Hockey Dad – Meow April 6, 2018

New South Wales duo Hockey Dad brought an energetic set of summery garage rockers with them to Wellington last night, making up with conviction what they occasionally lacked in originality.

Meow was sold out, like Auckland’s Whammy Bar the night before, showing the popularity of the group – there were many last-minute pleas for tickets on the Facebook event page. Those who had gotten their tickets in time milled around both inside and outside on the hot night as two support acts warmed up the stage.

Auckland band Scared Of Girls’ opened the night with some loose and raucous rock that went down very well with the mostly young crowd, and included some great noisy guitar playing. Following them, Brisbane’s Good Boy also had the crowd bouncing and engaged for what they said was only their second show outside of Australia, though I was less impressed by their too-familiar beachy indie rock.

When the headliners took to the stage, what immediately surprised me was the enthusiasm and devotion of their fan base, which far exceeded what I was expecting. Hockey Dad’s best-known songs, judging by the cheers of recognition, tend to involve catchy choruses that blatantly invite crowds to sing along, not that this crowd needed any inviting to join in vocally. The mosh pit was the most energetic and full-on I’ve seen for a long time, as was the crowd-surfing.

It took me a little while to warm to the band’s music, surf-influenced garage rock which initially came off as a little generic, especially amongst the countless similar-sounding young acts we’ve heard from Australia in recent years. Their playing (Zack Stephenson’s guitar and vocals, William Fleming’s drumming) was solid but unremarkable, and not enough to carry the set on its own terms. However, enthusiasm is contagious, and the energy being exchanged between the performers and crowd soon reached me too. More memorable cuts like recent single I Wanna Be Everybody soared over the tightly packed crowd with a truckload of atmosphere.

In the absence of a bassist, their sound was effectively fleshed out with a pedal that added bass frequencies to Stephenson’s guitar parts, and when my view was obstructed by the bouncing of the crowd it sounded, not just solid, but incredibly like a third member.

It was a nice change when Fleming took over lead vocal duties for one song, his voice more loose and raw than Stephenson’s. That said, Stephenson’s vocals sounded much more energised live than on record, a good thing in my opinion.

The pair seemed genuinely stoked by the crowd’s enthusiasm, making sure to tell them all many times. Both parties were delivering equally for the other – Hockey Dad seemingly playing everything the crowd came to hear exactly how they wanted to hear it, and the crowd fulfilling their role as the enthusiastic and physically energetic audience that every rising rock band dreams of playing to. After one encore the set was over and I left feeling positive about the whole experience and the satisfaction Hockey Dad left their fans with – even if nothing I heard actually made me want to go home and listen to more of their music.

Ruben Mita