All things musical blog merges with Auckland Libraries blog

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Just a brief note to let you all know that our All things musical blog has now merged with new blog Auckland Libraries blog.

If you subscribe to All things musical, then I encourage you to change your subscription over to Auckland Libraries blog to be sure of being kept up to date with Auckland Libraries musical happenings, and to learn more about our music collections and news.

Other blogs joining us at Auckland Libraries blog include PopculturAL and Books in the City.
Now these blogs will be together on the Auckland Libraries blogspot - so don't forget to subscribe to keep up to date!

See you there!

Listen - Dancing with Devonté Hynes aka Blood Orange

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I don’t dance. Ever. It’s a problem sometimes. Most people enjoy dancing & they want you to enjoy it too. I’ve tried to dance & it just never felt right. It always seemed like I was pushing against a natural order. It’s tough to be unrestrained & joyful when you’re naturally restrained and, well, a little uptight. Most of the miserabilists that make up my playlists would be unlikely to get you out of bed in the morning let alone help you find a groove on the dance floor – though they will break your heart, which has its own allure - & I’ve always felt more attuned with a minor key than a major beat.
Perhaps that’s why Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange, sounds so wonderful & challenging to my ears. At turns ecstatic & sad, he acts as a kind of spiritual successor to Prince in the way he can make vulnerable sound sexy and his songs often find a direct line between corporeal & emotion, an amalgamation of heart & feet. There’s only a special few that draw from this duality.

Cupid Deluxe is the second album for Hynes under the Blood Orange banner. It's largely inspired by 'Paris Is Burning', the seminal documentary about New York’s queer community in the nineteen eighties. You can hear this inspiration weave its way through each track. Hynes sings for lonely, misunderstood individuals trying to find their way in a society that has largely rejected them. It should be heavy stuff but, like the documentary that preceded it, Cupid Deluxe revels in its defiance of what constitutes normal or acceptable & becomes a rousing celebration on the power of self-expression. He uses a pretty broad musical palate that is rife with eighties influences. That he makes it all sound so contemporary is testament to his brilliance.

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READ: Music in the provinces

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After reading a thinkpiece earlier this week called 'Creative Darwinism' about making music outside of cultural capitals and how it can make for more original and passionate music, I decided I would spend my last blog celebrating music from provincial New Zealand.

I grew up in Whanganui in the mid-2000s, a city (only just) most touring musicians shied away from, given the tumbleweeds rolling down the main street after 5pm, or 2pm on Saturdays. Our saving grace was a room in someone's flat where they had installed a lighting rig and PA. It was called the Eye of Night and it was the best. We went to every show there that our parents would let us, usually one every couple of months, and I saw bands that would become my favourites for years to come. And I learnt something that I wasn't expecting, that the local openers were often more interesting and better performers than the touring act from ~Melbourne~ or ~Nashville~ or ~Auckland~.

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Listen- Mexico + Morrissey = Mexrrissey

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Who would have thought that Mexico would have an obsession for all-things-Morrissey? But it is true, he is huge. Perhaps it is that his songs connect powerfully with those who are disenfranched, disenchanted, disillusioned and are a creative expression of their angst and social alienation? In response to this growing fan base, Mexico City-based DJ and producer Camilo Lara (Mexican Institute of Sound) has created Mexrrissey, a six-piece band of top Mexican musicians, to pay homage to their idol Morrissey, the iconic Smiths frontman.
What makes Mexrrissey such a hoot is how they manage to meld together a bit of The Fall, with The Smiths, translate it all into their native Spanish and top it off with that infectious Latin joie de vivre that has  audiences dancing wildly. The exciting latino rhythms and the unique sounds they create with the traditional Mexican instruments seem to capture the sentiment of Morrissey’s anthems brilliantly. 
The group recorded an album in Mexico and Arizona, selecting seven songs from different eras of Morrissey's solo career. 'No Manchester' (Mexican slang for 'No way!' or 'Are you kidding me?) also includes  tracks recorded live at their May 2015 New York performance and was released by Nacional Records in March  2016.

