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A dozen local bands converge on the Crown Hotel today to perform for "Zelle Fest".
Included in the line-up are stalwart Dunedin artists from way back, such as Robert Scott, of The Clean and The Bats, Chris Heazlewood, of King Loser, and Francisca Griffin, of Look Blue Go Purple fame, as well as relative newcomers, such as Lachie Hayes.
The extremely reasonable $10 door charge makes it clear that there are no multinational suits in boardrooms pulling strings to exploit artists for cash, instead the associated label "Zelle Records" is some obscure outfit from Austria. What’s the story here? Am I out of the loop?
I caught up with some of the people involved over a pint at Albar to try to get to the bottom of things. Rob Sharma (Seafog) filled me in on Arno Loeffler, an Austrian music fan who first fell in love with New Zealand music in 1993.
"He’d just turn up and I’d be like ‘who’s this crazy European guy?’. And he’d be chocka with records."
Like a pilgrim following his inner path to the holy state of beatitude only Dunedin sound can provide, Arno has journeyed to the city each year since, carrying the good wax back to his friends and neighbours in Austria upon his return. I was curious to know how someone in Austria came to be so interested in Dunedin music, so I asked him.
"What attracted me to Dunedin or New Zealand music was it’s quirkiness at the time. It’s not so easily accessible, it’s something you had to discover.
"Everyone here is a musician, into music or art. I felt a really good vibe about the whole city.
"Normally one would expect such a scene — which developed into a hype — to collapse after a few years, which isn’t the case here."
Over the decades Arno became deeply involved in this scene, which brings us to Zelle Records. Arno recognised a wealth of musical talent in the country going woefully unpublished, so he started a record label. In 2014 it released its first record, by Wellington no-fi artist Vorn, and since then has published nine others by such outsider artists as Seafog, Marineville, Darryl Baser, and The Bilders.
A vinyl-only record label in 2017 sounds dangerously unprofitable, but it’s not about the money for Arno.
"My target is breaking even and I still haven’t gotten there yet, but it’d be nice.‘‘I do it because I love it, I love the music."
Zelle Fest is the result of Arno’s friends appreciating this love for Dunedin music he’s demonstrated over the past few decades, when the free market didn’t, and wanting to thank him by putting on a killer gig.
"There’s some depth in this line-up of not just newbies but people who’ve been around here for years and years and still do it because they love it," Rob explains.
Trying to shoehorn music into boxes is always tough but Rob’s best effort at describing the range of music on offer is "solo folk-slash-country alt to punk to surf guitar to Dunedin classic ...".
"Something for more than everybody," Chris Prendergast (Shakes and the Swell Guys) adds.
It’s a hell of a good value proposition too. Eight or so hours of the best music Dunedin has to offer in the alternative guitar scene for $10. Certainly beats paying $159 to see one guy from the UK.
- By Fraser Thompson
• Zelle Fest, at the Crown Hotel today.
• Afternoon session doors open 2pm.
• Evening session doors from 8pm.
• Cost $10 per session or $15 for the day.
• Presales from Relics Records, door sales also.