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Gig Review: The Phoenix Foundation at The Hollywood Avondale

The Hollywood Cinema, Avondale

Friday November 24th
With Special Guest: Jess Cornelius

Photographs by Phil Armstrong

Words by Renee Jones

Firstly: The Hollywood is a Tāmaki Makaurau taonga. I’ve attended gigs, films and even memorial services in this grand old building. Thank goodness we have it.

The night started with Jess Cornelius; for ten years, the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter fronted the Australian indie band Teeth & Tongue. She then went out on her own, moved to the US, and released her debut album Distance in 2020 (recorded with members of The War on Drugs, Warpaint, and Woods).
For this tour, Jess brought bassist Mikal Cronin (of Ty Segall's Freedom Band). Her lyrics are personal but relatable, with a darkly humorous cynicism, and the musicianship from both is excellent. Phoenix Foundation picked an opener who’s a good fit.

Next up: The Phoenix Foundation. Their debut album Horse Power holds a very special place in my heart, so I was thrilled to be able to see them play it in full.

Nick Bollinger nails it when he describes the first time he heard the record: “I really just needed to tell someone in this band that they had made the best first album I had heard in years.
“Here is a group, all just in their early 20s, with a real grasp of songwriting and all the emotional shades a lyric and melody can convey, and a wide instrumental palette…There’s sincerity and awkwardness and self-conscious masculinity all rolled together in songs that deal with the thoughts and feelings of sensitive young men looking for a way to be in the world.”
And at the time young women felt it too.

Luke Buda, Sam Flynn Scott, Conrad Wedde, Tom Callwood, Will Ricketts and Chris O'Connor took the stage, joined by the always wonderful Motte/Anita Clark, who excels at adding atmosphere to an already atmospheric situation.
The band had been sharing their stage setup on X/Twitter leading up to the show, and it looked great. Some songs from Horse Power hadn’t been performed live until this tour, and you could see them revelling in their surroundings.

My personal highlights were the sublime Let Me Die A Woman and Sally, and I’d forgotten about the sheer wonderful craziness of Bruiser (Miami 4000).

Following Horse Power, The Phoenix Foundation delved into tracks from each of their other albums, with deep dives into Buffalo, Friendship, Pegasus, Fandango and Happy Ending.
The rousing finale was, ironically, Don’t Give Up Your Dreams. I don’t think they should, and coming away from the show I thought maybe we shouldn’t either.