Mexrrissey appear at the Auckland Arts Festival this month- click here for details.


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Birdstriking in Auckland. Photo: Birdstriking FB page
In the wake of Beijing, China’s Birdstriking’s 2-show banger tour of NZ last weekend, I thought I’d delve a bit more into the thriving Chinese DIY music scene.

A key label bringing Chinese punk rock to the world is Maybe Mars. Started in 2007 with the specific aim “to promote, identify and support talented young Chinese musicians and artists,” it has released music by perhaps the best known Chinese punk rock bands Carsick Cars and PK 14.

Carsick Cars are a post-punk 3 piece. They released their debut album in 2007 which features my personal fave song “Zhong Nan Hai”. They have toured Europe with Sonic Youth, and are currently touring Australia with Birdstriking.

PK 14 are generally regarded as the "elder statesmen of the Beijing rock scene”. They have been active since 1997 and been role models to a whole generation of Chinese DIY punks. Singer and guitarist Yang Haisong has also been an instrumental engineer and producer for many of the newer generation, working on albums for Carsick Cars, Birdstriking and more recently with Wukong the Monkey King from our very own Auckland!

And because this is me, we have to check in on the emo scene. Wuhan's Chinese Football are the obvious first touchstone, functioning as a gateway to emo much like their American counterparts. 

Also, with a post-rock slant, are Emptybottles. from Hong Kong:

That's just a few touchstones, you can find so much more through Maybe Mars and also Qiii Snacks Records and Sweaty & Cramped
James xx


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We're constantly adding new titles to our eBooks collection, so here are some recommended titles that you might've missed over the last year...

Born To Run 
by Bruce Springsteen

One of the most talked-about music books of last year, with Springsteen opening up not only about his own life, but his struggles with depression and the state of race in America.

Also available as an eAudiobook (read by the man himself!).

Not Dead Yet (eAudiobook)
by Phil Collins

To say that Phil Collins was big in the eighties is a huge understatement. He sold a ridiculous amount of records, upwards of 100 million units! He's probably not as cool as Springsteen, but he's probably seen more ups and downs - three failed marriages and battles against alcoholism. His life story therefore makes for interesting reading as he turns from the drummer in a well-respected prog band to a pop singer and actor. Added bonus: Collins narrates the audiobook.

Unfaithful Music
by Elvis Costello

Costello is revered for his lyricism, so there's no suprise that he's turned out to be a great writer too. It's a long book, but if you any fondness for his music then consider it a must-read.

Also available as an eAudiobook (read by Costello).

Shock and Awe
Simon Reynolds

Reynolds is the author of critically acclaimed works like post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again and his critique of modern culture Retromania. It won't just be Glam fans that are excited to find that he has a new book out, since this will surely appeal to music history nerds everywhere!

R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country
Robert Crumb

This book is a old one, but still worth searching out since it's all about the early history of American music. It's probably best read on a device with a colour screen, since it's Crumb's illustrations that really make it come together. Wonderful to see one of the most loved comic artists turning his attention to a subject that he's deeply passionate about.

How Bizarre
by Simon Grigg

It was a shock when Otara Millionaire's Club (OMC) had a worldwide hit with 'How Bizarre' in the mid-nineties. What took place behind the scenes was even more bizarre and in this book we get a front row seat to the chaos. Grigg ran the record label, Huh!, that first released the song, but he struggled with singer Pauly Fuemana's increasing paranoia about who to trust (fair enough, since he was just a young man from South Auckland, with no real knowledge of the music industry). A fascinating story of NZ's biggest pop act up until the time of Lorde.

Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie
Angela Bowie

A glut of Bowie books have come out over the last year, but this seems like the best one to start with. Angela Bowie and her husband had a crazy life in the early seventies and it's all here - wild times with Iggy Pop, bisexual orgies, and cocaine-driven insanity. After reading this book, you'll be amazed that Bowie lasted as long as he did...


