Fazerdaze with Kane Strang and GirlBoss
Cassette Nine, Auckland, NZ
February 24th, 2017
Reviewed by RUBEN MITA
It was a packed and swelteringly hot Friday night at Cassette Nine, as ticket buyers jostled in groups through the small standing area around the intimate stage to see three acts convene, from three different New Zealand cities.
I arrived at the venue halfway through the set of the first act, Wellington’s GirlBoss, who laid down a lush, sun-washed sound similar to that of the headliners. While it seemed I had walked in on what was a relatively non-descript musical moment, the band’s performance picked up towards the end with several entertaining jam-based pieces, and ended up leaving a good, if mild, impression.
They were followed by Kane Strang, Dunedin’s established indie-rock songwriter who is currently signed to a New York-based label. With a three-piece backing band holding down a solid backbone, he mixed tracks off last year’s full-length debut Blue Cheese with new material from the approaching follow-up.
Live the band brought out the noisier elements not so apparent in that album, with abrasive, expressive guitars and steady rhythms mixing with the flat, off-tune cool of his vocals to satisfying effect. Interestingly, it was easy to pick up a distinctively New Yorkian art-punk vibe from Strang’s set, and in a tiny, packed bar venue this was only a good thing.
Finally, it was time for the home city’s act to appear. Fresh off the back of a likely career-boosting slot on the Laneway main stage last month, Fazerdaze seemed energised and genuinely thrilled to be playing to such a welcoming turn-out, as vocalist and essential solo-artist Amelia Murray repeatedly verbalised with a flattered smile. Opening with the chugging rhythm of Reel, the four-piece played solidly throughout, adapting tracks by lifting them to a higher energetic peak than in their recordings and, in the case of latest single Lucky Girl, improving it by bringing out the danceable pseudo-punk energy within the piece and adorning it with squalls of psychedelic guitar from Murray and fellow guitarist Mark Perkins.
The guitar tones throughout were a delight, filling the small room with layers of reverb-laden psychedelic fuzz, with occasional crunching lead lines cutting through the sunny haze. Several new songs from Fazerdaze’s upcoming debut album strayed from this base for what seemed like upcoming indie-pop leanings, with Perkins crossing to a keyboard and pad to dial up electronic drums and instrumental samples.
The smooth transition from one of these newer tracks into the sample that begins fan-favourite Jennifer was truly the magical moment of the night, drawing cheers of recognition. This song sandwiched between others made it clear that the musical and emotional strength of Fazerdaze’s music swings so much on the distinction of the vocal melodies, which is unsurprising seeing as the live band are the extension of the currently-evolving solo project of vocalist Murray. While less memorable tunes sometimes fall flat in their simplicity, the intrigue and beauty of the melody lines in Jennifer, Reel and closer Little Uneasy, to name a few, are what makes them successful – the purest form of musical success.
If anything, the night showed the genuine enthusiasm out there for the… indie? Psych? Rock? music blossoming all around New Zealand, and left me with a very optimistic feeling about this. All three artists delivered great performances, and while some mid-tempo tracks by each dragged slightly in their similarity, the high points of the long night more than made up for them.
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