NOise VACANCY 2021

The idea for Noise Vacancy came into being in 2020 over the course of an evening in which a group of friends, Nikki O’Connor, Lina Marsh, Katy Wallace and myself had come together to discuss an event in which for local artists to show their stuff, potentially as a part of the upcoming Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival.

Over the course of the evening the topic of vacant buildings in our inner city came to the fore and the concept of NOise VACANCY was born.

Last year’s NOise VACANCY was a grand experiment. We initially envisaged a walking tour winding through the streets, an otherworldly coming alive of disused spaces strung across the city. However the months passed and landlords were not exactly jumping at the opportunity to have a group of artists bring their unused buildings to life for a night.

The answers we received were always the same, “it’s about to be leased” or “awaiting earthquake strengthening” or in most cases no reply at all. Many of the buildings we enquired about in those first few months still stand in the same state today. Empty.

There were two wonderful people who had a different answer for us however and so it was that Patrick McHugh and Jill Tomlinson handed us over the keys and told us to ‘go to town’ in their two level Lowe Street building. 

A couple of months later they were amongst the most excited audience members as a night of magic and mystery unfolded for both those who participated and attended. Hundreds of people explored, discovered, pondered and puzzled alongside each other, with much excited chatter about how they had never experienced anything like it – at least not in Gisborne.

This year’s event was no different.  Another landlord stood apart from the rest with Tony Robinson opening the doors to the Public Trust building on Childers Road for a bunch of artists to explore and occupy for a few days during Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. Despite the Covid restrictions meaning that the audience had to book into specific time slots the air of discovery and excitement remained.

The brief to the artists is to respond to the space and its history using sound.  By its very nature art will also reflect the socio-political contexts of its time and some of our current issues were certainly in evidence in this year’s works.  

Curator Nikki O’Connor is always interested to see how the artists and sound makers connect to the kaupapa, and how they incorporate sound, “As they spend more time with the space and it’s stories it’s fascinating to watch the ideas take shape. The range of creative disciplines and approaches adds to the surreal dreamland feeling of the night”. 

As the original tenants of the building, the Public Trust Organisation gave some artists the nudge to explore notions of trust, the housing crisis was given a few strong nods and Wendy Kirkwood’s vintage clothing store ‘Unfinished Business’ and the Family Planning Association also inspired installation and performance. Other pieces responded directly to the space in experiential forms such as dance, chanting and spoken word.

As the audience meandered around the two storeys of the building in the changing light, projections spoke into various corners including the street outside and the yard out back. A few hardy performers kept going for the entirety of the experience – no less than 4 and a half hours – while others popped up during each session. 

One of the things about the altered reality of an experience like this – both immersive and sometimes interactive – means that the lines between art and real life can become blurred. And so an empty paper cup set upon a window sill might be picked up and turned over for clues as to its purpose, and a couple passionately kissing on a corner may be unflinchingly observed as a courageous piece of performance art (in a small town such as this), until it becomes clear that actually, the performance is just about to begin…

It was great to have a few more young people involved this year with a stairwell installation speaking directly to the regenerative power of rangatahi.  12 year old artist, Wolfe Jackson says he felt really lucky to be a part of NOise VACANCY, “It was really cool and inspiring being around so many other different artists.  It was my first exhibition and I was a bit nervous that my art would be just seen as kid’s drawings, but the feedback from people was surprisingly good so that was a relief.  It was a great night, a bit tiring but so worth it in the end”.

One of this year’s curator’s Katy Wallace loves the way in which “NOise VACANCY gives local creatives the chance to push their practices in different ways and to work with or alongside each other. It is a refreshing challenge to any creative practice considering sound, installation, and performance in one package”.

One of the highlights for curator Lina Marsh was working with a great team of wahine who were open to giving anything a go. This included launching NOise VACANCY 2021 online during lockdown. “Neither of us really knew what we were doing and it made it hard to communicate online as opposed to in person, but we embraced the opportunity and created a kookie zoom recording announcing our aims for this year’s performance. NOise VACANCY definitely pushes you out of your comfort zones”. 

NOise VACANCY provides a fantastic opportunity to show what local creatives are capable of, for our community to experience something out of the ordinary, and it also achieves the original intent of bringing energy to spaces which had been previously forgotten. 

