Live Review: Into Orbit – Unearthing Album Release Show

Into Orbit His Masters Voice Unearthing Album Release Show San Fran
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Into Orbit

w/ His Masters Voice

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 10th of February 2017

 

I feel guilty, but it has become common practice for me to start a gig off at San Fran standing on the deck outside. Beer in hand and inhaling the second-hand smoke from my fellow concert goers outside. I watch the passers-by and mix ambient sounds of Cuba street with the music coming from inside the venue. This time it was different. As I was conversing with my friend Jon we both suddenly stopped looked at each other with a blank stare. ‘Hey that sounds a bit like Sabbath‘ he says to me. ‘Or Zeppelin’ I replied with a heightened sense of curiosity.

Opening the door we move towards the stage with gusto. We are met by what His Masters Voice have come to dub The Devils Blues. A fitting title for their high-octane brand of music. As we stand in the center of the floor the sound surrounds us. A sound fronted by mournful wails reminiscent of the classic American soul. The crash of cymbals and driving bass with facial hair to match puts a giant smile on my face as the rhythm section are only a pair of cheap sunglasses away from ZZ Top’s legendary back row. Giving the rhythm just enough personal flair to give it a contemporary feel while staying true to the roots that took hold in the American South so long ago.

slowly but surely

His Masters Voice at San Fran. Image. Mathias Hallberg

It is a hard-fought battle, but slowly the crowd is being beaten into submission. More and more pour through the gates. One by one they are summoned to the dance floor by shrieking guitars. Carrying just enough gravel and grit to stand toe to toe with any Metal band that is foolish enough to take the challenge laid out by His Masters Voice.

As the set comes to an end I was feeling a bit too giddy. Obviously, I needed a beer and the bartender is glad to serve us up a couple of pints of the golden nectar. He would soon come to regret his decision for in my overly excited state I felt compelled to convince him of just how good the show was. The look of terror on his face earns a sensible chuckle. I slowly back away and leave him in peace.

Not one to disappoint Into Orbit step onto the stage and get straight to work, introducing us to their new baby, Unearthing. San Fran’s hall is filled with thundering drums and meticulously layered guitar. Into Orbit must be close to the top of the list of loudest bands that I have seen. So much sound is produced by just two musicians. Paul Stewart on the ever looping and layered guitar and Ian Moir manning the battery. Drawing a decent crowd with their virtuosic Prog Metal sound I am taken once again into their world joined by their ever growing fan base here in Wellington. Their story is told by everything from soft-spoken guitar melodies to full on sludgy heavy metal riffs. Always building and releasing tension in the room.

A successful album release show, sadly (or not) overshadowed by a world-class performance by the opening band.


Links

Into Orbit

His Masters Voice

Live Review: Jay Power at Meow, Wellington

Jay Power NZ tour
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Jay Power

w/ Spitfire

Meow, Wellington

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Last week when I interviewed Adelaide singer Jay Power I asked her to convince me that it was worth coming out to her gig on Wednesday night. She simply listed the musicians playing, and I could tell just from those names that the quality musicianship would be enough to make it worthwhile.

SPitfire MEow Wellington Jay Power.jpg

Image: Will Not Fade

First up was Wellington trio Spitfire, bringing a spontaneous experimental vibe to the evening. They had loose points of the arrangements agreed upon to navigate their playing, but most of it was improvised. The three musos onstage were clearly having a blast, exchanging glances and bouncing ideas off each other as they worked together to evolve their tunes. Ed Zuccolo held the bass down and led the melody simultaneously with his signature mini moog set up. Drummer Myele Manzanza pushed the time signatures and messed around with the flow. His fills and flourishes were disarmingly fast, and you could see him cracking up as he tried new and interesting approaches to see what would fit within the song.  Justin Firefly Clarke rounded out the tunes on guitar, fleshing out the sound with plenty of whammy.

The hour long set was thoroughly enjoyable. The band clearly had a blast messing around onstage, and I was enthralled with the sheer talent in front of me.

