2016: January – June

The first three shows of the year were all at Thunderbird. The first was in March and let’s face it, we were a little rusty. The last gig had been in December and I don’t think we had managed one rehearsal with all 5 members up to that point. Still, we had a good crowd, and people liked it, even if we knew it wasn’t our best work.

The second one in April was much better – despite George being absent. I really enjoyed this one. It felt good. I even enjoyed shouldering the bass-line responsibilities. We were back, baby!

Matt Hay & The Makers @ Thunderbird Cafe, May 2016
 Photo: Bradley Garner

Gig number 3 was on a Friday in the middle of May, and it was a good ‘un on so many levels. Despite the average weather, the place really packed out over the course of the evening. Matt had invited photographer, Bradley Garner along to document the show. As always, we had a diverse mix in the crowd from keen music supporters (including the venerable Nick Bollinger), to friends, strangers, and a set of regulars who always seem to turn up. Thunderbird owner, Nicci was very happy with how it all went. My personal highlight came at the end of the night when one of the bar staff informed me a female patron had earlier asked after “the keyboard player”. Of course there would be no pursuit of that (I am spoken for, afterall), but you know, you can never hear too much of that sort of thing, can you? So it was a particularly enjoyable post-gig meal with my bandmates – everyone – not just me – seemed to be in high spirits.

Here’s a video from the night (I do a not-bad solo at around the 1:15 mark), shot by Bradley:

Leave those blues alone – Matt Hay & The Makers from Clint Meech on Vimeo.

For gig number 4 we were back at Days Bay Pavilion on the first Sunday of June.  June would be a busy month for us.  Despite some issues with the band struggling to hear each other well in the first set (the acoustics in the Pavilion are a bit weird) we were well received.  A lot of my friends, family and former colleagues made it along and helped fill the place out.  It was a packed dancefloor by the end of the night.

Matt Hay & The Makers @ Days Bay Pavilion, June 2016

In the middle of June we played at the Capital Blues Inc night at the Hotel Bristol on Cuba St.  It had been a loooong time between drinks playing here!  You’d have to trawl way back through the blog to find the last mention of a show.  It definitely wasn’t with this incarnation of the band, but the original SubUrbans line-up (Matt, Darren Watson on bass, Justin Hooper on drums, and me) back in 2007.  It was nice to play on a stage with a big PA, but it was a bit of weird gig.  Admittedly we’re not a blues band, but we did add a few extra blues songs to our set for this one.  However, no matter what we played we didn’t get much back from the audience – there was just no energy or enthusiasm.  There weren’t even any hippie dancers which always seemed to be a fairly reliable part of these nights.  It’s also a pretty big, drafty, and soul-less venue – nowhere as cozy as our beloved Thunderbird!  Despite all of this, we played pretty well, Matt did sell some CDs and as I always say, playing a gig is almost always better than not playing a gig.

Hotel Bristol stage

We ended the month back home at Thunderbird.  Smaller crowd than last time, but there was a core audience who stuck with us and were very nice.  This show’s good-guy local musician who came up and said nice things about my playing was Bullfrog Rata.  I’d never met him before, but he took the time to say hello and give a compliment.  It’s always a nice to hear stuff like that and I wonder if these “complimenters” (I think I just invented a word there) have any idea how much their words can mean to the “complimentee“.

Matt also launched a band Facebook page around this time.

Earlier – back in April – we started pre-production on a new Matt Hay album. The first step was cutting demo recordings of 16 songs at Matt’s house with engineer, Andrew Downes. It proved that there are enough good songs for an album (we would probably only record 10 – 12 songs for the record), but equally it proved that a lot of work was still required to get them ready for the studio.  The main recording session is now booked-in for the last weekend of July at the legendary Surgery recording studios in Wellington.  Can’t wait!