In a happy epilogue to NOise VACANCY episode one, 64 Lowe Street is currently occupied by a bunch of creatives and the record store Spellbound Wax, all of whom are overjoyed to have an affordable and inspiring space, which they otherwise might not have, if it were not for the NOise VACANCY experience. 

If you were at NOise VACANCY we’d love to hear what you thought! Let us know in the comments below or drop a line to or @noisevancy on Instagram.

The New Adventures of MUSE

MUSE was formed back in 2002 by a group of women wanting to create a safe and nurturing environment for women to make music, perform, and encourage other women to make music too.

The story goes that Irene Pender (who now lives in Derry, Ireland) was sick of being drowned out by loud guy bands. As time went on MUSE came to be a musicians’ network for singers wanting to find accompanists, songwriters who needed singers, for women wanting to collaborate musically in general. Over the years it has been a safe space in which to experiment, to get experience performing and in which to enjoy the ‘womentorship’ of the MUSE Matriarchs.

Many of those original members are still here in Gisborne teaching and performing. One of the MUSE Matriarchs, Tanya Mitcalfe reflects that things have changed since then; it’s much more common to see a female musician performing on stage these days. But she is still a strong believer in creating safe supportive spaces in which for women to perform and have a go.

Many young women have been mentored through MUSE over the years and the Collective are proud of the recent success of two of their protégés, Jasmin Taare and Amy Maynard, who recently won the group section of Five Minutes of Fame on Māori Television.

MUSE hasn’t always strictly stuck to music, with comedy, poetry and satire providing some memorable moments over the years. Who remembers the ‘DIY Plastic Surgery’ performance in which Keren Rickard a.k.a. Professor Parsnips decked Tanya Mitcalfe out in cling wrap, painted her with Twink and used a vacuum cleaner to suck out her ‘undesirable’ attributes?

After a few years hiatus, MUSE is back and Smash Palace is hosting the Collective’s return tomorrow evening Friday August 6, 7pm. You’ll be able to catch up on what various MUSE members have been up to lately, (including Jasmine Taare!) and hear from some new members too, in a diverse celebration of women’s music.

As any musician is well aware, the audience has a huge role to play when it comes to performance and MUSE events are no exception – everyone is warmly welcome!

MUSE is always keen for new members, and as one of the most recent recruits Wendy Wallace attests, it is an awesome opportunity to work and collaborate with like-minded women to celebrate diversity, passion and prowess!

If you’re interested in finding out more head to the MUSE Facebook page.

Reflections on Matariki

Leading up to the free whānau Matariki Concert being held at the Whirikoka Campus of Te Wananga O Aotearoa on Saturday, July 3 Merle Walker took the opportunity to talk to some of the artists who will be gracing the stage about the reason for the season, Matariki.

Merle asked the questions:
1. As a Māori artist and producer within the music industry, how important is it for you to be able to celebrate Matariki not only through your mahi, but also as an individual?

2. As of 2022 we get to move forward as a nation by implementing Matariki as an annual holiday. This will be the first traditional Māori event recognised with the mainstream calendar. What impact do you see this having within the Music Industry, positive or negative?


Tyna is a local artist, musician and producer who has been working in the music industry for years. This multi award-winning artist continues to create and produce his own music, while currently working at Te Wananga o Aotearoa as a Tutor and mentoring rangatahi when he has time.

“Matariki is an important time in my calendar for a number of reasons. Being Māori and from Ngāti Porou we celebrate our uniqueness and our knowledge or maturanga that makes us special.

“As an artist I find Matariki a great time to be creative and work on new projects. I tend to be busy at this time of the year as well with shows and projects so that’s cool”.

“I can see that there will be a lot of opportunities for Māori artists to exhibit their work regardless of medium, but most importantly it’s a chance to share our culture and normalize this important taonga for all New Zealanders”.


Philly Tarawa is the Program Director and a radio announcer on Turanga FM on a show called ‘The Switch Up’ from 10am to 2pm weekdays. He is also a part of local emerging band Supreme Brother Sound who will be releasing their first EP on July 14th and have a release party soon after on the 24th of July at The Dome.

