The Eastern & The Bads – Tuning Fork October 8, 2017


Day 2 of the Southern Fork Americana Festival and this time it’s The Bads and The Eastern with Stretch filling out the bill. Day 1, with Eb & Sparrow and The Miltones, set the bar pretty high…how would Day 2 compare?

It’s a credit to the deep-rooted talent here in New Zealand that, with the withdrawal of The Warratahs, due to an injury to Barry Saunders, that the folks at The Tuning Fork were able to come up with a replacement in the form of The Eastern that managed to keep the quality where it needed to be.

Kicking things off tonight was Stretch, who had the crowd’s attention from the get-go, simply from the force of his powerful performance. Once on stage, he’s impossible to ignore and he and his band made a big, glorious noise.

In fact, bigger and louder seemed to be the way things were headed tonight.

The Bads took the stage with drummer Wayne Bell having just performed with Stretch…whatta guy!

As usual Dianne Swann, Brett Adams, Dave Khan, Ben King and the aforementioned Mr. Bell put on a superb show, concentrating on material from their latest album, Losing Heroes.

Speaking of heroes, Brett Adams only reaffirm his place in my mind as my favourite guitar hero as he let loose during a scorching version of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl.

It turned out that covers would be another theme of the night.

When The Eastern showed up, bandleader Adam McGrath was accompanied by no less than eight other musicians. He started their set on his own, paying tribute to Tom Petty with a version of Learning To Fly, although by the end of the tune, most of the band had joined in.

I’ll try to name as many players as possible…there was long-serving banjo player Jess Shanks, who McGrath described as his “co-pilot”, Reb Fountain was on hand for backing vocals. We had two fiddle players…Flora Knight and Krissie Jackson, a young guitarist named Adam Hardaway, “Big John Hopalong” on the stand-up bass, and, these next two names I’m not sure of…AJ Park on drums and Brendon Day on mandolin and harmonica.

Adam McGrath is a big physical presence on stage and his booming voice is equally large. He comes from a tradition of activist folks singers who have a purpose…a message in their music. Adam’s songs celebrate the working man, the disenfranchised, folks who have no other voice. At times it feels like he wants to achieve change just by the sheer force of his voice.

During the set he and the band reminded the audience that The Warratahs were originally on the bill by playing their song, Hands Of My Heart.

McGrath’s own Talking Americana Cowboy Yeeha Blues was another highlight, but things really kicked up a notch when Stretch was invited back to perform another Tom Petty tune…I Won’t Back Down.

The Petty-fest continued with Brett and Dianne from The Bads returning to play Break Down and American Girl, with Brett once more dazzling the crowd with his guitar playing on the latter.

After an all-star jam of Mary Jane’s Last Dance, McGrath led his group off the stage and into the crowd for an acappella, acoustic version of one more Petty tune, Yer So Bad, performed in the middle of the Tuning Fork floor.

And so Day 2 of Americana Fest came to a somewhat chaotic end, with plenty of highlights among the three acts. At one point there were over a dozen of New Zealand’s finest musicians singing and playing their hearts out on the venue’s stage.

Another triumphant night. See you on Tuesday night for more!

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

The Bads set list:

  1. Crash & Burn
  2. Losing Heroes
  3. Planets
  4. Calling Home
  5. Spinning Wheels Turning Tides
  6. Him & Her
  7. Same House
  8. Good Lies
  9. Cinnamon Girl
  10. Heartbreak Beach
  11. West