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Building Bands, One Night at a Time

It’s sorta obvious the current owner of Smash Palace Bar Gisborne, Darryl Monteith is a musician. As I walk in, he’s already on stage cranking out “History Never Repeats” by Split Enz, accompanied by his mate Mo. A young fulla and his dad have arrived at the same time, guitar case in hand, obviously here to play. Others, like me, are here to listen, to support budding musicians gaining their confidence, and perhaps experience a seasoned talent bust out something special.

Build-a-Band started about 2 years ago, and used to be on Fridays. The instruments are all on loan from local musicians, but bringing your own is pretty standard too. Electric guitars (including left hand), acoustic guitar, bass, drums, bongos, various percussion instruments…. all there. If you’re a bit shy there’s a post to stand behind, but that spot can get a bit crowded.

The original concept was that individual musicians get up and jam, some would gel as a group and go on to start a band. Darryl reckons there’s loads of musical talent in Gisborne and sees Build-a-Band as a way of helping to nurture and develop that talent. Mostly folks are happy to just come along and jam. Try out a song they’ve written. See what sort of reaction they get, or have that one time a week they are totally in the zone. It’s building bonds between local musicians who probably wouldn’t otherwise have known each other existed.

As we know, Gisborne attracts a few travellers, and even though our borders are closed we still have interesting folks from far off places passing through or basing themselves here. Some of them have proved to be accomplished musicians and thrilled to have a chance to play. On nights like that, Smash patrons get to experience something they may have to pay big bucks for in another setting. But this is Build-a-Band. Everyone’s welcome. The ages vary, the styles of music vary, the levels of experience vary, but everyone’s all about the music. As I head out the door there’s a call from the stage, “We need a blues guitarist!”

What: Build-a-band
Where: Smash Palace Bar, 24 Banks St, Awapuni
When: Every Thursday night, 7 – 11pm
Cost: Free – wouldn’t hurt to buy a beer while you’re there though!
Story by Leah McAneney
Photographs by John Flatt

PATTERNS BY CARRIER

This weekend just past, something a little bit unexpected took place inside a dimly-lit back entrance on Lowe Street.  Until this Saturday night just past, this particular building had been sitting dormant for nine or so years.. cold and crumbling, silent and sleeping.

On Saturday night, Steven King literally rattled the old girl awake from her slumber with his new Carrier show, ‘Patterns’.  The old girl probably hadn’t ever really paid much attention to her floor before Saturday night, when it was shuddered alive by many pairs of feet, themselves awakened by what went on that evening, rendering the humble, stained and ripped carpet floor a dance floor for one exciting, atmospheric and rather energetic night.

‘Patterns’ was conceived by Steve during Lockdown in collaboration with his three machines; his Roland TR8 Drum Machine, Yamaha QY100 Sequencer and Roland SH 01a mono synth. Steve recognised the time was ripe for creating and, experiencing a certain kind of symbiosis between him and his machinery, he formed his initial concept for the piece within a day.

When I first started talking to Steve about putting on a live performance here in Gisborne, he spoke of his desire to bring together an exploration of minimal composition, repetitive beats and spaciousness with a contemplative visual backdrop to create an experience that went beyond entertainment [1] and encouraged the immersion of the audience into the experience. 

For Steve, this first outing of ‘Patterns’ provided the opportunity to test drive his concept.  It also gave him the chance to curate an entire experience in which every aspect was carefully considered and entirely intentional, from Campbell Ngata’s opening DJ set, whose choice of tunes lent a gentle familiarity and therefore some sense of normalcy to the sparce unknown space, to the choice of the space itself..

Steve talks of growing up partying in spaces like the Lowe Street one. But he also refers to the space as an acknowledgment of the origins of the music he makes, an homage if you like, to the grimy groundbreaking beginnings of electronic music; the reclamation of those disused spaces so closely intertwined with the sense of freedom expressed by the new, interesting and exciting forms of music coming alive inside them at the time.  

Using a vacant building was also important to Steve because “there are so many of these empty decaying buildings in Gisborne right now – we need to take back some of that real estate and give it life, make it vibrant and do interesting things that stimulate people and get them excited”.