“Matariki is a time of reflection and a time where whānau come together to celebrate the year that was and start working on a year that is about to grace us. It is hugely important for us to use this time to heal the Wairua, the Tinana and the Hinengaro going forward. These things are what are important to me and my whānau, moving forward.

“This is going to be huge not only for us as a nation but us as Māori people, for so many years we have put all our kaupapa Māori on the back burner and it’s about time our kaupapa get recognition. It’s about time we normalise this kaupapa so that we as Māori can use this space to uplift our culture and support all artists in all mediums, here in Aotearoa”.


While many of us will have encountered Tama as the CEO & Artistic Director of Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, he is of course also an Award-winning Artist, Singer/Songwriter and Composer. What a treat to be able to experience Tama performing at the Matariki Concert on Saturday…

“Over the years Matariki has become an important time for artists to gather, to share new ideas, to recognise the ups and downs and to remember those who have passed on. There was a time when I knew absolutely nothing about Matariki so I feel fortunate there are those who have opened up this Mātauranga for us all to explore”.

“Mostly positive I think. The season of Matariki is one opportunity to celebrate who we are as Māori but it’s not the only season. Being Māori is a year round celebration. Musicians are often busy at this time as well as the summer so it’s a great way to map out times of the year for different kaupapa. I don’t know what impact it will have on the industry but I feel very positive about the growth of our Reo Māori artists and young performers coming through who see and embrace a totally different way of making their way in the world”.


Leon is a multi-talented guitarist, drummer, percussionist, songwriter and producer, and is a member of one of Aotearoa’s favourite reggae bands, KATCHAFIRE.

“Honestly, it’s only because I am a musician that I celebrate Matariki at all, otherwise it would probably just be another day!

“As an individual, I’m only starting to learn about my culture and language, my upbringing was very strict, and very religious. Also me and my wife have just started studying Te Reo Māori at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Hamilton, we’re hoping to be able to converse with each other in the next 3 years.

“And of course, the more I learn the more I will understand the importance of Matariki.

“The fact that Matariki is going to be recognised as a public holiday in 2022 makes me so proud to be Māori. You know, people are gonna have a hard time stopping this movement, because we just won’t stop fighting until we have all that was taken from us, and until we have total equality.

We lead the world in the resurgence of culture & language. Damn it feels good to be Māori! Lol!”

“Any step forward with our language and culture is only good, because not only will it open the rest of the country to just how beautiful our language and culture is, but it will teach other countries in the world how to live as a nation by respecting each other’s language and culture”.

Images Supplied.
Interviews by Merle Walker

Building Bands, One Night at a Time

It’s sorta obvious the current owner of Smash Palace Bar Gisborne, Darryl Monteith is a musician. As I walk in, he’s already on stage cranking out “History Never Repeats” by Split Enz, accompanied by his mate Mo. A young fulla and his dad have arrived at the same time, guitar case in hand, obviously here to play. Others, like me, are here to listen, to support budding musicians gaining their confidence, and perhaps experience a seasoned talent bust out something special.

Build-a-Band started about 2 years ago, and used to be on Fridays. The instruments are all on loan from local musicians, but bringing your own is pretty standard too. Electric guitars (including left hand), acoustic guitar, bass, drums, bongos, various percussion instruments…. all there. If you’re a bit shy there’s a post to stand behind, but that spot can get a bit crowded.

The original concept was that individual musicians get up and jam, some would gel as a group and go on to start a band. Darryl reckons there’s loads of musical talent in Gisborne and sees Build-a-Band as a way of helping to nurture and develop that talent. Mostly folks are happy to just come along and jam. Try out a song they’ve written. See what sort of reaction they get, or have that one time a week they are totally in the zone. It’s building bonds between local musicians who probably wouldn’t otherwise have known each other existed.

As we know, Gisborne attracts a few travellers, and even though our borders are closed we still have interesting folks from far off places passing through or basing themselves here. Some of them have proved to be accomplished musicians and thrilled to have a chance to play. On nights like that, Smash patrons get to experience something they may have to pay big bucks for in another setting. But this is Build-a-Band. Everyone’s welcome. The ages vary, the styles of music vary, the levels of experience vary, but everyone’s all about the music. As I head out the door there’s a call from the stage, “We need a blues guitarist!”

