Live Review: David Liebe Hart at Meow, Wellington

David Liebe Hart Au NZ tour poster
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David Liebe Hart and Th’ Mole

w/ Tender Moonlight, TV DiSKO & DJFK

Meow, Wellington

Monday 17 April 2017

Earlier today I was stumped. I had tried to explain my plans for tonight, and had no idea where to even start. How does one describe David Liebe Hart? Comedian? Singer? Puppeteer? Visionary genius?

I started with the obvious connection: Tim and Eric – the crazed duo who create absurd clips for the Adult Swim channel. Tim and Eric deal mostly with surreal clips that are deliberately poorly edited – often looking like old video tapes from the 90’s made by people on drugs (which, in all honesty, could actually be what they are). Their style of humour is awkward and shocking.

Liebe Hart was an obvious casting choice for the duo. Quirky, confident and outspoken on his beliefs in aliens. Most of the clips featured him singing about nonsense with grotesque puppets. And this odd comedy is exactly what I was hoping to see at the show.

Tender Moonlight at Meow opening for David Liebe Hart

Tender Moonlight

High energy opening act Tender Moonlight won my heart instantly. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie action montage as he played. He transported us back to the best of the ’80s, pumping drum machine beats and playing squealing guitar solos. He looked the part too, with a peroxide mop, sunglasses, pink lei around his neck, fingerless gloves and a leather jacket over his bare vest. On his legs he wore trackpants with knee pads (for powerslides?), which got ripped off half way through the set. His set was so sexed up that all the girls in attendance should probably go and buy pregnancy tests just in case.

Tender Moonlight at Meow opening for David Liebe Hart

 

David Liebe Hart

Technical issues delayed the start of the set. I guess that it isn’t easy to rig up the technology that they were using for the show. A projector shone images and videos onto a screen. Drum-shaped Donkey Kong video game controllers were plugged into a laptop for use as a trigger pad. Sound man Th’ Mole played a hybrid instrument of a keyboard and midi controller attached to the top of an acoustic guitar. And to clarify – that’s a computer keyboard for typing, not a musical piano-like keyboard. I’ll forgive them for not having all the gear set up correctly, seeing as it is such unconventional gear.

So Liebe Hart – always the crowd pleaser – came out to do some stand up comedy while we waited for the tech guys to work their wonders.

It set a weird tone. Tender Moonlight’s epic set had me in a good mood, and but this comedy routine had me questioning what I was in for. Sure, I was laughing, but what on earth is this insanity? Liebe Hart was full of confidence, rattling off jokes I didn’t understand and making the most outrageous impressions with weird voices. We were in for a unique night, that’s for sure!

David Liebe Hart with Alien singing Salame at Meow, Wellington
Liebre Hart went side of stage and hid once the issues had been resolved. We were treated to an immersive video introduction to the set. The plot loosely revolved around a long-secret alien war that had recently arisen, endangering the future of our planet. Cue David Liebe Hart – aspiring astronaut, alien abductee, and saviour of the Earth!

The next few hours were joyous. Despite being absurd, the music was fun to dance and sing along to. The cluster of the audience just in front of the stage were having the time of their lives. Poorly edited videos projected onto the screen at the back of the stage, visually ushering us into a trippy world of Liebe Hart.

David Liebe Hart at MEow, Wellington

He covered a range of topics – vegetables, vegemite, trains, aliens, romance, technology, ghosts, pornography and spirituality. I couldn’t tell how much was genuine and how much was a joke. Liebe Hart was passionate when discussing matters clearly close to his heart. He even sang a few worship songs, seeing as it was Easter Monday. The Christian Science Church he was a member of was clearly a big part of his life, so why include those songs in a set of comedy songs? Wouldn’t that undermine the sincerity?

But the more I thought about it, the less convinced I was that it was a joke. Liebe Hart appeared to believe in ghosts. He called on the audience to share details about any of their ghostly encounters – no Phony Tonys thank you! He talked a lot about his church, about past relationships. About living clean by avoiding negativity and eating well. The Tim and Eric style of video editing was clearly ironic for comedic purposes, but the actual content seemed sincere.