For those of us lucky enough to experience this first outing of ‘Patterns’, the atmospheric location certainly added another layer to the visual package delivered alongside the audio, with its themes of decay and patterns; namely the particular pattern that we as humanity have been running the past hundred years or so, which is revealing itself to have been not such a great one.  The visual compilation which was played in reverse, delivered a strong message of the need for us to undo what we have done. 

For an audience who has become well-used to their electronic music experiences involving a DJ and a laptop, getting to dance to a guy who’s making the music in real time just a few metres away, (and pulling in wonderful additions such as the cassette tape loop technique he’s recently been playing around with), it was no wonder that Saturday night’s audience showed their appreciation for the Carrier show in a big way.

So while Steve had his own ideas about how this piece that he’s been plugging away from the safety of his headphones these past few months might be received, he wasn’t at all prepared for the outcome, which he describes as “a crazy thing”.

He suggests that it was some kind of perfect storm in which the heightened excitement of a group of people brought together in a new space to experience something largely unknown, in combination with his material translated through an incredible sound system, created a lot more energy than he’d expected. 

“Art is designed to evoke a response, but you cannot control what that response is” Steve soliloquised, “and in this case the response was overwhelmingly crazy”.

The last 20 plus years has seen Steven King move through many aspects of the electronic music scene. He has worked alongside many NZ artists including Pitch Black and the Nomad, audio genius Chris Chetland from Kog, and has shared compilations with household names like Trinity Roots and Fat Freddy’s Drop. King has released music in the U.S, Europe and the U.K and his music continues to be selected by DJs on European sound systems. He has been the opening act for international artists like Mad Professor and David Harrow – The James Hardway Quartet and has played to huge audiences like those that attended the One Love Festival and the Cuba St and Newtown Carnivals in Wellington [2]. 

We are lucky to have Steven King and his musical talents in our midst, and we hope to see him sharing them with us again one day.. eh Steve!

Story by Sarah Cleave. Photographs X Scott Austin

[1] & [2] Excerpts from the Patterns event description written by Jo Pepuere.

In Tribute to the Tribute Band

An influx of leather and lace hit Gisborne over the weekend. Or should I say a Landslide? Venturing here for the second time, the quintet of Andrea Clarke, Lee Cooper, Taine Ngatai, Gareth Scott and Garin Keane played on Friday and Saturday night to a sold-out crowd at The Dome Bar and Cinema.

The Dome’s velvet-clad cinema room was the perfect venue for an evening of magic melodies and fond nostalgia. An audience of both young and old stood alongside each other, captivated by an assortment of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks classics such as ‘Little Lies, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Edge of Seventeen’. There was barely a single stagnant body in the room when Landslide unleashed their encore of ‘The Chain’. Seasoned vocals were bolstered by playful instrumental performances – Gareth Scott’s dynamic drum solo in ‘Tusk’ being a longstanding “crowd favourite” according to Clarke, and the glockof the cowbell gave ‘Gold Dust Woman’ a psychedelic edge.

An accidental tribute band, Landslide begun in 2012 after increasing requests for songs by Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks from Clarke and husband Lee Cooper’s cover band at the time (Retro Vibe). The people were heard – Clarke and Lee put together a band that exclusively played these. “I started looking for more material and found myself falling totally in love with the songs, especially with Stevie [Nick’s] insightful and poetic style of writing” Clarke says. A full-time performer, Clarke has a generous portfolio in musical performance. For her, Fleetwood Mac are a natural fit, allowing her to draw on her background in rock, country and blues. The genre-ambiguity of Fleetwood Mac also makes it more gratifying for the band to perform; the Landslideset list displaying the transformation of music trends over the 70’s & 80’s. In true Fleetwood Mac style, the group has had different members over their 7 years. Clarke and Cooper are the veterans but their group is spiked by energetic new blood and impressive heads of hair. “We have always strived to find suitable players to keep the band fresh and especially love to bring in young, talented musicians as well as seasoned professionals to the mix”. 

