WILL NOT FADE’S BEST OF 2018

Ranges dunk!festival 2018
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Ah, the obligatory end of year listicle. They’re always fun. I love reading those written by other people, and comparing their thoughts against my own. My own annual summaries are never too comprehensive, but still a nice opportunity for reflection.

Live music in 2018

Caspian dunk!festival 2018
Caspian at dunk!festival

Caspian at dunk!fest 2018

The best show of the year was Caspian at dunk!festival in Belgium. Hands down. It was incredible. The lights, the music, the sheer intensity was overwhelming. I could barely comprehend it all as it unfolded in front of me. It was obvious that they put a lot of planning into creating a fully immersive experience.

The Ocean dunk!festival 2018
The Ocean at dunk!festival
The Ocean at dunk!fest 2018

One of the other headliners, Berlin’s The Ocean were also stand out. I don’t usually listen to heavy music of that ilk, but they’re coming to play a small metal venue in my hometown of Wellington next year, and there is no way I’m passing up the chance to see such an incredible band again.

The King Brothers Meow
King Brothers at Meow

King Brothers

Like their Japanese peers Guitar Wolf, King Brothers and the Vottones delivered incredible performances, with emphasis on the crazy rock and roll antics. They’ve set the bar high, and I don’t think that I’ll see any act play such a wild or shocking set for a log time

Rhian Sheehan

Rhian Sheehan has been a favourite of mine ever since I first heard Stories From Elsewhere. I’d missed his past few shows, so jumped at the chance to see him play this time. It was just as amazing as I’d hoped, with beautiful visuals added to complement the stunning music.

David Byrne

The Talking Heads frontman played one of the most impressive shows I’ve seen. Not only was the music great, but the choreography, lighting and stage management was outstanding – not to mention his extremely talented band who were all mobile for the entire set as well.

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington
Frank Turner at San Fran

Other highlights include seeing many of my favourite bands: Biffy Clyro, Shihad and Frank Turner (twice!).

Releases in 2018

I’m surprised at my own favourite releases of 2018. Most of what I listen to falls under the umbrella of rock music, but I’ve found myself branching out and exploring pop, hip-hop, folk etc a lot more this year. 

The Adults. – Haja. Jon Toogood was blown away by the wedding band when he got married in Sudan. He recorded some beats with them, recruited some local talent in New Zealand, and came up with this brilliant collaborative album as a result. I didn’t expect a feminist hip-hop album from NZ’s best rock singer, but it became my most listened-to album of the year. Seeing it played live was also a real treat.

Estere Meow Wellington

Estere with The Aduots at Meow

Amy Shark – Love Monster. What is happening to me? Another favourite album I’ve thrashed this year, and this time it’s pop music! I’ve thrashed Amy Shark’s music so much since discovering her, and had a total blast seeing her live at the Hunter Lounge when she came to Wellington.

Tash Sultana – Flow State. I’m gutted I missed Sultana when she came to Wellington, because this record just oozes with talent. Plodding along with laid back vibes one minute, and melting your face off with guitar shredding the next, Sultana proves her abilities time and time again, playing all the instruments on this ripper of a record.

The Beths – Future Me Hates Me. I discovered The Beths thanks to cartoonist Toby Morris, who designed one of their tour posters. Ironically I missed said tour, but managed to see The Beths play their irresistibly catchy tunes when opening for Bloc Party, and at a Christmas fundraiser in December. They’re blowing up fast, so make sure to see them in intimate settings while you can.

Listener at Valhalla
Dan Smith of Listener at Valhalla

Listener – Being Empty, Being Filled. Listener’s latest album rocks hard. It’s a fascinating concept album which explores the lives of inventors and creators. I was stoked to see them live at Valhalla in Wellington, and Dan and Kris even stayed at my apartment whilst holidaying in New Zealand after their tour.

Winter Dust – Sense By Erosion. Winter Dust immediately cemented themselves as one of my fave post-rock acts with their last EP, so it was awesome to find that their new album is just as good. And album that I had high hopes for, and my expectations were exceeded.

Toe – Our Latest Number. Same old Toe. This EP is exactly what we need from such a talented band. The only problem is that it’s too short. More please!

Thrice – Palms. I’m slightly bitter about Thrice, who postponed an upcoming Australian tour (that I had tickets to) in favour of supporting Bring Me The Horizon on another tour. That said, there’s no denying how great Palms is. Haunting songs that root themselves deep in your mind. I find myself humming their melodies all the time.

