Skinny Hobos album release tour
w/ His Master’s Voice, Coridian, Curly’s Jewels
San Fran, Wellington
Saturday 9 June 2018
His Master’s Voice – The Devils Blues
All photos by Joseph James
His Master’s Voice – The Devils Blues
All photos by Joseph James
I gotta say, before you scroll down, be aware that this review and the photos embedded are not safe for work. Seriously. If your boss catches you looking at some of these images during work hours you are going to have to have a very awkward conversation. This is not appropriate workplace content. This cannot be considered decent by any stretch of the imagination. It’s downright depraved. Got it? Well then read on…
Watching Unsanitary Napkin made me regret that I’ve become estranged from the Wellington punk scene. I used to get along to many more punk shows, but the frequency decreased as many of my friends in hardcore bands disbanded. I still crave a taste of that intense abandon now and again, but don’t get my fix nearly as often as I should. Unsanitary Napkin reminded me of when PEARS opened for Strung Out – hyper aggressive and slightly unpredictable. The two guys in the rhythm section sported proper mops – a shaggy one on bass and a Beatles-esque mop on drums. Long hair always has potential to visually enhance a show, and it was great to see the players whip it around as they played. The vocals coming from the girl on guitar came totally unexpected. She was channeling some heavy stuff, because the coarse shrieking didn’t sound natural. It was weird seeing these demons tear through violent songs, only to transform into cutesy “aw shucks” embarrassed kids between songs. I’ll award points for intensity, but then dock a few for the lack of confidence between songs. Fake it til you make it!
I glanced sideways at my friend Paris. I’d met up with her for dinner last week for a catch up seeing as she had just returned from a big stint abroad. She’d mentioned that she was keen to catch more live music and I invited her to this, the next gig I was planning to go to. Clearly I hadn’t put much thought into that, and now the poor girl was getting irreversibly scarred from this experience I’d recommended.
Next up were Vottones. wow… what a band!
They delighted in vulgarity. Raw, unrepentant filth. I didn’t understand much of what was said, except for lots of “fuck you”s, an MC5 cover, and repeated chanting of the line “I AM DIARRHOEA”. Class, pure class. This is what I’ve come for.
At one point the singer gestured to his chest as he introduced a song. Is he pointing to his heart? Because if so, it’s the wrong side. Moments later I see that, no, not the heart. He is definitely pointing to his nips with both hands. Just to hammer the point home, he walked along to the bassist to jerk his shirt up and put his microphone to a saggy man-breast while he played. What is this, singing titty hour?
Abusing the bassist didn’t stop there. The band riffed the tune to Sabbath‘s “Iron Man” as he removed his own shirt, grabbed the mic and stepped down into the crowd to sing. Although he didn’t stop there. He walked through the audience and out of the venue. It got to the point that he’d walked so far the mic lead had pulled out, but that didn’t stop him from furiously shouting into it. Upon returning to the front of stage, the singer jumped down and gave poor bass-man the wedgie from hell. As in, pulled the stressed undergarments so hard that he practically tore them in two. He then crouched down and put his head through the undie hole and allowed himself to get dragged around by his new noose, continuing to play guitar.
They also invited someone from the audience up onstage for a guitar duel at one point. I think they knew him – he could definitely play guitar well – but he could have been a random for all I know. I’ve been in that situation myself, pulled up onstage to play guitar for a band (although I don’t know how to play guitar).
People think I’m weird for going to these kinds of things. And they’re 100% correct. But they don’t know what they’re missing out on. Last year I saw a guy dressed as an astronaut duet with puppets. A few months ago I played guitar with the legendary Guitar Wolf. These are the experiences that make you know that you are truly living. Sometimes the path to enlightenment involves watching half-naked foreign men violate all concepts of decency in dimly lit bar on a Wednesday night. I don’t make the rules – that’s just how it is.
The hilarious thing is that after the set the guys from Vottones got changed from their leather rock gear into standard clothing. It’s weird to see a man walking around in baggy jeans and a cute sweater, knowing that just 10 minutes ago he was a vile rock lord. It shatters illusions to see that he was a nice guy in comfy clothes commenting on how good the chicken on the menu tastes.
