Up now on my #YouTube channel – watch “Walking in the Waitaks ☆ Day hike with friends ☆ Waitakere Ranges, NZ” 

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Review: Pitch Black, live in London – Oslo, Hackney

PB4 leadImage courtesy of Michael Hodgson.

20 years after their debut at The Gathering, Pitch Black have satiated a packed venue of fans at London’s Oslo, in Hackney.

Living on different sides of the world, it’s been three years since Michael Hodgson and Paddy Free have performed together – though you wouldn’t have thought it. What they delivered was a high-energy, united and polished performance – no one would have guessed that they had also taken on the challenge of working with some new equipment for the first time. High risk perhaps, but we would expect nothing less from these true Kiwi pioneers of electronic music – and it paid off.

I arrived about an hour before Pitch Black hit the stage, to a crowd happily vibing to Radioactive Man. There’s something special about going to a gig attended mostly by Kiwis – there’s always a unique energy about it. When I interviewed them, Mike and Paddy had remarked on how they are now on a second generation of fans – and this was definitely evident from the people filling the room, eager to experience whatever they had in store for us. It’s the first gig I’ve attended in awhile where the over-30s/40s significantly outnumbered the younger generation… and everyone seemed to be happily straddling both the present as well as a space somewhere in their own memories. Smiles were abundant. Meeting and connecting with strangers was abundant. There was a lot of aroha in that space.

Paddy was there: vibing with the crowd to Radioactive Man. Chilling at the bar, engaging in conversations with fans. He was completely generous with his time and attention, as was Mike, for each and every individual that wanted to connect with them.

Then it was time for Pitch Black to take to the stage – no mucking about; things took off right away, and we were transported to a place – somewhere unique for each of us, yet experienced together at the same time. The synergy between Mike and Paddy on stage spread to the crowd in front of them. I’m a little too young to have been at The Gathering in 1996 – but last night, I felt as though I may well have been there. The crowd was a diverse and eclectic mix of people from all walks of life – travelling together with the beat, experiencing the music as an extension of their being. The only way I knew for sure that it was a room mainly full of Kiwis, was the lack of footwear… shoes abandoned, people leaping barefoot.  It’s completely fair and justified for Pitch Black not to categorise themselves within any specific genre… because their mix of styles really transcends that. And they are masters of what they do. I had an incredible night, on a journey through sound, where I honestly forgot I was in London in 2016. But let me be clear: this music is not dated. Michael and Paddy continue to push the boundaries of genre and of electronic music; of what is really possible with equipment. Still pioneering electronica… crossing multiple genres. Having experienced some of their new material from their upcoming album in September, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

It’s interesting to consider if these guys had been born in England, rather than New Zealand, that they might easily have been bigger than the Chemical Brothers.

To me, these humble Kiwi blokes will always have set the benchmark, for what electronic music should aspire to.

Seamless excellence from Pitch Black – left the crowd wanting more, left themselves wanting more. Like a fine wine, this duo only seems to get better with age.

 

Review by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission.

REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.

Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.

Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.

The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.

Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together.  He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.

Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.

Remembrance, Rugby and Richie McCaw

A special article for Remembrance Day 2014.

It’s not every day as a journo that you attend a post-match press conference and a rugby player brings tears to your eyes. But that is essentially what happened to me on Saturday after the All Blacks played England at Twickenham.

As a Kiwi, I’ve grown up with remembrance. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always attended services for ANZAC Day (25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). It started with me marching in the ANZAC morning parades as a Pippin, Brownie and then a Girl Guide. As a city-dwelling university student, I attended the dawn services at Auckland War Memorial Museum. ANZAC Day was a day off – students would often have a big night on the 24th, but it didn’t matter what wretched state you were in early the next morning, you got up, you went to the dawn service, and you damn well paid your respects. In my group of friends at least, the one thing you would never dream of doing is treating ANZAC Day as a day for a lie-in to sleep off yet another holiday hangover.

Things were no different on moving to London. If anything, I’ve witnessed the ANZAC spirit taken even more seriously. It’s no small feat getting up for the ANZAC dawn service at Hyde Park Corner; it’s a bit more of a challenge than at home – it requires irregular night buses, a little more self-motivation (unlike at home where everyone in your flat would be going), and of course it’s not a day off – so you’ll be dragging yourself out for a strong coffee and brekkie afterwards, before making your bleary-eyed way into work. But you don’t complain. And no, you don’t think you deserve a medal. But there’s a sombre sense of completeness that you’ve done what little you can to briefly acknowledge someone else’s sacrifice.

But this isn’t about the ANZACs specifically. That just comes from me drawing on my own personal experience. This is about remembrance in a broader sense – why we Remember Them, and if we even understand what we’re remembering.