Alien Weaponry

Alien Weaponry in Porirua on Waitangi Day

Alien Weaponry – Tū. I know that I announced Alien Weaponry as the next big thing a while ago, but I never anticipated the level of success they’ve achieved in such a short span of time. This year they’ve released their dubut album, toured Europe and America, and are currently on tour supporting Ministry. We can talk about their age, their culture, and an assortment of other topics, but when you boil it down,Tū is a great album full of furious thrash metal and it’s a blast to listen to at loud volume.

Paper Kites – On The Corner Where You Live. A late addition from my favourite folk act. I don’t think I’ve ever covered Paper Kites on this site, but you really should look them up if you aren’t familiar with them. It starts of with a stunning horn piece, which launches into a well crafted album saturated in feeling. A hazy outing perfect for listening to when you need some down time.

Looking to 2019

I’ve already got a lot lined up for next year. There are some great NZ acts playing Wellington over the next few months: Into Orbit, Skinny Hobos, Beastwars and Head Like A Hole, Hiboux.

I’m also travelling to Sydney in February to see Cog (the same weekend that Thrice were supposed to play before postponing that tour). And I’m excited to attend Download fest in Melbourne in March, featuring heavyweights like Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Alice In Chains and Slayer.

Conclusion

2018 has been a year of up and downs, like any other year. But if I could pick one moment to encapsulate what I want to remember this year by, it is this:

I had just rejoined my dear friends in the band Ranges. I’d travelled for nearly 40 hours to meet them in Belgium, where I would accompany them on their first European tour. I’d taken the longest commercial flight in the world (Auckland – Doha), and that was just one leg of the journey. As you can imagine, I was exhausted and jet lagged, but full of excitement for seeing my friends and exploring a new continent. 

The first show was at Kinky Star in Ghent. Ghent is a wonderful picturesque town with canals, cobblestones, a castle and all sorts of exciting things that you would never see in New Zealand where I live. I’d had a few (strong) Belgium beers, which didn’t help my jet lagged body in the fight against sleep.

Astrodan Kinky Star Ghent
Astrodan in Ghent
Belgian locals Astodan opened. They were awesome. Great guys, great music. Check out their album Ameretat.

Sadly, I didn’t make it through Ranges entire set. But there is one thing stays in my mind when I think back on that show. One of the locals kept shouting “Perfecto!” at the band. It was both hilarious and endearing, the most wholesome heckling ever. The guys from Ranges loved it too.

And that’s what I want to take away from 2018: even when I’m feeling worn out and have to tap out, there is always something small that I can focus on to laugh at and cheer me up.

Perfecto, my friends, perfecto!

p.s. Let me know what you enjoyed reading on Will Not Fade this year! What do you want to see more of? Comment below, or on Twitter or the Facebook page. I’m keen to take on feedback.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Living Colour at San Fran, Wellington

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington
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Living Colour were my stand out band of 2017. I managed to interview drummer Will Calhoun early on in the year (one of the highlights of my blogging career). Their Auckland show at Powerstation was incredible – easily my favourite gig of the year. A few months later, when travelling in America, I was fortunate enough to catch guitarist Vernon Reid put on a Chuck Berry tribute night in New York. And then in September they dropped the awesome new album Shade.

So imagine my pleasure when they announced another tour which included a Wellington date. I would have happily flown up to Auckland again to see them, but managed to save the money on flights and accommodation, and got to see them at a more intimate venue!

Curlys Jewels San Fran Wellington

Curly’s Jewels opened the night with a bang, launching straight into the set with plenty of energy. They’re exactly as I remembered them from when they opened for Skinny Hobos in June, with colourful singer Jel Pollock injecting plenty of character into the show. I noticed that the crunchy guitar tones sounded especially good at times, and should come to the forefront more. There were a few slight hiccups, but they managed to deliver with their brand of fun rock music.


This tour marked the 30th anniversary of Living Colour’s landmark debut album, Vivid. It’s an album that still stands the test of time, both musically and thematically. I remember discussing the political nature of many Living Colour songs during an interview with Calhoun last year, and he suggested that the human rights issues that the band writes about will always need to be fought for – regardless of  which government is in power. Issues like discrimination, racism and gentrification are still just as prevalent in society now as they were decades ago.

And of course, the music is still excellent. It’s fascinating how the songs have evolved as the band have played them over the years – speeding up parts, adding different fills and flourishes, adding and extending some sections, and breaking down other segments. Its only natural that the band would change how they play things over such a period. Heck, in a hilarious recent interview with May The Rock Be With You, guitarist Vernon Reid confessed that he plays completely different solos in different pressings of the same song.

