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Gig Review: Homegrown 2024 @ Wellington Waterfront - 16/03/2024 Part 2

18 Mar 2024 // A review by Steve Shyu
With nothing of last night's rainstorm in sight except puddles in the asphalt, the sun warmed the air to counter the day's cold breeze. There was plenty of talk of a cold snap on the way, but I was confident my tee and hoodie combo would suffice.

The Wellington Waterfront was alive! City folk got amongst the action nice and early, there were people performing capoeira, playing bagpipes, taking selfies by the big Marvel MCU-adorned signs.

At the Electronic Stage, starting the afternoon off is George FM's own Beccie B, the DJ extraordinaire, gig promoter and graphic designer, as her bio proudly states. The Otautahi Christchurch-born star had made sure tunes were pumping by the time punters rolled in giddily through the gates.

The house tunes were curiously percussive at times, and tastefully soulful at others. Under the warming afternoon sun, albeit under a giant canvas tent, this was a perfect way to ease into my day at Homegrown 2024.

In the mix was the 2002 club classic It Just Won't Do by Tim Deluxe, 2023’s Yoshi by Dimmish, both of which reminded me of the Ministry of Sound phase I went through many, many years back.

Hooky samples flourished over booming basslines, as the mix became groovier in the last half of Beccie's set. The tempo picked up slightly, and more breakbeat sounds were introduced, which saw more attendees drawn into the tent and dancing about.

Beccie smiled heartily as she played, danced from left and right, happily waved at people dancing and taking videos in front of the stage. She’s clearly familiar with stages of this size, as she has slung tunes at events and festivals like Hidden Lakes and Rhythm & Vines.

Now Sanoi is here, as Beccie B announced on the mic, thanking the audience before letting Mr Jonas Fischer take over the decks.

In contrast with the previous hours’ music, Sanoi's takes on a more experimental style. Basslines hum deeper, and the synth lines bear a pensive and visceral tone. The visualisers on the electronic backdrop even takes on an industrial underground format, further accentuating the futuristic feel of Sanoi's selected tracks.

The German-born producer, DJ and musician released his debut LP Echoes of Home late last year, so no doubt a few of his original works have been woven into his set. I even marked the album to stream once I’m back home in Tamaki Makaurau!

The psychedelic edge increased as the set drove on, as hazy voice samples echo, and swirling synths sent the audience on a long, dreamy ride.

Basslines reached peak heaviness near the last third of Sanoi’s performance, and people gathered in greater numbers just as the vibe took on a gloomy, brooding feel.

The final ten minutes saw a surge of people crowd the dancefloor, which would no doubt be a familiar sight for Sanoi, having just come off performing at festivals Splore and Electric Avenue.

I felt quite at home with this style of electronic music, with a darker aural aesthetic, even though this isn’t my usual preference of live music.

Right at mid-afternoon, FOVOS blasted their way onto the stage with hyper-intense bass drones and massive old-school rave vibes. The Kiwi DJ and producer duo were barely two minutes into their set when attendees had packed past the sound desk. Hands were raised, bodies moved and grooved. Cellphones were held up to take Instagram Stories, and everywhere vape clouds popped up like geysers.

I looked about, and suddenly felt a bout of cognitive dissonance; I was surrounded by faces noticeably younger than me, yet the music that was being pumped out felt like it was the early 2000's all over again! FOVOS brought on nostalgia with Insomnia by UK’s legendary Faithless, followed quickly with a fiery-paced remix of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics. And a swirly and distorted rendition of 9AM by ATB. Oh, then a mashed-up Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim. These were all timeless classics but re-tailored for a modern audience, and the crowd loved every single beat.

FOVOS had recently performed four sold-out shows across North America to great acclaim, and one can see their popularity on full display right here in Aotearoa. Here, at Homegrown, they are very much loved.

The three acts that I'd been enjoying so far were unfamiliar to me prior to today, but I felt it was time to slip into more familiar territory. Thus, I ventured out from under the Electronic tent and headed for the Rock Stage.

Today was the day I would witness live a classic Kiwi band I had only heard fantastic reviews about, but never got the opportunity to see and hear for myself. Wellington’s rock icons Head Like a Hole, or HLAH, had enjoyed a rejuvenated new chapter in their career since 2011, which is about the same time I started paying due attention to classic Kiwi rock.

Under the heat of the afternoon sun, frontman and lead vocalist Booga Beasley sauntered on stage, and greeted everyone with a simple "Heya c**ts", and revved the crowd into action with their heavily-grooved 1999 hit single Comfortably Shagged.