By very different routes, Gareth and I might just release something around same time as Matt does – which was kinda what happened last time around.   I’m pretty sure that by the end of July we will have completed tracking for a little 5-song EP.  Then, after mixing and mastering and artwork and manufacturing, we should have something out in Spring.  The final piece in the track-listing puzzle was a wee little instrumental that we finished last week.  As always – to reward you, loyal reader – here’s a preview of a very early mix of it:

Catch you back here at the end of the year (if not before)!

Second half of 2015

Hello Friends!

July

The second-half of the year kicked off with a one-off reprise performance of the 2011 “South for the Winter” tour line-up of Darren Watson, Matt Langley and Matt Hay.  This time, Mr Hay and I were joining the other two for the Wellington leg of their “Shoot your television” tour.  Such a fun night.  The venue was the Rogue & Vagabond  on the 9th of July.  It’s a pretty hip place – well regarded for it’s craft beer and live music (mostly jazz) – I was very excited to be playing here.  It was really good to catch-up with Langley again.  He’s such a good bloke.  It was a pretty good crowd for a VERY cold Thursday night (there was a slight possibility that we might see snow again like we did 4 years ago).  It was nice to be on an actual stage, with lights and a great in-house PA and a sound-guy.  Matt and I did a pretty good opening set.  I joined Langley for “Love and money” and “Into the fire”.  We were also joined by amazing fiddle-player, Alex Vaatstra for those two songs – and we totally nailed it!

Matt Langley, Me, Alex Vaatstra (Photo: Clare Fitzgerald)

However, the musical highlight of the night (actually for the year up to that point), was when we all (Darren, the Matts, Delia on drums and me) played The Beatles “Revolution” at the end of the night.  I didn’t know it was coming, and I had to work out the chords as we went – but it was a few moments of absolute joy.  Now, the warm feeling experienced at this moment may have been partly fuelled by the Wild and Woolly Beast of Baltic Porter that I had been consuming over the evening, but mostly this euphoria was coming from the music.  It was coming from my happiness of being able to foot it on stage with these really good musicians – of even being asked to join them.  It means so much to me.

Revolution (l-r): Darren, Delia, Matt Langley, Me, Matt Hay (Photo: Clare Fitzgerald)

Our third gig at Thunderbird was on Friday 17 July.  This time we were without Delia as she was on the road with Darren and Langley.  It’s the 4-piece all male revue version.  It’s so great – due to the way this band has evolved – that it can pretty much do a show with any number and combination of players – so long as Matt is there!  I was pretty low in energy for this particular gig.  Had been sick all week (I personally blame the Baltic Porter from the week before).  But we all saw an amazing Ryan Adams show the previous night and I think we’re all feeling pretty inspired by that, and that lifts it all up a notch.  Another good crowd that thins out slightly in the second-half (there was a rugby game on).  Still, definitely a success.  Some really good moments.  We debut a couple of new songs.  Nicci is happy.  Yuss.

August

After what feels like an agonisingly long break between gigs (I look forward to playing sooooo much these days), we were back at Thunderbird on the first Thursday of August.  It’s the full 5-piece band again, and it was a really great night.  So good.  Good size crowd.  We played really well (I totally nailed my solo in Wagon Wheel), and everyone digs it.  Nice to see enthusiastic Wellington music champions like Julie Lamb and Laura Collins in the crowd (amongst others).  Happy days.

Matt Hay & The Makers, Thunderbird, August 2015 (Photo: Gareth Meech)

A few days following Thunderbird we were back at Days Bay on the Sunday.  We played an entirely different set of songs to what we played earlier in the week at Thunderbird – whilst this was met with some grumbling by some of us (why do we make it hard for ourselves!!!) – it is a great testament to the depth of Matt’s songbook (and just quietly, mixing up the songs keeps us on our toes and is good for both us and the songs).  For me, it was a totally different energy to the Thunderbird show.  We just didn’t get much back.  Despite that, a lot of people said they liked it, there was a CD sale and everyone was generally happy with us.  Even a slightly flat night is better than no night at all.  I wouldn’t stop doing this for the world right now.  In a world gone mad, playing music is one of the few things that makes any sense to me.

