out silences. They have been recording an LP in a cave somewhere, so keep an eye out.

Fantomas, Pendulum and the Prodigy

While a sadly mediocre selection of guitar acts (Bullet for My Valentine, The Datsuns, and Elememo P) left thousands of rock fans underwhelmed with their presence on the main stage at this year’s Big Day Out, the three incredible performances of the show were given by these three acts at the frontier between guitar rock and electronica. Fantomas, the demonic spawn of Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk) who cover old movie tunes and ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ with heavy guitars and drums playing narratives more often than the beat, featured Patton at a mixing desk, screaming into the mic and gesturing directions at his guitarist, bass player and drummer who perched on the other side of the stage. Pendulum played to the biggest crowd of the festival, blasting bleepy, bloopy synth, whammy guitars and pulsing bass, penetrating the wind interference in its cocky, laddish delivery to reach our ears. The Prodigy’s closing set in the boiler room saw their two MCs—the punk one and the dreaded one—strut across the stage, calling out to their audience as if leading them into battle. Okay, so neither Pendulum nor the Prodigy were exactly intelligent music, but their sound was fucking massive, and Fantomas was just fascinating. Also, Neil Young was Neil Young, which is sweet and all but not all that amazing to watch.

Leonard Cohen

He’s 75, he wears a pinstripe suit and skips onstage. Leonard Cohen is still a holy man. Warming up from newer tracks like opener ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ to hit his great folk work (‘Suzanne’, ‘The Partisan’) in full stride with just his voice, the heavenly voices of long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson, alongside the cartwheeling Webb sisters, and Javier Mas on the bandurria. I’m not sure why the promoters felt he needed a warm up act – Sam Hunt was just embarrassing. Perhaps they thought that by showing us something mediocre, Cohen’s greatness would shine all the brighter, but he didn’t need it. ‘Democracy’, adapted from the words of a perverse madman in Cohen’s novel Beautiful Losers, became an ode to the progress of the ship of state, was the most perfectly apt statement one could make in the days following President Obama’s inauguration. His years in the Mount Baldy zen monastery have clearly left Cohen in great health, joking that he had tried all the pharmaceuticals and philosophies he could, “but cheerfulness kept creeping through.” Nevertheless, it is unlikely, given his advanced years, that we will see him again, and given his unparalleled lyrical genius, it’s not unwarranted to claim that we shall never see such greatness on stage again. But we still have those incredible words

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Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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