Photo by Josh Yongy
My friend and I rolled up late to the gig at the Winecellar. We paid our door charge and then quickly a young man scribbled the name of a band on each of our hands. I was labelled a Bozo laughs. My friend Azriel and I bounded through the narrow doorway and then crashed to a halt drinks in hand as the sweaty tall crowd barred most of the gig we came to see. People were crammed into nooks and crannies filling up the newly renovated room of the wine cellar.
A nostalgic pang nudged me forward as I realised for all intents and purposes that this winecellar before my eyes was not the original but a simulacrum or version 2.0. Long gone were the mouldy couches and decrepit furnishings even the ceiling of the venue seemed to slouch less like an old fat mans tummy who has discovered the virtues of a good trusty belt to keep his overflowing gut under wraps. I also hazily seemed to recall carpets in winecellar but that could be mind playing tricks on me. Whatever it is this new place seemed considerably less homely and instead more vibrant and awake ready built for gigs and entertainment of a less sleepy nature. For to be fair in the past there were a lot more acoustic gigs in the previous reincarnation of the wine cellar. But now it seemed the midnight country crooners had fell out of favour and instead bands reigned supreme which is all good in my book.
Getting back to why I was even there for I cast my vision to the centre of the stage at the far end of the room where I spotted Merk on guitar, Fazerdaze on bass, someone who I think is Neil Finn's younger son on drums (although I could be completely wrong) and a curly headed man with fingers dancing up and down millions of piano keys. The ramshackle bunch of musicians were all silhouetted on stage by cheap manual overhead projectors, the ones with lightbulbs inside them that they use to use at school when I was in primary. Like before the invention of computers as we know them laughs. Huddled round the projector were two girls with dark hair who looked rather tall pouring cooking oil on a see-through plastic tray and scraping it around with a piece of plastic so they could make funny shapes and textures that were in turn lashed onto the barren walls by the two projectors creating instant mind-bending ambiance.
With all this going on Merk's music seemed to come alive as did the whole band who were all laughing and grinning as they jumped from one song to the next with the odd bit of banter in-between. What I really like about the sound of the music set was firstly the tone of the drums which sounded excellent and larger than life in many parts due to the expert talent of the metronomic drummer. Indeed the band as a whole all seemed very precise and well rehearsed making it a pleasure to listen too. The bass guitar played by Amelia was like a chunky fat little child struggling to be pushed up a great big hill by a petite mother gripping onto her wayward pram for dear life. While Merk pounced around like a black panther in the middle of the stage overflowing with equal measures of happiness (that comes from within from what I have read) and joy (that comes from without or outside).
It was fun to see the bands ringleader dash from instrument to instrument smiling and laughing with a theatrical jib or joke thrown in to catch the baited audience off guard. One of the most memorable parts of the show for me was when Merk looked to be standing high up on something maybe a box playing a simple yet eye watering guitar lead in a crashing crescendo of a song while simultaneously looking around the crowded room with piercing eyes. To me it looked like he was trying to ascertain whether anyone was aware of how simple and easy what he was playing on the guitar was to play. And perhaps if given half a minute any one from the audience would've been able to play what he was doing and usurp him. Then again I could be completely wrong and he could've just been struggling for air and hot up on stage while nearing the end of his set.
My favourite highlight from the show in hindsight was when Merk and his band collaborated with the crowd at the wine cellar choosing a chord structure by throwing jacky sacks into hoops or trash cans or something to that affect. With the chords on the wall I think he pulled up some lyrics and recited them over the music, but maybe he came up with them on the spot I'm not sure? Anyway I really enjoyed the song this song that was sweet and crusiey that Az and I were loosely a part of helping create. After the jingly song ended Merk was gracious enough to state to all of us in attendance "that everyone will be getting a fair-share of the Apra royalties from that song!" laughs.