Every gig has its moments that remain in the memory long after the music and entry stamp fades.
For me, that moment at the inaugural Milk and Honey Festival at Whammy/Backroom and The Wine Cellar, came early on in the night, where for the first time in fifteen years of consistent gig-going, I found myself completely surrounded by women and non-binary artists, sound people, security and attendees. Of course, this was to be expected, given that it was a celebration of women who work across the music industry on International Women's Day. But it was a completely different thing to experience it. The sense of pride and joy of seeing wāhine toa excelling, of seeing all facets of womanhood and gender express themselves without judgement, of being in the majority proved overwhelming and tears might have been shed by this reviewer in a darkened corner of the Wine Cellar.
The brainchild of Teresa Patterson and Lani Purkis, the Milk & Honey Festival took place across three cities last night and showcased the talents of nineteen artists with the aim of combating the inherent sexism in the music industry. True to form, Whammy/Backroom and The Wine Cellar hosted the grittier, avant-garde set for an impeccably curated three hours. Excellent programming meant that I was able to catch all twelve artists for fifteen minutes each; meaning I can give them reviews that are more equal than our current pay situation.
The Sami Sisters opened the night with their distinct brand of sad indie-pop. The trio released a cracking album back in 2011 called Happy Heart Break. Their wonderfully harmonised vocals juxtaposed nicely against their biting lyrics and were a lovely way to start proceedings.
Hailing from Hamilton, Cheshire Grimm did the City of the Future proud with their woozy, grungy sound managing to strike the balance between sophistication and rock and roll well.
New Zealand-raised Persian rapper CHAII immediately earmarked herself as someone to watch. Her incredible personal style was only eclipsed by her flow in both English and Farsi and beat-making which merges world music with club bangers. Her cover of Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow immediately captured the audience's attention, while her song Digebasse (Enough), penned as a positive shout out to cover-up culture got them moving.
Dead Little Penny offered audiences something completely different with their shoe-gazey fuzz and swirling synths, creating a darkly ethereal vibe that was appreciated by the intimate crowd and offered a welcome moment of respite.
Randa was the first big drawcard of the night, packing out the tiny Backroom within minutes of their set starting. Randa’s cute pop culture-heavy rhyming has been making waves in the New Zealand indie scene since 2013 and they’ve only got better with time. Having last seen them in 2016, it was fantastic to see them really own the stage and work the thoroughly appreciative crowd. Their flows have become more complex without losing their quirkiness and they were a real joy to watch.
Self-described “Winecore” punk duo TOOMS successfully melted faces and had punters reaching for their earplugs; for a bassist and drummer, they make a hell of a lot of noise that managed to maintain its groove spectacularly well and were a fun listen.
Carb on Carb has been up and down the country more times than I have had hot dinners and it shows. They managed to toe the fine line between their raw, emo-punk roots and incredibly tight musicianship well and showcased a radio-friendly grunginess that could hint at great things.
To be able to see Wax Chattels twice in as many days was a real treat. You never would’ve guessed that they opened for A Place To Bury Strangers the night before - such was their ferocious energy. They are a consistently excellent band and in case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a fan.
LEXXA comprises of twin sisters who make synth-pop bangers and have a strong following. Unfortunately, sound issues meant that it was a struggle to hear them over their instruments, their shouting ultimately coming across as flat. Musically, they were pleasant but a little too sweetly formulaic for this reviewer's tastes.
Wellington-based HEX was another highlight. Their doomy, pagan infused feminist “witchrock” is always a great listen but is elevated to new heights live. Hopefully, they come back to Auckland again soon!
With her darkly-angular synth pop music, October has caught the attention of Lorde and it became immediately apparent why. Boldly asserting that her set was only going to comprise of new music, she managed to capture her audience with her bewitching stage presence as she performed music that had a grittier nihilistic bite than her previous efforts. Despite the poor sound and technical issues, she remained a compelling watch.
Finally, Vallkyrie closed the evening with their soulful-funk groove. They were throwing back-to-1980s power ballads in a big way and the fact that they have the obvious ability and completely leaned into the unabashed fun of it all stopped it from being completely cheesy.
It was a real privilege to witness the depths of creativity and artistry currently being championed by women and non-binary people across Aotearoa; while its something we should celebrate every day, it would be great to see this festival become a regular on our calendars.