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It’s hard to say the music coming out of Dunedin is better than ever without putting it in perspective, but it seems pretty great given all the new bands I keep discovering. The boomer-dominated media narrative surrounding Dunedin music is slowly being broken down, making space for a new sound to gain traction.
My most memorable discovery of the year was back in May at the OUSA Battle of the Bands. Jack Berry Band stood out as an original entity, channelling modern trap hip-hop energy with a post-demarco twist. They grooved and vibed through a fantastic set of original catchy songs, which were lodged in my head from the moment I heard them.
Mamazita was another Battle of the Bands standout. The Mama of the Zita’s powerful vocals coasted the waves of her band’s super-human groove all the way to a well-deserved second place. I’ve always got room in my heart for positive summery vibes, even if they only really work best during the three months of the year we actually have a summer. Their EP will be out in 2018.
The Ladder is Part of the Pit isn’t new, but was to me. Its sets left me feeling invigorated, but often confused. With most other music, I can pretty easily put my finger on why I like it, but in this case it’s a style of music I freely admit I don’t understand, but I was glad to experience it anyway.
It also helped me discover a whole world of experimental music, such as Sewage, whose haunting vocal and saxophone wails combine with relentless drumming to create something amazing. Similarly, Club Six’s dance gigs showed me the genre in a whole new light. I’ve enjoyed electronic music for many years, but it wasn’t until I went to Hotline 666 in October that I truly realised what it was all about. Sitting at home listening to house music by yourself is one thing, but when you’re in a room full of people undulating to the pounding music as it ebbs and flows ... This is how dance music is supposed to be experienced.
High school pupils are flocking to shows in droves, as demonstrated by The Big Gig at The Attic in November, where seven high-school bands performed to a massive and enthusiastic crowd. There’s a huge demand for all-ages shows in this city, which will hopefully be met in 2018.
The venue situation could be better, but as long as DIY spaces keep being awesome I think we’ll do OK. Or as OK as we can without Chick’s Hotel.
It’s definitely worth mentioning some old favourites who are still thriving: The Rothmans and Koizilla are staples of the scene and for good reason — their live shows never fail to disappoint — and Astro Children has pretty much reached legendary status, despite its members being scattered far and wide. Every time I see them play, it’s the best time.
Obviously, this couldn’t be a complete overview of everything that happened this year because there was just so much. In total, I went to 61 gigs and saw 139 artists, all of which I documented on dunedinsound.com, so check that if you want a taste of what 2017 was like.
- For more from Fraser Thompson go to dunedinsound.com.