It was easy to see why HLAH’s Booga is touted as one of New Zealand’s best frontmen. He exuded character, stomping and jumping about on stage, pointing his mic at unsuspecting audience members down at the front barrier, snarling and barking his way through songs, even pausing to quip about his "1997 Anthony Kiedis haircut".

Plenty of HLAH classics were brought out, including Cornbag, and the bass guitar-powered Wet Rubber.

Booga announced a fresh new song entitled One Foot in the Grave, plus a new album due out 5th April. The five-man act then proceeded to unleash the new number, complete with stomping rhythms, painted over with Booga's signature snarls, not to mention a nice, sizzling guitar solo from guitarist Nigel Regan. Needless to say, the audience loved it, I myself included!

The Rock Stage crowd joined in with tremendous enthusiasm for HLAH’s renowned cover of Bruce Springsteen’s I'm on Fire. Sans the harmonica, sadly. Booga danced about and crooned, while bassist Simon Nicholls pranced. To nobody’s surprise, the audience absolutely erupted during the song’s breakdown, with dozens and dozens of Jim Beam foam hands raised high and waving maniacally. There was still no let up in energy from the audience, as the 2011 classic Glory Glory (Hallelujah) saw teams at the front rail jumping up and down from start to finish.

Another key hit that drew loads of clapping and cheering was ___, where HLAH invited on stage trumpet player Show Pony formerly of Atsushi and the Moisties to carry the song’s central bass hook, which was guaranteed to get stuck in your head for hours after listening!

Then it was down to one last hurrah. The rapid-fire and hyperactive Hootenanny made sure fans expended their energy reserves by whipping them into a frenzy with its thrashy passages.

What a tremendous performance. For a band whose career has spanned three decades, the five-man act have still got it, make no mistake.

Guitar feedback and eerie, sustained notes signalled the entrance of the mighty Beastwars, another band I hadn’t witnessed live before.

Having toured nationwide in support of their latest album, Tyranny of Distance, released just four months ago, the stoner-sludge titans emerged, ready to dominate Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

I'll always recall the awe and terror I felt when I first listened to Beastwars. It was their earth-rumbling, gargantuan-sounding song Damn the Sky. With its blaring intro a hellish herald, giving way to trudging, thousand-tonne guitar riffs, and spine-chilling howled vocals. And that's exactly what Homegrown was treated to as the opening number. Imagine my excitement finally hearing this song properly, live and in the flesh!

Today, the line-up consisted of James Woods on bass guitar, Nato Hickey behind the drumkit, and of course, the wizard-like vocals extraordinaire Matt Hyde at the microphone. Beastwars had a substitute guitarist on duty, whose name unfortunately I didn’t catch.

As anyone who has experienced this band will tell you, Matt's singing voice is nothing short of unique, certainly one-of-a-kind in the realms of Kiwi music. I was astonished by the way he effortlessly changes between screaming, crooning and shrieking as he does on their albums.

While Beastwars’s guitar and rhythm section treads the border between the heavy and the hypnotic, the vocals take their riffs and send it through proverbial crevasses and mountains. Without a doubt, Beastwars is one band you have to see to believe.

And as any devoted fan will tell you: Obey the Riff, Long Live the Beast.

Having gained immense attention in Europe, toured with heavy metal icons Gojira, and even opened for Guns n' Roses here on home soil, Alien Weaponry is welcomed with open arms at the annual mecca of Aotearoa music for the very first time.

Having witnessed their stage-dominating prowess at The Studio and at Melbourne's iteration of Download Festival, I was well overdue for another dose of te Reo Maori heavy metal.

The three-piece act begins, as they usually do, with their haka-esque intro of Ru Ana te Whenua. Then it's their all-out assault of rolling bass licks and double kick drums, followed with little time wasted by Raupatu.

This tremendous sound is brought by the two de Jong brothers, Henry on drums and Lewis on guitar and main vocals, and newest member Turanga Morgan-Edmonds on bass guitar.

Based on a very serious topic, Tangaroa is their waiata about the plight of our oceans. Lewis spells out despair and laments the state of the seas, as the huge electronic backdrop displayed all multitudes of creatures of the moana.

Having a circle pit break out in the mosh was ultimately inevitable. Fans surged and pulsed with the speedily-rolling guitar and bass parts, and even faster-paced drumming. But the circle pits only grew bigger and more wild with each song, as though people simply needed time to warm to the music. Lewis took the time between songs to remind the crowd to “look after each other, if someone falls down, pick them up, we’re all here to have a good time”.

If there’s one thing I’ve always enjoyed about heavy metal shows is that, amidst the fury and aggression of the music, taking care of others has always been a cornerstone, so it was encouraging to see the newer generation of hard-rockers acknowledging this mentality.

