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Gig Review: The Others Way

The Others Way
Karangahape Road

Friday 1 December

Photographs by Álvaro Fernández and Nico Penney

Words by Rosetta Stone

The Others Way Festival: a local listener’s Super Bowl, a night filled with the charming waves of fleeting familiar faces en route to yet another artist who cannot be missed, the perfect over-stimulating, bustling one-night festival for our short-attention-spanned youth. I won’t lie, preparing for my first Others Way Fest felt a little bit like training for a marathon. Arriving on Karangahape Road at the starting line, equipped for battle with a watch and my scribbly timetable of who I would see, how much of their set I would catch, and what times I had to be at which venue. I was running a tight ship and I was determined to see it all.


Kicking off in the St Kevins Arcade nook, the night felt like any other Friday at Whammy - with the treat, of course, of a killer set from Elliot and Vincent. This was one of the few full sets that I caught, perhaps because the urgency of trying to see it all hadn’t set in yet, but more likely because of how enticing the duo are to watch. Elliot gives a humble, timid “we’re Elliot and Vincent, thank you for watching our set” from her seat at the drums, before launching into an array of angsty and tom-heavy punk numbers. While reserved and stand-offish, politely tidying her bangs in between headbangers, Elliot isn’t afraid to show off her moody and playful vocals. Breathy vocal improvisations exploring a cutting higher range, paired with intense audience eye contact, shut down any question of her comfort on stage. Vincent jives cooly around the stage, as the duo’s distorted guitar and rumbling driven drum feels blend into their signature sound. 


A quick stop into Galatos for the very last of Minisnap’s set provides insight into the range of audiences that the festival reaches. A more mature yet equally enthusiastic crowd streams out of the venue, and the world's intertwine at the mighty Galatos outdoor stage, which has transformed the corner of East Street and Galatos Street. Trinity Roots are about to play, and the crowd is a melting pot bubbling over with excitement, representative of the intersection of worlds that Karangahape is. I suppose that's the point of difference of Others Way; there’s nowhere else like K Road, and our local music scene is a beautiful reflection of that. Warren Maxwell is the ultimate charmer, greeting us with “look at you pretty people”, and we’re treated to tid-bits of his humour in between songs, contrasting starkly with the trance-like state he enters while playing. Maxwell’s husky vocals mesh beautifully with a dynamic range of shimmery, jazzy numbers and irresistible dub grooves that immediately inspire dancing. The band are nothing less than exceptional, but a quick look around shows that no one is surprised that these legends have still got it. 


Leaving a set early at Others Way in order to get to another artist in time, it’s like trying to choose a favourite child. Having experienced a difficult premature departure from Trinity Roots, I was fired up to make it to Jazmine Mary on time. It’s a funny thing, settling into an artist's set and becoming immersed in their world just in time to rip yourself away, and suddenly faced with the sobering and overstimulating realm of wandering (or marching with a mission, if you’re writing for b) down Karangahape Road. I hadn’t considered this prior to the festival, and as someone who is simultaneously riddled with a need to see everything urgently, but also enjoys the journey and narrative of an artist’s set, this was a difficult balance to navigate throughout the night. I have to wonder if this is a dilemma that patrons of the Others Way have always faced, or if potentially the festival is beginning to outgrow a one-night-only event. 


Jazmine Mary, as per usual, was phenomenal. I’d seen them as a solo set recently at A Gig for Gaza, but tonight the full band graced The Wine Cellar, complete with violin, saxophone, synth bass, keys, Mary on guitar, and Arahi on drums and backing vocals… oh and the whimsical ghost floating around behind Mary on stage of course. The venue itself was so packed I tried to imagine which space might have been more suited to Mary and their unique sound, but there is something intrinsically special about the intimate space of The Wine Cellar and the specific artists it caters to in a way like no other. This was around the time of the night when I began reflecting not just upon my appreciation for the music, crew, and artists of the night, but for the venue spaces we are blessed to visit week after week: the familiar faces they attract, the community of people huddled into tight spaces below ground, the awkward bleed of sound between the oddball, gated-community of Wine Cellar, Whammy, and Backroom. It’s hard not to love the scruffy charm of our local venues.


As the night progresses, my schedule is heating up. Ducking into Neck of The Woods for a portion of Haz’ and Miloux, who have a set up of Miloux front and center, with impressive jazz-infused vocals and grooving across the stage, and Haz’ Beats behind the decks holding down the instrumental tracks. I sensed a theme in venue spaces and genre, which makes sense from a crowd perspective, and I’m sure there were several ticket-holders who spent the majority of their night between one or two venues (there was certainly enough music for this approach to satiate most audience members). Despite this, I still felt a more intimate venue might have suited the duo better, or perhaps they would have been better suited to a later crowd. Regardless, their laid back sound and groovy performance was ethereal, and Miloux’s vocals are unmatched.


It would have been rude not to drop into Whammy for the last of Ringlet’s set before heading to Fazerdaze back at Galatos Outdoor stage. Whammy was buzzing with excitement from committed Ringlets fans in the front-row, and I entered at a particularly entertaining interlude of irish jigs. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear grunge and post-punk styles meet lead singer Leith Towers’ clearly well-trained vocals in the middle. The ex-theatre kid in me wonders if he has a musical theatre background… especially considering the theatrics of the on stage performance. 