October

skull

On Halloween Eve – which was a Friday – we were back at Thunderbird.  Despite some encouragement from (Thunderbird owner) Nicci for us to dress-up for the occasion, we performed in our regular threads.   It was another cracker of a gig.  Full-house, good playing, good times!

November

On the last Sunday of the month it was time for our final gig at Days Bay for the year.  The weather was gorgeous – which always has the opposite effect to what you might expect.  You see, people are there – they’re just mostly outside.  Still, we managed to pull a few indoors and as always it was an appreciative audience.  Lots of familiar faces and some dancing by some of the punters.  My Mum and Dad made it out which was nice as they haven’t seen us for awhile, and it was a good one for them to catch, as we were in very good form.  Happiness.

December

Two gigs within the space of a week was such a positive way to finish what, looking back, has been a pretty good music year.

On Thursday 10th, we were at Thunderbird.  No Delia for this one, and and it was a small crowd (we blamed all the other engagements of the season).  So the vibe was totally different to say that last one at Days Bay.  So it was pretty laid-back, but still totally enjoyable.  Matt and I even kept going afterwards and had a few drinks (beer! rum!) to toast the year that was.

The following Sunday afternoon we played at Kelburn Village Pub.  We’ve been here before – a couple of years ago now.  Like last time, it took half a set for it to fill up, but it did, and it was great.  Really great.  Fairly cramped “stage” area, but such a nice sounding room.  And we played so very well.  A lot of friends and family and strangers made it along, including Matt’s mate, respected critic, and all-round nice-guy, Nick Bollinger.  He was very complimentary of the band and made another comparison of my playing style to that of Spooner Oldham (I can’t hear that enough!!!).   I think this was one of our best gigs of the year.  We really are a proper band now, and I think we’re actually quite good.  More gigs please!  Please!

Meech Brothers

Yes, we’re still here.  This year has all been about the Matt Hay band in a lot of ways, but despite that, Gareth and I continue to find some time to push our own work ahead.  And it’s this stuff that really means the most to me.  It’s the most personal.  I really do want  release a collection of songs in 2016.  As is customary with each blog post lately, here’s a sneak preview of new song, “Edge of the Earth”.  I think it’s pretty good.  I even play trumpet on it (that was hard work, after all these years away from it).  Take a listen:

Enjoy!

Thanks 2015, it’s been a blast.

See you in 2016!

 

First half of 2015

Matt Hay & The Makers

2015 has seen the addition of another semi-regular venue to our roster.  So now, dear reader, along with regular posts on our Days Bay gigs, you shall also be regaled with stories from Wellington eatery, Thunderbird Cafe.

Thunderbird
The first gig of the year was on Thursday March 5th at Thunderbird Café on Featherston Street.  There is always a bit of trepidation playing at a new venue, but we needn’t have been concerned – it was a great success.  We started early (5:30) for the after-work crowd, and we had a good turn-out – pretty much a full house.  We played well, and it felt good.  A perfect venue for us.  It was the full 5-piece version of the band (Matt, Phil, George, Delia and me).  There were generous donations to the Koha tin, there was beer and a great meal (they specialise in that casual Tex-Mex sort of food that I love).  Spirits were high.

Matt Hay & The Makers, Thunderbird Cafe

We returned to Thunderbird on Friday April 24th.  A Friday!!  We haven’t done a Friday night gig ever, have we?  Not as a band, at least.  Matt and I use to do those little CQ gigs a few years ago – were they on Fridays?  We thought we might struggle to pull an audience due to it being a holiday weekend (ANZAC Day), but again it was packed and we played well.  We’re really starting to sound like a proper band.  There were a few random punters who came up and complemented us on the show – which is always really gratifying!  Nicci, Thunderbird-owner, was very happy with us and pulled out the diary to book us in for more dates later in the year.