Vernon Reid Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Singer Corey Glover is phenomenal, no doubt about it. He can switch from soul to hip hop to hard rock with ease, and this was most apparent during “(Open Letter) To A Landlord”. He really broke the song down, showing off his impressive vocal range with powerful trilling. The crowd reciprocated towards the end, loudly singing the chorus back at the band. It sounded great.

Vivid was the name of the game, but that didn’t stop the band from visiting other albums. They played two tracks from last year’s Shade: “Freedom of Expression”, and my favourite from the record: “Come On”. It’s a shame that the cover of Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” got dropped from the set, because their hard rock interpretation of the hip hop classic is fantastic.

Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Not only did Glover have vocal chops, but good banter too. He had many comical exchanges with Reid throughout the night, the two of them sniping at each other like an old married couple. This is the third time I’ve seen the two of them together on stage, but it’s still just as funny now.

“These are old songs” Glover shared. Reid shot him a look. “No, they are,” Glover continued, “They’re really old and that’s the truth. Some of y’all weren’t even born when these songs came out.” I had a little giggle at that one, seeing that the statement applied to me.

At times it felt like the band verged on overplaying, to the point of doing a disservice to the songs by being too flashy. I guess it’s hard for musicians of that calibre to hold back when they have such talent they can draw upon. But they came here to put on a show, and they sure succeeded in doing so.

My highlight of the set was Doug Wimbash’s bass solo. Wimbash boasted the biggest pedal board I’ve ever seen a bass player use [ironically, master bass player Thundercat has the most minimalist bass pedal setup I’ve noticed]. He dedicated his song to his wife and the lovers in the crowd before launching into sounds I didn’t even think possible from a bass guitar. He created layers using a looping pedal, building it up to an expansive track that swept us away. It was fun to watch too, because he would act out the sounds as he played them, sweeping from side to side as he used his wah pedal, or mouthing the sounds as he accented certain notes.

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Calhoun also had a solo later in the set. You can probably already tell I’m a big fan, but he deserves the praise. First of all: he’s just a fantastic player. He’s all over the kit, tastefully colouring in the sound with all percussive means at his disposal, and throwing in plenty of metal blast beats just to mix things up. Secondly: he’s innovative. He has all manner of weird and wacky custom cymbals, drums and hardware that he helps to design, but his solo takes him beyond drumming when he uses electronic hand drums and modulators. During his solo he took time out from behind the kit to lay down an electronic track with looping pedals, before returning to the drum set to play over the music he’d just formed. A truly next-level musician who thinks beyond the constraints of his instrument.

For the encore, Reid was about to launch into a spiel, but caught himself and just offered: “You’ll know when you hear the guitar line”. Sure enough, he played the recognisable chords to Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World” and nothing more needed to be said. Chris Cornell’s death impacted rock fans around the world, so this rousing tribute came as no surprise.

It was their second cover of the night, the other being “Memories Can’t Wait”, by CBGB’s contemporaries Talking Heads.

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington

They finished the night reinforcing just how diverse and able they are, transitioning from the furious thrash metal of “Time’s Up” to the infectious funky call and response of “”What’s Your Favourite Colour?”. Both songs were extremely fun to dance to in their own ways.

I watched the crowd disperse after the show and noticed that a number of notable NZ musicians had been in attendance, such as Rhian Sheehan, Steve Bremner and Jakob drummer Jason Johnston. To me, that’s as good as any indication that Living Colour have got the goods – if some of the best in the game show up for the gig.

And it was damn good. Sure, there were a few technical hitches, but Living Colour are some of the best musicans I could name. I’m still shocked that they came to play a small bar in Wellington, but I’m stoked that they did.

Living Colour Set List San Fran Wellington
The set list. 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Frank Turner at San Fran, Wellington (2x shows)

Frank Turner NZ Be More Kind Poster
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Frank Turner (solo) – Show 2284

Matinee show

San Fran, Wellington

Thursday 29 November 2018

It was April 2015 when Frank Turner last played Wellington. He’s since released two albums, Positive Songs For Negative People (2015), and Be More Kind (2018). That show he played at Meow was #1666, and today was #2284 and #2285, which just goes to show how often he plays.

When first announced, this date was billed as a solo show. I was disappointed, but still planned on going. Then plans changed: The Sleeping Souls were also coming to play with Frank – yay! Tickets promptly sold out, so Turner opted to play a second set for those who missed out – a solo matinee set. Double yay – two Frank Turner gigs in one day.