Taken from their two records released thus far, Alien Weaponry presented their strongest hits, including Blinded and Ahi Ka, and wrapping up their set with their internationally recognised single, Kai Tangata. Of course, the band weren’t leaving without making sure attendees had something to talk about for days or weeks to come. Turanga and Lewis thanked the crowd for making their Homegrown debut a memorable event and demanded the audience part in two for a “wall of death”, then counted down as the two halves ran and slammed into one another.

Judging by the wide eyes and number of cellphones held up and recording the ferocious fracas, I think it's perhaps safe to say that Homegrown has never seen anything quite like this, let alone anything of this magnitude and uniqueness.

This is heavy music made by tangata whenua, presented proudly in their native language, and there is no other band quite like Alien Weaponry. To take native Aotearoa language and culture overseas and introduce it to the world with such passion deserves respect.

He taua, He taua!

With the setting of the sun, it was time for me to shift places and head south to the Park Stage for yet another act I'd not experienced before. There was chatter amongst Muzic.nz colleagues that reggae-pop group L.A.B were one of the biggest and best names on this year’s Homegrown roster, so naturally I had to see how they stack up.

Fronted by lead vocalist and guitarist Joel Shadbolt, Stuart and Brad of Kora fame, keyboardist Miharo Gregory, former Katchafire bass player Ara Adams-Tamatea, plus a crew of brass and percussionists in the ranks.

Under a windy, gloomy evening, the eager and packed audience were treated to a high-energy opening song, bearing shuffling guitar chords, vibrant keyboards, rolling bass lines and even a bongo solo.

Despite the chilly breeze, extremely few faces around me appeared low or dampened, and by the fourth song almost everyone near me was up on their feet boogying. Though reggae sounds are synonymous with sunny, warm summer days, this only proved that good music is good music, no matter the weather nor time of day.

On showcase, most notably, was the 2018 hit song Rocketship, plus a few brilliant covers of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, as well as Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, both of which had the massive crowd roaring along to every word.

Nobody could have anticipated a flute solo during a reggae performance- well, certainly not me! Amidst the standard guitar chord shuffles typical of this musical style, there were a good handful of keyboard solos brilliant enough to make anyone nod in amazement and cheer.

Near the end, all stage lights dimmed bar the centre spotlight, as frontman Joel sang charismatically, bearing just his guitar, commanding audiences to sing along, wave their cellphone flashlights and sway to and fro. The performance crescendoed, the rest of the band joined in, as the song climaxed with a delicious saxophone solo. Folks around me were thrilled.

Capping the set with their double-platinum smash single Take It Away, L.A.B only left their fans crying out for more. Alas, that was not to be. For there is another New Zealand music giant on the way.

As the winds turned ice-cold and continued to pour across the City Stage, Kora kept nobody waiting and unleashed an epic symphonic intro upon all. Almost too fittingly, the electronic backdrop displayed rolling, dark clouds. As the stage lit back up, big, beefy guitar riffs crack the night right open again.

Ah… That’s what I had been missing. Who could blame me? After Alien Weaponry, all I felt like was more of the crunchy and the heavy!

Kora got right to business, transporting attendees back to the late 2000’s with the super-bouncy The Delivery Man, and the elephantine classic Skankenstein. I certainly had flashbacks to the good old days when a flatmate played me the album on CD, and I was blown away by the genre-bending sounds.

And bend genres these lads sure do, and still continue to do!

Breaking up the reggae-esque vibes and Francis Kora’s soulful vocals is plenty of heavy drumming and even heavier guitars, bending what many Kiwis are familiar with and weaving in elements of rock and heavy metal. And I’m a total sucker for hybridising genres, so revisiting Kora was just what I needed.

In fact, having been out of touch with Kora’s releases for some time, I got to experience their single from last year, Dancing in the Rain, boasting that Kora sound of big, soulful vocals, arena-filling drums, slick basslines, held together with muscle-bound guitars.

Unfortunately, by this point, the iciness of that Wellington wind only bore down harder. Wellington’s weather got the better of me and I had to retreat to my accommodation. Future Homegrown participants, take note - Heed Metservice’s warnings and bring an extra jersey!

Photo Credits (in order from top to bottom)

Crowd Shot, photographed by Katie-Lee Webster
FOVOS, photographed by Stella Gardiner / Stella Gardiner Photo
Head Like A Hole, photographed by Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
Beastwars, photographed by Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
Alien Weaponry, photographed by Brad Miller / Islay Imagery
L.A.B, photographed by Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
Kora, photographed by Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
Crowd Shot, photographed by Katie-Lee Webster

Photo Gallery 1
Photo Gallery 2


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