K Rd music festival The Others Way promised big things for its second year. Hussein Moses went along to see if they could pull it off.
For all of its imperfections, K Rd is still K Rd. The tug of war between the local community and the developers clawing their way in continues to play out, but the Auckland strip remains a space that can offer everyone a place to fit in and call home. That’s what’s at the heart of The Others Way: it’s a music festival built on the idea that anybody can find something that works for them.
It also signals the official start of another festival season. Now in it’s second year, the first of which sold out, the event takes note from international showcases like CMJ (which is rumoured to be up in the air) and SxSW by staging everything across 10 of Auckland’s best venues on and around K Rd. Out of the 40-odd acts that make up the bill, only two actually come from outside of the country. It’s heavy on local talent and promises “a one-stop A-Z dip into the waters of Kiwi music paradise”. Think of it like Homegrown, but without the dickheads.
Flying Out and 95bFM, who organise the event, promised that it would be “bigger and better” this year, which translated to an expanded line-up and more venues to choose from. It made figuring out your approach even tougher: do you pick a spot and settle in, or go hard and take in everything you can? Forget dipping into the waters of Kiwi music paradise; sometimes you’ve got to surf that MF.
There would be no warming up to it. Whammy Bar was almost full by the time Zen Mantra, the psyched-out solo project of Christchurch’s Sam Perry, launched into their opening song (the heartbreaking and perfect Maybe I’ll See You In My Dreams - a track written about the passing of his father). A few songs in and it was time to get moving: Samoa House, renamed the Freak Funk Fale for the night, was host to Carnivorous Plant Society and Scuba Diva, two acts that fit together well going back-to-back. Purple Pilgrims delivered a suitably mind-bending and understated set in the Galatos basement, while Mermaidens brought their sinister, desert rock-inspired songs to the crowd upstairs.
Elsewhere, Kane Strang sounded as restless as ever (a good thing), Ghost Wave sounded as druggy as ever (also pretty sweet), while Salad Boys showed up every other guitar band that came before them. Over at Las Vegas Club, things were running a little later than expected, but MeloDownz and Louie Knuxx proved that there should always be space for rap at a festival like this. There were no duds apart from Yumi Zouma, but maybe playing short-handed factored into their drowsy set.
Like last year, nostalgia acts remained a selling point. King Loser might’ve traded in the hard stuff for cups of tea, but they seemed as confronting and heavy as ever. But it was Cut Off Your Hands, who closed things out at Galatos with their debut album You & I, that would be the high point of the night. Despite the time away, they were totally on point and at ease. Someone needs to force them to do this more often.
It’s hard to believe that New Zealand’s music festival season now stretches across a full six months. With Soulfest, Westfest and Echo all plagued by cancellations, last year was seemingly one of the toughest ever for local promoters. At the same time, the post-New Year’s period saw Laneway succeed by staying true to what they do best, while Auckland City Limits - the latest addition to the calendar - showed huge promise, even if it didn’t pull the numbers that organisers had initially hoped for.
Judging from last night, The Others Way won’t be going anywhere soon. But the key now will be for the organisers, the local music industry and Auckland Council to commit to seeing the festival grow even further. Let’s make it happen.