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Gig Review: Lavender, Mizzy & Emily Bateman

Lavendar, Mizzy & Emily Bateman at The Wine Cellar 

Wednesday, March 27 2024

Photographs by Gabriella Hope

Words by Cara Loughran


As I ducked out of the wetness and drizzle of a dreary Wednesday night into the intimate warmth of The Wine Cellar, I felt a blend of anticipation and mystery. It’s always a treat to be able to watch fresh local acts, and despite having some scant knowledge about what I was in for (the result of some internet stalking), I didn’t have a true sense of the essence of the night’s performers.

Arriving five minutes after doors, I was the first to make my way away from the bar and into the dark venue, where there were some sparse chairs and tables behind a small standing area. In the half-hour that followed, in filtered a humble crowd that was significant yet not crammed, and I got the sense that many people in the room knew each other—a sentiment that was reinforced during a chat with a friend of a friend after the set: “Yeah, Auckland’s way too small.”

Emily Bateman took the stage not long after the room filled, her face glowing under the warm stage light—setting the scene for her dreamy and melancholic set. She began with a song I instantly recognised from her Spotify, ‘You’re On Your Own, Kid.’ I was instantly struck by how well her live vocals held up to the recorded version I’d listened to. Guitarist Otis Christofferson’s use of a slide on his Fender Jazzmaster gave the song its ethereal beauty, combined wonderfully with Emily’s uncomplicated playing on the acoustic, bringing the song back down to earth. My eye was caught by the drummer, introduced by Emily as “Jesse on the drums” whom I recognised from the videos I’d seen of her playing drums for another talented local act, ‘HIRI’, at Real Groovy Records. She stood out just as easily during this performance, her playful presence shining all the way from the drum stool, mouthing along to the words and swaying self-assuredly along to the music as she played.

As Emily’s set progressed, the crowd rocked gently, each song met with raucous applause and cheers. Despite being quite restrained in their movements, the act managed to engage the audience masterfully—I couldn’t see a single phone screen from my position near the back of the venue. Emily was shy in a way that complemented her Mazzy Star, girl-next-door energy, introducing her original song ‘October Sun’ with a giggle and a bashful ‘uhmmmm…’ 

My favourite song of Emily’s came last, another song I’d heard on her Spotify— “Sunday Best.” The slide guitar made a return, and I could feel the band’s passion for the song as Emily turned to watch the guitar solo, Rafael Hannah on bass providing a steady undercurrent for the dreamlike guitar and vocals. Emily’s resonant voice and charming lyrics— “We haunt this town together, with linked arms and knitted sweaters”—provided the foundation for a notable performance, further built upon by the musicianship from her band. When she left the stage, I knew I’d return to her Spotify when her upcoming debut EP dropped, and I eagerly anticipated the acts to follow her.

Lavender, another local Auckland act, established playing in gigs such as the Auckland Arts Festival and the FIFA Fan Festival, brought a much-welcome moodiness to the evening. Her powerful voice easily filled the room, and the energy shifted. Touches of alt-rock intertwined with the sweetness of an indie/folk-pop sound made Lavender’s set a mixture of sugar, spice, and everything nice that carried through the rest of the night. 

I could appreciate the gentleness provided by the addition of a keyboard as the night amped up, the music’s vibrations beginning to bump in my chest as the volume increased. The theme of lost love was pervasive, and the audience (including me) was captured by how much emotion came through in her performance as her set progressed. Her vocals and lyrics were a strong combination, the crowd responsive with cheers to her belting “This is where we went wrong” during a dynamic climax of one of her songs, her voice shifting easily from sweetness to vigour to give her lyrics the effect they deserve. 

A highlight of the set was the announcement that Lavender’s first release, ‘Satisfaction,’ would be dropping that night, and the band played it with real energy, infecting the audience, who started to dance among themselves. Harry Thompson-Cook on guitar added nice flourishing, which I wished was a bit louder, slightly overshadowed by Mia's enthusiastic yet marginally too-loud bass.

When Mizzy took the stage, it was a bit like a rearranged puzzle showing a different picture. Jesse, who was on drums for Emily Bateman, returned, along with Otis, now on bass. Mia, who’d been playing bass for Lavender, became Mizzy, picking up a PRS adorned with butterfly stickers and instantly owning the microphone. 

I was forced out of my seat by Mizzy’s presence, craning my head awkwardly over the crowd to try and catch everything going on. The band shone individually and together, and I got the sense that I could be entertained by singling out any one member and watching solely them. The guitar was sonorous and transcendent, and guitarist Ben Woolford skilfully fingerpicked on a white Fender Jazzmaster during ‘Fruitflies.’ 

Mizzy’s setlist, a collection of interesting and unique original songs (and a well-done Faye Webster cover) was the night's climax. Interesting both lyrically and musically, Mizzy created an emotional rollercoaster dipping from vulnerability and melancholy to high points of powerful catharsis. “In case you can’t tell, it’s quite therapeutic,” Mizzy addressed the crowd humbly, and I thought it was an apt way to describe her music— therapeutic. Dreamy yet grounded, thoughtful and emotional yet powerful—I was almost glad for my lack of former knowledge about the local act because it allowed me to be so pleasantly surprised. It was genuinely awesome to see a singer-songwriter so assured in her sound before she’s even dropped her debut EP (which I will definitely be listening to).

A testament to the treasure trove of local acts to be found in Auckland, Emily, Lavender & Mizzy—although youthful and a bit shy at times—brought talent, enthusiasm and some pretty special original music. I left with a renewed faith in local music and new songs to be added to my sad girl playlist, the perfect soundtrack for the rest of the rainy night.