Concert Review: Good Habits, Devonport Folk Club, Auckland   5 April 2021

Folk rooted in Celtic and European tradition, matched to observational story-telling with a definite Manchester sensibility is duo Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw – who perform under the banner Good Habits.

Bonnie has a Classical and Jazz background and plays cello in a remarkable way. Bowed and plucked, short riffs with piano rhythms, sometimes dub Bass. A voice which has a natural affect- free tone with faint English accent. A Folkie with Pop sensibilities.

Pete is a virtuoso accordionist who can sound like a whole band. Has a genuine Folk background but besides the Celtic and Gaelic rhythms, his playing is filled with wider European Folk and Gypsy Jazz textures.

Found themselves gratefully trapped here when the lockdown contagion hit the world early in 2020. They have played around the country and tonight is special show for the Folk cognoscenti of Devonport at the Bunker venue.

Halfway up Mt Victoria, above the township. A real military bunker built in the late nineteenth century. Concrete with wooden floors. A genuinely legendary small club venue for the scores of musicians who have played there, from around the world and locally. A museum of sorts. Old artifacts cover the walls.

Good HabitsSee How the Evening Goes. Old English Folk in sound. Lots of rhythmic colour added by the cello as the accordion plays Celtic drones.

Hitch. The cello starts this sounding like a double bass. A fast Jazz vocal verges on scat. The accordion plays Klezmer Jazz tones and evokes the atmosphere of European café culture.

Forget It and a song written about leaving Manchester before starting their Kiwi odyssey. The accordion plays a gentle Folk drone melody and the mood is regret. A slow walk around the town on a grey overcast day.

Under My Nose and the accordion leaps out with fast Cajun rhythm riffs to start. It’s a song about finding your soulmate was always right by your side. Pop sensibilities are added and there is wry humour in the lyrics.

Bonnie writes many of the songs and there is a great deal of the influence of those Mancunian legends Morrissey and Marr in the tone of their songs.

The above songs are all on an album they finished recording and released here in September last year, Going For Broke. A fine album worth checking out. Presented live tonight and the music widens out as they bring some easy virtuosity to their musical interplay. Astonishing how they can sound like a much bigger band by giving music space to breathe.

A couple of covers are indicative of the breadth of their music.

Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen is probably the most well-known old-style Klezmer song, when it was made a world-wide hit by the Andrews Sisters. A traditional one-step (or two-step) rhythm which swings and dances with their take on it.

Video Killed the Radio Star. The Buggles Pop hit and the song shines like an upbeat old Smith’s tune done Folk style.

Good HabitsThey open their second set with a taste of what they call Dance Gig Theatre. It could be called I’ll Follow You. Start with some soulful vocals. The accordion plays a rhythm drone and eventually the cello adds a Velvet Underground one as well. They alternate between fast swing and stomp, and slow Folky quieter passages.  Closes with where did all the people go?

A couple of whirlwind Celtic riff-driven instrumentals. One is called Bullet Proof.

Their closing number is Raising the Hour Hand. A rousing number which is Folk but swinging with a Pop beat. The accordion sounds like massed violins.

Revved up Folkies who stitch many elements into their sound and move along with great energy and spirit.

They drive this home with their encore, a medley of Those Were the Days and I Will Survive. You can’t help but move.

Rev Orange Peel