What: Build-a-band
Where: Smash Palace Bar, 24 Banks St, Awapuni
When: Every Thursday night, 7 – 11pm
Cost: Free – wouldn’t hurt to buy a beer while you’re there though!
Story by Leah McAneney
Photographs by John Flatt


This weekend just past, something a little bit unexpected took place inside a dimly-lit back entrance on Lowe Street.  Until this Saturday night just past, this particular building had been sitting dormant for nine or so years.. cold and crumbling, silent and sleeping.

On Saturday night, Steven King literally rattled the old girl awake from her slumber with his new Carrier show, ‘Patterns’.  The old girl probably hadn’t ever really paid much attention to her floor before Saturday night, when it was shuddered alive by many pairs of feet, themselves awakened by what went on that evening, rendering the humble, stained and ripped carpet floor a dance floor for one exciting, atmospheric and rather energetic night.

‘Patterns’ was conceived by Steve during Lockdown in collaboration with his three machines; his Roland TR8 Drum Machine, Yamaha QY100 Sequencer and Roland SH 01a mono synth. Steve recognised the time was ripe for creating and, experiencing a certain kind of symbiosis between him and his machinery, he formed his initial concept for the piece within a day.

When I first started talking to Steve about putting on a live performance here in Gisborne, he spoke of his desire to bring together an exploration of minimal composition, repetitive beats and spaciousness with a contemplative visual backdrop to create an experience that went beyond entertainment [1] and encouraged the immersion of the audience into the experience. 

For Steve, this first outing of ‘Patterns’ provided the opportunity to test drive his concept.  It also gave him the chance to curate an entire experience in which every aspect was carefully considered and entirely intentional, from Campbell Ngata’s opening DJ set, whose choice of tunes lent a gentle familiarity and therefore some sense of normalcy to the sparce unknown space, to the choice of the space itself..

Steve talks of growing up partying in spaces like the Lowe Street one. But he also refers to the space as an acknowledgment of the origins of the music he makes, an homage if you like, to the grimy groundbreaking beginnings of electronic music; the reclamation of those disused spaces so closely intertwined with the sense of freedom expressed by the new, interesting and exciting forms of music coming alive inside them at the time.  

Using a vacant building was also important to Steve because “there are so many of these empty decaying buildings in Gisborne right now – we need to take back some of that real estate and give it life, make it vibrant and do interesting things that stimulate people and get them excited”.

For those of us lucky enough to experience this first outing of ‘Patterns’, the atmospheric location certainly added another layer to the visual package delivered alongside the audio, with its themes of decay and patterns; namely the particular pattern that we as humanity have been running the past hundred years or so, which is revealing itself to have been not such a great one.  The visual compilation which was played in reverse, delivered a strong message of the need for us to undo what we have done. 

For an audience who has become well-used to their electronic music experiences involving a DJ and a laptop, getting to dance to a guy who’s making the music in real time just a few metres away, (and pulling in wonderful additions such as the cassette tape loop technique he’s recently been playing around with), it was no wonder that Saturday night’s audience showed their appreciation for the Carrier show in a big way.

So while Steve had his own ideas about how this piece that he’s been plugging away from the safety of his headphones these past few months might be received, he wasn’t at all prepared for the outcome, which he describes as “a crazy thing”.

He suggests that it was some kind of perfect storm in which the heightened excitement of a group of people brought together in a new space to experience something largely unknown, in combination with his material translated through an incredible sound system, created a lot more energy than he’d expected. 

“Art is designed to evoke a response, but you cannot control what that response is” Steve soliloquised, “and in this case the response was overwhelmingly crazy”.

The last 20 plus years has seen Steven King move through many aspects of the electronic music scene. He has worked alongside many NZ artists including Pitch Black and the Nomad, audio genius Chris Chetland from Kog, and has shared compilations with household names like Trinity Roots and Fat Freddy’s Drop. King has released music in the U.S, Europe and the U.K and his music continues to be selected by DJs on European sound systems. He has been the opening act for international artists like Mad Professor and David Harrow – The James Hardway Quartet and has played to huge audiences like those that attended the One Love Festival and the Cuba St and Newtown Carnivals in Wellington [2]. 

