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  • The Phoenix Foundation - Gig Review: The Phoenix Foundation @ Hollywood Avondale, Auckland - 24/11/2023

The Phoenix Foundation - Gig Review: The Phoenix Foundation @ Hollywood Avondale, Auckland - 24/11/2023

26 Nov 2023 // A review by roger.bowie

This is a first of many things. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen The Phoenix Foundation play live. I must have, but no recall. At my age, that says nothing. But for sure, I’ve never written about them, apart from Sam and Luke when they appear, as they have done often, on a Come Together show (but never together). And, equally certain, I’ve never heard Horse Power, except for a few days before this show. My Phoenix Foundation journey started with Pegasus, and I’ve been faithful ever since. But without any horsepower.

But wait, there’s more. Jess Cornelius opens the show. Who? Who? Think Ngaruawahia (born there), Moscow Schoolboy (Melbourne punk, done that), Teeth & Tongue (also Melbourne, four albums) and now Los Angeles, solo (worked with The War on Drugs). Think prodigal daughter, back here to visit (her parents are grandparents) and play, and more often than before. Thank goodness for homesick. Here she is strumming and shredding and scaling, with multi-instrumentalist Mikal Cronin (also four albums to his credit) on bass, and this is just a big surprise. A vegetarian still needing a Thanksgiving turkey. Great pedigree and great music. We give thanks.

Hard to pin her down. Starts like Patti Smith and ends up Angel Olsen. Watch her on YouTube with Mikal and it’s pure Americana. Songs mainly from her 2020 album Distance but some taste of the new album due out next year. She tells a story about being ripped off by an Auckland taxi on the way in from the airport, means she needs to sell some vinyl. I bought, Jess, I did!! 

Ok, it’s 20 years since The Phoenix Foundation released their debut LP, on CD only. Vinyl wasn’t a thing back then; it was a thing at least 10 years before. So here they are, having re-learnt the songs (a lot of smoking going on back then), to deliver them live, and celebrate the anniversary vinyl release. Six of them, original members Samuel Flynn Scott, Luke Buda, Conrad Wedde and Will Ricketts, and more recent recruits Tom Callwood and Chris O’Connor, plus the enigmatic Anita Clark (Motte) bringing some ethereal space on keys and violin.

What to say? We’re here to play Horse Power, and that’s what we’re going to do, says either Sam or Luke, to silence the wannabe’s favourite song quest. And so it goes, Sam on acoustic, most of the vocals, Luke on electric lead, as Sister Risk kicks off. It’s mellow, it speaks to Wilco, it’s pleasantly timeless. Let Me Die A Woman brings Will Ricketts to prominence on bongos, which happily happens often tonight. These guys grew up on metal, but This Charming Van chugs along in mock psychedelia. This is a nostalgia trip, this was the album which launched them, this was the album they didn’t think they could make, this is the album they made in their early twenties, this is the voice transformer that distorts Sam’s voice into a Bruiser,  this is the mock church bell scene from St Kevin with organic prog, heavier Wilco now, this is the happy pop of Going Fishing, these are the Lambs to the slaughter,  this is the Wild Life. This is Sally, and TGIF means this gig is fun. This is Luke with Anita on fiddle, starting to Celebrate. And so, we do, and it’s intermission.

And now we have the horse power, we have the staying power, and set two is a sampling from all that followed. Two songs from Buffalo, including that one, and a Flock of Hearts, two songs from Friendship, with Guru like Phish meets The War on Drugs, the songs are heavier, more complex, the writing and the songs emerging from the sum of the parts. Hounds of Hell I once saw on Later with Jools, and now Anita picks up Nadia Reid’s part. Damn the River from Pegasus, back to Friendship, with the psych-Beatle-ish My Kitchen Rules. And with scarcely a Sideways Glance from Fandango, with Anita on flute, we’ve gone back 40 Years for a Happy Ending.

A brief hiatus, and the two-song encore speaks to The Captain before, disappointingly, we are asked to give up our dreams at the end.

The Phoenix Foundation are now part of our indie psych rock furniture, and we need to maintain them with love and care. A wonderful night of nostalgia and marvelous music.

Set List:

1. Sister Risk
Let Me Die
This Charming Van
The Swarm
St Kevin
Going Fishing
12. Buffalo
Flock of Hearts
Hounds of Hell
Damn the River
17. My Kitchen Rules
Sideways Glance
40 Years
The Captain
Give Up Your Dreams

Photo Credit: Ivan Karczewski
The Phoenix Foundation Photo Gallery

Jess Cornelius Photo Gallery


About The Phoenix Foundation

The Phoenix Foundation have been performing and producing music together for just on 20 years. As one of New Zealand's most accomplished acts, they have either won or been nominated for every music industry award NZ has to offer.

With a career releasing and performing such a diverse range of music they appeal to any demographic. Their recent releases of Give Up Your Dreams, Fandango and Buffalo, have seen them receive high acclaim from publications such as Mojo, Q, Uncut, NME and The Guardian. BBC Radio Personalities such as Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker are fans. They have performed on stages around the globe from ‘…Later with Jools Holland’ (BBC TV) to The Big Day Out to Glastonbury.

They have written soundtracks for many TV Shows, Commercials and Films, including New Zealand’s Top grossing film of all time Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Boy and Eagle Vs Shark by Oscar Nominee director Taika Waititi.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Phoenix Foundation


Life Boat
Year: 2021
Type: EP
Friend Ship
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Give Up Your Dreams
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Tom's Lunch
Year: 2014
Type: EP
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Year: 2010
Type: Album
Merry Kriskmass
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Happy Ending
Year: 2007
Type: Album
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Horse Power
Year: 2003
Type: Album
China Cove
Year: 2001
Type: EP

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