An Ode To An Important Local Venue: Bar Bodega

Bodega Wellington


Bar Bodega hosts some of my most revered memories.

Florida punks Against Me! played there back in 2011, back when their front man was still a man. Sweat dripped from the ceilings as the crammed-in crowd tussled, swayed and shouted along to the songs. There were stage dives aplenty, but not many came off the stage. My friend Steve and I took turns boosting each other up. We cupped our hands near our knees for the other person to step onto and launch off.

I remember my first time witnessing a Guitar Wolf show. I’d seen Foo Fighters play in Auckland the night beforehand, and struggle to decide which band put on the better performance. Guitar Wolf were almost cartoonish – Japanese rockers fully buying into the stereotypes. They preferred to suffer under intense heat rather than ditch their leather jackets and sunglasses. There was thumb wrestling, human pyramids, and a LOT of noise. The music wasn’t that good, but never mind that, it was about the overall experience.

Cody ChessnuTT blessed us with his smooth, soulful R&B beats on the night of his 40th birthday. I had been awake for roughly 36 hours trying to juggle university assignments around work, but as exhausted as I was, it was worth staying awake late into that Monday night.

I’ve marvelled at my favourite singer Frank Turner as he spread the folk punk gospel from his pulpit, and was inducted into some other-worldly ritual when Killing Joke tried to set off the apocalypse from the stage.

Locals and internationals; punks, rockers, soul-singers, blues-players, beat-layers, rappers, wailers and crooners have all graced the stage, amongst many others. Look around the bar and you will see many records, photos, posters and backstage passes that lay testament to the many musical memories that still linger within the venue. Furthermore are the memories of first bar, from its original site on Willis Street 25 years ago.

Bodega has now followed the likes of Mighty Mighty, James Cabaret, and Puppies by closing up shop. May the memories remain long after the doors have shut.


Joseph James

Live Review: The Beards at Bodega, Wellington


The Beards

Bodega, Wellington

Friday 15 April 2016

The Beards are a novelty rock act from Adelaide who sing about facial hair. They are both funny and musically interesting, making them comparable to other bands like Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords. One difference though, is that The Beards only have one joke, and that joke is that every song is about beards. Only beards. Beards, beards, beards. Somehow they’ve managed to stretch that joke across four albums and 11 years of playing together as a band.

You’ll think that they’re either idiots or geniuses, depending upon your stance on beards. They sure are dedicated to their theme, but the joke could get tired quickly if you’re not into it. I think they do brilliantly to keep the same joke fresh and varied, and there is no denying that they play well and put on an entertaining show.

For their first set they treated us to a “classy” semi-acoustic performance, dressed in formal wear and perched on stools at the front of the stage. It wasn’t full throttle, but this didn’t stop the crowd singing along at full volume. The highlight of this set was “The Beard Accessory Store”, partly because of its rousing nature, and partly because the lyrics were so repetitive that anyone who wasn’t familiar with the band was able to join in the singalong after a few lines. Another treat was a cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”, because obviously if The Beards were to cover any other band, it’d have to be ZZ Top – the band with the two best beards in rock, and to top that: a drummer named Frank Beard.

The second set was more energetic, with the full rock band set up. They may be a comedy act, but the members of the band can still play well. There were vocal harmonies and guitar solos aplenty. Some less conventional instruments like keytar and kazoo made appearances, and even saxophone got added to the mix fairly often.

I saw The Beards play at Bodega last time they played in Wellington, and had wondered if it was just going to be a repeat of last time. Thankfully, the banter between sets seemed spontaneous, unlike last time, which was funny, but clearly rehearsed. They introduced a new segment called “Beard Facts”, complete with a jingle that the band had composed during sound check that day. The band immersed themselves in their onstage personas, using the pseudonyms Johann Beardraven, John Beardman Jr, Nathaniel Beard, Facey McStubblington. They encouraged the audience to stroke their beards, and even invited especially hairy member onstage to be presented with a prize of signed posters of the band (in various stage of undress).

Most of the crowd were in on the joke. I guess anyone who didn’t get it would have left fairly quickly. There were many burly men with fine facial foliage, and some of the girls in attendance had crafted fake beards out of wool, so kudos to them for effort. One man with long dreadlocks had tied them across his face to feign a beard, and a few guys sported some costume style fake beards.

