This seems to be a bit of a week for government ministers being snippy on the socials. On the heels of Judith Collins unloading on her critics on Twitter comes this today from arts minister Chris Finlayson:
Insofar as public broadcasting -- the area I know a bit a bit about -- contributes to a heathy public life, the picture is pretty bleak. NZ On Air is into its fifth year of a budget freeze and it's starting to hurt. The overall budget for Public Broadcasting Services was actually cut by $3.08 million this week.
On the other hand, let us be clear: the level of public funding for arts and culture may have an impact on the health of the arts sector, but they are not the same thing. You can't measure the vitality and worth of contemporary art and culture by line items in a ministerial Budget. Indeed, some of the best art emerges in hostile times.
But I'm struggling to perceive the "golden age". I'm genuinely unsure what the minister means, or whether he is claming any credit for the cultural bounty he hails.
Last week, I saw Lawrence Arabia play solo on a Tuesday night. This week I saw SJD play solo on a Wednesday. And I didn't have to go into the CBD or stay up stupidly late to do it. I could really get to like this neighbourhood gigs thing.
Sean James Donnelly didn't just play solo -- he's been doing that since Elastic Wasteland came out -- but unplugged. It was intriguing to hear 'Superman You're Crying' (which he's been playing lately as a techno track) strummed out on acoustic guitar. He tried out two new songs (one of which, 'Invisible Man', definitely sounds like a keeper) and played what he said was the first live performance of the title track from Southern Lights.
Credit here to the venue, the Portland Public House in Kingsland, whose owners have shown a lot of imagination in the way they present artists; hosting regular dates like the Kingsland Folk Club (which isn't quite what it sounds) on Sundays and booking month-long residencies for various bands. Also to the Dan Sperber Band, who used their own residency to present a different guest each week -- Buzz from Voom, Hollie Fulbrook, SJD. Their own three-piece-indie-jazz thing was cool too.
It's not perfect. Not everyone comes to the bar to hear the band, and people do have a right to socialise. But really, pal, when someone's singing, do you need to have your awesome high-decibel conversation with your friends right in front of the stage -- when there's so much space out the back? People are weird like that.
"There's a bit of a function on tonight," advised the bouncer.
"Er, you mean @Peace are playing?" I said.
He still didn't quite seem convinced that I really wanted to be there. To be fair, once I got inside the Tyler Street Garage I could see his point. Everyone else there was apparently 22 and boisterous.
"See, Jim?" I said to my son. "This is what people your age do."
He looked around: "Well, why not?"
We'd come to see what was if not the last gig ever by @Peace, then certainly the last here for a while. Tom Scott and Haz Beatz, his beatmaking sideman in Home Brew, are heading to Melbourne for a change of scene. (You've missed out on buying Tom's clothes on Trade me, but there's still time to grab a Home Brew gold disc.) If you're reading from Melbourne, their residency next month with other members of the YGB crew at the Laundry Bar in Fitzroy looks great.
The most notable thing about @Peace's show at TSG last night was quite how engaged the crowd was with their music. The kids knew all the words. It was hardly the best show they've ever played, and Tom even advised me earlier in the day that "It's really the worst bar ever. I wouldn't go if I was u." It wasn't that bad.
Tyler Street and its companion bars in Britomart Square (several of them owned by the same company) are examples of the trend that has sent Coherent in Karangahape Road out of business this week -- the funky brew-bar versus the old-fashioned nightclub. It's nice to have Emerson's Pilsener on tap at a gig, even at $12 a pint.
This trend must also be putting some pressure on the King's Arms, with its awkward layout and deafening rock PA. It just doesn't seem as much fun as it used to.
The household's reliance on tethered-phone internet for the past eight days has deterred me from clocking up data overage with downloads and streams, but Street Chant have a deal on Soundcloud that's too good to refuse.
They've made available for free download 'Sink', the first single from their endlessly-forthcoming second album:
And that single's physical b-side, their cracking cover of Wire's 'Outdoor Miner'.
You want them both, believe me.
Hey, my internet is back! Check out this sweet Rhian Sheehan remix:
And Mojo Filter's trippy take on that song:
Last weekend (thanks internet) I watched Once in A Lifetime, a 1984 UK Channel 4 "documentary" produced with Talking Heads. It's an odd beast -- the decision to shoot most of the "live" footage with the band playing to an empty Wembley Arena was bizarre, especially given that the actual concert footage at the end is blindingly good -- but I'd especially recommend it to anyone who's read David Byrne's book How Music Works. The film's crazy melange of found footage from commercials, religious broadcasts and other documentaries achieves an odd sense of commonality.