We are lucky to have Steven King and his musical talents in our midst, and we hope to see him sharing them with us again one day.. eh Steve!

Story by Sarah Cleave. Photographs X Scott Austin

[1] & [2] Excerpts from the Patterns event description written by Jo Pepuere.

In Tribute to the Tribute Band

An influx of leather and lace hit Gisborne over the weekend. Or should I say a Landslide? Venturing here for the second time, the quintet of Andrea Clarke, Lee Cooper, Taine Ngatai, Gareth Scott and Garin Keane played on Friday and Saturday night to a sold-out crowd at The Dome Bar and Cinema.

The Dome’s velvet-clad cinema room was the perfect venue for an evening of magic melodies and fond nostalgia. An audience of both young and old stood alongside each other, captivated by an assortment of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks classics such as ‘Little Lies’, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Edge of Seventeen’. There was barely a single stagnant body in the room when Landslide unleashed their encore of ‘The Chain’. Seasoned vocals were bolstered by playful instrumental performances – Gareth Scott’s dynamic drum solo in ‘Tusk’ being a longstanding “crowd favourite” according to Clarke, and the glock of the cowbell gave ‘Gold Dust Woman’ a psychedelic edge.

An accidental tribute band, Landslide begun in 2012 after increasing requests for songs by Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks from Clarke and husband Lee Cooper’s cover band at the time (Retro Vibe). The people were heard – Clarke and Lee put together a band that exclusively played these. “I started looking for more material and found myself falling totally in love with the songs, especially with Stevie [Nick’s] insightful and poetic style of writing” Clarke says. A full-time performer, Clarke has a generous portfolio in musical performance. For her, Fleetwood Mac are a natural fit, allowing her to draw on her background in rock, country and blues. The genre-ambiguity of Fleetwood Mac also makes it more gratifying for the band to perform; the Landslide set list displaying the transformation of music trends over the 70’s & 80’s. In true Fleetwood Mac style, the group has had different members over their 7 years. Clarke and Cooper are the veterans but their group is spiked by energetic new blood and impressive heads of hair. “We have always strived to find suitable players to keep the band fresh and especially love to bring in young, talented musicians as well as seasoned professionals to the mix”.

With her spirited locks and honeyed voice, it’s lucky she looks and sounds like Stevie Nicks, but Clarke insists she’s just performing as herself. There are no personas, no playing pretend in this band. Just a group of musicians, transparently playing certain songs as best they can. Their songs aren’t supposed to be note-for-note replicas either. As long as the essence of the song is captured and the recognisable parts are all there, the band members have the creative freedom to impart a bit of their own style into the performance. Part of being a tribute band is going the extra mile to create a sense of occasion. Landslide’s stage decoration, violet lighting, the heavy aroma of burning incense, their bohemian costuming right down to the black gloves adorning Clarke’s hands – all these individual touches are all part of taking their audience away. It can be tough being a tribute band for one of the most loved groups of all time. Clarke admits that funnily the most complimentary thing to hear sometimes is that people didn’t hate the show, because fans can be so fiercely loyal to the originals.

So what is it that makes Fleetwood Mac so popular even today? Not only are they iconic singalongs found on any road trip playlist or karaoke line-up, but Clarke thinks their relatability and sentimental value makes them timeless. “These songs have literally been the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives and are deeply intertwined with memories and experiences that have been significant to them”. It is music shared by old acquaintances of the original songs in the 70’ & 80s, but also by their children.

For Clarke, a memorable performance is a marriage between the technical aspects coming together and an interactive audience. She has too many favourite songs to list, but notes “the most emotional I have felt on stage is when several hundred people sing the song Landslide with me…that’s an incredible experience”. She and her husband are more inspired by ‘old school music’ but also lists modern artists such as Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran as some of her favourites for their crafted lyrics and vocal ability. This got me thinking about the Starry Eyed and Thinking Out Loud tribute bands that might emerge 50 years from now…

A lot of administration is involved in orchestrating a tour away from Auckland, Landslide’s home base, but Clarke reckons they’re keen to make the trip East a regular thing.  I’ve started rehearsing in the shower for Landslide’s next show, but until then, you can stay up to date with the group at