Produced by Jason Parker, with support from Under the Radar, Spark and Auckland Pride, Little Gay In was a new addition to this year’s pride festivities, with a name riffing on the major event Big Gay Out. The difference is in the name. Instead of a huge outdoor event, it’s a sweet little affair in a small music venue, “BIG FAN, Auckland’s newest music venue”. It was a cute gig, and Pinkie Promise made a great MC, raising the atmosphere and getting us to know the artists a little better. I hope Little Gay In will return for Pride 2024, and that similar gigs will occur between now and then.
Four acts made it to the stage, Katie-Lee, Hybrid Rose, VÏKÆ, and headliner Jason Parker. Of these, Katie-Lee’s performance was an impressive surprise to me. At eighteen years old she was the youngest artist, but her music held its own easily. Katie-Lee’s execution of the singer-songwriter style, the depth of emotion in her voice, and her sense of humour all made her stand out as one to watch. I couldn’t find an officially released album or EP from her yet, so it’ll be a tough wait to be able to hear the songs from her set again.
As a matter of personal taste, Jason Parker’s boy-idol style doesn’t quite appeal, but if that were a genre of choice for me I would have been impressed. I did enjoy his 2000s-era pop nostalgia beats. I couldn’t help but think of Justin Timberlake, especially due to Jason Parker’s singing in falsetto. If Parker is missing anything, it’s backing singers to harmonise with him.
VÏKÆ’s performance was really compelling — I actually preferred the higher intensity live performance of the song ‘Love Games’ to the version available online. Her music fills the same Swift-inspired pop singer-songwriter niche as Katie-Lee, with both being a credit to their influences while still sounding distinct. Vïkæ’s Love Games EP is saved and ready to go for my next heartbreak (and I wouldn’t judge you for getting your heart broken for the sole purpose of spending an incredible healing period with her music).
Hybrid Rose was the only artist in the lineup I had much pre-existing knowledge of, her 2017 Cosmic album having been an occasional and cherished listen for me for quite some time. Her set was primarily songs from her latest album HyperKunt, released in April last year. HyperKunt pulls from the horny femme side of the 2000s á la Gwen Stefani, but the less overbearing pop vibe is less to my personal taste than Cosmic despite being executed on with the right touches. Hybrid Rose did seem to be struggling to adapt her work to a live performance, with her voice lacking the varied amounts of distortion that help carry the aesthetic on her albums.
Ultimately I think Hybrid Rose’s more complex compositions were the most affected by some poor sound mixing, which affected all of the artists on the lineup. BIG FAN is a very new venue. It’s located in my home base of Morningside, it’s operating without a profit motive and has a strong community mission, so I’m reluctant to make a harsh criticism, but as a critic and an artist in my own right I feel quite strongly about failures of duty-of-care. The main speakers were these two smaller roof-mounted things, probably the smallest speakers I’ve seen a music venue use, with no backup due to the absence of speakers at the side or rear of the room. The solution to this seems to have been pushing these speakers to their absolute limit, where noise began to surpass musicality.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to party. While I do find nightclubs an uncomfortable environment, that’s usually due to the heat, wasted strangers and stale air, not the musical experience. I love feeling the bass vibrating through my body, shaking my bones. Never has a club achieved that for me in such a piercing, painful manner. I had to wear earplugs, something I’ve never done at any concert before. During Katie-Lee’s performance, the bass was shaking the building so hard that something in the roof was rattling and distracting me from the show.
I like noise music, I like being obliterated by a wall of sound, but this wasn’t the effect any of these artists were trying to have. I used a decibel checker and found during multiple performances that the volume occasionally hit above 120 decibels, generally the volume at which you are doing immediate damage to your hearing. I was standing near the back of the room, sometimes with the mixing booth between me and those speakers. I was genuinely worried for the people standing at the front of the room, but didn’t have it in me to be more than an observer.
I hope this was a fluke of the night, and that BIG FAN will take steps to improve the experience and take care of their audiences in the future.
Featured image courtesy of Auckland Pride Festival.