Hopetoun Brown – Auckland Village Music October 30, 2015

13th Floor - Hopetoun Brown-24Hopetoun Brown is the horn-blowing offshoot of Supergroove featuring Nick Atkinson and Tim Stewart. After playing up and down the country for the last year or so, the act has just released its debut album, Burning Fuse. Nick and Tim celebrated the release of their new long player with the first show of a nationwide tour assisted by a few of their talented friends.

Not only was this the first of Hopetoun Brown’s 12-date tour, but it was the final instalment in the Village Music Winter Concert Series taking place at Mt Eden’s Methodist church and community centre. This was my first time in the venue and although it was a bit cramped…it looked like a sell-out…the vibe was convivial with fans nursing their bottles of wine…it was BYO…and the distance between performer and audience virtually non-existent.

In addition to several mic stands, the stage held a small drum kit and a table full of various brass instruments, an accordions and a full range of percussive implements.

Tim and Nick took the stage just after 8:30 and opened with Burning Fuse, the lead-off track from the just-released album. Tim sang and used his own body as a percussion instrument while Nick tooted away on his bass clarinet.

If you haven’t heard Tim Stewart sing before, you’re in for a surprise. I owns one of the most powerful voices in the country and his big, burly, bearded appearance on enhances that power.

The overall sound of Hopetoun Brown is steeped in blues and jazz while the lyrics seem to owe a debt to the Beat poets of the 50s. But really, no one else sounds like them.

After performing a new song, Own It, they brought out their first guest, indie-rocker Jol Mulholland who accompanied himself of a beat-up guitar. As Jol sang I Took A Train, from his 2014 album, Stop & Start Again, the PA crackled a bit, but fortunately didn’t cause any trouble after that. Meanwhile Tim wailed away on his trumpet.

Jol then led the crowd through the first of several sing-alongs with his Let’s Go Fishing. He dedicated it to his wife, as it was their 6th wedding anniversary.

Next on was trumpet player Finn Scholes of Carnivorous Plant Society and the incomparable Tami Neilson to join in on a cover of SJD’s Rise Up with Nick whipping out his antique Italian accordion.

They closed out the first set with their own Dirty Shame, and then the song that got them started, St James Infirmary with Tim and Tami trading verses. Jol’s guitar decided to add some unwanted feedback to the proceedings but again, this was a brief annoyance.

Tim and Nick returned at 9:30 and dug into a few more of their own tunes including the uplifting Glass Half Empty…”We’re all gonna die” and Demanding Blues with Finn sitting in on tuba. The crowd was clapping away on the latter as Tim briefly dipped his ear into the tuba and then took up his own horn for a trumpet solo.

Then is was time to shine the spotlight on Tami. Strumming her own guitar she belted out a couple of her own songs…Cry Over You and Walk (Back To Your Arms). I loved hearing the horns punctuate Tami’s singing during Walk and when Tim and Tami sang together it sounded like the meeting of two vocal titans.

Jol then led another sing-along, with Tim at the drum kit, before the set ended on a strong note with three more original Hopetoun tunes including the memorable Knitted Into My Bones.

For the encore, they dipped into the past with Nick soloing on sax to intro Chain Gang (Work Song) and then a rousing Mannish Boy with everyone on stage helping out.

The band heads out on the road, stopping tonight in Hamilton. You owe it to yourself to check these boys out.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Isaac Newcombe:

Hopetoun Brown set list:

First set

  1. Burning Fuse
  2. Own It
  3. I Took A Train
  4. Let’s Go Fishing
  5. Rise Up
  6. Dirty Shame
  7. St James Infirmary

Second set

  1. Glass Half Empty
  2. Blind
  3. The Demanding Blues
  4. Cry For You
  5. Walk (Back To Your Arms)
  6. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
  7. Road Runner Rocks
  8. Sorry You’re Sick
  9. Knitted Into My Bones
  10. Chain Gang (Work Song)
  11. Mannish Boy