The Smiths were a pretty divisive band, but it's undeniable that Morrissey broke new ground in terms of pop songwriting. He brings the same acerbic wit and self-importance to his biography! Like it or hate it, the book is definitely not lukewarm in anything it has to say. If you want a more grounded take on The Smiths then try Johnny Marr's biography, Set The Boy Free, instead (plus it also covers his work with Electronic, Billy Bragg, Modest Mouse, etc!).

Also available as an eAudiobook.

Chapter and verse
Bernard Sumner

Jeez, it really has been a big year for eighties musicians writing their autobiographies. But you can't really go past Sumner's account of Joy Division and New Order - two era defining bands. 

I Dreamed I Was A very Clean Tramp
Richard Hell

This last book is a bit of a wild card, but if you're interested in the birth of punk then it provides a fascinating perspective. Richard Hell isn't the kind of person to pull punches, so here you get the inside word on how the New York scene got started at CBGBs, the spread of punk to the UK, and his own attempt to create groundbreaking music, despite the ever-present shadow of drug-addiction.

There's plenty more too, so if nothing here took your fancy then perhaps check out one of these:


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This year Laneway Festival will be held in Albert Park in Auckland (right next to us folks at the Central Library!). It'll be a nice change from the ultra damaging heat at Silo Park...lots of tree's and grass...Yay!! And if I was going this year (cough, cough) then this is who I would be heading to see...


Young Thug is a massively prolific american rapper who hails from Atlanta, Georgia (so much good hip-hop coming out of Atlanta at the moment, and pretty much I've always enjoyed the way that he uses his voice with the music. Sometimes he shouts, or slurs, or he breaks up every annunciation so he creates this hectic beat with his syllables , that everything turns into metaphysical poetry with a mass amount of slang...haha...RAD. This was one of the first songs I ever heard of his and i've never gotten over it, even though he has released like 3 mixtapes since this 2015 release which this song featured on.


I don't think I need to write up an introduction for The Chills...I'll just say, they are rad and Martin Phillip's songs are the business...I wouldn't miss it...this is my all time fav...


Australian band Tame Impala have been around awhile now, and are one band I'm dying to see right up the front kind of live...especially cause their sound is so well developed that I'd like to see them work their amps and pedal's live....this song was released about a year ago, and I've never quite gotten over this video...hypnotized/very amused...


At some point at any festival I like to go nuts and let loose, and this is by far the best band to "go nuts" to..haha. White Lung are a Canadian punk rock band from Vancouver. They've been around since 2006 and came from a whole 'Nu Sensae' and 'Mac DeMarco' group of musicians...


This is my wild card pick. I didn't know anything about this band and had only been told about them recently (by numerous amounts of people). I've been listening to a few of their songs online and they are buzzy AF...King Gizzard are a Melbourne psychedelic band...there's an impressive list of instruments that they use in their albums including a theremin, sitar and ZURNA (a wind instrument). This is one of their live performances that I found online...lookin pretty good...

Read: A journey into sound - ‘Endtroducing’ (20 years on) by DJ Shadow (Mo’ Wax)

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Two decades ago. I was an enthusiastic vinyl junkie, immersed in all things musical, working full time at my personal ministry of sound, Marbecks. My dream job at the time, allowed me to explore and expand my musical horizons from within the creatively refreshing non-confines of this left of centre family music shop.

I love 80's Hip Hop and had built a multi crate collection of beats and rhymes, constructed from the sturdy studios of Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy), Marley Marl (Salt’n’Pepa) and the cut’n;paste collages of noise carved from Bomb the Bass, Steinski and Grandmaster Flash. Always on the hunt for more sonic substances, I needed a new style, something taking nods from the past with a fresh feel and future technological leap to take my Walkman into digital territory. 

Then, out from the dark shadows of my crate ridden cellars came the answer to my homeboy hankerings, a full bodied colossus of an album emerged, more wax for my needful needle and an epic entrance into the new valley of volume and bass booming badness.

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INTERVIEW: Centre Negative

Michael McClelland has been a active and productive fixture of the NZ indie music scene for the past few years, playing in bands (Team Ugly, Centre Negative), writing for the Corner (rip), booking tours for local and international acts as Michael McClelland Taxi Services (also the name of his one-person taxi/comedy operation) and facilitating the growth of Christchurch based record label Melted Ice Cream. His solo project turned 6-12 member lo-fi orchestra Centre Negative are to tour Australia next week.  