Here's the first part on YouTube. The same user has uploaded the other parts too:
Back at TheAudience, there's this nifty shuffle out of West Auckland (click through for the free download):
MC Tali again with this Kendrick Lamar cover for George FM Breakfast's 'Damn! I Wish I Was Your Cover' series:
And from the same series, Ruby Frost singing rather than being on TV telling other singers they're not ready:
As part of the deal with the government announced this morning, SkyCity will -- along with a range of other concessions and favours -- be allowed to install 230 more pokie machines in exchange for building and operating an international convention centre alongside its present casino site.
I'm pretty sure the number of new pokies is no accident. It's the exact same number granted when Sky City built its existing convention centre in Federal Street Street in 2001. Similarly, Sky was then granted permission for another 12 gaming tables, and this time it's 11. David Farrar has pounced on the symmetry, bolding it up in case no one gets the message:
This reinforces to me what a tough negotiator Steven Joyce is, as groups were talking the agreement could be as many as 500 new pokie machines. The number, at 230, is identical to those granted to SkyCity under the previous Government in 2001 for the development of the existing, and much smaller, Auckland Convention Centre.
Thus has "Labour did it too" been set up as a key line in the presentation of the deal. Farrar doesn't even have to say the H-word because he knows one of his commenters will fill in the blanks soon enough:
So Labour did the same thing and they now whinge about it. Their hypocriscy knows no bounds.
The trouble with this line is that it's bullshit. Yes, the numbers are the same -- but they were achieved by wholly different means. The Labour government played no role in the 2001 arrangement. As Bernard Orsman noted in the Herald a year ago, the decision was made by the five-member Casino Control Authority, which was chaired at the time by soon-to-be MP Judith Collins.
As Orsman writes:
At the time of the 2001 deal Labour was in Government but played no role in the pokies for convention centre deal. Labour introduced the Gambling Act in 2003, preventing further expansion of gambling facilities.
So it's hardly hypocrisy. Labour not only played no role in the authority granting regulatory concessions to SkyCity, it soon afterwards changed the law to prevent such deals being done in future. National, by contrast, is to change the law, under urgency, to allow an expansion.
In 2001 there were no private dinners with the Prime Minister, no preferential treatment for SkyCity, no critical report from the Auditor-General, no SOEs being leaned on, and no cautious, conservative political commentators writing columns like this:
Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas - that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government's selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.
I'd also take tributes to Steven Joyce's negotiating mojo with a grain of salt. SkyCity has really done better than it might have expected in this arrangement. As David Fisher noted today on Twitter, the price of $75 million for a renewal of the casino's licence presents "a significant shift to SkyCity's benefit", given that Korda Mentha independently valued the licence at between $65 million and $115 million. The taxpayer will also cough up $34 million over four years to promote the new convention centre.
I don't doubt the economic value of a big, high-quality convention centre (which we can only hope will be built to a higher standard than the shoddy, stuffy Federal Street facility), but I do hope that the egregious spin attached to today's announcement won't simply be recycled by the news media. This deal has been reached via an extremely troubling process. The government's cheerleaders will hail it nonetheless. The rest of us should feel very, very uneasy about it.
I doubt that anyone would have anticipated that one of 2013's television hits would have been captured by the cameras of Parliament TV, yet that is what happened. In concert with a level of social media chatter usually reserved for TV talent quests and major sporting events, the final reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill played out last month as a surprising feel-good live broadcast event.
The waiata was heard around the world, and Maurice Williamson became, as had Chris Auchinvole at the bill's previous reading, an unlikely star.
The seeds for that prime-time spectacle lie in the regular coverage of Parliamentary Question Time, which plays to a smaller audience but enjoys the same real-time buzz. It is watched, and it drives the daily political conversation in a substantial way. The excellent service provided by In The House, which bundles up proceedings for time-shifted viewing on the internet, makes it even more useful.
Live Parliamentary coverage is now so established that Radio New Zealand is reportedly planning a bid to expand the scope of Parliament TV itself, into an equivalent of the US C-Span channel.
And yet, it's worth recalling how controversial the idea of full-time live TV coverage was before its introduction six years ago.
Ironically, the networks now rely on the taxpayer-funded system and seem only rarely to bother with their own news cameras in the House. By the same token, the strict rules on what can be shown have been formally (and perhaps informally) eased. The system seems to work.
So how has it affected the conduct of the House and the behaviour of MPs? How has it altered our own sense of engagement with the Parliament?
I'll be joined on Media3 this week by Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner to discuss the era of Parliament TV -- and Jose Barbosa has been to Wellington to look at how the coverage is produced.
