Wednesday, July 23, 2008

REVIEW: Hannah Curwood, Jen Cloher and Rebekah Davies

Wine Cellar
Wednesday 23 July

Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Hannah Curwood

Jen Cloher

Rebekah Davies

Tom Healy

At last! A gig which starts when advertised, and finishes before 11pm. I imagine the early finish influenced many to attend when they otherwise may not have on a 'school night'. The allure of the three songwriters was obviously strong - the Wine Cellar was completely packed with no sitting or standing room to spare.

An inspired collaboration between Hannah Curwood, Rebekah Davies, and Jen Cloher, the evening's set comprised a variety of songs from each writer's repertoire, with each alternatively taking the lead and providing backing. They were joined on stage by Hannah's partner and regular guitarist, the talented and hirsute Tom Healy.

Hannah Curwood is a funny little pixie with a sassy sense of humour that belies the power and beauty of her songs. When she pauses for breath in a dramatic song, her cheeky smile appears for a second, and is instantly gone again to be replaced by a voice which is sweet and gutsy with the slightest hint of whiskey. Her alternative folk songs have lovely melodies and subtle rhythms, and she has an easy confidence on stage that makes you feel like she just stood up at home and started playing a song to whoever happened to be there.

Apparently it was Rebekah Davies' first gig, and her beauty and the depth of her songs had the audience spellbound. Rebekah's songs had a more melancholy feel to them than the others, her deep husky voice lightly evoking her melodies. Unusual song structures and creative dynamics lent a slightly exotic air to Rebekah's folk.

Even without her band The Endless Sea, Jen Cloher is an intense performer with a wonderfully expressive voice. The Melbourne based singer almost speaks her words sometimes, then illustrates her range with a roaring rocky song. Alternative country with a modern rock twist, Jen's songs were compelling and her performance moving.

All members of the band (a.k.a TJ Healy and the Fanny Farm) provided complementary backing utilising eggs, tambourines, guitars, piano, keyboard, and gorgeous three part harmonies. The audience gave it's full attention to the performers, and was rewarded by a fine show.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

REVIEW: Brand New Math

Whammy Bar
Saturday 19 July

Words by Lacey Jensen
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Brand New Math continued the dancing and kept people on their feet at the Einstein Music Journal launch party. With all four players sharing vocal duties (even the drummer got up from the drums to sing at one point) and instruments, Brand New Math were a dynamic and interesting band to watch. The singing style wouldn't please purists, but it fit the grunge style of the music.

Catchy riffs were creatively arranged, and the band used all the space on stage - with energy to spare. Some almost theatrical melodies were played with distortion, creating an unusual soundscape. With guitar, keys and synth used variously, and often more than one vocalist, they sure kept things interesting.

Comprised of Bradley Artist, Jordan Fuller, Calum Gunn and Tim Neale, Brand New Math were driving and danceable - a good solid indie rock band to get drunk to on a Saturday night.

REVIEW: Little Pictures

Whammy Bar
Saturday 19 July

Words by Lacey Jensen
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Little Pictures opened the Einstein Music Journal launch party with their bouncy, high energy pop. Mark Turner and Johanna Freeman led their dedicated fans (half the audience was singing along!) in a set of songs from their just-released first album Owl + Owl, as well as their earlier EP You + Me + My Amplifier.

It's hard to get the full picture of Little Pictures without seeing them live. It was the first time I'd seen them, and previously I just hadn't quite 'got it' from listening on MySpace. Mark especially has so much energy - he's just so bouncy! The chemistry between the two is charming, as is Johanna's bubble blowing.

They had the crowd dancing by the second beat, and kept them dancing the whole time.

REVIEW: Einstein Music Journal launch party

Whammy Bar
Saturday 19 July

Words by Charlette Hannah

The Whammy Bar was decoratively made out with balloons and streamers to mark the official launch of Einstein Music Journal on Saturday night. The packed out venue was a testimony to the popularity of the site, or at least their good taste in bands. Einstein Music Journal started in 2006 on blogspot, has since moved to it's own domain, and is now New Zealand’s foremost MP3 web-blog, with readers all over the world. Make sure you check them out at

Little Pictures, Brand New Math, Bang! Bang! Eche!, and Tommy Ill were on the bill, and we've got reviews and photos of the first two bands right here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

REVIEW: The Sami Sisters

Dogs Bollix
Thursday 17 July

Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Madeleine Sami

Anji Sami

Priya Sami

The Sami Sisters have witty banter down to a tee. With stories about fish food and other assorted delicacies, they had the audience laughing between every song during their set on Thursday night at the Dogs Bollix.

Opening with the classic 'Tonight You Belong To Me' (I couldn't help picturing Steve Martin in The Jerk), their three lovely voices blended wonderfully as tends to happen in family bands. Their smooth harmonies were perfectly done like a good pav. Mixing covers and originals by all three sisters, their set was lively and energetic.

Eldest sister, actress Madeleine was the most outgoing of the three, dancing around the stage, apparently hyped up on flu meds. Baby of the family, Priya, seemed to be the repository of most of the stories, with the other two deferring to her jokes during tuning or drinking pauses. Middle sister Anji is apparently the 'singer-songwriter proper', having released The El Dorado EP in 2006.

