Flying Nun 40th Celebration – Auckland Town Hall July 24, 2021

Flying Nun celebrated their 40th Anniversary at the Auckland Town Hall last night. The line-up would be enviable by anyone from any country in any decade…old favourites such as The Bats, Superette, Straitjacket Fits, cutting-edge contemporary artist such as Aldous Harding, Reb Fountain and Mermaidens and up and comers such as Womb, Wax Chattels and Sulphate…something for everyone.

And it felt like everyone was there.

While the rest of the world struggles to shake itself out of its Covid-induced lockdown, we here in New Zealand are presented with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live music. And then was no better example of this than last night at Auckland’s Town Hall when Flying Nun Records put on a show to celebrate their 40th Anniversary.

Flying Nun - Reb Fountain

I arrived just before 7pm and the place was relatively empty. But by the time Sulphate kicked things off, the building was filling up fast.

Sulfate was loud and… loud.

Aldous Harding
Flying Nun - Aldous Harding
Flying Nun – Aldous Harding

With 5 hours of live music ahead of me, I protected my ears by heading into the “Hallelujah Hall” to get ready for Aldous.

Ms. Harding has been living in Wales for the past few years so it was with great anticipation that I waited for her return.

Sure enough, but the time she and her musical partner (I’m assuming it was Huw Evans) took the stage, the main hall was packed.

The two musicians sat, facing each other hold guitars or playing keyboards and synths duri8ng their (too) brief, 20 minute set.

Up first was Living The Classics, from 2017’s Party, and Aldous’ voice was in fine, fragile form.

When the tune ended, there was dead silence.

After the awkward pause, we hear Treasure from 2019’s Designer. Aldous gave us an extremely intimate vocal performance that was hampered only by the echo-y nature of the sound in the room. Not terrible, but could be better.

Again, after the tune, awkward silence.

Flying Nun - Aldous Harding
Flying Nun – Aldous Harding

The two musicians moved around a bit, taking up guitars and keys when needed…Damn was very stark, then came Blend and finally a word, actually two, from Aldous…”thank you”.

The set ended with new song, Old Peel, set to appear on next album, AH3.

A brief farewell.. “thank you, good to see you”. And they were off.

Let’s face it, Aldous seems to live in her own world, we are just lucky enough to visit it from time to time.

Now, the plan was to move immediately to the “Fuzzy Chamber” upstairs to catch the end of the Mermaidens’ set. Well, me and several thousand other folks had the same idea and it quickly became clear that traveling from stage to stage was going to be a chore.

The Bats
Flying Nun - The Bats
Flying Nun – The Bats

So, I grabbed a beer, chatted with a few fellow fans and waited for The Bats.

Let’s face it, can it get any more Flying Nunny than seeing The Bats live? No…well I did here folks wondering where The Chills and The Clean were, but there you go.

Ideally they would have been there along with Headless Chickens but that would have called for a much larger venue…already the Town Hall was feeling very cramped.

The Bats were The Bats. We had just seen them with The Chills at The Powerstation and their iconic jangle sounded perfect for the night.

Post-Bats I did manage to catch the last 10 minutes or so of The Subliminals who were cranking out an hallucinogenic Speed Of Sound.  They are scheduled for two nights at Whammy this coming weekend, so I will catch them there.

There was also a big crowd trying to see Voom at the Kaleidoscope Room (where the downstairs bar normally is) but it was virtually impossible to see or hear them.

A note: 13th Floor photographer Ivan Karczewski deserves special mention of his hard work shooting just about every act on the night. I think he missed Sold Gold Hell (as did I), simply because he couldn’t get into the room.

But there was plenty to see.

Reb Fountain
Flying Nun - Reb Fountain
Flying Nun – Reb Fountain

Reb Fountain and her band were, in my and many others’ opinion, the highlight of the night.

I’ve seen Reb now about 4 or 5 times this past year and she always gives 100% on stage.

Tonight was no exception. Her new album, Iris, is due out in October and we heard two tracks from that…Heart and something possibly titled Who Are We.

Along with we were treated to Hawk & Doves, Strangers, Samson and a heart-rending Hey Mom.

If that wasn’t enough, Reb’s set finished with a very, very powerful version of Don’t You Know Who I Am…a singular moment in a night of excellent songs and performances.

The smiles on the audience members’ faces said it all.

Straitjacket Fits
Flying Nun - Straitjacket Fits
Flying Nun – Straitjacket Fits

Reb’s set was emotionally and physically draining so I chilled during the half hour break before Straitjacket Fits, then headed upstairs in the main room and found myself perched directly over the stage.

Shayne P. Carter and company got right into it with Bad Note For A Heart. In addition to Shayne was fellow guitarist Mark Peterson who had replaced Andrew Brough back in the day. Mark and Shayne traded licks all night while the rhythm section (John Collie, drums/ James Duncan, bass) held down the beat. For many, including me, the high point of the set was Dianne Swann’s cameo singing Andrew Brough’s Down In Splendour…a lovely tribute.

After Dialling A Prayer, it was all over, it was midnight and we spilled out into Queen Street.

I was lucky enough to attend the Flying Nun 15th Anniversary show at The Powerstation back in 1996. Now 25 years later here we all are… just like that show, label founder Roger Shepherd could be seen strolling through the crowd and, as I remember, Shayne Carter’s “New” band Dimmer made a big impression.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Happy Birthday Flying Nun!

Marty Duda

13th Floor photographer Ivan Karczewski deserves a knighthood for his stellar performance, aiming his lens at everything and everyone! Click any icon to view a gallery of each artist. Or – if you just want to see everything, there’s a full gallery at the end, with every photo of the night!

Aldous Harding
Reb Fountain
Straitjacket Fits
The Bats
The Subliminals
Wax Chattels
The Whole Show!


Aldous Harding Setlist:
  1. Living The Classics
  2. Treasure
  3. Damn
  4. Blend
  5. Old Peel
Reb Fountain Setlist:
  1. Hawks & Doves
  2. Who Are We (new song)
  3. Strangers
  4. Hey Mom
  5. Heart
  6. Samson
  7. Don’t You Know Who I Am