Warning: the following album contains lo-fidelity, profanity, serious riffs but also important social critiques.

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Read/ Listen: The Gorillaz- D-sides

By Richard Giles

So everyone knows the age old band "The Gorrilaz" right? You're thinking their classics "Feel good Inc., DARE, On Melancholy Hill". Pretty much all the old stuff... Harking back to good old 2010 and even earlier.

But scratch that. Stop what you're doing and move away from their classics. Indulge in the D-sides. One of their earlier compilation albums released in 2007. Skip the first CD. Go straight for the good stuff- hit up CD 2. Here you'll find all the stuff you love and know, but remixed and changed up to sound even better than the original. These include remixes from some sweet and upcoming artists such as Hot Chip and Metronomy. There's even a Chinese version of the track "Dirty Harry".

But for those of you who don't know The Gorillaz; well... they've been around a wee while now (since 1998 in fact). From Essex, they've got quite an iconic sound. They mix a variety of musical styles, from dance, ambient, rap and dub-step. So yea... they know what they're doing when it comes to music and to top that, they've got the musical talent of Blur's Damon Albarn on lead vocal!

So whether you're in need of a song to chill to, a song to rave to, to study to or just have playing in the background- The Gorillaz 'D-sides' has it. As tough as it is to find though... You might have to get it ordered in online or have a skimmy through the back shelves of Marbecks or Real groovy. It's one of those rare, must-have gems.

Verdict- without the 2nd CD, it's nothing special. But with these tracks... A solid 9/10. Check it out.


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PEDALS!!!!!!! - YAY!!!!!!  I'll never forget the first time I used a guitar pedal, it was some sort of cheap overdrive pedal, I couldn't believe how all of a sudden, all those Nirvana riffs I had learnt suddenly sounded like KC himself! (SLAYER)
Over the years I have played around with many different types of pedals and its gotten to the point where I've started experimenting with effects on the recording end of things, just coz its fun to play around with different types of sounds. Recently I've started thinking about making my own pedals, mainly because some of the pedals that I want are super expensive, but also because I'm starting to chase a sound that only exists inside my head. I've never played around with circuit boards before and I only just found out what a schematic diagram is, so I thought I should probably talk to someone about it before I end up making a Frankenstein. This week I talk to Ruban Nielson from Unknown Mortal Orchestra a bit about tinkering and engineering sounds. 

How long have you been tinkering?
I've been messing around with electronics for about 4 years. I didn't know anything about it when I started. I wanted to change some pickups in my guitar and I was sick of sending it away. I need my guitar so I didn't want to wait for it so I got a screwdriver and just opened it up. I went to radioshack and got a soldering iron and just started. The first thing I did was I made a mess of my guitar and had to send it to a guitar tech anyway haha I actually knew nothing about what I was doing but that's how I do things usually. Jump in and make a fool of myself until I get somewhere with it. I just kept going and got better at it and deeper into it.

Why did you start building pedals?
When I was in the Mint Chicks I used to paint my pedals so you couldn't see what they were, and because I thought they looked cooler like that, all hand-painted. I was an assistant for an abstract painter and used to build and help paint metal panels for him so painting my pedals just kind of happened coz I was always painting back then. One day someone said to me at a show "did you make them?" and it never occurred to me that I could make my own pedals. The idea stuck in my head and I really wanted to actually build some or modify them.

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Silver Scrolls 2016 Review

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The Silver Scroll Awards focus on the best of New Zealand songwriting. The most enjoyable part of the evening is seeing artists from vastly different genres rubbing shoulders and often covering each other's songs. A prime example last night was the cover of 'Rainphase' by Salina Fisher (winner of the Sounz Contemporary Award) which was done by Jeffrey Boyle from Jakob, Julia Deans (shown above) and Chris O'Conner. This modern orchestral piece was turned into an ambient, free-form jam.

