Concert Review: Connan Mockasin at The Hollywood Avondale, 29 July 2021

Connan Mockasin took the Hollywood Avondale on a sidelong journey through his wild imagination last night. Jemilah Ross-Hayes was on hand to review the show. She’s still not sure what it was about.

The show kicks off with a video made by Connan and some of his friends. 70s filters colour a storyline I couldn’t quite keep track of, backed by ambient psychedelic music, presumably composed by Connan. I wasn’t 100% sure of what was going on, but it smelt like popcorn and movie theatre smoke, and people are laughing, so I figured it must be good.

Connan MockasinA figure enters the stage and the crowd lets out half a cheer before they realise it’s the tech guy. Connan himself enters soon after dashingly attired in a black suit and bow tie with a glass of red wine in one hand and acoustic guitar in the other. After a second’s hesitation, the crowd recognises him and cheers for real.

A hair tie in his braid flashes rainbow colours. His stage presence was mesmerising, weird and intimate. Yet somehow occupying the whole space of the stage even though he is only one person.

He picks up a guitar and starts playing along to a rhythm randomly created by an audience member; everyone is clapping along. It is reminiscent of Con Conn Was Impatient, a song from the video we just watched.

For a guitar that he describes having “borrowed” from a school he used to teach at in Wellington, it had a charming tone and was mixed well with his vocals. It sounds like a nylon string as he tunes it into a different tuning for the second song. The way he sings is almost like a whisper, only loud enough for the words and melody to be audible.

Connan MockasinHis persona is so serious it’s intentionally comical, as he audibly mimics guitar riffs and drum fills that aren’t actually there as he is the only person on stage. It seemed to register as unimportant and rather funny to the crowd, who happily clicked their fingers along.

It feels as if the stage is his bedroom, and we are watching him through a window as he plays to himself at the end of a long night. How did he get here, I wonder? He seems like an artist that could easily be forgotten amongst the hustle of a Saturday market, but somehow, he is instead sitting in front of a crowd of people listening in admiration.

Making bird sounds with his mouth seems to be a unique specialty. As the third song begins, they echo through the speakers and all of a sudden we are in a jungle for a moment.

Connan Mockasin

The whole set feels kind of like a drawn-out intro, beams of light cut through a smoky stage and despite each song sounding quite like the next, I can’t deny how peaceful these sounds are and how I wouldn’t mind taking a nap in my seat.

He rolls into Forever Dolphin Love; a wacky name for a song. I still can’t figure out whether the bird songs are coming from the speakers or the audience, but the whole show is undoubtedly like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

He begins to get up from his seat, still strumming his acoustic. The audience screams and cheers as I am left confused.

After 20 minutes or so, there is an intermission. It feels like a very short version of the Sound of Music. At first, the whole show seemed very random, but it is evident throughout each segment that it was well planned.

Connan MockasinThe picture behind the intermission text on the screen is at first only a few pieces of the puzzle that slowly piece together until the end of the intermission is up. An image floats on the screen that says “Please be quiet and courteous and others” – not a spelling mistake. That is exactly how it read, followed by a spoof advertisement for a “tai massage” showing a video of a man massaging a necktie.

After this delightfully random bit of insight into his silly brand of humour, we are once again back into the odd, dramatically drawn-out video that started off the night. Connan tells us afterwards that it was “Supposed to be a TV series but no one wants to….” Making us aware that it is intentionally kind of B-grade.

At last, we are launched back into more oddly peaceful, wacky music for the rest of the night. I left feeling unsure of what I had experienced and how to define it. Regardless, it made for an interesting show and definitely stands apart from most of what is going on within the NZ music scene at the moment.

– Jemilah Ross-Hayes
Click any image to view a full gallery from 13th Floor Photographer, Chris Zwaagdyk