Greytown w/ Darren Watson
On Saturday April 18, Matt and I headed over the hill to Greytown to support Darren Watson’s solo shows.  This was a lot of fun – as all the shows we have done with Darren have been.  In keeping with a growing trend to put gigs on in places other than pubs, tonight’s venue is the Greytown Little Theatre.  After some early drama dealing with a scaled-down PA (that had to be used after the door of Delia’s van was damaged during an attempted break-in), the theatre filled out nicely, and as always, everyone delivered come showtime.  As with these types of shows – where people have come with the specific purpose of listening to music – it was a very attentive and appreciative crowd.  Lots of nice things were said to us.  Darren does that thing that he does so well, and they love it.  I join him for “Here in my arms”.  It’s another musical moment that I will cherish.  All three of us play “Sweet Home Chicago” at the end of the night.  It is a jovial pack-down and load-out that follows.  The theatre’s “Wardrobe Mistress” provides tea and biscuits and some outrageous flirting.  These are the best of times.

Me at The Greytown Little Theatre
Photo: Pete Monk

Days Bay Pavilion
Two gigs here so far this year.  I probably don’t need to go into too much detail here.  We’ve all been here before.  It was business as usual  – good fun, great view, nice people, sublime pizza, craft beer, etc.

The first show was a few days after that first Thunderbird gig – on March 8th.  We played well.  The crowd wasn’t as big as it could’ve been – we need to somehow work on our promo out here.

We were back again at the start of June.  George was holidaying in Greece at the time, so we did it without him.  Despite my best Ray Manzerek  impersonation, my left-hand parts were no replacement for George and his Double-bass.  George brings a real presence and grounding to the group – you sometimes don’t miss something until it’s gone.  After a shaky first set, we pulled out a great second-half and even did a two-song encore.  Good times!

Meech Brothers

Miraculously, I have another Meech Brothers track to share with you.  It’s an old song that we’d never really been happy with.  This time we have given it a restrained, sparse acoustic treatment and it’s much better for it (it use to be all drum machines and electric guitars).  It just goes to show that you shouldn’t be too hasty to throw out some ideas.  I like how it’s turned out, and I particularly like my vocal (and you don’t hear me say that very often!)

Other than that, we haven’t made much more progress on completing another collection of songs, although there is now a group of 5 or 6 songs that are gravitating together that either need finishing, polishing or re-recording bits of.  Will we finish it this year?  I hope so.  It will depend on whether we decide to do a proper CD release, or if we just do an online thing.  The CD format isn’t quite dead yet – but it’s not far off.  Sign-up to the newsletter here  if you want to keep posted on any future releases.

2014: Part deux

September

Paekakariki Community Hall, with Darren Watson!

Regular readers may recall that we’ve been here before (South for the Winter tour).
This time around Matt and I were supporting a Darren Watson solo show – so in a lot of ways it was a lot like the South for the Winter shows but with the one obvious absence of our dear music friend, Matt Langley. Aside from that we slotted into that same routine like it was yesterday. We are such a good compliment to Darren’s show, with Mr Hay’s fairly laid-back Americana folk not really venturing too far into Darren-territory, whilst also not being a million miles away from it either. Just across the border if you will. The benefit of all of this is that Darren fans tend to also like what we do, so collectively we can offer a bit of variety over the course of the evening without alienating anyone.

Backstage with Trucker Hat!

Like that last time, the show was well supported by the locals and a few people from out of town (thanks Claire!). And it was out of town for us too. Even though Paekakariki is not too far from Wellington, the hour or so long drive does make you feel like you could almost be on tour – you can taste the freedom and the excitement. It was a great night. I found a trucker hat backstage – this is now forms part of my new look. Matt and I played a solid set to a very nice, attentive crowd. Once again, I sat in on Darren’s “Here in my arms” and I remarkably nailed it – even keeping up with Darren’s ad-libs and unplanned story-telling digressions. Matt too of course played some harp on a couple of Darren’s songs. I also got to finally properly meet Darren’s girlfriend, Delia Shanly who these days has taken on management of Darren. She’s also a recovering drummer and percussionist and a really good sort and did a stellar job of running the door!