Though possibly the best cover of the night was Jocee's Tuck's version of 'The First Man' which took the sparse, folky original track by Tami Neilson and turned it into a full scale production with horns and two large scale xylophones...

The strongest categories this year seemed to be that involved writing soundtracks for television and film. It's a sign of the times that so many of our greatest songwriters are putting their hand to this work to make a living (certainly more profitable than trying to sell their own songs in the age of downloading). In fact, two of the artists nominated for the main award were also featured in this catergory - Samuel Scott, Lukasz Buda, and Conrad Wedde (from the Phoenix Foundation) were in the Feature Film category for their amazing, synth-heavy backing music for Hunt for the Wilderpeople; and Tamie Neilson and Jay Neilson were in the Best Original Music In A Series category for their work on The Brokenwood Mysteries. Talented Wellington songwriter, Age Pryor, was also in that later category, but in the end it was won by Karl Steven (Supergroove, Drab Doo Riffs, Queen Neptune) - do read our interview with him about his process for writing film scores.

The fact that Mahuia Bridgeman Cooper and Tama Waipara won the Film category seemed fitting too, since Cooper has done some great work in the background over the years (for example, the great string parts on the last two Lawrence Arabia albums), while Waipara is a great advocate for music in te reo. Given that Moana Maniapoto was being inducted in the Hall of Fame, it was a great night for Māori music. The winning song in Maioha category was also very song - a great pounding number by Rob Ruha (which also features the skills of Tiki Taane).

Karl Steven and Rob Ruha

It did seem like the big award of the night might go to the Phoenix Foundation, since they have been nominated on four previous occasions without ever winning. Their song, 'Give Up Your Dreams,' has a very kiwi, down-to-earth sense of humour about it, but is not less honest and direct in its message. Street Chant's song, 'Pedestrian Support League,' has a similar local feel to its wry description of flat life in Auckland. Lydia Cole's song, 'Dream,' is more earnest than either of these, though the cover by Nadia Reid was rather exquisite in austerity:

Nadia Reid

The final winner on the night was 'If I Move To Mars' by Thomas Oliver. It's more of a basic love-song, so it's hard to tell why it gained the final nod from the judges and there has been some controversy. It seems that if you want to win a serious songwriting award then earnestness trumps humour (or maybe just having a lot of other friends who are APRA members, since possibly there was a bit of a split vote between the indie fans who like Phoenix Foundation and those who like Street Chant).

In any case, the most stirring win of the night was definitely Moana Maniapoto's induction in the Hall of Fame, with a strong haka performed by her friends and family as she returned to her table with the award, which was then answered by a similarly passionate waiata from those up in the tiered seating above. She's been pushing Maori representation in music for over twenty years now, so let's finish by winding the clock back and checking out her top ten single from 1994. He manawa tītī!

Read: Emo is still a thing in 2016, but not like you think

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The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, a key band of emo revival
Emo, as a genre, is most strongly associated with the music and social phenomenon in the mid-2000s around key bands like My Chemical Romance, Thursday and Fall Out Boy. The word has an inherent cringe factor for most, an aftertaste of a common but awkward teenage phase. That period was definitely the genre’s peak in terms of popularity and glamour, but people were playing emo long before Panic! At the Disco were invited to that beautiful wedding.

The 90’s saw the initial blooming of the genre, primarily in the Midwest US, the obvious touchstones being American Football and Mineral. Many of these key early bands experienced little to no success during their active years – they often didn’t last and only really blew up after they broke up 
(- something that has become a bit of an emo trope). A lot of these bands have been doing reunion tours in recent years, due to the renewed popularity of the 90’s emo style – going from playing in basements to few people when they were active, to selling out tours in theatres.

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Read- Def Jams from 1986. ‘Licensed to Ill’ by the Beastie Boys (30th Anniversary).

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Landing like a loose lunar explosion, MTV was the only channel to view in the eighties, if you wanted to see the latest visual promotional clips on your television screen. This corporate driven commercial music channel served up a high sugar diet of colourful creativity, high rotation hedonism for high school jocks and cutesy cheerleaders. Think Rick Dees top 40 with high impact effects and you got the radio with pictures. With a predominantly white content mantra, MTV steered clear of rap music, offering the raw-edged ‘Yo! MTV Raps’, to any block jams that promised major record label returns. 

