I come from a very musical whānau. My grandfather, by all reports, played a mean saxophone, all of my cousins seem to be able to play the guitar, and a number of my relatives are involved in the music industry. In our family if you can't at least hold a tune, well... you're probably adopted.
Which is partly how no fewer than three of my own whānau come to be on the bill for Meet me at the Dog House, a concert that brings together a raft of talent that have been involved with Pacific Underground.
The other part of the equation is Pacific Underground itself which, for 25 years, has fostered Polynesian talent in the performing arts. When I think about words I'd use to describe PU they invariably fall towards the familial; "incubator", "nurturing", "family". Pos Mavaega and Tanya Muagututi'a , the heads of this family, have made a space for Māori and Pasifika artists in Christchurch to learn their craft and grow... and then spread their wings and fly.
The musicians, performers and writers that have been involved with Pacific Underground include David Fane, Oscar Kightley, Ladi 6, and Scribe.
In 2016 Pacific Underground received a lifetime achievement award at the Pacific Music Awards and a number of PU alumni took the stage, so if you're curious as to what kind of vibe Meet Me at the Doghouse might have, this might be an indication.
Ahead of the 2017 Pacific Music Awards tomorrow night - we share this audio montage and 'Special Tribute Performance' for the '2016 Lifetime Achievement Award' recipients Pacific Underground #TagataPasifika
Posted by Tagata Pasifika on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The performers on that occasion included my cousins Sarah Tamaira-Chalmers (Voodoo Child of Sheelahroc) and Dallas Tamaira (Joe Dukie of Fat Freddy's Drop). Joining them as part of the Meet Me at the Dog House concert at the Town Hall on 3 August will be their dad, my uncle, and yet another muso, Joe Tamaira. Yeah, it's a family affair, alright.
Ahead of the gig, I made merry hell with their Facebook notifications by dragging them into a group chat together (because that's how we talk to each other now) and asked them about the upcoming concert, Pacific Underground and the legendary burger bar/iconic meet-up spot, The Dog House. Below are some excerpts.
Moata: I am excited for this concert. Are you excited for this concert?
Dallas: Looking forward to being a part of this awesome lineup - can’t wait to come home and see everyone. I think the last time I performed with dad was at a Freddie’s gig in Brisbane when he got up with us for a jam ... and Sarah and I shared the stage for a tribute performance for pacific underground at the pacific music awards in Auckland.
Joe: I'm excited for two reasons; first I'm proud to be jamming on the same stage as my tamariki, Dallas and Sarah (and all the other artists who will be there) and secondly, to be performing back in the city that launched my career as a musician and singer-songwriter way back 34 years ago!
Moata: I was thinking about all the amazing stuff that Pacific Underground has done over the years and how much talent they've fostered in Christchurch. I can't help thinking Christchurch would have been a much less interesting place without them. Do you think you would still have gotten into performing without that avenue and support network?
Dallas: Yeah, awesome aye. Yeah, things would have been a lot different without PU... I’m not sure what would have happened... I guess I might have missed out on some really key experiences. Being able to take my ideas to a shit hot band and perform them on a stage was huge... it’s where I fell in love with the process of writing and performing. Having ideas and bringing them to life in front of an audience.
Sarah: Kia ora, whānau! For me PU was just a huge support. Firstly from a ground roots perspective in that they (Pos and Tarns) were there for the person first and talent second, it’s the reason we feel like a family. Secondly encouragement and education around how the music and creative industries functioned at that time. Until Sheelahroc started to collab with PU we were really just having fun jumping gig to gig. PU gave us direction and intention, introducing us to such things as APRA.
Moata: I love that the concert's called "Meet me at the Dog House". I have vivid memories of hanging around outside, or waiting for the number 5 bus nearby. What are your memories of the Dog House?
Sarah: It was at the Dog House that I found out vinegar on chips was a thing... weirdly enough I also had them add mayo (free of charge). Vinegar and Mayo on chips, mmmmmmmm.
Joe: My memories of the Doghouse ummmm... Well, obviously I'm from a different generation but I guess the stories would be the same. One memory, and it's a favourite story of mine, is when I first came to Christchurch. In 1970 my mate and I had just arrived from Wellington.
I knew that my brothers were here but didn't have a clue as to where they lived. So the first Māori I saw I asked him if he knew any of the bros? He said "nah but just go into the Square, bro, and you should find someone who knows them". Anyways we go there and the first place we stop at was the Dog House to get a feed. As we walked in this chick over the counter drops whatever she was holding and in an ecstatic voice goes..."oh no, it's not is it?" And I go "huh?" in my fresh as, country Māori ways. She says "Tap Heperi?" (apparently some mean as Māori singer crooning all the girls in Christchurch). Anyway if I knew that I would have said yes, but nah! To cut a long story short, I became Tap Heperi for the next few months and after the girls sussed me out I then became his brother... then his other bro... It was good times back then, lol. Thanks Dog House!
Moata: Smooth, Uncle...
Moata: The town hall was out of commission for a long time but it's back now. Are any of you particularly looking forward to performing there?
Sarah: I am really looking forward to it because the Town Hall holds a long history of memories for me. From School Choir performances to Youth For Christ Rallies in my teen years, to supporting Bone Thugs n Harmony with Sheelahroc in 2000. Gathering there to watch a performance of some kind will always feel like a family reunion as opposed to being an audience member.
Joe: Certainly looking forward to performing at the Town Hall... I think the last time I played there was for a Christian meeting in 1992... so it's been a while.