DW, Paekakariki Community Hall

November

Eastbourne Fair

Kicking-off a late-year trifecta of gigs was the Eastbourne Fair on November 23rd. This time it was just the trio line-up with Matt, Phil and myself. It was a cracking hot day and there were masses of people – with around 20,000 through over the course of the day. Of course it was just a small percentage who stayed to watch us on the outdoor stage. Still, we played really well and people seemed to enjoy our 45 minute set.

Matt Hay Trio, Eastbourne Fair

Bent Horseshoe Cafe

The next weekend we were on the road again with the Darren Watson solo show, for a gig at the Bent Horseshoe Cafe in Tokomaru. This cafe is pretty much slap-bang in the middle of nowhere. Tokomaru is a tiny village on a secondary highway between Shannon and Palmerston North. The cafe isn’t even on the main road. We took a turn off down a long country road and ended up at this converted school prefab classroom. This was the venue! Who comes to shows out here? The Bent Horseshoe, however has built up a reputation of good music and has many years behind it of hosting a variety of kiwi and international acts. At the time of writing, the cafe is up for sale, so who knows what the future holds for it.

Bent Horseshoe Cafe

By the time showtime rolled around, the room was packed. People had come from all over – the farm down the road, other towns in the area, and Darren’s mum had come from Foxton! Matt and I opened – as we do – and played really well. It was almost like playing in front of one of those intense folk club-type audiences, where everyone sat silently and really listened! Really friendly people, with many thanking us at the end of the show and asking us questions. It was really nice. I wish this was my job.
Darren played a great set and had them applauding for more at the end.
Before and after the show, there was some talk between the four of us about doing more shows in a similar format next year. Delia and Darren’s focus next year will be lots of little solo tours (Darren’s band isn’t always financially viable). Delia asked if we’d be interested in joining them for some of that. Hells yes! Of course we all know that these things don’t always come to fruition, but you never know, and we now have a pretty good track record of playing and touring with Darren. Fingers crossed.

Days Bay Pavilion

Somewhere between the Paekakariki show and November, Matt invited Delia to join the band. We had a couple of jams with her. She was keen, we were keen, and so we became a proper band. Not only was this great for our band, but this also marked Delia’s return to drumming after many years. She use to drum a lot – in more than one band – until RSI forced her to hang-up her sticks. Her first public performance with us was our last one of the year. She joined us for the second half of our show at The Pavilion in Days Bay, and once again it was great fun. Not only was the gig notable as the first outing of the 5-piece line-up, but will also be remembered for the first time that part of the audience formed a conga line and danced around the venue to the last song. Happy days, indeed.

First set @ Day’s Bay Pavilion, November 2014 (Photo: Delia Shanly)

Here’s a brief clip of the final few seconds of that last song of the evening (a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel”):

Meech Brothers

And still the Meech Brothers thing inches further along. Whilst the Matt Hay stuff fulfils my need (and it is a need) to play in a band and perform, I still also need to be able to create – and this project provides that. To the outside world, I guess nothing much seems to be happening – and I guess that is kinda true, but I for one am more inspired than I’ve been for awhile and we are getting better at making time for this. I have promised myself to release something in 2015. Even if it’s not a full EP or CD, we must put some songs out there in the world.

So, in the spirit of sending our work out into the world here is a new song:

Once upon a time I possibly wouldn’t put something out there that is possibly not the final version. However, I have made conscious decision to not spend so much time “perfecting” songs. Time to relax a bit and just get on with it.

2014: Part un

First gig of the year was a Matt Hay & the Makers show at Days Bay Pavilion at the end of January – and it was was one of the really good ones.  Great crowd, and we had a full dance floor by the end of the night – and you don’t hear me say that very often.