The DHDFD’s came across as a weird cross between Deja Voodoo and The Datsuns. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s how it was – both terribly dero and stylistic. Scott on vocals was rocking the timeless outfit of only stubbies and a trucker cap, while his bandmates either side of him wore dress shoes. It was snotty punk with odd tangents. “We wrote this one after snorting meth, thinking that it was speed”, Scott explained, before popping a Gollum squat on a table amidst the audience for the next song. I would consider this set mad enough on any given day, but sandwiched between two crazy Japanese acts made it look mild by comparison.
Next up were the headliners- the almighty King Brothers. During soundcheck the drummer let loose and I found my attention snatched away from the conversation I was having with Paris. Dude has chops! It’s unfair really – borderline cheating. I came here to witness energy, aggression. Wild, untamed insanity. Stage dives and gimmicks. But musical talent? That’s just not punk rock!
The trio dressed sharply in suits, adding an edge of sophistication to their set. The started off with a bang, with the bass and guitar players climbing onto speakers and jumping off in unison.
The lead vocalist with greying hair dominated as the life of the party. “COME CLOSER!” he shouted, beckoning to us. “COME CLOSER!” As soon as a mass of bodies had collected in front of him he sprang off the stage, the first of countless croudsurfing sessions during the set.
I’m not sure who was most standout in the King Brothers. The floor adverse singer certainly deserves a mention. A madman front and centre, demanding attention and acting out like a toddler. He shouted and swore, climbing on things and calling for people to put him up and carry him around. But then the other two onstage held it down professionally, with their unceasingly good brand of rock. Usually either the music or the show suffers at expense of the other, but in this case both the madness and the talent impressed.
The most excellent moment was when the vocalist ran into the crowd, snatched a girl’s drink, sculled it down, grabbed a dude nearby for a quick pash, and before you know it was back onstage.
Towards the end the band picked up the drumkit and re-assembled it in the middle of the floor, continuing the set in the centre of the crowd. Our madman friend, shirtless by this point, circled his bandmates above their heads, doing donuts whilst crowdsurfing.
It’s an overused cliché, I know. But dammit I was speechless after that show. I just stood near the bar, mouth slightly ajar, trying to process everything I’d just experienced. Just… just… uh… woah. That was rock and roll. That was a show.
It’s bittersweet really. I had such a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed every wretched minute. But I am sad knowing that I’ll unlikely ever see a show that good again.
Photographer Connor Crawford recently posted a photo from King Brother’s Auckland show, captioned “King Brothers are the greatest band in the world”. I can 100% see where he comes from. Up until now Iron Maiden and Guitar Wolf both laid claim for my greatest live shows, but I think that I may need to revise this now.
And as for my friend Paris? Well yeah, she may need to get therapy at some point down the track, but she had the time of her life, and was grinning from ear to ear by the end of it.
Words and photos by Joseph James
That first guitar lick will tell you everything you need to know about The Amblers, a blues rock duo hailing from Johannesburg.
It’s a lazy, crunchy riff, freshly graduated from the school of Angus Young. But there’s something more to it too, like if AC/DC grew up in the American South.
The blues rock influences are evident too – you have your Rolling Stones, White Stripes, and Royal Blood. Dirty blues rock, y’know? These all tie in to give that dangerous edge. Sure, the riffs and beats follow a formula of sorts, but there are unpredictable elements that only emerge for a bar here or there. If you listen closely you can also hear some nice clean playing underneath the layers of distortion. These parts are heard to pick out, but would certainly be welcome more prominently in the mix.
Fuzzy and raw, the opening track reeks of cool. Resplendent with laid back riffs, rocking solos, sloshy drum cymbals – these guys know what’s up.
The title track is the one to get your toe tapping. Similar to the first song, with a faster riff, and more of a four of the floor stomping feel than the stop start vibe of the first track.
The song “Tired”, on the other hand, is slower and balladesque. The distinctive guitar remains, but organ is dominant during this track. Organ with so much vibrato I picture the underwater scene from Pinnochio. You know when cartoons speak underwater and their voice ripples and undulates as they talk? Another neat addition is crisp piano notes playing on the beat, clinking to accent where you’d sometime expect the drummer to play the bell of the ride cymbal, or a cowbell.
