Dark Hearts 2 – Totara Street: May 31, 2024 (Mt Maunganui)

Dark Hearts 2 is the brainchild of Shane Duncan, guitarist/Vocalist for Tauranga group Stunt Clown. As the title of this ‘Good Night Out’ infers, there had been a previous incarnation in June 2023, Dark Hearts that featured Warm Leather (TM), Hoick (TGA), Stunt Clown (TGA), Static (HM) and Six Two’s (TGA). Yes! It is a festival dedicated to the Golden Triangle, a place where everybody knows your name.

Dark HeartThe word was out, something was afoot beyond the Bombay Hills, wouldn’t it be great to see so local sounds in the land beyond the hills? So, yes! A pact was made, friends messaged, free places to crash were arranged and a leaving time was agreed.

The agreed time was pushed back… (no surprise there) and thus we had to battle, endure, and be reconciled with the infamous (infuriating) Tamaki Makaurau traffic.

Totara Street is a Community kind of place, a space that fosters the Arts for the Mount and Tauranga, it’s the sort of place where the kids can hang around during the day, and the seasoned come to drink, dance and bullwah the night away. It’s not a patch on any Tamaki Makaurau venue… it’s a whole new dapper suit in comparison! The toilets are pristine, and the bar has a formidable range, including the mighty Waikato Draft 330ml bottles for only $8. There is a bar garden, the PA and lighting rocks, the stage is at a good height to assist the vertically challenged, and the security and door folk were loveable.

Fuck you Tamaki Makaurau! We made it just in time to see the first band, thankfully gigs never start on time!

Dark HeartFirst up are three-piece band Torana. Formerly a four-piece, now a three-piece split between Tamaki Makaurau and Whakamārama. They’re heavy on fuzz-distorted guitar, their sound is stoically post-grunge. Like three Newcastle steel-workers growing up on early Judas Priest, they accepted the first band on status, and delivered an array of older and newer material, including a kick-ass version of a Black Flag song. The crowd were truly well-warmed-up for the night. 

Dark HeartHemodroid is another three-piece, but this time from Tauranga (not to be confused with Mt Maunganui) Have a driving guitar sound very reminiscent of Soundgarden in a harsh style, there was a bass groove underneath that dueled, with a subliminal vocals style that harked to the legendary band The Wipers. Whilst the drummer, who took on vocal duties at a time, sounded like a well-versed Black Sabbath fan. Hemodroid Heavy noise 101, angsty post-punks with many faces. They are playing Sat June at the Piha Bowling Club, with a number of other bands.

Dark HeartRepairs also from Tamaki Makaurau kept the 3 piece theme alive. An onto it punter shared with me that this was their last show as the partnered guitar/vox and bass/vox couple were heading to Scotland. The post-punk angular male/female vocals and sharpened guitar create an almost industrial sound, HDU comparisons abound. it’s a dangerous un-populist sound. And the audience engages comfortably with it. Martin Phillips is a beast on the guitar, their version of Mclusky’s  To Hell With Good Intentions is brilliant stuff. Scotland’s gain, is Aotearoa’s loss. (Disclaimer: Repairs actually play one last time in Tamaki Makaurau at Wine Cellar  Thursday 13th June, it’s free!)

Dark HeartStunt Clown, Tauranga’s finest, a four-piece that started as a covers band, with a long whakapapa that includes ex and current members of DIC, MKUltra, Brilleaux, Capo Regime, Dead Simple and Sog. It’s shouty white boy punk, you know the later generation punk rock along the lines of Stiff Little Fingers and Angelic Upstarts (who were always a favourite of mine) Their pedigree is in display as they are a slick well-oiled outfit, they energize the room with a vocalist – Shane Duncan belting out personal and political observations. They tried hard not to suck, and they didn’t. (Stunt Clown play in Tamaki Makaurau with The Larry Normans on Friday, July 19th at Whammy. Backroom)

Dark HeartTamaki Makaurau stalwarts (around since at least 2017) Nuggiez who feature Martin Phillips of Repairs in the lineup, announce this is their final show, well with him anyway. With tino rangatiratanga and  Palestine flags draping amps, these guys wear their values upfront. The singer invites all to “Come up front, our music sux” They launch into a set of agit-punk, noise, energy, melody, and rhythm. Their first three songs have you cycling through at least three different emotional responses, in sound and presence. Nuggiez singer Vocalist Drew McCormack has a lot to sing and say about what’s wrong in our Frankensteinian consumer society, but it’s done with a beat, so you can dance to it.

This is the bit that sucked, as usual, like every other show I’ve ever been to, it ran late, and because of this, I had to leave before the last band, Tauranga’s finest (since 2011),  drums/keyboard/bass punk trio Threat Meet Protocol. I was pretty bummed out, as I had vague memories of seeing them way back in 2018 when they played with The Hard-Ons.  Check out the Witch Trials EP online to discover why this is my bad. My loss.

Brilliant night, a brilliant venue, brilliant bands and I loved the Waikato Draught. I’ll be back in 2025 for Dark Hearts Three.

Simon Coffey