In February – fittingly on Valentines Day – our good friend Matt Langley was in town to play at a wedding, so of course we did a we did a little gig at Mojo Invincible as part of their regular acoustic night.  Langley headlined, and Matt Hay and I, as well as Tony Burt did sets beforehand.  I sat in on a few songs with Langley – Wilco’s “How to fight Loneliness”, Matt’s “Love and Money” and “Into the fire”.  It was really amazing how we clicked back into it.  Always a treat and a privilege to play with Mr Langley – may there many more such opportunities in the future.

with Matt Hay, Mojo, February 2014

with Matt Langley, Mojo, February 2014

Mojo photos courtesy of Gerard Hudson

Days Bay Pavilion, April 2014

In April, Matt Hay & The Makers were back at the Pavilion.  Whilst not reaching  the crowd-participation heights of the January gig it was still a great night.  I love these evenings out at Days Bay with these guys so much.

In June, Matt, Phil and myself played at a party to mark Matt’s departure from his work.  The venue was the very fun bar, Cuckoo in the Foxglove building on the waterfront.  It wasn’t looking good early on, when we plugged-in our gear somewhere we shouldn’t have and blew fuses and lights all over the show.  My keyboard also went down.  It was looking like this might become a duo gig.  I hit the bar.  When Phil arrived he had the cracking idea to wrap the keyboard’s fuse in tin foil – and it bloody worked!  We played a good set (mostly in the dark), with many of the guests joining in for a sing and a dance for the covers at the end of the set (you know, “The Weight”, “Wagon wheel”, those old chestnuts).  Then it was free beers and good chats for the rest of the night.  Good times!  How do I make this my job?

Matt Hay Soundcheck at Cuckoo before we blew all the fuses

Meanwhile, Gareth and I kept grafting away at the Meech Brothers Project.  Not a lot of progress was made at the Blue Room in the first quarter of the year.  Between scheduling difficulties and continuing technical problems at the studio we were really up against it.  When Justin told us he would essentially be moving out himself and leasing the remaining room to James Goldsmith, we decided it was time to let it go.  We could have stayed on, on our regular Tuesday night, but we feared there would be less flexibility and we could continue to burn more money without getting the most our of the place.  So it was with heavy hearts that we handed in our keys.  Whilst we may not have made much progress there in the last year, it was a great space to hang-out, to make music and it was right in the heart of the Cuba Quarter.  We got to meet some cool people and I definitely learnt a lot about recording.  Poco would not have been the record it was without it.  Thank you Justin!

What has surprised me the most about leaving the Blue Room and returning to recording at home, has been the increase in productivity, and the creative spur it has given us.  I started writing a lot more, and we have a handful of songs in progress.  The muse is back!  Of course, some things will be challenging – like recording anything really loud – but we can go back to the Blue Room on an ad hoc basis for stuff like that – so it’s win-win.

Meech Brothers “selfie” from the last night at the Blue Room

In July we were contacted by an old friend who works as a Creative Director at an Ad agency in Dublin.  He asked if he could use a track off poco for a TV and web commercial.  Um, yes, of course!  They settled on opening track, “Smaller than you think”.
Before you watch the ad, here’s some context: the ad is deliberately shot in an am-cam style – our song is just audible in the background, emanating from a transistor radio – so not sure we’ll see a huge increase in sales in Ireland!  Despite this, we were flattered.  We got some money for a song that I had thought had past it’s Best Before date.  And we did take it as a compliment – the Ad guys obviously thought that the song sounded like something that might be playing on a radio station – and it does, and that’s pretty cool.  Here it is:

Mostly, getting that ad-sync has inspired us.  May be we’re not too bad after all.

The year that was 2013

After the excitement of being in Matt Langley’s band from March to May (gory details here), the rest of 2013 was pretty quiet.

kelburn_poster_2013The next gig wouldn’t be until September. It was a Matt Hay & The Makers show at the Days Bay Pavilion, and it was a good one. We really do love playing out there. It’s such a good match of performer to audience. Pretty much every time that we play there we are well received and people genuinely dig it. We always leave with full bellies and joy in our hearts. It’s such a tremendous way to finish off a weekend.

