This was the first time I had heard anything from support act Wellington-based {Soft Plastics}, who comprise Sophie Scott-Maunder (vocals/bass), Jonathan Shirley (guitar) and Laura Robinson (drums), but I had heard good things and right from the off I could see I was not going to be disappointed. They started with Day Job, and right from the distorted jangly guitar chord opening, the audience responded and made their way from the bar to the front. It looked like a sell out tonight and I’ve seen loads of headline bands at Tuning Fork play to a smaller crowd than the one now up against the stage. There was real groove to their rock, and they reminded me of some of the Manchester bands such as James. Sophie has a nice catch to her voice, and while not overused it provides an innocence and naivety when it appears which is a lovely touch.Anything I Wanted and Loozer were both somewhat slower, allowing them to build atmosphere and emotion with some nice guitar effects and the songs being heavily based on the bass and the vocals. There was no rush, but instead we were being brought slowly into their world, which has a punchy rhythm section, a guitar which is never over the top, and controlled vocals, all wrapped up in strong melodies. They describe themselves as garage pop with a nostalgic twist, and that is a good way to describe their independent sound. They also say they are influenced by the indie bands from the 2010’s, which is the same references I had picked up, just one generation removed! I feel really old sometimes….

My World/Your Girl saw them slow it down even more, with the first verse basically bass and vocals, with the rest of the band coming in gently on the chorus. The longer they played the more I was enjoying what I was hearing, as there are also substantial elements of dream pop, and although there is a harder edge at times, one could imagine them playing with the likes of {French For Rabbits} or {Reb Fountain}. Their songs just contain so much atmosphere, with Sophie and Laura keeping it tight and allowing Jonathan to keep changing his approach. By now there were people dancing at the front, and the audience had grown as more people came into the venue. Disembody allowed the band to bring in some distortion and roughen the sound, while Darcie also started in a more dramatic fashion. They finished the night with I Love My Wife and they certainly made a host of friends here in Auckland, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Looking at the {Fur Patrol} page on MNNZ my attention was drawn to a press release posted in 2004 which started with “QUESTION: Which NZ band was asked to open for PINK on her Australian tour, DEEP PURPLE on their NZ dates and THE DATSUNS in the U.K all within a month of each other? ANSWER: FUR PATROL!”. That is some statement and show just how beloved this band were back in the day, when they were one of the top bands in New Zealand. Tonight’s show was rescheduled from last year, so no longer was it for the 20th anniversary of their classic album Pet but instead was the 21st! Guitarist {Steve Wells} left the band in 2004, with the band breaking up four years later, and while he has not returned to the fold for this tour we still have {Julia Deans} (vocals and guitar), Andrew Bain (bass) and Simon Braxton (drums). 

The guys came onto the stage and looked incredibly relaxed, with Julia making small talk while she checked the tuning on her guitar, and then we were off with the crowd all reacting as they recognised the introduction to Andrew. They may only be a trio these days but with such a powering rhythm section the second guitar is not missed at all. It was hard to work out who was having the most fun, the audience or the band, as Julia was throwing herself into everything, Andrew was keeping it all solid while Simon was driving it hard from the back. There were huge shouts as the song finished but there was no room for breath as we were into Holy, and we were all being taken back to a time when these guys were huge. Pet is such an important album for NZ music, and everyone here seemed to know every note and every word.

The Wiggles were playing next door tonight, which was referenced by Lydia, but a shout from the crowd for Fruit Salad was promptly ignored as they went into the groove monster which is Now. Given the first three songs were the first three from the album it looked like we were going to get the complete album in sequence, but that song is #5 and surely it would be the encore? We would have to wait and see. I didn’t come to NZ until 2006 so missed out on the album when it was released, but plenty of people had told me it was the soundtrack to their teenage years, and as they blasted into Loaded one could see exactly why, as they have great songs, are incredibly tight, and in Julia they have a wonderful singer who is always in control. It did not sound as if this band had been dormant as they are just so powerful, and they had the crowd in the palm of their hand.

Julia announced they were playing the album top to bottom so did anyone know what the next one was? To be fair, Julia did not need to sing this, as surely everyone knows the lyrics to Lydia, which meant Julia could perfect her Wiggles dance while the audience sang to the band. Everyone had massive smiles on their faces, as if they could not believe they were hearing this song being played. It was placed in the Top 20 New Zealand songs of all time by APRA, won the band multiple awards, stayed on the charts for 19 weeks, and more than 20 years after its release is still a bona fide classic.

Hauling You Around starts with just Julia and her guitar and is far slower and more poignant than what had come before, with the rhythm section coming in for the second verse. Before the next song, they were messing about onstage, just a group of friends having fun, and surely these friends could bring themselves to do another album, please? Not Your Girl had the band really rocking, with some punchy guitar from Julia. Producer David Long was supposed to be joining the band on guitar for a few tunes, but his partner is unwell so was unable to make it, but he was toasted for doing an amazing job on Pet before the guys went into Spinning a Line. Simon made the comment that he was too old for this, but their performance was turning back time. They then thanked Steve Wells, who these days lives in Paris, and Julia was particularly grateful for all the solos which she was now having to play!

We were now into Two Days, which of course includes the classic line Look at all my children, they are pissing in the water, and everywhere I looked people were dancing, even the bar staff! By now we were two thirds into the album, which also meant (I guess) that we were about two thirds into the gig, yet no-one was slowing down even if the music was with Brightest Star. Julia could not believe that the people at the front knew the lyrics to all the songs, even the ones which were not singles, and said it was making her want to cry. Short Way To Fall slows it down even more, with the focus very much on the vocals, packed with emotion and presence. Man in a Box is the first song they ever played together, so has a special place for them (and Julia clarified that it is not about a vibrator, to which Simon asked Why not?). Yet again they demonstrated they were rolling the years away with a drive and passion which put many younger bands to shame, as when the time is ready for them to rock, they do just that and this song is packed with drama.

Of course, that was the end of the album, so Julia announced everyone could come to the merch stand and buy the vinyl, and they would be there to sign it. They ended the night with Bottles And Jars, which was the hidden track on the album, where Julia shows off her what she can do with her voice, just incredible. This was the one song where they used some backing tracks to complete the sound, taking the band in a quite different direction.

The band put down their instruments then, but the crowd weren’t ready, so Julia picked up the microphone and she and the crowd sang some of Lydia once more, with Simon and Andrew stood next to her, all three, arm in arm. What a night. But that was still not enough, so the band came back for Beautiful, with the crowd again singing all the words. That really was it, yet another great gig from a great band.

Photo Credit: Chris Morgan / Morgan Creative. Used with permission.