In this year, the centenary of the start of the First World War, a few friends and colleagues have been rather taken aback by my “fixation” on remembrance. I’ve been criticised from all angles – and some of the places the criticism has come from has been a surprise. Some believe it’s an interest that springs from coming from a military family of sorts. Others have said that I’ve become fixated on remembering the dead because my mother is dead. It really is quite astounding and shocking what people come out with.

And most surprising of all, is that most people don’t even bother asking me WHY – they’d rather just hold the opinion that I’m a little odd and morbid.

The truth is, contrary to the family I come from (who never really spoke about either war) and my participation in and attendance of commemorative services, I actually knew very little about either WW1 or WW2 until very recently. The interest has really sprung from a trip I took out to the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front with First Festival Travel a couple of years ago. It was an experience that changed my life and my opinion on remembrance forever; you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I was somewhat ashamed to be forced to admit that actually I knew NOTHING. I had opinions on things I knew absolutely nothing about. In fact, even though I knew Gallipoli, I had no idea what the Western Front was, let alone its importance. I had no clue (if I am to be perfectly honest here) about why the First World War even started, or what it was we were fighting for. I was naive to the real numbers of those who fought, of those who fell, and of those many whose graves are unknown. I had no knowledge of the propaganda, of when and how conscription worked, and of who was making the decisions.

Is it important we know these things? Yes, it absolutely is. Because if we don’t know what or why we’re remembering – to be frank – remembrance becomes empty and devoid of any real meaning. If we’re just going through the motions, what is the point?

The truth is that many people have no idea about the “what’s” and “why’s” we’re remembering – and it is absolutely not their fault. I’m still scratching my head as to why I was taught about Gallipoli at school, but the Western Front was never even mentioned – even though more New Zealanders died at Passchendaele than at Gallipoli. This is just an example, but from what I’ve seen anywhere I go, there seems to be a general lack of awareness and understanding about the First World War. How can we expect people to truly understand remembrance – let alone learn lessons from that past to understand our future – if we don’t give them the knowledge to begin with?

Back to Saturday… pre kick-off, Twickenham Stadium. It’s the day before Remembrance Sunday and also the centenary year of the start of the First World War – a commemoration is taking place pre-match on the pitch, involving flags, music and the British Armed Forces – and it’s impressive. The Last Post sounds. Rather than being followed by a minute’s silence, however, 82,000 people burst into cheering and applause. I was absolutely horrified. But the fact that the majority of spectators thought it appropriate to applaud the Last Post is testament to a lack of understanding that they can absolutely not be blamed for.

At the post-match press conference, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw was asked if given the proximity of this match to Remembrance Sunday, if it was extra emotional for the team to put the jersey on, thinking back to those others who have worn it – and no doubt alluding to the 13 All Blacks who died in the First World War specifically.

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“It definitely has significance for our team,” Richie answered. “We always make sure we take a moment to understand why you put the poppy on the sleeve, and why people remember all those years ago. One of the things that always hits Kiwis – and especially our team – is when you say that during the First World War the population of our country was only a million, and 100,000 of that million then came to fight over here… and that puts a fair bit of reality around what you do. It adds a little bit of something extra to why you want to go and play well when you have the poppy on the sleeve. There’s no doubt that our boys understand that, and we make a point of remembering that. We’re all here living the way that we are because of what a lot of men did all those years ago. I think the great thing is that we have a chance to pay our respects, and go out and perform, and in that way too, pay our respects.”

Now to be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that Richie McCaw is extraordinary in his capacity to understand remembrance. But the reason his words touched me so much was because I was thinking, “Now here’s an ordinary guy, a rugby player, a typical Kiwi – who gets it”. The difference isn’t that Richie McCaw is a legendary All Black – the difference is that he makes “a point of remembering” and taking a moment to “understand why” you put the poppy on the sleeve, for example.

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Whether Richie McCaw’s point of reference comes from seeking understanding himself, or having it fostered within the team, I’m not sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that if we want to understand the true meaning of remembrance, we have to seek the answers (and the questions) out for ourselves. And it’s something that I hope this Remembrance Day, you will make the effort to do. What remembrance absolutely is not, is glorifying an old war. What remembrance is, is understanding why we had to fight, why we remember those who had no choice but to fight, and crucially, what we must learn from it today.

Lest We Forget.

Written by Charlotte Everett. May be re-used with permission only.

All Blacks snatch victory 24 to 21 in controversial match against England

Originally published by NZNewsUK.

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The All Blacks snatched victory from England to win 24 to 21 at Twickenham, in a game that was too close to call at times – some would say even by the referee.

