Fri, Jan 12, 2024 8:00 AM

Alternative Noise Makers


William Woodworth

Blenheim’s alternative music scene continues to make noise – both literally and figurative.

The Pluto Projects team, a creative collective of live entertainment enthusiasts, volunteer their time and expertise to breathe life into Marlborough’s creative scene.

However due to zoning issues, licencing laws, event organisation hurdles and funding restrictions, Pluto, in their own words, are “living in transit” away from their artspace in central Blenheim.

Late last week, the Pluto “whānau” and curious music lovers in a range of band shirts were welcomed into the private room of the Waterfront Bar for a promised headbanging gig from Dunedin rock bands Dale Kerrigan and Koizilla and local dreamy rockers Team Scary – with complementary earplugs handed out on entry.

Dunedin's grungy Dale Kerrigan thrash out their punk-influenced sound to eager Marlburians. Photo: William Woodworth

Talking to Pluto’s Gabe Bertogg and George Waterhouse between headline sets, they look down the Taylor River’s banks from the smoking deck of the Waterfront’s back room towards their current home – where they are unable to host events.

“We were encouraged to apply for funding to put on more events, but then kept running into hurdles like a lack of bathrooms in the venue and being in an industrial zone so the requirements are tough to meet for a group of volunteers. Our landlord is helping us try and work through those hurdles where we are currently”, says Gabe.

“The Waterfront is a great alternative at the moment, because Kalvin [Hart] has been so hospitable for us to give it a go tonight”, continues George.

“We want to find a space, learn the rules and host travelling artists because Blenheim deserves a thriving artistic scene.

“We don't know if it will work where we are, here, or at all, but we’re keen to pop up and bring creativity to Marlborough whenever and wherever we can – it’s just down to having the backing to do it.”

Psych rockers Koizilla brought a point of difference to their sound with the flute battling the rocking guitar and drums. Photo: William Woodworth

As promised, the gig brought the noise with Team Scary opening up for psychedelic surf rockers Koizilla, who brought a point of difference with a flute cutting through the hard-hitting guitars and drums, before the grungy Dale Kerrigan screamed and headbanged the house down, with both bands’ infectious energy getting the crowd onboard.

2023 has also brought positives to the Pluto team. The organization became a registered trust, which means they can access more funding opportunities.

Gabe says that having over 1000 in the Pluto family either volunteering, financially supporting or virtually supporting them takes the group of volunteers to a more established organization. In the aftermath of the gig, the team has also said they’re welcome back to the Waterfront for more gigs.

“As we become a more established entity, we’ll put on more events and hopefully open doors”, says Gabe.

“Kalvin has been so welcoming and receptive; he was amazed we were struggling for a space to have touring bands play”.

Dale Kerrigan's raw, hard-rocking sound was led by singer/songwriter Shlee Nicholls. Photo: William Woodworth

With community help and local council support, Gabe says Pluto will encourage more acts to stop in Blenheim and create creative connections, both local and from afar.

“These bands want to play in Blenheim, and there is a want here, to shine and express ourselves.

“We’ll continue existing if the people that want to come exist, keeping the ball rolling with these gigs and attracting more people to our cause, because there’s always more room in the Pluto whanau”.

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