The sisters had confident stage presence, with an easy going professionalism. Although they all had great voices, Priya in particular was given the chance to shine, performing her catchy radio hit 'Mrs Julian Casablancas'.

The Sami Sisters are a thoroughly entertaining act to watch, with quality music and relaxed humour and I would highly recommend them for any weddings or Bar Mitzvahs you might have coming up. They said they're available.

REVIEW: Reb Fountain and The Bandits

Dogs Bollix
Thursday 17 July

Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Reb Fountain possesses an incredible voice, and a songwriting talent which should see her at the top of the charts. Vocally she achieves an exquisite balance of strong and sweet, with a bit of life thrown in to roughen the mixture up.

With two other guitarists besides Reb herself, drums, bass, keys and violin provided by Sam Prebble of Bond St Bridge, the band is a powerful live unit. They were equally at ease with the more laid back folky songs and the full force rockier ones, which brought to mind PJ Harvey.

The songs were dynamic in structure and delivery, and the balance of mellow and rocky songs was well received. Reb has a skilful ear for melody, and the songs were catchy without being obnoxiously pop.

The audience gradually crept forward, leaning in to listen and get closer, with loud applause and cheers following every song. They were one of the best acts I've seen in a long time, giving a tight and engaging performance.

Reb Fountain and The Bandits depart Auckland for a tour of the North and South Islands at the end of July.

REVIEW: Bond St Bridge

Dogs Bollix
Thursday 17 July

Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Bond St Bridge is one rather European looking fellow (ref: hat and glasses). Replete with a violin, guitar, and 'antique tape echo machine', Sam Prebble, a.k.a Bond St Bridge, played a melancholy and moody set opening for Reb Fountain and The Sami Sisters. Although he also sometimes plays with a band, his set on Thursday was a pleasant solo performance.

Utilising a fair amount of reverb and delay, Sam built up layer after layer of atmospheric music which was ethereal, and yet managed to stay grounded and human. With appealing folky melodies sung with Sam's rich voice, the songs had an almost darkly vaudeville sound to them.

Thumps on the guitar were looped to provide a rhythm section, while layers of violin overlaid with guitar resulted in an almost symphonic backing. The introspective, satirical lyrics added to the depth of sound.

The very first song, played just on the violin, was particularly lovely, and had a celtic influence - appropriate for an Irish pub!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

REVIEW: Polka Dot Dot Dot

Whammy Bar
Saturday 12 July

Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

I have longed for a band like this without even realizing it. The beauty of a cappella harmonies is usually the realm of choirs and barbershop quartets, but Polka Dot Dot Dot bring fun and intelligence, with moments of absolutely beauty, to what some would call an old fashioned style of music.

Using only minimal instrumentation, the three members of Polka Dot Dot Dot, Jordan Smith, Colleen Johnson, and Onyx of Olympia, bring a fresh and modern take to a cappella music. Their tight harmonies and sweet and thoughtful songs were well executed. Sharing the occasional instrumental duties on ukulele, banjo, acoustic guitar, they even played a saw with a bow, and used ‘magic mics’. Utilising claps, clicks and thigh slapping, they were a dynamic act who prove you don’t need to make a lot of loud noise to have a lot of fun.

According to Local Cut, the all-American trio formed in New Zealand, with a mission to tour New Zealand, and gave themselves a few days to learn each others songs in order to so a year or so ago. Now they're back from the States to play for us again. They’ll be playing at the Wine Cellar on the 9th of August, so if you didn’t get to see them at the Whammy Bar, it’s not too late. Their album is even called Love Letters to New Zealand. Aren't we lucky they love us so much?

Although they were mostly original songs, Polka Dot Dot Dot put a gorgeous new spin on the traditional ‘hey, ho, nobody’s home’ canon. The upbeat foot stomping tunes were mixed in with a couple of beautiful downbeat songs thrown in to make your heart stop.

Polka Dot Dot Dot are a band you sure don’t see everyday. If only!

REVIEW: Bear Cat


Words by June Hart
Photos by Charlette Hannah

Complete with hand made capes and face paint, Bear Cat played a fun and lively set of songs at the Whammy Bar, opening for Polka Dot Dot Dot. Missing key member Jocee Tuck, who had double booked and was playing in Blenheim, the line-up was filled out with an appearance by Teacups’ Chelsea.

Frontman Dan Trevarthen had a whole lot of infectious energy, leading the band in irreverent songs about pandas, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like ‘extinction sucks’. At one point he broke into a rap about nachos (yes, nachos!) and then launched into a three part harmony with Chelsea and the violinist

The whimsical folk had plenty of humour and the beautiful violin playing added a depth to the songs. With upbeat tunes and rhythms, audience and band alike were dancing. Audience participation was actively encouraged with hand clapping and singing.

With Dan’s acoustic guitar backed by drummer Alex's minimal drumkit and sparse and appropriate beats, overlaid with Chelsea’s vocals and the lovely violin playing, Bear Cat were a fun act to watch.