Balu Brigada – Hollywood Avondale September 15, 2022

Balu Brigada return to play their first headline show in New Zealand in 18 months. With the help of Park Rd and Hurricane Emily, a good crowd filled the Hollywood Avondale for an even better night.

Jemilah Ross-Hayes (photographer) and I caught about half of Hurricane Emily’s first set. The Pōneke-based Monday-evening radio host and local to the Aotearoa summer festival circuit now warmed up the stunning Hollywood Avondale with her seamless mix. The evening must have been pushed back by half an hour to afford the fashionably late attendees to arrive in time for Park Rd’s set.

Park Rd sound fantastic from the first song onwards, which is partially to the credit of the amazing crew working the event, of course. The guys in Park Rd deliver a set full of now familiar songs with here and there a new song that lands well in the attentive audience. Their performance is well-rehearsed and mostly runs smoothly giving the band, especially frontmen Tom Chamberlain and Leo Bond, the room to run across the stage when the songs get heavy. Balu Brigada closed off the Smokefree Rockquest finals in 2019, including a young Park Rd in the top 10. It’s a journey that Tom reflects on as a “full circle moment” with the now rapidly emerging band confidently supporting Balu Brigada.

In between Park Rd and Balu Brigada’s set the lights stay forebodingly low. The sound technician must be popular because annoyingly, the house music that is being played between the sets dips down whenever they get a message. With the lights being low and the music fading, a sense of urgency hangs around the audience because it feels as if the main act of the night could jump up at any second.

After a while brothers Pierre and Henry Beasley stroll onto the stage. I straight away notice that this is a much more casual gig than when I saw them in awesome matching jumpsuits at their last headline show, a sold-out Tuning Fork gig. The brothers now wear outfits that don’t match at all and somehow, that just works.

An ominous intro track with juicy, building synths transports the Hollywood Avondale back to the ’80s but Balu Brigada snaps the room right back to today with their hard-hitting synth pop. The concert is to promote their next EP, dropping on September 25th, and it’s a perfect balance between songs from the next chapter in Balu Brigada’s journey, and songs that I can sing in my sleep.

The band cracks open their set with instant singalongs Nightshift and Number One before introducing the title track off their upcoming EP, I Should Be Home.

“How are we doing Auckland? This is our first headline show in the homeland in 18 months! We’re gonna be playing some new ones so without further ado, here is a song that comes out in 8 days!”

I Should Be Home, is more of the same, and I am talking about the title track as well as the entire EP here, I am all for it. Balu Brigada have locked in their sound, their songwriting is on the nose, and topics that would usually be cliché and even cringy are clever and creative in their hands.

It seems like the recipe to write an instant classic Balu Brigada hit you’ll need a simple and steady beat on the drums, some dreamy Juno synthesizers, the fattest bassline you’ve ever heard, and well-paced, -spaced, and -written lyrics and melodies. Oh, and don’t forget to add a heavy breakdown if you feel like it. And there are lots of them; Nice To Have Someone To Miss, How It Would End, and Could You Not have some of the hardest-hitting breakdowns I’ve heard to date.

Every song Balu Brigada performed is played over a track. I want to emphasize they played over a track rather than along to one. Pierre plays the strong basslines, Jackson Boswell holds down the drums, and Henry shreds those wild guitar solos, making up the majority of the sound, over a track that is only there to support. The words and the melody are still king in both Balu Brigada’s writing and performing and I can’t wait to listen to Everybody Knows and I Should Be Home again when the EP comes out on the 25th of September.

Koen Aldershof

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Jemilah Ross-Hayes

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