It’s been a rough summer for live music. But the proverbial storm is passing and gigs are back with renewed vengeance. 

With events sacrificed on the altar of public health, musicians and promoters alike have been beleaguered by cancellations, forced to adapt to survive. But the drive to create is inexorable. Musicians have been scribbling and strumming at home and in the studio and have emerged armed with scores of material they’re itching to have heard. 

At the same time there’s been a shift in the landscape of what audiences are looking for from acts. Whereas once original music was a hard sell, punters starved of the live experience seem to be searching less for something familiar to which they can sing along. There is a fresh enthusiasm for new tunes with people preferring to open their minds to the breadth of creativity on offer. 

Audiences are hungry for music just as musicians are hungry to get back on the stage, and lucky for us, the Bay’s performers and promoters have prepared a banquet to suit every taste.

With so much on offer, Saturday nights can have us wishing we could perfect the art of bilocation. 

Scarlett Eden

This Saturday, 23 April, sees Scarlett Eden launch her EP, Honest at Common Room. Smooth and soulful, Scarlett has a big voice and a stage presence to match. Channelling the great jazz singers of yesteryear with a twist that’s all her own, her funky sound will get you back in the live music groove.

Across the Bay, also on Saturday, Gray’s Road Band play their debut gig at Paisley Stage. This local progressive rock four piece, fronted by the powerful vocals of Joelene Vrijs, have spent the last two years penning their hour-long set. Dynamic, musically complex yet accessible, this band aims to fill the gap between indy and metal. I, for one, am looking forward to saying I saw them first.

They’re supported by the hardest working heavy metal band in the Bay, Realthentic. These boys bring the noise and the passion – it’s hard to believe such a huge sound can come from just bass, drums and vocals. Backing them up is a solo set from Mirrored Walls frontman, Regan Hughes. Epitomising emo rock, he’s got the look, the talent to back it up and always puts on a good show.

Switching gears for a chilled out Sunday afternoon session, Fraser Mack brings his heartfelt guitar melodies, mellifluous vocals and poetic lyrics to Three Wise Birds in Hastings. If you can’t quite get it together, he’s a regular around town, catch him if you can.

Finn Andrews

Bringing in the big guns from out of town, The Small Hall Sessions kicks off on Wednesday 27 for Finn Andrews’ five night stand in intimate and esoteric settings across the region. The macabre wordsmith and haunting voice of The Veils pares it back with a solo show for guitar, piano and vocals – all heart and soul poured out on the floor.

The opportunity to see such an acclaimed artist in such cloistered surrounds is not to be missed.

Sam Manzanza

Back by popular demand, Sam Manzanza comes to us from Africa via Wellington en route to the moon. He’s taking over Paisley Stage on Friday 29 with his Afrobeat band. This promises to be a frenetic transcendental experience that will have you revelling in the return of the dance floor. 

Saturday 30 offers a smorgasbord of sounds from the all-star dub lineup at Black Barn, to Wellington grunge rock at Paisley Stage, to local legends at the Urban Winery. 

Salmonella Dub burst back on to the Black Barn stage, heralding the return of the big gig. They are touring their latest album, Return to our Kōwhai, to be released the day before they play. Bringing an extended crew, all esteemed acts in their own rights, this gig should push the buttons of those deprived of festival vibes over the summer.

Sidewinder at Paisley are also touring an album with a plethora of guests. It’s the musical equivalent of a well-worn flannel shirt, a little sweaty and dirty, very American, but does the job it’s supposed to with a baseline of style.

Over at the Urban Winery is the more mellow vibe of The Inquiry. A homegrown supergroup of sorts, this band’s talent is only matched by its dearth of media presence. Veteran local performers, Ben Throp, Anton Wuts, Willie Devine, Joel Wilton and Arahi, don’t shout about music, they make it. Well. It’s the kind of show you just have to be there for.

May brings with it more musical delicacies. 

Eerie countrified string three piece, Spooky Skeletons, kick off Common Room’s birthday weekend on May 6. 

Aotearoa Prog Alliance roll into Cabana with a marauding hoard of rock bands on May 14.

Also on May 14, heartfelt crooner, Hemi Hemingway and the Snowflakes come to Common Room from Wellington via a 1960’s ballroom.

Your last chance to hear the euphonious voice, heart pumping melodies and thumping percussion of Joe Rioux will be at Paisley Stage on May 15. He’s farewelling our shores and might treat us to a taste of his concept album, currently under construction.

Tahini Bikini bring the funk, the beats and the rhythm to Common Room on May 28 supported by the heartfelt musical musings of local singer songwriter Joe Cole.

Coming back to April …

If all of this wonderful originality has you running for the comfort of the covers, there are plenty of live acts around town playing your favourite tunes. Cabana has covers covered with a range of themed nights, the best of which has to be the Smooth and Salty Jazz stylings of Margot Pierard and Anton Wuts, next up on Saturday 23, but a regular fixture. Making the most of the last of the sunny Sunday afternoons, Georgie Cole and the Little Mountain Band grace the Church Road stage this Sunday 24.

For those of us disinclined yet to go outside, rest assured there is plenty of original music being produced and recorded in the Bay. Something Ultra New Zealand are laying down tracks for those who need fresh rap in their lives. Lizard Promhave been writing and recording, committing to creating etherial shoe gaze doom music to tickle the inside of your brain. Ten lucky local artists will feature on the second iteration of Hawke’s Bay Music Hub’s vinyl press, Under the Sun 2. They’re currently accepting submissions and will have the record out early next year. 

All in all, it’s a fertile time for music in Hawke’s Bay. Best dust off your dancing shoes and get stuck into the musical feast that has been prepared for your pleasure.

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