Also this week, I'll be talking to Clare Bradley, the chair of the Online Media Standards Authority, the new independent body established by broadcasters to field complaints about their online news and current affairs. It officially launches on July 1-- but has it already been made irrelevant by the Law Commission's recommendation for a single independent news media standards body across all media?
If you'd like to join us for tomorrow's Media3 recording, we'll need you to come to the first floor of the Villa Dalmacija, 10 New North Road, Aucland, at 5.30pm.
Fiona and I celebrated her birthday on Tuesday night with dinner at Coco's Cantina (free-range veal Milanese ftw!) and then Lawrence Arabia's show at Golden Dawn. We literally walked into the venue just as he started playing, and gee, it was a lovely evening.
I'm struck by the way James Milne can reshape his catalogue to the occasion, whether it be a 10-piece ensemble (with string section) at Laneway or, as it was on Tuesday, a charmingly self-aware ("I feel awkward -- it's like you're all watching me ... It's a delightful experience, but also terrifying") solo show. He offered up Reduction Agents songs, Lawrence Arabia songs, even a little Fabulous Arabia. Where there was call for a horn section, he made the noises himself.
When he finished with 'I've Smoked Too Much', it seemed that was it. But no. Without telling anyone what he was doing, he stepped down off the stage, strolled into the bar, sat down at the old piano there and began playing that perennial encore, 'Waiting For Your Love'. And everybody came inside and joined in and it was pure magic. I caught the end of it on video:
James flew out to Europe the next day -- in the first instance to play several shows in Britain with the Phoenix Foundation. I hope he does well. And as I said to him when we left: "There will be an audience for those songs for as long as you want to play them."
I'd have been at the GD on Sunday night for the Phoenix Foundation too, had not Toby Manhire rather thoughtlessly failed to telepathically read my intentions from several streets away and picked me up on his way there. Apart from anything else, I'd have been interested to see how they all fit on that stage. I gather it was a grand show.
Actual record reviews are a bit beyond me at the moment, but after letting the new album Fandango swoosh, swoop and swoon by me a few times, I can say this: it's greater than the sum of its parts. The Phoenix Foundation are keeping the album format relevant, which I'm sure is their intention.
The first hour of Afrika Bambaataa's show at The Studio last night was sensational -- an expertly-mixed selection of hip hop, electro, soul and even Florida rave (DJ Icey's 'This Is How My Drummer Drums') -- and then the MC had a rest and he rolled out his disco set, which was perfectly genial if not quite the same thing.
The audience could have been bigger -- it was a busy night in town and if you hadn't bought your ticket in advance you were looking at $60 on the door -- but it was a nice crowd, including a few greybeards and some b-boys and b-girls who were clearly some years from being born when 'Planet Rock' first came out. Good turnout from the nerdcore community. Respect.
Explanations had to be trimmed a bit to fit, but here's mine in full:
Boodle Boodle Boodle
Flying Nun (1981)
This sleeve is a fine line drawing by Chris Knox based on (and thoroughly transcending) a promo photograph of the band in a bath. It doesn't really have design elements as such -- it's an illustration incorporating the title. But it conjures the atmosphere of the time -- one where records could be made in halls and houses (Boodle itself was captured to four-track tape in the ramshackle Oddfellows Hall on Auckland's Bond Street) and sleeves, posters and videos were the work of friends or of the band members themselves. Chris Knox has long insisted that those early Flying Nun records shouldn't be characterised as "low-fi", but "low-tech" -- and that's what we see here. It's a virtuoso drawing with a pen. It's also worth noting that the original 12" came with a similarly low-fi comic drawn by the band -- and a few lucky journalists got Knox's incredible pop-up press kit, which might actually be the best press kit ever.
Although, it could also easily have been this one:
That image was reproduced on possibly my favourite t-shirt ever. I wore the shirt to the film studios at Wroclaw, Poland, when I flew there once to do a story on Yello for Select magazine, and was stopped in the hallway by a couple of very excited artisan film-makers. The language barrier prevented me from finding out whether they were fans of the band or just loved the image, but boy did they love it.
It's an 80s celebration tomorrow night at the King's Arms, as Danse Macabre and Penknife Glides get together play a reunion show at the King's Arms. (They're saying it's 31 years since they played, but Danse Macabre did have a little get-together several years ago.) Penknife Glifes even have a new record! I'm tempted to go if only to catch up with that lovely man Stefan Morris, who I haven't seen since we both worked at Rip It Up in the early 1980s.
Over at TheAudience, Motocade frontman Eden Mulholland has this catchy little solo number (free download if you click the "Fan" button):
Also, atmospheric indie pop from The Leers (another free download):