These segregated sounds were about to receive an almighty brat-attack from a trio of backward cap wearing homeboys from around the way. Discovered by the bearded rock producing guru Rick Rubin and Russel Simmons (Run DMC and LL Cool J), the Beastie Boys eagerly grabbed the microphone after banging heads in the grungy garages of NYC, making punk-rock beer noise.

Rubin brought an edgy guitar riff landscape to the bragging beats and off stage antics of these 3 MCs from the 5 boroughs.  Ad-rock, MCA and Mike D bounced rhymes off each other with an ease and brashness that had not been witnessed before, nerdy and naughty with a troublesome attitude.

‘Licensed to Ill’ was their first flight into unknown territory and crashed into the living rooms of America and the world with a long playing disregard to all that had come before. Stealing licks from Led Zepplin, riffs from Creedence Clearwater Revival and vocal samples from Mr Ed, Licensed to Ill was weirdly wonderful. Boasting beer spraying anthems, ‘She’s Crafty’ and ‘New Style’, side one went where nobody had dared to go before. It was time to get ill, with ‘Brass Monkey’ and ‘Girls’ chugging kegs of refreshing raucousness. Rewinding tales of scratching in the saddle, ‘Paul Revere’ took a backwards playing platter on a wild gallop, whilst the eternal party anthem ‘Fight for your Right to Party’ made every listener late for school the next day.

Whether it was the fold out plane crashing album cover, the treacherous turntable trickery of DJ Hurricane or the funky flow of these 3 microphone masters, the Beastie Boys shook up the traditionally super serious hip hop scene with a fresh and filthy version of rhymes from their streets and alleyways of Brooklyn.

‘License to Ill’ was my first ever CD, bought after owning and destroying at least 2 copies of the vinyl version of the album. With downloads and streams of free music flowing out of all devices, my needle never travels too far from the goofy grooves of this raw, rowdy and still really good first album from three decades ago.

Check out the original classic License to Ill ,or get a crash course in the boys' extensive catalogue with Solid Gold Hits

Dave Tucker                                   

News- A Feast of Musicals

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Auckland is fortunate enough to be providing a feast for music lovers over the next few months. NZ Opera, Auckland Theatre Company and a musical cast direct from the UK will be pulling out all the stops to entertain.

Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street

Deliciously scary, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is seen in most of the opera houses around the world. Now it is our turn to be able to experience this most powerful of theatrical horror tales ever set to music at the wonderfully atmospheric Civic Theatre. Underneath its dark humour, there is a human tale with themes of revenge, obsession and lust as well as pain, yearning and love.
This is presented by NZ Opera in collaboration with the Victorian Opera and boasts a star studded cast featuring non other than our own Teddy Tahu Rhodes opposite Antoinette Halloran and the  Freemason Chorus.

 Billy Elliot

In October there will be some firsts! This is the first production of the spectacular and uplifting musical Billy Elliot in NZ and it is the inaugural production at the Auckland Theatre Company's new home  - the ASB Waterfront Theatre. Based on the smash hit movie the inspirational story of this musical tugs at the heart strings as a young boy of 10 struggles against the odds to see his dream to be a dancer come to fruition. The story and lyrics are written by Lee Hall and the music is written by the legendary Elton John in an inspired partnership.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Also showing at the Civic in October is this must-see Tony Award winning spectacular direct from the UK.. Based on the Oscar-winning hit movie, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert is the heart-warming, uplifting story of three drag artists who jump  on board a battered old bus named Priscilla, and in their quest for love and friendship they end up on a journey of self-discovery and the road trip of a lifetime through the Australian outback.
This wildly fresh and funny musical features a hit parade of dance-floor favourites including: Don’t Leave Me This Way, I Will Survive, Finally, I Love The Nightlife, Go West, Hot Stuff, Colour My World and Shake Your Groove Thing. 

Don't forget you can also borrow the music scores, sound recordings and DVDs from Auckland Libraries