I’d taken half the day off work to make sure that I could get here in time for the 5pm start. I obviously don’t go to matinee shows much, because I couldn’t get over how bright the venue was in the day. Aren’t bar venues supposed to be dark and dingy? Not that it mattered, because I was about to see one of my favourite artists play.

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

This was my fourth time seeing Turner play, and it felt different. Dressed casually, and armed with an acoustic guitar, he rewarded his fans by playing a both hits and deep cuts, spanning his solo career. As you can imagine, he drew largely from his most recent album, but he covered the essentials, as well as some unexpected numbers.

I’ve been having a hard time recently, and this set was just the remedy I needed. Hearing Turner open with the gentle encouragement of “Don’t Worry” washed away all the turbulent crap filling my head and eased me into the moment.

And soon I was dancing and singing along to his rousing tunes. His recent albums bore themes of positivity and kindness, which did wonders to bring the mood up in the venue. Turner always encourages participation at his shows, coaching us to sing along with him.

That said, a solo acoustic show is the perfect setting in which to play slower tunes, such as “Song For Eva Mae” and “Journey Of The Magi”. But those moments didn’t last long, with Turner infectiously turning the intensity up throughout the set. I would have loved to her “There She Is” again, having fallen in love with the song when I saw him play it in Vancouver last year, but he did play 18 songs… as a warm up… so I shan’t complain.

Turner was as charming as always, dropping funny anecdotes about sitting next to a doomsday prepper on a flight, and screaming at the band Slayer in a petrol station at 3am one morning. Intimate shows like this are a great setting for artists to open up and share the stories behind the songs [another similar one that jumps to mind was when I saw Into It. Over It. in Melbourne].

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

His voice was sounding fairly hoarse by the end of the set. I know he recently cancelled an instore show in Dusseldorf last week to give his voice a break, which leaves me wondering how he is going to hold up later tonight.

It was a fantastic show, and I’m glad that I chose to attend this set as well as the main one, but something was lacking. Certain songs just needed that extra oomph that only a band could offer. I’m looking forward to the real deal later on.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Show 2285

w/ The Hard Aches and Emily Barker

I walked home to my nearby apartment to grab something to eat, draft up my review and upload the data to setlist.fm, before promptly returning for the second show.

Emily Barker played country/folk with a tinge of danger – similar to Emma Ruth Rundle at times. I was surprised that Turner didn’t come out to reprise his part on Barker’s song “Fields of June” – like he’d done with Jon Snodgrass when playing Buddies material last time they were in town – but I guess that he needed to rest his voice as much as he could. It sounded weird hearing country/Americana styled music from someone with an Australian accent, but Barker pulled it off with no worries.

Emily Barker San Fran Wellington

Emily Barker

I preferred Barker’s countrymates The Hard Aches, a punk duo who boasted an impressive sound for just two people. Royal Blood make way, because The Hard Aches are going to give you a run for your money! Their sound was energetic and fun, with great vocal harmonies. They sounded familiar, without me being able to put my finger exactly on who they reminded me of. Some of their music was snotty punk with strong Aussie accents, but a lot of songs featured deceptively mature songwriting.

The Hard Aches San Fran Wellington

The Hard Aches

You know how I mentioned before that Turner’s first set was great, but lacked something? Well, this time that void was well and truly filled. The Sleeping Souls are a well oiled machine – as you can well imagine after having played literally thousands of shows together. Their collective experience shows because they’re hella tight, and great showmen.

Obviously they were always going to draw heavily from the last record on the Be More Kind Tour, but the entire first half of the set was from the last three albums. I guess they haven’t played in New Zealand since releasing the past two records, so they needed to cover some of that material.

But it’s the older material (first four records) that the crowd really lapped up, singing along to wholeheartedly. Turner openly admitted that he was struggling with his voice by this stage, so welcomed the help from the “Wellington Gospel Choir”.

Turner took on a secondary solo spell for the night, playing calmer numbers “The Lifeboat” (a deviation from the planned set because it was requested and easy to sing) and “Glorious You”. But from there on in it was all go, with crowd favourite sing-alongs and mosh pits. Each song seemed sequentially better than the last.

