Everything's coming thick and fast on the music scene right now – from festivals to open mic nights, it's happening in Tauranga.
And it's going to continue for a while. Amazingly enough, after all these years, the Bay has finally begun to realise a little of its musical potential over the summer, with a solid month of gigs of every variety running from the start of the year through till the One Love Festival on Waitangi weekend and beyond.
January has something for everyone, and now it only remains to try and come up with ideas for New Year's Eve in the Bay. Surely to god it must be possible to promote some form of entertainment that is quieter and less damaging than a full-scale riot but louder and less inherently silly than a silent disco?
The problem for promoters at this time of year – aside from unseasonable hurricanes and other acts of science – is how to get your particular show noticed in the huge glut of them. For that conundrum, I have no solution.
Friends of mine use the usual methods of communication to find out about gigs, like Eventfinda and Facebook groups. It's mostly internet stuff and, of course, the valiant Weekend Sun.
Over the next little while, I'm going to try and point out a few of the smaller things happening - stuff that might otherwise get lost along the way.
Though I'd like to put in a plug right up front for Easter's National Jazz Festival, tickets for which are now available.
I reckon newly-arrived festival organiser Craig Wilson has done an absolutely bang-up job with the concert series, and pretty much every show looks like something worth seeing.
But I said smaller things and I'll start with one at the end of this month that I'm most excited about.
The Lonely Heartstring Band are a bluegrass quintet from Boston in the US. They're coming to The Barrel Room on Wharf Street on the last day of the month (Wednesday, January 31) and I suspect they're going to be more fun than stuffing a ferret down your trousers and twerking.
I've actually not heard them in person, but there are many clips across YouTube.
The man responsible for dragging them to Tauranga is local musician Derek Toner, once of The Mellowdrops and 10 Mile Stone, then Tuner, and currently a third of Toner, Franks & Beano.
Last year Derek kicked off a new venture as a promoter by bringing the Irish singer songwriter Mundy to the Mount's Hop House.
That led to more...
“By hosting Mundy we made a few connections with other promoters,” says Derek. “Last year I got an email from Mark Mazengarb who is originally from Tauranga and now a guitarist in the States. He recently toured NZ with Tommy Emmanuel. Mark heard we were booking gigs and was arranging the tour for The Lonely Heartstring Band.”
As one of several small promoters in Tauranga, Derek is always looking for interesting, unique shows.
He had a look at the band and says he was blown away.
“These guys just sounded so amazing! A five piece band with three vocal harmonies, banjo solos, violins, mandolins, acoustic guitars and double bass. What's not to love?
“So we didn't hesitate. It won't be long before these guys are a huge world-wide name, so it will be so good to host them now before the bigger venues come knocking.”
Derek may well be right. The band will be headlining the Auckland Folk Festival and, more importantly in folky circles, have been signed by the prestigious Rounder Records. Their debut album Deep Waters came out in 2016.
I came across this description on AllMusic and it seems fitting for a band whose material stretches from the oldest trad tunes to the likes of Paul Simon's “Graceland”: the quintet offer up a sprightly blend of classic, close harmony singing, country-folk-pop, and contemporary newgrass acrobatics that bridge the gap between Bill Monroe, The Beatles and the Punch Brothers.