Jay Power Wellington Meow

Image: Will Not Fade

Headliner Jay Power arrived onstage exuding confidence, rocking a fur jacket that would earn Macklemore’s respect. Not only did she look the part, but she had a powerful voice to match. It was one of the colder Wellington days in a long time, not that you’d think it with the warm vibes and live energy that Power and her band brought with them.

They offered up a great selection of groovy pop-meet-soul-meets-jazz-meets-funk numbers from Power’s recent  album The Missing, as well as a slightly tongue-in-cheek cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony”- “My guilty little pleasure”, as Power put it.

A sign with “No Scat

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Image: Cat Power

” written on it had been placed on the wall just side of stage, next to a stuffed dead wallaby. If I hadn’t been to Meow before I would have wondered if this were a deliberate placement. Nevertheless, Power acknowledged the sign, and then cheekily threw some scat into her next song as a sign of defiance.

Following on from the talent of Spitfire was no easy task, but Power and her band managed to keep the bar high as they delivered song after song.Her band members were impressively tight, considering that they had only just recently assembled for this tour. Their sound was crisp, and although they were all seasoned players, I was surprised at how well they had gelled in the the limited time they’d had to do so.

They played to a backing track, so I guess that they had no room for error. Power’s long time guitarist Mikey Chan provided guitar squeals and solos between riffs, and Hollie Smiths’ rhythm section of Darren Mathiassen and Marika Hodgson kept it flowing on drums and five string bass, respectively. And of course they all did an amazing job of support Jay herself, who wailed her way through the set with classy showmanship.

I had been somewhat hesitant to resist the call of my bed and venture out to a a bar to see some bands on a chilly Winter night. I’m so glad that I did though, because the sheer talent was outstanding.


Jay Power is also playing up North over the next few days. Details below.

Friday August 12 – The Old Stone Butter Factory Whangarei

Tickets available here

Saturday 13 August/ Sun 14 August – Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival

 

Interview: Jay Power

Jay Power
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Soulful Australian singer Jay Power is crossing the Tasman to play Meow in Wellington on Wednesday night next week, before heading north for a show at The Old Stone Butter Factory in Whangarei on Friday, and four slots at Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival over the weekend. Will Not Fade shot off some questions to try and get a taste for what to expect at Jay’s shows.

Hi Jay, how are you?

Pretty pumped to be coming to New Zealand for the first time. I hear it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and I will see it for myself!

I can’t argue with that. I’m sure that you will agree when you see for yourself soon enough. For the uninitiated, how do you explain your sound to first time listeners? And what song would you play to show what you are all about?

It’s pop music with soul and jazz flavours over funk and hip hop beats. ‘When You Got Love’ might be a good indication of how I like to play. Laid back grooves with and upbeat feeling.

You’ve just switched from using your real name to the Jay Power moniker. Did this change represent something more?  

It’s partly practical (less letters, more simple ….Google approves) but it’s also liberating to reinvent myself artistically and enter a new phase in my career, which is what I was doing with the music too. I’ve enjoyed doing something new with a new name that’s punchy and to the point.

Sounds good to me. Following on from that, what is your reaction to the following short clip?

It never gets boring, it’s genius every time.

Your bio states that you were a finalist for South Australian Female Artist of the year last year. Tell me about what that involved.

It’s a yearly awards ceremony to recognise what’s happening in the local scene. I’d just released my album and I was nominated as a result of that. It was nice to be recognised by my peers, but I think the best bit about the event was being a part of something bigger and seeing what other artists are creating and achieving. And buying a new dress for it was pretty cool too.

Nice! In fact, your overall bio is an impressive read. What do you consider you greatest achievement to date?

Really? Thanks! The thing I’m most proud of is my album, a labour of love two years in the making alongside some of my favourite people in this world. It’s a big deal, making and album and it’s hard to make something that’s interesting and true to yourself, I think we mostly achieved that.

On this upcoming tour you’ve got both headlining shows, and festival slots. Does each type of performance require a different approach?