Disappointingly, both the merch guy and the stage hand were clean-shaven. But the band explained themselves: “We couldn’t have bearded men serving us! That wouldn’t be right! But it’s fine to have someone who shaves doing the manual labour!” Members of the crowd kept buying rounds of tequila for the band. When that got to much for them, they gave a shot to their roadie, before promptly “firing” him for drinking on the job.

The Beards are a polarising band. You’ll either think that they are incredibly lame, or incredibly good. I side with the latter opinion. Rousing rock songs, sensational solos, brilliant banter and a funny material all combine to make one hell of an entertaining night. It’s amazing that the band managed to last 11 years when so few people took them serious, and I applaud them for ending on such a high.

Throw away your razor and make sure to go and see The Beards play on their final tour if you get a chance.


Set list from the second set

Joseph James

Live Review: Shaun Kirk at Bodega, Wellington

Shaun Kirk
w/ Paint The Sand
Bodega, Wellington
Thursday 11 September 2014

Bodega was set up differently last night. There were couches and seats in front of the stage where everyone would usually stand.

This suited perfectly for local opening act Ben Maurice, under the guise of Paint the Sand. His music is designed for chilling back to, comprising of surf-inspired originals and laid-back pop cover medleys. Switching from acoustic to electric guitar in the past year has worked for him, making his set more varied and dynamic. He has added some nice brooding interludes to his set with the use of some distortion and a touch of reverb. He kept the crowd entertained between songs with his self-deprecating humour, checking to see if we were still awake.

It was clear that Shaun Kirk had chops from the opening notes. The sound was so crisp, and Kirk commanded full control over his guitar.

And it wasn’t just his guitar, either. He really was a one-man band, playing guitar, singing, blowing into his harp and playing drums though the use of pedals at his feet. It was a funny sight at times. Kirk perched on his stool strumming the gat and singing whilst lightly stomping on his many pedals. It looked like a leprechaun dancing a jig, hopping from foot to foot. I’m still not sure how he managed to keep balance atop his stool.

Highlight of the night was the song “Chicken and Corn”. Kirk introduced the song with a story about his past. When he decided to become a full-time musician he’d bought himself a Kombi. He’d named it Tracy and painted it orange. He would drive from town to town playing shows to earn money to pay for petrol so he could drive to the next show. To sustain his meager existence he’d sleep in the back of the Kombi and  live off a diet of only peanut butter, bread and tinned chicken and corn. It was tough at the time, but he laughs when he looks back at those times now.

Kirk was a wonder to watch. We were sat down on the floor in front of him, entranced with his innate guitar playing ability and raspy falsetto voice. He channeled the spirit of the greats, like his idol, Tony Joe White, and brought some authentic Blues to lil’ ol’ Wellington.

If anyone in the South Island is reading this, I highly recommend going along to the last few shows of the tour. And while you’re at it, take some cans of chicken and corn to donate to a poor blues guitarist.

Joseph James

Shaun Kirk's pedals. Note the five pedals for drums, as well as a stomp box

Shaun Kirk’s pedals. Note the five pedals for drums, as well as a stomp box.

Live Review: Against Me! at Bodega, Wellington

Against ME Bodega Wellington Poster

Against Me!

w/ Off With Their Heads and The Outsiders

Bodega, Wellington

 Saturday 14 May 2011

Third time lucky, or so the saying goes. After a few failed attempts, Against Me! finally came back to New Zealand for their White Crosses tour. As annoyed as I was when they cancelled the tour last time, the Saturday night show was enough to make up for it.

Local Wellington band The Outsiders were a good choice for an opening act, their shouty style of punk being similar in style to AM! They played a blistering set of punk rock fury that set the trend for the rest of the night. Supporting act Off With Their Heads played well too, but all their songs seemed to sound the same. Not that this is a bad thing, but a bit of variety wouldn’t have hurt either.

Opening song “From Her Lips to God’s Ears” set the crowd off. The highlight for me was “I Was a Teenage Anarchist”, one the major singles from their latest album. I was also quite thrilled to hear “Amputations”, from frontman Tom Gabel’s solo record, Heart Burns. I hadn’t expected the band to delve into Gabel’s solo work to add to their set.