The first three songs during the encore had also featured earlier in the night during the solo set, but felt fully fleshed out and full of vigor this time. Everyone was whipped into a dance frenzy for “Four Simple Words”

Frank Turner preaches a lot about his idealised punk-rock world, where people care for each other and can tolerate differential viewpoints without resorting to them-and-us politics. Where we can link arms with strangers and sing and dance together despite our differences. And although I’m sure he says virtually the same thing at every show, I think that he genuinely believes in his message of community. During the final song “Polaroid Picture” he substituted a line about London venue The Astoria closing down for Wellington’s own Bodega. This showed his awareness for our local music scene, and that he truly places importance on live music and how it can bring people together. A subtle difference that I really appreciated when I picked up on it.

Tonight I got to see one of my favourite musicians play a whopping 43 songs. And it was awesome. I got to see the intimate, poetic side to him, as well as the road-weathered master showman. And I feel incredibly blessed for it. If you get the chance to see Frank and the Sleeping Souls play, seize the opportunity!

 

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington set list

Turner switched “Long Live The Queen” for “The Lifeboat”

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Bill Murray & Jan Vogler in Wellington

Bill Murray Jan Volger
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Bill Murray and Jan Vogler – New Worlds Tour

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jan Vogler and Bill Murray met each other on a plane ride from Berlin to New York. A friendship formed, and soon the two decided to collaborate. Vogler, being a renowned cellist, and Murray a famous actor. The result is look into fine arts, with particular focus on classical music and American literature.

Joining the duo onstage Vogler’s wife, Mira Wang, on violin, and pianist Vanessa Perez. There was also a young man who turned the pages of Perez’s sheet music for her.

I’ve toured across America and some of Europe with the band Ranges during the past year, and have been trying to figure out how I could make a living doing something along those lines ever since.  I think I may have found the answer. Perez employs someone to turn the pages of her sheet music. I could do that! I can become a page turner! I’ll travel the world, hanging out with rock stars, living the dream. I’m willing to risk a few paper cuts for that kind of career!

Bill Murray Wellington

It’s a great concept – poetry and prose with powerful music for company. In the past I’ve extolled hardcore band La Dispute for trying this themselves (their Here, Hear EP’s fuse literature with experimental music). Sometimes Murray gave solo readings, sometimes the band played classical instrumental pieces, and sometimes they all came together, either for songs with Murray on vocals, or for literature with classical backing.

I’ll be honest, this is not my usual style of music. Other than the recent Rhian Sheehan show, the last time I saw a cello in a live context was in Portland, Oregon last year, where I saw cello quartet Apocalyptica play a set of Metallica covers. It was about as far removed from this event as you can imagine.

But although I seldom listen to chamber music, I can still appreciate the talent. As always, Michael Fowler Centre sounds incredible. And you could tell that the trio playing were masters of their craft. They plucked, bowed, strummed and played with great passion and dynamics.

Bill Murray Jan Volger Wellington

We also had some more modern numbers. A rousing short version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” had everyone in the auditorium joining in loudly. West Side Story, featured a few times (please picture a grown man singing “I Feel Pretty” and running about in excited circles.) Murray downed a tumbler of liquor, because launching into Tom Wait’s “The Piano Has Been Drinking”

As you’d expect, Murray was quite the character. He has someone managed to evolve beyond the image of the standard acting celebrity Internet forums share rumoured urban legends of him showing up to random parties uninvited, or taking over bars to serve tequila to all the patrons, regardless of what they order. Many stories end with Murray telling someone: “No one will ever believe you.”

It is also heavily rumoured that the contracted purchasing agreement between pharma cretin Martin Shkreli and the Wu Tang Clan specifies that Murray is legally allowed to burgle the exclusive copy of the Wu Tang album from Shkreli, should he choose to.

Of course, we are all familiar with Murray’s quirky film characters too. Which made me wonder whether we were seeing the true Murray tonight. Is it authentic, or is it an act?

Either way, he was thoroughly enjoyable. Drawing upon his acting talents, he adopted accent for some readings. And he was wickedly funny, both in dialogue and mannerisms. His singing ability was nothing to write home about – not bad, but not good either – but he injected such life into the performances that songs captivated regardless.

I’d love to sit down with Murray and Vogler to pick their brains, and see why they chose the pieces they did. What kind of narrative or message or theme did they want to share with us?

Bill Murray Jan Volger Wellington

The literature was interesting too. My favourite was Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Dog”. Another highlight was an extended passage of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Murray sat down to read (in a Southern hick accent) when one person approached the stage and left placed a small gift bag at his feet. Murray continued to read, but his fan clearly needed some attention. Ushers came down to sit with her, but she actually ran onto the stage and chased Murray later in the show.