David Liebe Hart with a puppet singing at Meow Wellington

Well known for his ventriloquism, Liebe Hart made sure to incorporate his puppets into the show. Doug the Dog helped him sing about orange German Shephard ghosts. Chip the Black Boy sang about father/son relationships. A giraffe sang about “kiss[ing] her on the lips” and an alien introduced us to the Korendian [an alien race] concept of “Salame” – their term for greetings and farewells.

It was a genuinely fantastic night, much like the last time I saw a viral internet sensation play. The awkward humour could have been cringe, but the music was danceable, and Liebe Hart was such an entertaining character that all reservations were quickly dispelled.
David Liebe Hart with puppet singing Father and Son at Meow, Wellington


David Liebe Hart links:

Website: http://artbyliebehart.com/

Bandcamp: https://davidliebehart.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidLiebeHart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidliebehart2/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/artbyliebehart

Tumblr: https://artbyliebehart.tumblr.com/

 

All words and images by Joseph James except the tour poster.

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

 

3 Gigs, 1 Day for NZ Music Month: Shihad live at Meow, Wellington

Shihad NZMM tour Meow Wellington
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Shihad

Meow, Wellington

Sunday 1 May 2016

News about this show left me both excited and nervous. Like Shihad’s live FVEY debut at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, this gig was ballot only, meaning that if you don’t manage to win a ticket, you don’t go. Opportunistic gig-goers could try their luck by entering the draw through iHeartRadio and 2degrees websites, but that was the only way to get a ticket. It’s an interesting promotion, because it means that there is a risk of alienating the true fans who would be willing to pay for admission if they had the chance. But then again, if you are lucky enough to win, then you get to attend for free.

Thankfully, I did score some tickets to the gig. Again, my heart sank when I realised that I wasn’t able to get to the office in Wellington central to pick up my tickets within the specified time. But I emailed iHeartRadio and they understood, and were able to sort something that meant that I wouldn’t miss out on receiving my allocated tickets. And luckily for any other diehard fans who had missed out, Shihad released an extra allocation the day before.

Shihad were to play three gigs in three centres on May 1st to promote New Zealand Music Month. It must have been a tight schedule. I know they were pushing it fine to make it to the Wellington show because I was on the same flight as them. Thankfully they didn’t hit any unexpected delays.

Funnily enough, one of the last acts I saw at Meow had also done something similar and played another show in the South Island on the same day. Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I would have expected San Fran or Valhalla as the venue of choice for a heavy band of this stature. Usually Meow is not suitable for a rock gig because it’s full of tables, chairs and empty beer kegs. Thankfully they’d cleared enough floor space to make it manageable, like when Frank Turner played there last. Maybe frontman Jon Toogood thought highly enough of Meow to return, after playing there on his solo tour late last year.

Last time Shihad played in Wellington they opened for their heroes AC/DC. It was great, but it seemed wasteful having such talent play a daytime slot when the crowd still wasn’t full. This time was far better, packed intimately into a small bar, squashed in with a hundred or so die hard sweaty fans. The band members were all dressed fully in black, with only white lights shining upon them for most of the set, which made for a sharp and simple looking show.

Shihad have recently re-released their eponymous “Fish Album on vinyl, along with a ten inch pressing of the Blue Light Disco EP. The band decided that to celebrate this, along with the 20th anniversary of Fish, the had better play some songs off the album. The four songs from Fish, and two songs from Blue Light, were welcome appearances. Shihad have been drawing predominantly from FVEY for their sets over the past few years over the past few years, so it was nice to hear some older material that wasn’t so chug-heavy. In fact, I think it may be the first time I’ve seen Shihad play a bunch of those tracks. And just so we wouldn’t think that they were going too soft, they finished off with four FVEY songs, which left everyone gasping for breath.

I had initially held reservations, wondering if the band would need to hold back and pace themselves in order to last three sets in a day. I needn’t have worried. Sure, the set was short, but it was intense. Shihad are simply one of the best live acts around –  on both local and international scales. Their intense energy and quality songs made for a vivacious homecoming gig.

I saw both Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath play this weekend, and although both were incredible, I found myself enjoying the Shihad gig more. Toogood actually mentioned that Maiden are one of the reasons he decided to start a band, and Sabbath are obviously influences because Shihad covered their song “The Wizard” on their debut Devolve EP. Shihad have taken the best aspects of their influences and distilled them into something more accessible for the next generation. Take the song “The Living Dead“, for example. It could easily pass for a Killing Joke song, but is easier to listen to than most KJ songs.