The following month (October) The Makers played at the Kelburn Pub on a Sunday afternoon (we’re a Sunday kind of a band, it would seem). Keen readers will remember that we’ve played there before – as guests during one of Laura Collins’s regular Backporch sessions back in 2012. This time it was just us. It started off pretty slow – the cracking weather possibly keeping people away and outdoors – but by our second set things had picked up and we hit our stride. I was really happy with my playing at this one. Another lovely way to spend a Sunday – aided no doubt by their excellent beer selection.

I had hoped that by the time I wrote this Blog post, I would have been publishing a completed Meech Brothers song or two. However, 2013 has been a rather unproductive year for us. There are many reasons for this. Time has become an scarce commodity and aligning our free time has become increasingly difficult.

HLM’s original Korg MS-20

There have been technical challenges too. There were a few changes at the studio this past year. The good studio Mac (that we use for recording) got re-deployed to Park Road Post where Justin was working on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies for most of the year. So when Gareth and I actually managed to get into the studio at the same time, we would often spend a large part of each session battling with cables and computers, trying to get things to work. Justin also sub-leased the former recording room to local band, Heat Like Me. Not that this was a problem – sure, we lost a permanent drum setup space, but gained some cool neighbours in the form of Darren and Brenny and their wonderful array of analog synths.

But possibly the biggest problem for us this year has been inspiration. Early in the year I wrote a song called “Diving Bell” (which is one of the songs that we have tried to record/finish this year), but since then I have suffered from a definite case of writer’s block (even this blog post is two months late!). Now, I’d hardly call myself prolific, but in the past I have always managed to make time to finish songs. I don’t remember struggling too much with the songs that I wrote for poco (“Smaller than you think”, “Best way to be”, “Want you to know”). It never comes easy, but I was always motivated to work at it and find ways to finish songs. It’s easy to blame a lack of time, but the truth is, time has always been precious and in short-supply. I use to make time – sometimes writing lyrics in cafes at lunchtime, or shutting myself away in the study to come up with chord progressions. Time is there – you choose how you use it. I guess I just haven’t chosen to use it for songwriting enough. So, New Year’s resolution: find the muse again. There is a part of me that is desperate to make a really great record. I think it’s in us, and I don’t think we’ve quite captured our potential in previous work. It’s time to dig deep and make it happen. Wish us luck.

Virginia Avenue

The first half of 2013 has been full of surprises and delight!

You may recall that at the end of last year, it wasn’t really clear what 2013 would hold. There was uncertainty. There was a hint of fear.

I needn’t have been concerned.

Mr Hay goes electric

We kicked-off the music calendar on the first Sunday in February at the Days Bay Pavilion with Matt Hay and Phil. We were back before the end of March, and brought George along with us for that one. Both gigs were really good. Things are evolving here, which is great. Matt has picked-up a retro-styled Fender Excelsior amp and has started playing some good old fashioned Chicago-style harp through it. So yeah, some blues tunes are creeping into the set. They’re good fun, and the crowd digs them.

Meanwhile, Matt Langley (keep up here – the other Matt – the one that lives in Dunedin) was planning a show in Wellington – with a band – to get the promo ball rolling for his new album. He asked me if I’d like to be part of the band for this one, and of course I said yes. The band would consist of two of the core members from the album sessions – Tom Watson (HLAH, Cassette, Fly My Pretties) on guitar and Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation, Little Bushman) on bass, with Davey Geard guesting on Drums. I couldn’t turn this one down. What a great bunch of musicians. Would they work out that I was an imposter? That there must have been some sort of mistake in the recruitment process?

So yeah, by now (March), Langley had manufactured all of his CDs – although the official release of Virginia Avenue wouldn’t be until May. The album has turned out really well. It sounds tremendous thanks to Brett and Riki’s lush production. There’s even some great horn playing throughout courtesy of Adam Page and Alexis French. Matt has been brave here and hasn’t paid any attention to what others may think a Matt Langley record should sound like. It is a big proper album, that covers a lot of ground and styles and demands repeat listens. He should be very proud. I’m on there a little bit. Always nice to be involved. In fact, my good old casiotone is the very last sound you hear at the end of the album.