At the end of the night, before the last song, someone from backstage came on with a bouquet of roses and handed them to Murray. Murray proceeded to run about the auditorium, pelting members of the audience with said roses. Usually offering someone flowers is a lovely gesture, but seeing a grown man attempting to hiff them up to those seated in the balconies was pure comedy. And our friend from earlier, who had left the gift onstage, received a rose for her efforts too.

All up it was a great night. Some of it was a beautiful look into music and literature. Some parts were more shambolic. But it was all engaging and entertaining, and everyone left with cheery smiles, enraptured with the comedic spell Murray had cast.

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review & Photos: Listener at Valhalla, Wellington

Listener Au NZ tour poster
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Listener

w/ Yor Cronies and New Age Leper

Valhalla, Wellington

Wednesday 3 October 2018

In typical fashion, I missed the opening set tonight because I was ordering food [burgers that took an hour to come after we’d ordered, and were disappointingly inadequate – thanks Bristol!] So I cannot report on Yor Cronies’ set. I can, however comment on New Age Leper.

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In short, they were great. Hard rocking, drawing on a mix of styles, they impressed with their intense, wah-heavy jams. They collectively picked on Bjorn the singer, making jokes at his expense. All four members were fun to watch, but the best was seeing the lanky tumbleweed on guitar and synths, whose ‘fro bobbed up and down with his every movement. If they tighten up their set a bit by rehearsing more and cutting down on the time spent tuning between songs, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Listener at Valhalla

Pre-show huddle

Listener precluded their set with a small pre-show ritual, the four of them gathering in front of the drums for a pep-talk to get into the right frame of mind. I’ve heard that on their rider, they request a personalised note of encouragement from each venue, which is so endearingly wholesome. It shows how much they value positivity.

They started off the set strong, with two of the heavier songs from recent album Being Empty: Being FilledNow I am a fan of Listeners early work, but this recent album really upped the ante, bringing the music to the forefront to match frontman Dan Smith’s impassioned vocals.

The quartet were firing on all cylinders, bringing such visceral energy to the foray that I was surprised at how big of an impact they made.

Listener at Valhalla

Dan Smith

Smith stood front and centre, barefoot and playing bass guitar. I see his poetic lyricism as one of the major factors that draw you into Listener’s music, and thankfully the mix was clear enough that we could hear most of his vocals. He stood half a foot back from the microphone, eyes closed and passionately swaying his head side to side as he sang.

Smith’s equally mustache-blessed partner Kris Rochelle injected life into the music from the drums. He was a wonder to watch, reaching up to hit cymbals set so high that they threatened to tip with every strike against them. I noticed that many songs featured steady continued beats on the bass drum, giving a throbbing urgency to the music that I hadn’t picked up on before. Apparently Rochelle recorded all the music of the recent album himself, so hats off to him not only for his drumming performance, but for his multi-talented musical abilities.

Tim Stickrod and Jon Terrey stood on either side, both on guitar. They helped to fill out the sound, be it frenzied, intense rock, or more sombre numbers.

Listener at Valhalla

Jon (L) and Kris (R)

After a few songs Smith stopped to thank us for the applause, before opening the floor for a Q&A sessions. Turns out Smith’s favourite colour is black – yes it is a colour – (I thought October was his favourite colour?), but no-one had decent questions worth addressing so the band delved back into their set.

Valhalla is traditionally Wellington’s venue for metal music, so it seemed like an odd choice for Listener to play. But on the night it seemed ideal. Size wise, it felt intimate for the 60-odd people present. The sound mix was great. And Listener rocked out more than I had anticipated, making them feel more suited to this heavy venue.

I was loving it. And looking around the crowd, others were gaining something special from the night as well. I noticed a few people mouthing along to Smiths busy dialogue for Wooden Heart era songs, clearly feeling a connection.

The set drew from new and old, heavy and mellow. I was certainly moving along to some of the more rocky songs, and completely immersed in the stories of the more solemn songs. Songs like “Seatbelt Hands” are real tearjerkers, but “It Will All Happen the Way It Should” took the pain and rawness to the next level . And when Smith brought his trumpet out for a few songs it felt so perfect.

Listener at Valhalla

Fantastic music, riveting performance, immersive showmanship. You can tell that these guys have paid their dues gaining experience on the road. There were no encores; Listener are not a band of pretense. But they were extremely gracious, and happily gave their time to all who chose to linger around to chat to the band after the show. I had a total blast and feel more enriched for having attended.

Listener at ValhallaListener at Valhalla Listener at Valhalla Listener at Valhalla

 

Words and photos by Joseph James