I have nothing to complain about. The venue worked well, Shihad were devastatingly good, and the show was free. It was a treat to hear them play some really old material that doesn’t often arise, and I honestly think it was the most enjoyable gig of the weekend.

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.

 

Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Meow, Wellington

Frank Turner Sleeping Souls Meow Wellington New Zealand tour poster
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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

w/ Jon Snodgrass
Meow, Wellington
Saturday 18 April 2015

Let it never be said that Frank Turner doesn’t please his fans.

His output is prolific: a constant stream of new EP’s, splits, B-side collections and live DVD’s to appease his fans between studio albums. All on top of a hectic touring schedule.

Just last week he played all of England Keep My Bones at a show in Melbourne. To say I had looked forward to this gig would be an understatement.

Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I’m used to seeing small folk acts play here, not bands with this kind of following. Being sold out, the place was crammed, making it far more ‘intimate’ than I’m used too. Not that I’m complaining – how often do you get to witness a special small gig like this, put on by someone who has headlined Wembley?


Jon Snodgrass (Drag The River) started the night off singing some of his solo material. His voice was warm and comforting, reminiscent of Southern styled country music. He was soon joined onstage by Frank Turner wearing a Converge hoodie and armed with a harmonica.

The two of them played a bunch of songs from their Buddies split EP, a rough recording penned in only four hours during a stint together on the Revival Tour in America. The songs were far from perfect – clearly not well rehearsed – but the stories behind each song were entertaining and the relaxed approach from the duo set the mood for a fun night ahead. One of the highlights was the song “Happy New Year”. They bullied their stage tech into taking over on harmonica for that song, despite protests that he didn’t know how.

For his own set, Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, were all dressed in white button up shirts. The Sleeping Souls were the perfect choice of band. All four of them  were clearly into it, jumping and dancing about onstage, although mid-set they lived up to their name and had a sleepy sit-down while Turner played some material solo. Bassist Tarrant Anderson held his bass high on his chest and waltzed round with it, while Ben Lloyd boogied and ripped on guitar and mandolin. The placed was so densely packed that I couldn’t see the drums or keys from where I was standing, but I could certainly hear them.

This tour was supposed to promote the new album, but the new album hadn’t yet been released. Not to be deterred by this, Turner previewed a handful of tracks from said forthcoming album. The first song had a country feel. “Get Better” is a straight up thumper. Every song was great, leaving me eager to listen to get my mitts on the new album once it comes out.

The show was full of rousing sing-alongs, or more accurately, shout-alongs. The musicians were at home on-stage, happy to interact with the crowd and exchange banter. There were threats to cover Crowded House and Shihad. Drummer Nigel Powell played the tourist card and asked how many people in the crowd worked for Weta Digital. Turner told a funny story about how he was inspired to write a song in Melbourne about an ex-girlfriend who smelt like a koala.

Towards the end Turner noted how there was no point in doing the typical encore ritual, mainly because there was no room for the band to leave the stage. The “one more song!” chant was supported by the drums, and the *boom, boom, clap* evolved into a short cover of Queens’ “We Will Rock You”.

The encore included some of the hits from the early albums, ending with “Four Simple Words”. Turner conducted the band theatrically, before crowd-surfing during the last verse.

Fanboy rating: Next level

Fangirl rating: next level

This was Turners show #1666, and the last of the current tour. He recounts how one thousand shows ago he played an Iron Maiden cover. This remains testament to Turner’s longevity as a musician, due to his inclusive, humble approach to playing music. All the musos hung back after the show to meet the fans and sign merch, despite a 4am flight home the following day.

At the end of a tour bands are either too exhausted and at the end of their tether, or go all out and end with a bang. This was a case of the latter.

Because there’s no such thing as rock stars, just people who play music. Some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks.  

Frank Turner – “Try This At Home”

Turner is the anti-rock star. He knows how to master the stage and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’s just a regular guy. He swears and shouts and crowd surfs, and invites the audience to do the same. Many of his lyrics are thought provoking and tender, written from the point of a man who once idealised punk ethos and has since matured, but refuses to forget his past. Turner acknowledges the teenage anarchists and old fogeys alike, and invites them both to dance and sing along.

 

Joseph James