In good company: Viriginia Avenue credits

In good company: Viriginia Avenue album credits

This “preview” show took place at Puppies (the former Happy) on Tory Street. We played most of the songs on the album in track-list order, and topped it all off with a Faces cover. We played really well, but it was a disappointingly small crowd. Good times, though. At the end of the evening Langley asked me to join the band for the May album release tour!

Matt Langley Band V1.0 @ Puppies, March 2013

The May tour would cover Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland over an extended weekend, followed by Wellington the following Thursday. Due to commitments in my other life, I elected to participate in the North Island shows only. It was a tough call, but it was the right call.

The week before before the tour, we re-convened at the Car Club in Berhampore for rehearsals. With Davey out of the country and Tom Callwood away on tour in Europe with the Phoenix Foundation, it would be a new rhythm section for the tour with Riki back behind the kit and Andrew Bain completing the line-up on bass. Andrew is most famously known as the bass player for Fur Patrol, but less well known is that he played on two songs on a Blender (Gareth and mine’s old band) tape back in the mid-90s. It was good to see him again. He’s a good geezer. That can actually be said of the whole band. Aside from the joy of playing with such a great bunch of musicians, there is enormous fun to be had just hanging out with these guys. Hilarious, the lot of them.

Rehearsals at the Car Club. Matt Langley, Tom Watson, Riki Gooch, Andrew Bain (l-r)

I met up with the band on a fairly wet and dreary afternoon in Auckland at The Kings Arms. They were all fairly shattered after the first two shows and an early morning flight. The show at Chicks in Dunedin had apparently been a riotous success, but the turn-out in Lyttleton, at a new venue in an isolated area, had drawn less of a crowd. The Auckland show, in terms of attendance, would fall somewhere in-between I imagine. But, by golly, we played well. The conviction of Matt’s performance and the playing of this band, which has really found it’s stride was really something. It was nice for me to be able to play in front of some of my Auckland mates (including my uncle) which I haven’t really had the chance to do before.

The band reassembled the following Thursday at my favourite Wellington venue, Mighty Mighty. What a great night! Awesome crowd, and we played so very, very well. Even our cheesy David Letterman-band style interludes to punctuate Matt’s jokes, were tight.  This night will feature in my list of all-time great musical experiences. It’s right up there. It might even be at the top. The horn section from the album joined us for this one, and they were great. Amazing energy, and a packed dance floor by the end of the night. What a buzz. Thanks Matt.

Here’s a video from the gig:

Into The Fire from Petra Alsbach-Stevens on Vimeo.

And some stills:

Matt Langley Band V2.0, Mighty Mighty

Matt Langley Band V2.0, Mighty Mighty
w/ Adam Page and Alexis French

Adam, Alexis, Tom, Matt

Matt, Riki, Me

Mighty Mighty set list

More pics here

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POSTSCRIPT:  About a month after that Langley gig at Mighty Mighty, I bumped into Riki at Fidels café. He had a friend with him who had gone to the show. He told me that he really enjoyed it, and made particular reference to me and said that he liked my “Wilco-type” keyboard work, and that my playing reminded him of John Lennon. Whoa. Two massive ticks there. Riki also said that the Langley shows were his most enjoyable gigs in ages (and he does LOTS of gigs).

That was a big buzz. I don’t know how qualified Riki’s friend was to make those calls, but he obviously knew enough to understand where I was coming from. He knew enough to be able to identify two significant influences in my playing. He was no chump.

I felt great for the rest of the day. And there you have it. Bingo. This is one of the reasons I do this. In my regular day-job life, I’d never receive a compliment that would mean so much to me. I guess it proves to me that music does matter – more than I am even able to acknowledge most of the time.