R E V I E W
Francisca Griffin and the Bus Shelter Boys / Bitter Defeat / The Biscuits
Nivara Lounge - Kirikiriroa Hamilton Sat 24th April 2021
By Dean Ballinger
A small but appreciative crowd for some quality NZ indie-rock. First up was long-serving Auckland 3-piece The Biscuits, whose two guitar and drums line-up was in fine form, powering through distortion-soaked garage and spiky punk numbers, the two guitarists barking mantra-like phrases over the top, the lead guitar and drums often evoking the Asheton brothers from The Stooges. While most of the Biscuits songs are pretty short and repetitive structure-wise, they performed some longer numbers where they played with dynamics and feel – more of these please!
Second was Kirikiriroa’s own Bitter Defeat, who are on a roll at the moment, having recently released their debut EP to good reviews and warming up to play support slots for The Chills in May. The band gave typically tight and energetic performances of their now established indie-rock repertoire, concluding with their signature tune ‘Long Lash’, although the vocals often got drowned out by the guitars. They also debuted a new number, presumably called ‘Falling Down’ based on the chorus, which sounded like it had been part of their set for a while. Hopefully more new songs are forthcoming.
Francisca Griffin and the Bus Shelter Boys (drums, bass, violin, saxophone) had meant to tour nationally last year to promote the 2019 album 'The Spaces Between', but this was deferred due to Covid lockdowns. The set began with one of her more well-known songs, the melancholy Ghost Boy, on acoustic guitar accompanied by violin, which sounded great – I would have liked to hear a couple more songs in this format.
The songs on 'The Spaces Between' album are largely in the classic Dunedin folk-jangle style (yes, you can hear echoes of Look Blue Go Purple songwriting), so it was surprising to hear them played live as raucous indie-rock numbers, with driving punk bass and drums that often relied on the floor tom and surf beats instead of more typical indie drumming. The songs were further endowed with interesting textures and rock gusto courtesy of violin and saxophone on different numbers, the sax mingling very effectively with the guitar – why isn’t this combination used more often? Unfortunately Griffin’s poignant lyrics and expressive vocals on record didn’t really translate to the stage, coming across as flat and murky – a common issue that may be related to the acoustics of Nivara Lounge.
The relatively small crowd may have been due to local punters checking out The Veils in Raglan (or, god forbid, Six60 at Eden Park). An esteemed musical colleague seated next to me was most absorbed in Griffin and co’s performance, which is a fitting image summing up the gig overall.