Soaked Oats are no strangers to Tāmaki Makaurau, and the Hollywood Theatre, having played it twice before during the six years they have been in existence.
This is the second time I’ve seen them, the first was at the Voom – Hello, Are You There LP release party back in April 2021, where they caught my ear on the back of some fabulous performances of earlier material that went all the way back to their debut vinyl EP Sludge Pop in 2019.
The four piece are vocalist Oscar Mein, bassist Max Holmes, drummer Conor Feehy and guitarist Henry Francis, and are a product of that Otago University tradition of Dunedin student music. While the influence of Flying Nun was underlying early on for Soaked Oats, with the release of their debut LP Working Title late last year, and several years of doing the hard-yard locally and internationally, they have experienced change and growth that has transformed Soaked Oats into a mighty waka for the members creativity.
K’Rd darlings, and stalwarts of the live music scene in Tāmaki Makaurau, dark-post punk band Na Noise are doing the hard yard opening to a half full room. But changes (not David Bowie) is a theme tonight.
Last time I saw Na Noise they were a three-piece, tonight they have a percussionist and backing vocalist accompanying Yolanda Fagan (Vox + Guitar), Hariet Ellis (Vox + Bass) and Christopher Varnham (Drums, Percussion + Organ) The resulting sound is much more complex, much more interesting, there is still the guitar led energy, but melody and dance-ability have come to the forefront, and I find myself increasingly enraptured by tonight’s performance.
Na Noise are off overseas to seek fame and fortune (lol!), so it will be interesting what influences they bring back whence they return.
As an erstwhile participant in the music industry, never the bride, always the bridesmaid, I’ve been impressed how Soaked Oats sowed the seeds of a career. Creating a fan base by doing the hard-yard of playing live, and better still, touring Australia, the USA and even the UK. Using the last six years to feed out tunes online and tempting us with the Sludge Pop vinyl EP in 2019, before releasing their debut LP in November last year.
Tonight’s show is the last of an 11 date Australasian tour, as darkness (like an old friend) falls and signals that the game is afoot, and without much ado, the band launch into two of the more energized songs from their newest Working Title The Way It Works and Behind Their Years, energizing the masses, Soaked Oats are starting with a bang.
But… it is already apparent that they have quite a different sound from two years ago, much richer and lustrous, and there seems an implied emotional connection to the material being performed by vocalist and main song-writer Oscar Mein. The onstage band is expansive, with an additional guitarist (is three guitars too much?) and stand-alone percussionist.
As they work through a set of mainly songs from Working Title, the gentler pensive and ultra-complex songs lose a little of the audiences focus (there is a lot of chatting amongst this millennial dominated crowd) When the few ‘older’ songs Shuggah Doom and Coming Up appear in the performance, these songs have a rougher edge, and there is a definite audience reconnection. In many of the newer songs, it feels a little like, that the ‘waxing on’ process may have gone too far, perhaps, occasionally, Soaked Oats could’ve broken loose a little more.
There are many surprise tonight, when Oscar Mein breaks into a Beat Poet session with bongos (sorry, Flight of the Conchords jumped straight into my head at that moment) and he ventures into the into the crowd like a Bob Dylan-esque figure. Tāmaki Makaurau rapper Church (of Church & AP fame) launches onto the stage to perform passionately on Divide Symbol (that was brilliant!)
Then there is the crowd participation song, Headline Opinion, which gets a little cheesy, but I feel, I get the feeling, he is trying to say something serious, perhaps even make social commentary!
Throughout the night, singer Oscar Mein, has a manner about him that, that entraps the gaze of the young women in the audience (and likely a few guys too), it’s his Oscar Wilde style delivery. Maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the voice, maybe it’s the sway, maybe it’s THE HAND! The red right-hand. Whatever it is, it’s swears confidence, and turns the bands performance into theatre at time, in a Joni Mitchell/David Bowie kind of way.
There’s an encore, one more song, well actually it was two, two new songs, the second, Happening has a modernist, beatlesque, hippy flavour to it. Elements of white boy fun, and the bassist Max Holmes, cements his win as band member of the night, though the bongo player was a close second!
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