The Prophet Hens – Freida Margolis January 21, 2017


Dunedin quartet The Prophet Hens rolled into Auckland on this Saturday night bringing both the sound and the weather of their hometown as wind and rain lashed at the front awning of Freida Margolis in Grey Lynn.

The Prophet Hens…Karl Bray (guitar & vocals), Penelope Esplin (keyboards & vocals), Robin Cederman (bass) and Chris Butchard (drums)…were ostensibly performing here in order to promote their latest album, The Wonderful Shapes Of Back Door Keys and the reissue on vinyl of their first album, Popular People Do Popular People. But Karl announced after the first song, “this is our last ever show as a band…so hi and goodbye”.

Well, that was unexpected.

Nevertheless, the four musicians seemed to be in good spirits throughout their hour-long set, playing selections from both long players.

The band’s sound definitely has plenty of that classic Dunedin vibe…they’ve been compared to The Chills, and I would say, thanks to Penelope’s prominent organ sound, there is quite a bit of early Modern Lovers in there as well.

Other than the keyboard, the band’s distinctive sound comes from the two vocalists…Karl and Penelope both sing lead, but when they harmonize together, that’s when the magic happens.

I arrived in time to catch some of Paul Cathro’s opening set. Paul is a member of Ha The Unclear, originally from Dunedin, now based in Auckland, and he’s got a new album out as well, titled, Head First Into Solid Ground. His set of quirky tunes ended with a singalong about Bodywash.

Unfortunately I missed the other opening act, Grawlixes.

The Prophet Hens began with Only One, from the new album, with plenty of jangly guitar and a lead vocal by Karl, with harmonies from Penelope.

There was some adjusting the sound mx between the first few songs…this was a pretty low profile affair and Chris, the drummer was doubling as sound man.

Finally everything was sorted and the band kept the 40 or so fans (a full house for the tiny venue) quite happy with their classic Kiwi indie pop/rock.

After I Might Not Be Right, Penelope stated that the next song would be their last, with no encore…”we don’t believe in that kind of crap”…although she did opening speculate that perhaps this could be a hiatus and they would be back in two years.

But when it was over they continued with Drunk In A Park, with the keyboard player explaining that it was inspired by a date that ended with some dumpster diving.

It seemed the band still wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. “Our encore is our next song”, Penelope told the crowd. And with that they played Popular People.

But parting can be as difficult as staying together. After calls for another encore Karl relented, “Ok, one more,” then warning, “but you’re not going to like it”.

He and Robin then detuned their guitars down to D modal, which, not coincidentally, is the title of what turned out to be their last tune.

For the record, Karl was wrong. I did like it.

Hopefully we haven’t heard the last of them.

Marty Duda

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

The Prophet Hens set list:

  1. Only One
  2. Romp
  3. All Over The World
  4. Basically
  5. Songman
  6. Pretty
  7. Good Shadow
  8. Friends
  9. Oh Wait It’s Me Isn’t It
  10. I Might Not Be Right
  11. Drunk In A Park
  12. Popular People
  13. D Modal