Some real magic happened as Fazerdaze performed a rich set and brought along perfect support acts.
“I took a while off there,” says Fazerdaze to a rapt and sold-out crowd filling the room, stairway and balcony around the stage. “I really wasn’t sure after Covid whether I wanted to do music anymore. But you’re all here, and it’s such a nice surprise. Thank you.”
Amelia Rahayu Murray, aka Fazerdaze, takes a breath and returns to her set and another joyous blast of shoegaze guitars, warm and deftly moving synth pads, gently propulsive rhythms and irresistible pop hooks.
Murray has a way with songwriting that makes a virtue of their bedroom origins and are strong enough to take on a new life in a show like tonight’s and at a festival like Yours and Owls, where she plays several days later. Her decision to fly her band over from Auckland is a brilliant one. Each member –Dave Rowlands on guitar, keyboard player Carla Camilleri, bassist Kathleen Tomacruz and drummer Ollie O’Loughlin – has such a strong personality and clearly loves living inside her songs for an hour. Their sense of camaraderie adds another layer to songs that are often solitary explorations of relationships, friends and Murray’s place in the world.
Tonight, the prominent use of a backing track proves to be both a virtue and a straitjacket, enriching the songs but also neutering any spontaneity that, in the hands of a lesser songwriter, could mean they’re dead on arrival. Murray’s decision to take her most notable song from recent months, Flood Into, and strip its production flourishes to play it with only her guitar proves that its strengths lie in its structure and lyrics.
New single Bigger is another highlight, as is the bass-driven Thick Of The Honey and the instantly sync-able fuzz pop thrills of Come Apart. The audience erupts for her catchiest song, Lucky Girl, with its instantly recognisable guitar hook. It’s a track that sounds like it was written by a much younger singer-songwriter, and it’s a testament to her production and songwriting skills that songs she wrote years ago still fit into the set of someone who clearly has new sources of inspiration. When she announces that we’re the first audience to hear a brand-new song, and that song is one of the best of the evening, it is proof that some real magic is happening here.
All this would make for one of the year’s best shows, but we also got sets from local grunge pop band on the rise, Garage Sale – who are surely only one release away from consistent radio play and Instagrammed festival sets – and bassist extraordinaire, Sweet Whirl.
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Garage Sale are almost bashful between songs, making a virtue out of what seems to be a very genuine humility. When they play, however, they are so confident and tight that anyone following closely could get whiplash. Their blend of 90s Australian alternative rock evoking bands like Frenzal Rhomb, Gerling and Ammonia with the undeniably evocative musical hook of stopping a song for a few seconds to let singer Dan Sullivan bend a heavily compressed and distorted note on his guitar before seamlessly rejoining him, shows that these are students on their way to becoming masters.
Blank Again, a hint of their forthcoming album, is another fantastic song, and when they close with their set with the modern classic Shoes On, there is the sense that many new fans have been won. Slotting in between Garage Sale and New Zealand’s greatest shoegaze export is Esther Edquist, aka Sweet Whirl.
Requiring only a bass guitar and a deep, rich, jazzy voice to get her songs across, Edquist is a true revelation. Songs like Patterns Of Nature, Sweetness and Your Love On Ice are spellbinding in their space and simplicity. Both those qualities are emphasised by having her play mid-bill, allowing for the shift in dynamics to be even more powerful. With so many examples of innovative songwriting on show tonight and an extremely respectful and appreciative audience, there is every reason to think that this summer is going to be a very good one for people who like their music with catchy choruses and melodies.