Cowboy Dan – Wine Cellar: December 21, 2023

Local Jangle-alt-popsters Cowboy Dan, fresh back from a two-year hiatus, celebrated the release of their two previous digital-only EPs, as a single vinyl LP last night at the Wine Cellar, with guests The Changing Same. 13th Floor’s resident opportunist Simon Coffey was there for some yuletide entertainment and tasty beverages.

The night after the Save The b concert was an adventurous night to hold a show, but, given the season is to be merry, a less gigantean night had its appeal, especially the opportunity to hang out in one of Tamaki Makaurau finest venues, The Wine Cellar.

The Changing Same 

Are led by ex-Sneaky Feelings/Dribbling Darts of Love Matthew Bannister, with drummer Bruce Dennis, guitarist John Maydon and bassist Albert Bannister (who I believe is The Changing SameMatthew’s son) With three albums under their belt and decades of experience playing in a plethora of bands, members of The Changing Same are no strangers to the stage.

It’s great to see Matthew Bannister onstage again, his vocal manner still has that South Island tunefulness reminiscent of Sneaky Feelings and The Verlaines, and the swing and catchiness pervades. Tonight’s show starts with cuts from this year’s release Go To The Movies: Living In A Bubble and Too Far Gone, followed by a couple of new ones, What’s so good about the 60s? and an untitled song written by the drummer Bruce Dennis, both much more raucous compositions. 

The Best Intentions features guitarist John Madden on a rather swarve-looking box guitar which he plays with much finesse. Just Like California has a prime Wilco style finesse to it, while vocal duties are shared with John taking the lead on a melodic 70s sounding untitled song ’

Late in the set, are a couple of songs that seem like poorer cousin compositions, Come here Darling and Rock N Roll Boys Club don’t quite fit the alt-Beatles vibe of the nights so far. But then out of the hat comes a Sneaky Feelings song from their 2020 LP Mercury Moment (the one nobody bought – Matthew’s words) Sun Is Shining sees Matthew cutting loose a little, and their performance ends on Remains Of The Day from the latest album Go to The Movies and the vibe and energy of the earlier part of the set are revisited.

Cowboy Dan

Formed in late 2015, in late 2023 the band currently consists of twins Leighton and Jared Edwards, guitarist Chris Warne and new guy Steve Wiki on bass. There was a two-year break as one of the twins (Leighton) did a stint as a lumberjack in Canada, but back in Aotearoa and having earned enough to reissue their two EPs We Will Hesitate When We Cowboy DanEventually Wake (2021) and Sentimental Now That We’re Leaving (2017) on vinyl, the band seem ready to get back in the saddle.

Cowboy Dan starts raucously with a song that has a mid-song slowdown that feigns a finish before returning to its heights (it catches a few audience members out) A Lightning Seeds/REM vibe and sound flows through the second tune Stranger’s Eyes a fav of mine from their second EP (side two of the vinyl LP) I’m Not Here also from the second EP, slows and quietens things down, but cleverly shows of the band tunefulness and vocal harmonies very reminiscent of the Replacements. Ten Years’ from the 2017 EP (side one of the vinyl LP) has a simplicity that signposts the band’s youthful period, in context, it shows how far Cowboy Dan had come by the recording of their 2021 EP. 

Cowboy Dan features a solid bass and drums section, on top of which the guitars complement and battle in layers as Leighton’s vocals (and others) flow seamlessly over. It’s obvious the four are enjoying playing live, and the energy flows into the room.

Happiness is a brush-on-drums ditty, its referencing of Xmas lights is pertinent, it’s a crowd pleaser with its catchy lead guitar hook and rhythm moving the crowd. It is followed by a faux finale of two much more raucous numbers, and a cover of The Replacements 1985 song Can’t Hardly Wait. But wait…  Leighton’s twin Jared on drums, takes the mantle as two more are plucked out including You And I, a veritable jangle very danceable guitar-driven pop song played tonight with a drive not displayed in the recording on the LP. A finale song indeed.

Cowboy Dan songs are about love, anxiety, happiness and modern life, they represent the personal rather than the complexity of a fraught world, it’s refreshing alt-pop, very jangle but with an energy derived from punk in much like The melodic SST artists as well as aforementioned bands.

Simon Coffey

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Cowboy Dan:

The Changing Same:

Click here to watch the 13th Floor Singles Session with Cowboy Dan

Catch Cowboy Dan and The Changing Same at Nivara Lounge in Hamilton tonight.

Cowboy Dan