Playing the hosts on their home turf has never been an easy task for the New Zealanders, and this occasion proved no different. The boys in black had not only an England team in great form to contend with, but also the ever-increasing spirit of their fans. Predictably, the England faithful deployed their strategy of “making the All Blacks dance to Sweet Chariot” (sung loudly over the top of the haka) – but the world champions appeared unfazed and delivered a powerful performance that made up in physicality for what could not be heard over “Swing Low…”

England reminded New Zealand that they are a force to be reckoned with however, with an early try from Jonny May within minutes of kick off. Aaron Cruden rewarded the Kiwis with one to follow, however a number of missed kicks paired with penalty triumphs in England’s favour ensured that the hosts dominated the first half and secured a 3-point lead into the interval.

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The All Blacks were back with a vengeance in the second half, with tries from Richie McCaw and Charlie Faumuina. It was not an easy win, however – New Zealand survived both the sin-binning of Dane Coles in the second half, as well as a late penalty try for England.

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The game was not without controversy. Dane Coles’ yellow card in itself was controversial, with referee Nigel Owens seemingly going against the recommendation of the TMO. Owens then appeared flustered as he requested to watch several replays of Charlie Faumuina’s try – even though it had already been awarded. The Welsh referee was subject to criticism from both sides throughout the match as he made a number of other controversial calls which were met with roars of disproval from the stands and some of the men on the field. In his defence, he appeared to only be requesting multiple replays in response to spectator anger resulting from replays that were shown. The issue of a television producer calling the shots on which plays should be replayed on the big screens and which should not was back on the table.

When asked if he thought that TMOs were becoming too much of a problem, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen diplomatically responded: “My biggest concern isn’t the TMOs and the refs… My biggest concern is that TV producers are starting to have a big influence on games. We don’t need the TV producer to replay it 100 times – that’s not in the spirit of our game. Referees will make mistakes just like players. Some of those mistakes will cost you the game, but you live with it because another day you get the rub of the green.”

Captain Richie McCaw was named Man of the Match in front of a record Twickenham crowd of 82,223 spectators. The turnout and the excitement around this match bodes well as England heads towards hosting the World Cup next year.

Charlotte Everett is both London Editor and a freelance journalist for NZNewsUK. Article may only be re-used with permission.

All Blacks “Remember Them” in London – WW100

New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team flew into London yesterday morning, and last night an intimate wreath-laying was conducted at Hyde Park Corner to remember the thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War, as well as all soldiers who paid the ultimate price on the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Amidst jetlag and a hectic schedule having only just flown in from Chicago, current All Blacks Dane Coles, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano and Ben Smith attended and participated in the centenary commemorative ceremony, arranged by the New Zealand High Commission and New Zealand Defence. They were joined by New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey, as well as High Commissioner to New Zealand  HE the Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith, DA Brigadier Antony “Lofty” Hayward and a small number of New Zealanders and friends of New Zealand in England. I was also in attendance, as one of six representatives from the NZ Society UK committee.

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High Commissioner Sir Lockwood opened proceedings by welcoming everyone to the New Zealand Memorial at London’s Hyde Park Corner. He detailed the stories and brief biographies of several of the thirteen All Blacks who never made it home from the Great War, before listing the names of all thirteen. New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey then addressed the intimate gathering and personalised his remarks with the story of his own grandfather being wounded in the Battle of the Somme. Brigadier Hayward concluded spoken proceedings with a poem.

Following the wreath-laying and Last Post, London Maori Club Ngati Ranana led the gathering in Whakaaria Mai, and then performed the haka made famous by the All Blacks – Ka Mate.

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Rugby was played at various points during the First World War, including an ANZAC match on the island of Lemnos during a respite from Gallipoli. The soldiers were forced to play with a football in place of a rugby ball, with New Zealand thrashing their counterparts 13 tries to 1. New Zealand also won 40-0 in another game played against France in April 1917 for the Somme Cup. 60,000 watched the match in Paris.

The world champions are in London to face England at Twickenham this coming Saturday, 8 November. They will take to the field wearing specially developed remembrance poppies. Impey stated, “World War One took a massive toil on our nation and our All Blacks were a part of that story. Over the next four years, New Zealand Rugby will play a role in sharing rugby’s contribution to the period and it’s an honour to be in London to mark Kiwis contribution to the Allied efforts”.

The thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War were Albert Downing, Henry Dewar, Frank Wilson, Robert Black, George Sellars, James Baird, Reginald Taylor, James McNeece, Dave Gallaher, “Jum” Turtill, Eric Harper, Ernest Dodd and Alex Ridland.

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Article by Charlotte Everett; may only be used with permission.

Photo credit: Getty Images.