Drummer Jason Hinch shows off most of his chops during the last track, “Keep Me Screamin’”. The verses follow the vocal line – guitar line alternating delivery of Sometimes. The cleaner guitar tone feels welcome after three tracks of intense fuzz, but still retains the same energy.
For a duo, these guys sure pack a punch. Intimate listening reveals layer upon layer of subtle details that drown under the intense distortion. In fact, I can’t figure out how they would possibly pull these songs off live. Fuzzy, filthy and fleshed out, The Amblers will have you rocking out more than you’d expect possible from just two guys. They’re currently in the studio working on a new album, and that is something that excites me very much.
I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.
Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.
The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.
Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.
They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.
My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.
There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.
The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.
His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.
Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.
His Master’s Voice are:
Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)
Words and photos by Joseph James
I felt a tad overdressed for the gig tonight. But I was in Las Vegas, and dress codes are strict here, so I opted for something slightly nicer than the fluro cheetah print spandex top I’d worn to Steel Panther the night previous.
First act St Paul & The Broken Bones were actually the drawcard for me. They were also dressed to the nines, so perhaps my nice shirt was a good choice. There were eight of them onstage – three in the brass section, bass, drums, guitar, organ and vocals – all well presented and experts on their instruments. Frontman Paul Janeway rocked a dapper red suit with checkered labels.
And they could play! I heard someone near me call them “this generation’s white James Brown”. I’ll leave that to you to decide on, but they sure could channel soul music as well as the best I’d seen.
Janeway was a real character. He was possessed by the music, letting it control him. He would “conduct” the rest of the band, adding his angelic coos to the music. At one point he removed his golden shoes and threw them over his shoulder. Next he rolled around on the floor as he sang, before crawling under the drum riser – emerging from the other end like a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. I was in stitches. Janeway managed to do all this without missing a note, so I imagine he is well-practiced at this caterpillar routine.
The band played a mixed style, with some down-tempo soul music interspersed with upbeat funky numbers. Either way, it was great for dancing. Whether they laid down a groovy jam, struck up a flute solo, or let loose on the organ, it was all brilliant.
The band played for 80 minutes, despite only having two albums of material to draw from. And truth be told, I could have quite happily left after that set satisfied.
I’m glad that I didn’t though. Because as great as Saint Paul & The Broken Bones were, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were a step above.
That band – what a band!- they were a sight to see. To start with there were two drummers.
I don’t know if that excites everyone the way that it excites me, but two drummers in one band is something that I get very worked up about. They last time that I saw a band that featured two drummers was Tortoise, and they were outstanding. There was a dedicated percussionist as well – who may as well be a third drummer.
SO MANY DRUMS!!!!!!!
And moving on….
The excitement doesn’t stop there. There was bass – smooth, groovy bass. There were two guitarists – ridiculously talented shredders. Three talented backing singers (sat criminally low in the mix). And a trio of brass players, with two on saxophone and the star of the show adding his trademark trombone (and occasionally trumpet) to the trio.
I think back to when I first saw Gary Clark Jr play, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2013. His very presence exuded coolness. And his playing only confirmed how slick he was. Seeing Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – evoked exactly the same thoughts and feelings in me.
The man has talent. Whether he was singing or riffing along with the saxophones on the trombone, he impressed. I guess if you grow up around the hottest players in New Orleans, some of that talent is guaranteed to rub off on you.
It was all on. 12 people on stage will do that. Everyone was dancing about and enjoying themselves – both on and off the stage. It was so infectious. The lights added to the fun, although there was a touch too much strobing that made me dizzy. And I swear that the floor was flexing underneath me!
Trombone Shorty cut his teeth with the best, learning from an early age. And using all that knowledge and experience, he has fused the genres of his town to create fantastic, fun music, and assembled a stellar band to help him present it to the world.
As if it wasn’t enough to play such a great set, they finished the night by throwing a dozen free t-shirts into the audience. It was a generous notion, considering that those shirts cost almost the price of admission at the merch table.
I came to The Chelsea tonight hoping to see some class acts representing their respective cities musically, and wanting to dance. And sure enough, got both in spades. Now I can tick Saint Paul & The Broken Bones off my bucket list after their soulful set. And Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue blew me away. What better way to get a taste of the south?