Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: When there were hippies

Before there was a Big Day Out, a Laneway or a Splore -- before even Sweetwaters -- there was Nambassa. A kind of last hurrah for the baby boomers, before before they went off to get proper jobs and gentrify Ponsonby, New Zealand's counter-culture festival attracted a remarkable 60,000 people to a farm in Waihi in 1979.

Or so it is said. Nowhere in Philip Howe's Nambassa Festival documentary does it really look as if there are quite that many on site, but let's not quibble. The documentary, added this week to NZ On Screen, is an intriguing dispatch from Old Zealand, the far side of the fourth Labour government:

The music, it must be said, is mostly pretty poor. Golden Harvest and Schtung sound indifferent and a dance piece is the most convincing act until the end, where Split Enz stand apart from it all. They're taut, strange and compelling. Is this all there is on film of this justifiably legendary performance?

But there are many other delights in a film that unwinds in a manner a million miles from today's tease-and-recap TV docos. Can you imagine mixed showers at Rhythm & Vines? Parts of New Zealand used to be a lot more liberal about bare-ass nudity.

There's also a surprising amount of baking. And, as you might expect, lots of people. Who is the handsome young man who rouses himself, still clearly tripping a bit, after a night under the stars around 2:38 in part two? What does he do now? I did spot someone I know -- I'm pretty sure that's my old mate Ron Harkness lining up for a burger at 3:15 in the same segment. He had the Furry Freak Brothers thing down even then.

Elements of the counter-culture are quite inspiring -- when did we stop entertaining children with such joy? -- and then, on the other hand, there's the banality of the Hare Krishna acting-out. I'm quite partial to some spiritual music, but Hare Krisha only ever had one song. And it's rubbish.

Anyway, this is a rare Film Commission-funded gem. It's well worth a watch if you don't remember those times. And I guess if you can remember it, you weren't really there, right?


In the same year as the hippie swansong, something completely different was happening up the road in Auckland. A snotty young punk band called Spelling Mistakes formed that year and -- in celebration of a US reissue of 'Feels So Good', the second-ever release on Propeller Records, the label he ran with Paul Rose -- Simon Grigg has written up a few memories. It's well worth a read.


Meanwhile, back in the age of of the internet, our sponsors at The Audience have made me happy by launching an embedded player. Apart from anything else, that gives me a chance to commend to you again, the current number one on the Audience chart, Watercolours' 'Night Swimmer.

Even if you've voted for it before, you can still click through and vote again.

Meanwhile, this is what the kids are doing in the Auckland 'burbs (note the free download):

In an entirely different vein, bare, cracked singer-songwriting from Dunedin:

And finally, this mysterious little thing (again, a download):


DJ Scratch 22 -- fresh from showering his blessing on the forthcoming Media3 theme -- has a lovely noisy remix of Street Chant's 'Salad Daze'

Hey, remember Lana Del Rey? She's still alive! This is a pretty cool remix of 'Summertime Sadness'. Which you might hate. I understand that.


Just as I was wondering whether there'd be any more albums I really liked this year, two have come along at once.

Patti Smith's Banga is a deep, warm, substantial record. She's in fine voice here. This is a little film about the writing of 'This Is the Girl', her song for Amy Winehouse:

And Hot Chip's In Our Heads is another helping of lovely grown-up dance music. Here's 'How Do You Do It?', performed as part of their recent BBC live session:

So nerdy, so cool.

And finally, for when you just want a playlist for your weekend kitchen-dancing, Leftside Wobble has kindly mixed some of his favourites from the Paper Records catalogue:

The occasion is the release of the legendary label's Papercuts #1 compilation, which you can buy here.

The Hard News Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


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