Yes it does and that’s part of the adventure. You connect with people in a different way each time and it brings something new out in your performance. In fact on this tour it’s even more varied since we’re playing at a jazz festival, so we might sneak in a jazz tune or two.

Your band boasts an impressive line-up. How did you manage to secure such talent?

Last year I had the pleasure of supporting Hollie Smith while she was touring in Australia. Darren Mathiassen and Marika Hodgeson (both from NZ) played in Hollie’s band and I was of course, super impressed. When I knew I was coming to New Zealand I got in touch to see if they would play with me – lucky me, they said yes. I’m also bringing Mikey Chan with me from Melbourne Australia, we just toured England together and he’s a pretty special guitarist.

You’re playing Wellington on a Wednesday night. Convince me that it’s worth missing out on sleep to come out and see your show.

It’s a Wednesday. What could you possibly be doing on a Wednesday that’s better than coming out to see seriously soul musicians in a great venue like Meow? Add to that the opportunity to see Spitfire play (Myele Manzanza, Ed Zuccolo and Justin Firefly – hell yes!) and I can guarantee Netflix simply can’t compare.

Consider me convinced! Ed Zuccolo used to play with Adam Page a lot so he is a drawcard for me in his own right. I can imagine that you will be busy on this upcoming tour, but you are travelling through some incredible parts of the country. Do you have any non-music plans for your time in New Zealand?

There will be non-music travel activities, but I don’t know what they are yet. I plan to go with the beautiful flow and see everything there is to see along the way. From my understanding I won’t be stuck for things to see and do.

You will be spolit for choice, trust me. I love my hometown of Wellington, and the places up north are stunning. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope to see you play at Meow on Wednesday.

Thanks for the interview Joseph.

J Jay xx


JAY POWER LINKS

Website

Facebook

Soundcloud

Twitter

YouTube

Instagram


NEW ZEALAND SHOW DATES

Wednesday August 10 – Meow Wellington, with special guest Spitfire

Tickets available here

Friday August 12 – The Old Stone Butter Factory Whangarei

Tickets available here

Saturday 13 August/ Sun 14 August – Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival

 

Live Review – Thundercat at San Fran, Wellington

Thundercat San Fran Wellington
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Thundercat

w/ Orchestra of Spheres and Thanks

San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Thundercat is the stage name of virtuoso Stephen Bruner, most famously known for his work playing bass with acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendancies and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. None of these are acts that I listen to often, including Bruner’s own music,  but I knew that it would be foolish to miss this show. Why? Because Thundercat has a reputation for being insanely good at playing the bass guitar, and with that much talent, the show promised to be good regardless of what he played.

Thundercat songs are smooth, soulful R&B styled tunes sung in falsetto. Bruner played his six string bass like a guitar, eliciting mellow tones that juxtaposed beautifully against his high singing voice. Jazzy, bluesy, and eccentric all in one, the vibrant fusion songs pulsated and writhed as the three musos onstage played off each other. They would coast along nicely, before breaking loose into chaotic tangents and solos that showcased the talents of the trio playing.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (2)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

Bruner was at home on stage. He wore an unassuming black tshirt and pants, with a red five panel hat showing a Japanese flag on his head, and white Birkenstock sandals and long grey socks on his feet. He would approach the mic for banter, pause, and just giggle to himself before gaining composure to say something. He discussed the merits of drinking water, having recently sworn off alcohol. He also dedicated a song to Peter Jackson, commenting on the Lord of The Rings installations he had seen at Wellington Airport. “What would you do if you actually saw an eagle that big?” he asked, before giggling and answering himself: “Die. Just die”.