The venue was small, and quite tightly packed. Despite the amount of bodies crammed into such a small place, the heat wasn’t overbearing. The smaller area just made it a better, more intimate show. And, of course, the best part about having so many people crammed into a confined space is that there were plenty of opportunities for crowd surfing and stage dives. The poor stage crew were trying rather hard to keep people off the stage, but many managed to get onstage and yell a few lyrics at Gabel’s microphone before getting pushed off.

The band didn’t move around much, but there was no doubt that they invested plenty of energy into their performance. Gabel was dripping with sweat. And one of the drummer’s crash cymbals got destroyed. All the members shouted the lyrics to the songs with great gusto, as did much of the crowd. A good portion of the audience seemed to know all the words to all the songs, and for those who didn’t, there were plenty of “woahs” and “ba ba da’s” to join in with.

The set was well paced. The band kept the banter to a minimum, and just delivered the goods. Song after song, the crowd was just lapping it up.

The band left for a breather, but after a few minutes of the crowd chanting for more the band came back on for more. Rather than the usual one or two song encore that most bands seem to do these days, AM! played “Stop!”, and then a good four or five songs, leaving the punters more than happy.

This is exactly how a punk show should be: fast, fun and political.
Despite having sung about it during their set, Against Me! certainly haven’t lost their touch


Joseph James

Live Review: Iron Maiden’s Paul Dianno at Bodega, Wellington


Paul Dianno with Killrazer

w/ Entrails and Razorwyre

Bar Bodega, Wellington

Thursday 1 July 2010


Early Iron Maiden was essentially an epic sounding punk band. Just listen to a track like Sanctuary for example; it was punk without being an actual punk song, in the same manner that Paranoid was for Black Sabbath. The cause of this was original singer Paul Dianno, who featured on Iron Maiden’s first two albums, as well as a handful of EPs.

Dianno was replaced by Samson singer Bruce Dickinson due to issues regarding drugs and personal conflict within the band. Dianno’s voice is harsher than Dickinson’s operatic wail, but he has an ample vocal range, ranging from deep growls to punk style to higher wailing.

Opening act Razorwyre (formally known as Gaywyre) played a crowd pleasing set that they’re starting to get a reputation for. No points for guessing who their influences are: they emulate NWOBHM bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with precision, with touches of thrash thrown into the mix. The hair was huge; the riffs were razor-sharp and the solos stunning. And of course who else but a band so inspired by Iron Maiden to open for Maiden’s original singer?

When the Dianno and band Killrazer finally graced the stage their presence was certainly noticed. The dry ice was so dense I could barely see the musicians on the stage not even two metres in front of me, but I could certainly hear them.They opened with Wrathchild, which certainly did the job of working up the crowd. Though he didn’t move about much Dianno certainly commanded the stage as only a well seasoned performer can.

In between songs Paul spoke freely with the crowd, telling us about all sorts, topics including his ex-wife, a drinking incident. Sometimes the cockney accent made him hard to understand, but his jokes were funny and he seemed like a down to earth musician trying to make a living, rather than the cocaine fuelled ego that he once was. Dianno even allowed his backing band Killrazer to play a few of their own songs throughout the set. They played a much heavier technical metal style which added some extra variety to the set.

As promised on the promotional poster, Dianno and the band worked their way through all of the tracks on the eponymous Iron Maiden album, some of which hadn’t been played by Dianno for 15 or more years. He said that a few tracks like Remember Tomorrow were specially chosen to be played exclusively to Australian and New Zealand audiences.

After a heated altercation with some punter disrespecting late AC/DC singer Bon Scott, Dianno and band ripped into a rousing cover of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. The tribute was enough to leave Dianno with teary eyes, but he pulled the song off well. Unfortunately the Spice Girls and Lady Gaga covers Dianno joked about never eventuated.

For me, the best songs had to be Prowler, Iron Maiden and Running Free, although I probably could have also guessed as much beforehand. There’s just a timeless quality about those songs that always manage to excite. They concluded with Sanctuary, a song that packs a punch and sums up Dianno-era Maiden. Not the most extravagant and epic, but more hard and fast and punk-sounding.

I had regretfully missed Iron Maiden when they came to our shores early last year, so when I had the opportunity to see Maiden in an alternate incarnation I knew I could not miss it. Whilst this was obviously not going to be as impressive as a current large-scale Iron Maiden performance, I don’t feel that I missed out so much anymore. Sure there wasn’t any Eddie, 13minutes song or larger than life stage set, but it was still one hellova good night.


Joseph James