The Hollow Grinders, Into Orbit, His Master’s Voice - Nivara Lounge, 18 March 2016
When the name of local surf guitar legends The Hollow Grinders appeared on a gig poster splayed across a phallus of a Baphomet or Sabbatic Goat, one had to ask, “Is the band taking a radical new direction?” “Would we be seeing the formal attire normally associated with these sharply dressed gentlemen ditched to be replaced by Rob Halford-inspired studded leathers or even the odd denim vest?” Fear not, there was no such change in direction for our trusty and reliable grinders. Their dalliance with metal rests in their name only.
The Sabbatic Goat featured on the gig poster (an image created by French occult author Eliphas Levi) contains binary elements said to represent the "sum total of the universe" (e.g. male and female, good and evil, etc.). In musical terms the evening was comprised of extremely distinct acts delivering different genres. Not that there wasn’t any overlap between them. Performatively there were similarities between the two acts that book-ended the evening, while the middle act (Into Orbit) bridged the acts musically.
The Hollow Grinders, as an opening act, worked well. Those familiar got off their feet to dance immediately while grinder-virgins found themselves powerless in the face of their spring-reverb washed twanging guitars causing heads to nod and feet to tap. A reliable source (Mr. Thrust) told me that this performance was preceded by only one practice. Nevertheless, the recently reunited band delivered a solid and tight set. The intensity of Dirk ‘Play Misty for Me’ Thrust’s drumming was a treat to watch, the switching of lead and rhythm between the guitarists gave the set a nice dynamic throughout. It was all over too quickly.
When post-rock experimentalists Into Orbit took the stage not long after, the performative style switched quite dramatically. The Wellington duo, back in Hamilton again, delivered an impressive set in terms of work-rate. Using a looper to layer and build up each song, guitarist Paul Stewart played the role of several band members. Most of the songs in the set started in a melodic fashion, eventually building to heavier tones. There was a definitely a threshold that was reached by many of the songs which satisfied those there for headlining act His Master’s Voice. In tune with their post-rock influences the band didn’t offer a performance in the same way as the other acts, but moved assiduously between the many pedals laid out on the stage to create a sound bigger than a duo are expected to deliver.
Final act of the night His Master’s Voice were unknown to your (clearly wet behind the ears) HUP reviewer, but clearly not to the many who turned out for the show. A healthy following turned up to enjoy their Devil’s Blues sound. Watching the band as they set up, their look was impressive, big hair, the return of the bandana, and some cool 70’s denim jeans on what turned out to be the front man Jesse Sorensen. The acts that preceded His Master’s Voice were both instrumental, so when Sorensen walked up to the mic and kicked off the gig with a powerful Plant-esque acapella vocal all immediately paid attention. Performance wise, they didn’t disappoint – n.b. there was even some excellent back-to-back guitar playing action witnessed. This is exactly what live gigs are about. Turning up and experiencing something outside your own personally imposed taste boundaries for 30 to 45 minutes and appreciating it for what it is. Celebrating diversity. Who wants to watch 3 identical acts? This way, everybody went home having experienced something a bit different. Gee Ttohcs