With her spirited locks and honeyed voice, it’s lucky she looks and sounds like Stevie Nicks, but Clarke insists she’s just performing as herself. There are no personas, no playing pretend in this band. Just a group of musicians, transparently playing certain songs as best they can. Their songs aren’t supposed to be note-for-note replicas either. As long as the essence of the song is captured and the recognisable parts are all there, the band members have the creative freedom to impart a bit of their own style into the performance. Part of being a tribute band is going the extra mile to create a sense of occasion. Landslide’s stage decoration, violet lighting, the heavy aroma of burning incense, their bohemian costuming right down to the black gloves adorning Clarke’s hands – all these individual touches are all part of taking their audience away. It can be tough being a tribute band for one of the most loved groups of all time. Clarke admits that funnily the most complimentary thing to hear sometimes is that people didn’t hate the show, because fans can be so fiercely loyal to the originals.   

So what is it that makes Fleetwood Mac so popular even today? Not only are they iconic singalongs found on any road trip playlist or karaoke line-up, but Clarke thinks it’s their relatability and sentimental value makes them timeless. “These songs have literally been the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives and are deeply intertwined with memories and experiences that have been significant to them”. It is music shared by old acquaintances of the original songs in the 70’ & 80s, but also by their children. 

For Clarke, a memorable performance is a marriage between the technical aspects coming together and an interactive audience. She has too many favourite songs to list, but notes “the most emotional I have felt on stage is when several hundred people sing the song Landslide with me…that’s an incredible experience”. She and her husband are more inspired by ‘old school music’ but also lists modern artists such as Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran as some of her favourites for their crafted lyrics and vocal ability. This got me thinking about the Starry Eyed and Thinking Out Loud tribute bands that might emerge 50 years from now…  

A lot of administration is involved in orchestrating a tour away from Auckland, Landslide’s home base, but Clarke reckons they’re keen to make the trip East a regular thing.  I’ve started rehearsing in the shower for Landslide’s next show, but until then, you can stay up to date with the group at www.facebook.com/landslideshow

PUB CHOIR AT SMASH PALACE

Tuesday night in Gisborne – what to do for pure, unpressured, lift-the-spirits fun? If you’re someone who loves to sing out loud but doesn’t really want anyone to hear you, then Pub Choir at Smash Palace is the place for you.

Here you will find somewhere between 10 and 30 kindred spirits gathered around a leaner in front of the fire, singing their hearts out.

Choir master Darryl Monteith leads with his personal fearless passion for singing, and a songwriter’s adulation for the poetry and musical skill of others. His accomplished and enthusiastic guitar playing includes intros just like you hear when the original song is playing on the radio, so sets the scene for everyone to start perfectly on the first note.

Pub Choir has been happening for over a year now, and with a new song introduced every week, there’s quite a folder of lyric sheets. Suggestions for songs to include are welcomed and always create a debate. The resident cats, Dash and Pash, meander over the leaner adding their voices to the debate and hoping for a cuddle on the side.

You learn the actual lyrics of songs you’ve been enthusiastically singing only the chorus of for years. In fact seeing the lyrics written down can be a revelation in itself. My personal unforgettable favourite is from Split Enz “I see Red” ….”Squeezed me out of your life like molten toothpaste…” poetry!

Some people are actually quite good. So there is a reliable foundation of tunefulness and harmony. You are mostly free to follow your own whim as to which part you sing. However Darryl has been known to divide the choir up into a group with brown eyes and a group with blue when two parts are clearly required.

I asked a few people why they come – what do you enjoy about Pub Choir? The most common response was along the lines of “I really like to sing and I’ve always loved the feeling of singing out loud – but I’m much too shy. This choir makes it OK. There’s no judgement and it‘s completely unpretentious: pure fun and definitely uplifting. There’s no commitment to come every week, so if you don’t turn up, you don’t feel like you are letting anybody down.”

Others spoke of being new to town and enjoying meeting new people, and of finding a new self-confidence in trying an activity which is out of their comfort zone.

Suffice to say everyone is welcome – 7pm Tuesdays at Smash Palace

Story by Carol Ford

Photographs by Sarah Cleave

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