Kane Strang – Whammy Bar August 26, 2017

Last night’s performance from Kane Strang, Girlboss, The Beths and Eyes No Eyes at Whammy last night proved not only the enduring importance of guitars in modern music, it also brought together some of the best talent within local indie pop.

The way some music publications have been spinning it for a few years, more and more musicians have been spending their time locked in their rooms hunched over various DJ programmes than practicing guitar licks. Just as the gated reverb underpinned the majority of 1980s pop, so too the guitar is seen to have had its moment, peaking with mid aughties garage rock revival bands.

How wrong they are.

Unfortunately I missed Eyes No Eyes, but having seen them before I can fully vouch for their ethereal shoegaze, dappled with nods to Slowdive, MBV and Mazzy Star.

I’ve long been a fan of  The Beth’s sun-drenched collision of 1960s surf rock and jangle pop, which always translates well live. Last night was no exception. Tight musicianship and harmonies acted as a counterpoint to lead singer Liz Stokes’s nochalant delivery of surreal lyrics to create danceable pop music with bite. It also must be said that Liz has a quick, understated humour that came out between songs and is incredibly endearing. If an anonymous voice says you sound great, I suggest you take the compliment, as they may be a reviewer. Who knows?

Wellington-based Girlboss gently pulled the sold-out crowd into their dream-pop soundscape with their otherworldly guitar work and hushed operatic vocals and were a good juxtaposition in the lead up to headliner Kane Strang.

For someone who the media has been quick to label a “Sad Boy” Kane Strang sure seemed thrilled to be performing by the time he took the stage close to midnight. “I’m just too excited” he said in between songs. Having released his second album Two Hearts and One Brain earlier this year on international label Dead Oceans to widespread critical acclaim, it’s no wonder.

Kane was tightly focused throughout his set, which leaned heavily on new material. I’ve always had a soft spot for clever tounge in cheek song writing, where lyrics oscillate between forlorn and dejected to whimisically bleak irony. Like Morrissey or Elliot Smith before him, Kane is quite the wordsmith. His intelligently written, heartfelt lyrics were only intensified by his deadpan delivery and swirling visceral guitar work that owes something to early Grunge bands, Blur and Weezer. Kane performed with a sense of confidence that I didn’t really pick up on when listening to his albums and it was wonderful to see him performing with a strong sense of who he was and where he was going.

If last night is anything to go by, New Zealand’s indie pop scene is in fantastic shape and I for one, can’t wait to see what happens next.

Kate Powell

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski: