Wellington’s Pyramid Power festival of adventurous music returns this week after five years of downtime, presented by the capital’s hub for innovative sounds Pyramid Club. The festival is set to take over multiple venues, gallery spaces and even the streets of Pōneke for a wide-ranging programme of gigs, interactive events, an exhibition and more celebrating sonic exploration in a variety of forms, with a special focus this year on one-off live collaborative match-ups. Notable acts appearing amongst the fiesta of shows include Motte playing with Omit, rare live performances from Dunedin’s Richard Maybe’s Passion For Nature and Negative Nancies, Berlin via Wellington drums / electronics dynamo Big Flip The Massive, and many more awesome artists from throughout Aotearoa and beyond.
Pyramid Power kicks off tonight with the opening of 40 Years of Wellington’s Sonic Underground in Posters exhibition at Thistle Hall Gallery followed by an evening of performances, so it was only natural we caught up with Pyramid Club’s Nell Thomas (Orchestra Of Spheres, Cookie Brooklyn & The Crumbs) via email, who is presenting a special Sound Noise Bathing event this Saturday (advance booking required) and provided us with an inside view of the the four-day festival. Scope out the jam-packed programme here and scroll down for the interview…
Pyramid Power 2019 – Wellington
Pyramid Club Festival of Adventurous Music
Wednesday 1st May
Thistle Hall Gallery, 5.30pm start, exhibition opening w/ Oonaverse + Lucid Dreaming sound walk by Erika Grant to Pyramid Club
Pyramid Club, Sound and Light Exploration Society Open Door event w/ ENT, Jonny Marks, Thomas Arbor, Cave n Bush, Birgit Bachler, Daniel Beban and others
Thursday 2nd May
Thistle Hall Gallery, 12.30pm start, w/ Peter Daly (viola) / Chris Prosser (violin) / Isaac Smith (dbl bass)
Thistle Hall Gallery, 5pm start, w/ DSLB, Melancholy Babes w/Simon O’Rorke
Pyramid Club, 7.30pm start w/ K-Group, Motte / Omit, Cave Circles / Meeps, Buffalo Bunny
Friday 3rd May
Thistle Hall Gallery, 12:30pm, Omit Thistle Hall Gallery, 5.00pm – 6.30pm w/ Richard Maybe’s Passion For Nature, Kraus / Elborado / Dalley
The Third Eye, 7.30pm w/ Rosie Langabeer’s Large Ensemble, Hermione Johnson / Anthony Donaldson / Alphabethead, Big Flip the Massive, Spacies w/ visuals by Lady Lazer Light
Saturday 4th May
Thistle Hall Gallery, 12pm – 5.00pm, Wellington Independent Makers’ Market w/ Kraus, Ursula Le Sin, Ludus, Oksun Ox
Undisclosed location near Thistle Hall Gallery, 12.00pm – 5.00pm, Sound Noise Bathing w/ Nell Thomas (20 minute one-to-one sessions, bookings required)
The Third Eye, 5.00pm – 6.00pm, Jeff Henderson meets Gamelan Padhang Moncar Pyramid Club, 7.30pm w/ Negative Nancies, Rachel Shearer, King Homeboy / Jonny Marks, Gorge, IRD
Sonorous Circle’s ‘Inner City Outer Worlds Sound Walk’ will be available anytime during the festival week, starting from Thistle Hall Gallery. Headphones required.
Festival passes and tickets available HERE via UTR
Could you please tell us a little about what Pyramid Power is all about – what are the aims of the festival, who organises it and what is its history?
Pyramid Power is the Pyramid Club festival of adventurous music! It’s been organised and programmed by Daniel Beban (Director of Pyramid Club), with support from me, Jonny Marks, Nicole Gaston and Thomas Lambert. There’s been one Pyramid Power festival before, in 2014. But some of us have also put on other festivals in a similar vein in Wellington in the past – Fredstock festival over three different years, and Rising Tides festival.
What are the aims? It’s about having a bloody great music festival! We’ve invited musicians from around the country to play – people are coming from Auckland, Palmy, Blenheim, Paekakariki, Christchurch, Dunedin, Raumati… There are plenty of existing bands / acts but also some brand new collaborations that we’ve invited people to do, and most of these are musicians who’ve never played together before, some of them haven’t even met before. Like Omit (synth-maker extraordinaire from Blenheim) and Motte (Anita Clark formerly of Chch, recently moved to Wgtn) are doing a duo. So are Jonny Marks (improvising vocalist, frontman of The All Seeing Hand) and King Homeboy (record-holding beatbox champ). Jeff Henderson (saxophones) will be collaborating with Gamelan Padhang Moncar, a Javanese gamelan orchestra. We’ve also asked Rosie Langabeer to make a work for big band, she’s put together this 18-piece group which is sounding amazing but might never play again, it’s a one-off. Then there are also different groupings of people improvising together, and then yeah existing bands and acts. So it’s exciting, the programming is adventurous, as the name of the festival suggests, and there’s heaps of interesting stuff we’re really looking forward to hearing.
Another important part of the festival is the exhibition at Thistle Hall gallery – 40 Years of Wellington’s Sonic Underground in Posters, band and gig posters from 1979 – 2019. That’s on throughout the festival, from 11.00am – 6:30pm.
We’re using a few different venues for the fest – there’s our own venue, Pyramid Club, and also daytime shows at Thistle Hall gallery, and a few shows upstairs at the Third Eye. Plus a sound walk around part of the city curated by Sonorous Circle. So yip, there’s lots to see and hear.
What prompted the return of Pyramid Power, and why the five year gap between festivals?
Just felt like it was time for another one of these festivals, they’re heaps of fun and we love putting them on. Why the gap? There are lots and lots of shows on at Pyramid Club regularly throughout the year, so there’s been a focus on that. Pyramid Power (like Pyramid Club) is completely volunteer organised and run, so it can be tricky to find time to organise a festival on top of voluntary hours spent programming and running the venue. Plus Daniel and all of us are musicians, we tour around with our bands, and work, etc. Life’s busy!
What kind of challenges are involved in running the Pyramid Club? Is it an independent, artist run venue space?
Yeah it’s independent & artist run, and like I said all the work that goes into it is completely voluntary. That comes with its challenges, like finding enough time to keep things running, alongside also making music and playing in bands and working and everything. Daniel is the main driving force behind it, he puts in heaps of hours and his energy has really kept things going, there’s a small core of us plus a crew of very lovely volunteers who help out doing the door at gigs etc.
How do you feel Aotearoa’s experimental / adventurous music community has changed or grown in the time since the last Pyramid Power?
Oo that question is too big for me to tackle properly in the time I have, sorry! I’d say it’s always morphing and changing in some way – musicians finish projects or collaborations and start up others, move towns, go overseas, so the scenes / communities in different parts of the country change partly as a result of that inflow and outflow of people. But in some ways 5 years is a pretty short amount of time for major change to happen. Putting up the exhibition of posters from a 40 year period is a good reminder of that! Some of the same musicians from the late 70s/80s are still around in Wellington and still making really interesting music, and it actually reminded me of some of the maybe influences and musical approaches that have threaded through that time period and are still sort of identifiable today. But yeah, that’s a longer conversation!
For someone who may not have much knowledge of experimental / “out there” music but is keen to explore that world – what could be a good starting point for events to check out at Pyramid Power?
Hmm, I think everything will be great of course! But I’d suggest maybe choosing one daytime concert at Thistle Hall gallery, one of the shows at Third Eye, and one of the nights at Pyramid Club: Wednesday night if you want to experience the smorgasbord of our open studio happening, Thursday night if you like eccentric electronics, and Saturday night if you want, well, Dunedin psych, gurgling vocal battles, Palmy ooga sludge, aural beautyscapes, and splatter music with broken tape decks! Pre-sale tickets including festival passes available on UTR.