original. acoustic. music.

Acoustic Pioneers

Truly a redemption gig for us after our somewhat under-whelming performance at Bodega. (per-for-mance, it's pronounced PER-for-mance, PER-God Damn-for-mance -- sorry, it's just that New Zealanders have started saying "preformance" and moronic television celebrities are ensuring its widespread misuse on local media, damn them all to crusty foetid hell -- but I digress.)

Not to say that the crowd at Bodega enjoyed themselves - they did, as we very much appreciated them enjoying themselves, it's just, well, listening to the recording again, there is a definite lack of whelming in the performance. More whelming was indeed required. But whither whelm?

Thank goodness for Tim and the Acoustic Pioneers at Happy Bar! Happy is a basement level bar beneath another bar that was formerly The Sticky Wicket, the local hangout for cricket supporters and the students of the NZ Drama School. Happy is like a favourite blanket or piece of clothing, perhaps a pair of sneakers. Shabby, but comfortable, and comforting. Intimate, with a sense of Opportunity Shop pan-temporality (look it up).

The proceedings were not so much hosted, rather they were gently led along by Tim, bearded and bespectacled bard and balladeer himself. The line up was an interesting mix of low-key, heartfelt, high-energy, and a little angry.

All of the performers (PERformers. See? it works there too) were accomplished players and songwriters, and the night passed pleasantly by the small but respectful audience.

Emily Pea played first - an interesting picking style accompanying a voice reminiscent of Celtic folk, perhaps Natalie Merchant, although not stylistically. She used her voice to drape melody between her lyrics like a silk scarf in a breeze.

Reuben Collins, a bluesman by reputation, brought his unique voice, his harmonica (which, thankfully, did not feature greatly - see a previous post for my thoughts on this instrument), and his tambourine to the stage. His guitar work was fluid, and songs more ballad than blues, but enjoyable nonetheless.

We played four songs: I See, The Mountain, The Thought of You and All About You.

As a two-piece, we do have the advantage of being able to make more noise than a solo performer, and Happy is small enough to find the corners easily and fill them with sound. I think, however, Darrel and I were determined to do well and enjoy ourselves.

After one of the most stressful days I've had at work in a long time, I was desperate to unwind, and found my bliss in the middle of I See.

We played a good version of The Mountain (finally, whew!) and rounded off the rest of the set nicely.

Chloe Langley was last to perform - a woman whose voice went from smooth and melodic to rough and powerful, angel to devil, as the mood took her. A very proficient guitarist, Chloe's songs were often introduced by complex riffs and interesting chord inversions and centred around passion in both love and hate. Her set ended abruptly with pleas from her to Tim the host to get up and play. Tim reluctantly came up, re-tuned the guitar in very short order to an alternate tuning that baffled Darrel and I completely and proceeded to pick out a very beautiful song, accompanied by his plaintive but melodious voice. Chloe Langley took the stage again to finish the night with a really nice version of The Cure's Lovesong, complete with iconic keyboard line interpreted on guitar. Effortless.

All in all, it was perhaps one of the best gigs we've played at, and we are more than a little bummed out that Darrel's voice recorder ran out of batteries three minutes into it! The audience and performers were very supportive - we had some really nice comments from both about our set.

So that's it for a while.

The next time we're on stage is for a 21st party this weekend for the son of a family friend, but after that the lone and level sands stretch far away. To tide us over, we've entered the International Songwriting Contest on BroadJam, with The Mountain, Not My Angel and All About You - the live version taken from the Savage Club video. Guest judges in the competition include some of our heroes such as Neil Finn, Robert Smith, and Ray Davies. The first announcements are in February next year. Fingers crossed. Wish us luck!