Let the fun begin!

Pure, exhilarating fun is one of the flavours in the Arts Festival line-up of music this year, with a number of international and local acts mixing slick performance antics with original, upbeat music that will have audiences grinning ear-to-ear. Here are our picks for lush musical entertainment, make sure to catch at least one of these gigs:

1. The Shuffle Demons from Ottawa, Canada, have been described as “superheroes of the jazz world”. A crowd-pleasing, high-energy musical group, they’ve been bringing joyous chaos to the world for over three decades with their unique fusion of funk, hard bop and jazz rap, crazy costumes and on-stage folly.

2. Mikelangelo is back with his alter ego, the Balkan Elvis, and a wild tale to tell. Accompanied by Niko Ne Zna, Wellington’s Balkan brass gypsy band, the King’s hits are reimagined as lilting waltzes and barnstorming Balkan wedding polkas in this part rock 'n' roll musical mash-up. Elvis hasn’t been this much outrageous fun since 1956 – uproarious, uplifting and dead sexy. 

3. Let The Nukes blow your socks off with their quirky brand of ukulele brilliance, three-part vocal harmonies, blistering riffs and questionable dance moves. Unpretentious, Kiwi-as, this West Auckland trio deliver an engaging mix of humour and originality that audiences of all ages love.

4. Charismatic Melbourne duo, George and Noriko, break all the rules, with a sound unlike anything you’ve heard before. Lightning fast blues licks and the percussive sounds of the traditional shamisen (Japanese banjo) morph into a kind of bluegrass hard country blues with a Japanese twist. Colourful, arresting, these two are an absolute blast!

5. From Ohope Beach, “one of the world’s most unique guitarist”, Greg Malcolm, together with Philadelphia-based, Hawke’s Bay composer, Rosie Langabeer, introduce you to the absurd, beautiful world of Scottish humourist Ivor Cutler (1923-2006), original inspiration for the Beatle’s Magical Mystery Tour. Songs of Ivor Cutler will be a delightful, surreal performance – not to be missed if you like to look outside the box.

If you want to plan your festival experience under the rubric of ‘Fun’, here are five more tips:

6. Men can be very funny. The Wilson Dixon cowboy show has sold out, but there’s always MAMIL (Remounted), if you like to laugh at middle aged men in lycra, craft beer guts, bleeding hearts and moth balls.

7. And the pursuit of a good husband, with manners gone wild under the hot-pink hilariousness of Penny Ashton’s Promise and Promiscuity, is one way to chuckle at 200 years’ of men giving women grief. Gather up a posse of girlfriends for a fun night out to this show, tell us on Facebook by 1 October and you’ll be up for winning yourselves G&T's and nibbles from our bar.

8. The faux pas and cultural crossed-wires of the immigrant  experience can be pretty funny, as can parents in general, and Robyn Paterson has done a supreme job in playing on both with her incredibly funny (but also heartbreaking) show The South Afreakins.

9. For an hour of beauty, politics and down-and-dirty fun, get along to In Flagrante. With knives-out choreography and killer designs, five incredible dancers deal up lonely North Korean traffic girls, wet nurse fetishes and steam punk heroines in this sizzling, satirical neo-burlesque dance piece.

10. While there are many ways to slice fun in the festival programme, the best may be the time you spend hanging out before, after and between shows. We’re working hard behind the scenes to create a fabulous Festival Garden experience, with a fully kitted-out gin bar, a delicious array of foody offerings, décor to die for under the Topkata marquee, and a line-up of garden entertainments. You won’t need a ticket to enjoy all this (just some pennies in your pocket for refreshments), so why not make this your destination point for the duration of the Festival?

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