Connan & Co @ Te Awanga Community Hall


I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. Well, since 30 December last year (a week ago? I lose all sense of the days round this time of year…) when the gig happened.

By virtue of Simon’s curricular (and my extracurricular) occupation (although virtue doesn’t much come into it), we see a lot of music in a lot of places. Lately it seems to me we traipse around the North Island a bit like grown-up groupies, but with dayjobs, all in the name of live music.

My only real stipulation in all of this roving is that I don’t have to go anywhere near a tent. I think that’s reasonable.

I’ve got a bit more selective in my old age, though. I’m choosier on school nights, especially earlier in the week, when I know the band won’t be on stage until most respectable, god-fearing people’s bedtimes (sometimes 11pm or so). I have it written into my work contract (well I don’t really, but it might as well be) that I don’t start work until roughly 9.03 each morning, and I live about 15 minutes’ walk (at a slow amble) from work. I usually make it out of bed by about 8.15 each morning. Suffice to say I am a night person, but even I – great nocturnal rocker that I am – start getting a bit antsy past the witching hour.

We were pretty excited about seeing Connan Hosford and friends out at the Te Awanga Community Hall on the day before New Year’s Eve. We were more excited about it than we were about NY’sE itself (lame anticlimactic event that it usually is). We were kicking around in the Bay anyway and this was the most anticipated event on our holiday calendar. Apart from the family wedding, of course.

We’ve seen Connan in various venues and get-ups over the years. Connan as a Mockasin and Connan as part of the Liam Finn retinue. At the Wellington State Opera House and doing the freaky freaky dog friend thing at Happy.

I’m not going to review the gig, not in a musical sense, anyway (although Ashes to Ashes was pretty cool). You can get that sort of carry-on here.

I just wanted to talk about it in a general sort of way. As a Reviewer of Experiences, rather than as a cantankerous old music reviewer, ha ha.

First up we got An Emerald City rocking out to a bronzed melee of folks from around the traps and further afield. The youngsters sitting cross-legged on the lino up the front (the way we used to in school assemblies when fucked circulation and dead legs were far far from our minds), and the oldies loitering at the back drinking Steinies and Heinies and cider.

Next up came Connan & Co, the & Co being Will Ricketts (percussion), Elroy Finn (drums) and Daniel Fulton (bass guitar).

Their ‘backstage’ was a room directly adjoining the hall, with the door open. I think it might have been a cloakroom or something. The place where all the shit gets shoved. They were drinking tea and limbering up with some of Te Awanga’s finest, judging by the sweet dank smell emanating as the small children looked on.

Oh, and there were free beverages, too, as well as it being a BYO affair. It was also a health and safety officer’s nightmare (or wet dream, depending on how you look at it). An obstacle course of stray cords right where people were dancing. It was nice and ramshackle. I liked that about it. The potential of tripping on and/or being garotted by an amp lead does add a bit of danger and spice to an evening.

There was no lighting set up, as such. Connan wanted lights off, for a bit of mood setting, I guess, and the search was on to find the elusive light switch. Not finding it, a game gentleman from the audience mounted a chair and wrenched the burning bulb from its socket. That’s what I call kiwi ingenuity.

And the music commenced. Shambolic and kooky as you’d expect, anchored by Connan’s more circumspect and, shall we say, grounded right-hand men as he struck various poses and saw where the night and mood took him.

Sort of Warholian, and sort of like the carefree frolicking of a small woodland animal in a clearing.  

Simon had been talking to Connan before the gig and recounted part of the conversation to me. Casually, not like it was a showstopper or anything, Connan mentioned he didn’t have a microphone for the gig. He had lost his. He thought that maybe he had left it in someone’s car round the place. He figured that someone would bring it along to the gig, though, since they’re good folk in that part of the world. This was about 30 minutes before his appearance. Then his guitar wasn’t tuned, so he decided to give that a miss, mostly.

It got a bit stuffy in the hall and the doors got opened up. You could see right out to the beach and the sea. It was a moony, clear night. The locals lingered outdoors for a bit of free entertainment. The water was like a giant silver puddle. I was not driving.

Since it was a relatively laissez-faire musical gathering, I got my pink camera out, with flash and all, and took it upon myself to document the event, blinding the crowd with my powerful equipment. Later, in post-production, I spent some time dicking around in Photoshop trying to correct the nasty possum eyes, but alas, to no avail. And, not being a perfectionist or anything even close, I decided to post the photos anyway, possum eyes and all. Making do is one of my personal mottos. By that I don’t mean that I am frugal or enterprising or wily. I am none of those things.

And there we have it. Smalltown summer rockin’ at its very best.

A marked improvement on my summertime memories of Jordan Luck and his merry band of minstrels in rundown Coromandel taverns.


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