23rd March 2011
"My band's got a gig on next month, you should come."
"Yeah. Sure. That sounds great."
That was the exchange I had with Andy in Feb and at the time, it was akin to responding, "Good" when asked how you're feeling regardless of your actual state of mind. Reflex. A friend asks you to come see them play, you say yes. To put some context in place, Andy knows a lot about music, has worked in a record store and directed the musical at the school he teaches at last year. There's some form there but no guarantee that it'd actually be any good.
I'd also like Exhibit B to be read into the evidence: "There's five of us, three guitars - I play base -, an electric violin and drums."
My total exposure to electric violin up until this evening has been Vanessa Mae and The Revenge of the Nerds so this was not something that excited me. At best I was hoping for a slight Fleet Foxes vibe from the violin but to be honest I really didn't know what to expect. I know Andy likes Tom Waits, and I'd enjoyed the stuff he'd put up on his blog but The Dickens could have been a Doris Day tribute band for all I knew.
With the Missus at home working on the dreaded D, I threw social phobias aside and walked into Happy.
It turns out good music is alive and well in Wellington.
The whole thing was a great experience, not just for a band of musicians with day-jobs but full stop. There was a short five-song set from a teacher who was nervous and dropped a few notes but kept on going and had some lovely tunes before The Dickens took the stage. I was swaying back and forth with the music by the end and I enjoyed her more than some of the support acts for named bands I've been to see. As they set up, I chatted with the lovely Helen, levels were tested, a bit of humorous banter and then we were off.
When I came back I described it to Roo as "Joyous". There were five men on stage, working the music and letting rip. There was a little bit of early U2 that came through, a self professed Springsteen inspired song and lots of solid indy rock. And the violin worked! They didn't shine a light on it, the strings came through as a part of the band in a way that made me wonder why there aren't more electric violins in common usage. It added a sonorous, sombre layer that I suppose would traditionally been added by a keyboard.
There were microphones that stopped working and a temperamental guitar but they were obviously experienced enough and were in the zone such that it didn't matter. I really enjoyed the pants off the gig and can only recommend anyone in Wellington the next time they play to make an effort and have a listen.
Note to self: don't go for a run between work and standing on a bar's concrete floor for 90mins. I started to get wobbles in my legs towards the end and to take off as soon as it finished just so I could go sit down in the car.