On to the next - that being Fazerdaze of course. We arrived during Break! Which festival-goers are loving, and I look out into a very wholesome sea of an eclectic bunch channeling Amelia’s thirty-year-old teenage angst. She gives an equally as wholesome speech about how excited she is to be here, at one of her favourite festivals, and goes on to talk about growing up working at the Others Way putting on the wristbands. It’s a heartwarming full-circle moment, and further solidifies everyone’s warm fuzzies about the Aotearoa music scene from the night. Everything about Amelia’s performance and presence on stage is incredibly down to earth and genuine, from crowd singalong favourites, to insights into upcoming unreleased tracks. Nothing but the best from Tāmaki Makaurau’s favourite pop star. 


It’s about 9:30pm at this stage, and outside of the Others Way Fest bubble Karangahape is shifting to night mode, continuous streams of crowds between venues are solidifying, almost like river streams down the footpaths. Almost everyone is en route to a different venue and artist, but there’s a solidarity in everyone mobilized on foot via music. Makes you hate all the cars, really. Wouldn’t it be good if we made The Others Way pedestrian only?


I find myself at Raynham Park for the first time ever (am I the only one who has been under a rock about this beautiful venue space?) and stay for the entirety of Opensouls’ set. Partially for incredible music, partially for the incredible feel-good crowd energy filling the air, and partially for the stellar lineup of artists on stage, reconnecting for a reunion gig. Bjorn Peterson and Trya Hammond are an electric duo on vocals fronting the band, who is of course armed with some of Tāmaki’s best jazz musicians; Julien Dyne, Finn Scholes, Cam Allen, Kenny Sterling, Chip Matthews, Godfrey De Grut, Jeremy Toy, and an epic special appearance from Steph Brown (Lips). It was news to me what a huge part Brown was in the making of the band’s debut album Kaleidoscope in 2006, but this came as little surprise, especially after Brown’s killer Synth solos. The set is riddled with incredible vocal runs from Hammond, Petersons smooth delivery on rap verses, and a blend of soul, funk and jazz that fills the room to the brim in contagious energy.


With the joy of an entire set from Opensouls comes the great sacrifice of only a couple of songs from beloved MĀ at Neck of the Woods and Office Dog at Whammy. Both artists have enthusiastic crowds and are thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage by the end of their sets though, so it's more my loss than theirs. It’s a mad rush to Souls Of Mischief at Galatos Outdoor Stage, who absolutely cannot be missed. The group of four are joined by two manning the decks, scratching up a storm, and keeping the beats surprisingly spacious. Unsure whether or not to expect a sample-heavy and busy mix of instrumentals, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of old-school reminiscent scratching and space left for the four to bounce off one another and allow their delivery to shine. I’m sure this is also a testament to the sound crew at Galatos outdoor stage, and in fact all the sound crew across the night, who are always exceptional. Live and Let Live was a personal highlight, and the incredible energy from the group on stage is telling of their young success with 93 ‘til Infinity. It’s a crazy trip that these guys have been doing this for over thirty years, simultaneously youthful on stage yet complete masters of their craft. 


A confession, reader. I missed 93 ‘Til Infinity. Jujulips awaits no one, and I would not miss her set (side note: that overlap in the timetable was near unforgivable). My timing was perfect though, walking in during the beginning of my favourite song Special, of the rapper’s newest EP. Just her and DJ on stage made no difference to the way she commands the space, feeding off her crowd and strutting her stuff up and down the stage. After the electric set finished slightly early with banger Airplane Mode, we dipped into Raynham Park for the last of CHAII’s set. The electronic, rap, jazz fusion sound works effortlessly for CHAII, complete with sax, flute, and a very special keytar break that I was embarrassingly excited about. The singer's energy on stage had a slightly smaller crowd in the palm of her hand, but I fear she too was a victim of the Souls Of Mischief overlap. Nevertheless, CHAII and band owned the stage. 


By this stage in the night, my stamina was wearing a little thin. But there’s nothing like the scary dance music of Grecco Romank to revive that. Lead singer Billie Fee never fails to impress with her classically trained vocals, paired with the band’s dark synth–filled alternative electronic sound. I found myself reflecting on past experiences at Backroom, and how uniquely under-worldly the space feels. Perhaps it's the red lights, but something about the bunker feels spookily spiritual, and Grecco Romank certainly conjured up something on Friday. 


My night ended with the Circling Sun at Whammy, and a couple of last songs from Atarangi in Backroom. I’m sure the afterparty at East Street with Flamingo Pier was epic, but after a huge night I just didn’t have an afterparty in me. The Circling Sun, a group of familiar faces from other sets of the night (Opensouls, CHAII) joined by the all-star lineup Love Affinity Choir, were unsurprisingly phenomenal. I saw them the last time they played at Whammy and the set was relatively similar, but their album Spirits has become a Tāmaki jazz staple and exactly what The Others Way crowd is craving. The set is oozing with textures, both vocally and instrumentally, and all the little touches of percussion and jingles add beautiful details to the arrangement. All the layers feel incredibly calculated and the dynamics of the set range immensely without ever feeling too busy. My favourite tune is the uplifting and underrated Bliss, launched into with a vigorous drum solo from Julien Dyne, which blows the crowd away as expected.


And thus concludes my epic rollercoaster of an experience at The Others Way 2023. It was my first, certainly will not be my last, and I could not be more excited to see how the festival continues to grow after a three-year hiatus. All of the chaos, the determined missions to see it all, the seasoned Others Way goers who let the Karangahape vibes guide them, the incredible local music, new and old, the reflections upon our local venues and appreciating them as taonga. It is, above all, our charming, scruffy, community-driven, and unique local scene squeezed into one night of joyous celebration.