He would hunch his shoulders forward and grimace with his eyes closed as he played. Hands like thick legged spiders scurried up and down his fretboard with finesse, churning out the groovy dancing melodies. He usually either bobbed up and down on the spot, or did a stationary strut, like a cocky rooster nodding it’s neck back and forward.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (1)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

Like Mitch Mitchell (of Jimi Hendrix fame), drummer Justin Brown not only held his own, but sometimes overshadowed his frontman. Having two snare drums allowed him to play both open handed and cross handed with ease, not that having just the one snare would have slowed him down at all. He coloured the sound with lightning quick fills and busy ghost notes, tirelessly playing with unmatchable energy and talent. The one slip-up I noticed was met with applause, as he lost grip of his drumstick and dropped it, only to pick up a spare and continue without missing a beat. As a drummer myself, I rate Brown as one of the most impressive drummers I’ve seen live, on par with The Mars Volta’s Thomas Pridgen.

Dennis Hamm rounded out the sound on the keys, giving more treble to a mix dominated by low-end. His spacey effects added to the swirly cosmic sound. The three were clearly well rehearsed, but you could tell that they had flexibility in their playing, because now and again Brown or Hamm would play something that sent Bruner into small fits of laughter over how monstrously talented they were.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (3)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

 

I attended the sold-out show expecting to be impressed by some slick playing. Well, I got that in spades. Awe-inspiring, mind-blowing – choose a hyperbole and it probably applies. I expected to see a world class musician show me his skills. Not only did I get that, but he had a world class drummer and keyboard player to match.

Joseph James


 

Thanks to Ben Stewart Photography for supplying the photos. Go ahead and like his Facebook  page to see more.

The above video was uploaded by In The Nick Of The Rhyme, another new Wellington  based music site. As you can see, Thundercat kept punters happy by playing some Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus material.

Live Review: Ash Grunwald at Meow, Wellington

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Ash Grunwald

Meow, Wellington

Saturday 28 December 2015

Blues rocker Ash Grunwald started the night off with a trifecta of songs about surfing. All three were ridiculously funny, especially “Dolphin Song” – based on a true story of a pod of dolphins rescuing him from a shark. The song ended with Grunwald making absurd squeaky dolphin noises into the microphone over the top of his guitar solo which lightened up the mood of the venue.

The first song had been relatively calm, reflecting the dinner table environment that Meow had put on. But a few songs in Grunwald couldn’t help but let loose with some roaring blues numbers. Out came the resonator guitar and the slide, and there was little holding back from then on.

Ash Grunwald Meow

It was a joy to watch him wailing and stomping and letting rip on the guitar. The tunes were infectious and before long most of the people in the bar were on their feet and moving. Grunwald’s didn’t take himself too seriously, cracking jokes and making silly impersonations in the middle of songs. He was clearly having fun on stage, and projected his humour onto his audience.

I expected a small setup from a man playing a solo show, but in reality it looked like he was piloting the Starship Enterprise. Grunwald was perched atop a red stool, with an impressively large array of effects pedal to his left, two microphones in front of him, and something called a foot drum at his feet. This foot drum was ingenious. It somehow housed cymbals, a snare, egg shakers, a tambourine and a bass drum – all playable through the use of pedals. It offered more dynamics than a standard stompbox and really enhanced the overall sound. The two different microphones also helped to mix up the sound, with one having plenty of reverb and effects going through it.

Grunwald played a range of songs from his repertoire, old and new. There was no prepared setlist, he just picked songs which suited the mood. He took requests from the audience, and also played a variety of covers drawing from blues legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Son House and Howling Wolf, as well as Van Morrison and Gnarls Barkley.

Two highlights included acapella covers of “Grinnin In Your Face” and “John the Revelator”. Grunwald ditched his guitar and bellowed the songs with his powerful voice, clapping to keep the beat. For the latter song he ventured into the audience and encouraged everyone to clap and wail along.

It was a fun time. Grunwald was at home on the stage, fueled by espresso martinis and improvising as he went.  He announced his last song after having played for an hour and a half, only to have to extend his set at the request of his audience – not that he seemed to mind. Some audience members thought highly enough to each tip him $20 for his performance, despite his protests that they should at least take a CD in exchange for their money. And is there a better indicator of great show than people insistent on paying more than the price of admission to attend?

Joseph James

You can also read my interview with Ash Grunwald from a few weeks ago here.