It’s always a pleasure to dish out a happy birthday, and that’s what I’m doing this week.
It’s a big birthday at the beginning of March in the ever-expanding, mural-drenched utopia that is Katikati.
But first, a bit of news from last week that will leave many fans of the band sad. Singer, songwriter and extraordinary guitarist Grant Haua has retired from Swamp Thing - the duo he formed nine years ago with singing percussionist (and keyboard player) Michael Barker.
Together they toured extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia, and even travelled to America to play in Louisiana. They also released four highly-regarded albums.
Michael made the announcement on the band’s Facebook page on Sunday.
This is the important bit: “Making the decision faced by many busy working parents, Grant will be withdrawing from playing with Swamp Thing to put his family first (and) to focus his energies on finding his best work life balance.
“I admire Grant on many fronts, but for this life choice I admire him the most and I wish him and his family the best of the best. Grant and I made music before Swamp Thing and will continue to do so going forward, so keep an ear out for Grant’s solo pursuits.”
Michael is now preparing for Swamp Thing shows with guitarist Brett Adams, an old friend with whom he’s backed the likes of The Finn brothers, Dave Dobbyn and Bic Runga.
Grant is currently recording a new solo album at The Colourfield Studio in Welcome Bay.
So a big “thank you” to Mike and Grant for the fantastic and inspiring music over the years. There are few musicians I know who haven’t been blown away by Swamp Thing – it’s been a blast! Now we’re all looking forward to what comes next; this is surely just the beginning.
On to Katikati and, yes, it’s the Folk Club again, which I promised recently not to write about so frequently. But then they go and have a big birthday party and bring another great, great band to the Bay.
Friday, March 1 is the club’s first 2019 concert, and it’s a doozy. The Frank Burkitt Band play high-energy American-influenced original folk, and have just won the 2019 New Zealand Music Award for Best Folk Artist.
Frank grew up in Scotland but moved to New Zealand in 2014. He describes himself as a storyteller, songwriter, singer and guitarist, in that order.
If you’re looking to find a style, he cites the eclectic influences of Pokey Lafarge, Van Morrison, Billy Joel and The Wood Brothers.
The band comprises Frank with Cameron Dusty Burnell on mandolin, banjo and guitar, Kara Filbey on flute and double bass player James Geluk.
They will be joined in Katikati by ex-Tauranga, now Wellington-based horn wizard Oscar Laven.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Oscar’s appearance will herald a rare performance by Tauranga’s premier musical family: Marion Arts, Robbie Laven and Oscar will be the opening act.
This will also be the first show at the club’s new venue, The Arts Junction – site of the old library on the main road. Doors open at 7pm and the music starts at 7.30pm. The new venue isn’t licensed, so it’s BYO for wine and beer. Tickets are $20 and $15 for members.
On Saturday, March 2, the Folk Club turns 25. That’s 25 years of bringing top class music to the Bay.
It’s a damn fine effort, so hats off to all involved!
There’s an open mic/blackboard concert starting at 2pm, and there will no doubt be a whole bunch of performers. From 5-7pm there’ll be a break for a barbecue. The club will provide basic food but bringing extra might be a good idea.
Then, at 7pm, there’s an invitation concert of local bands that have been involved with the club. Waterford is re-forming especially for the occasion, while Kokomo will be there unplugged, along with a host of others.
Again, this is taking place at the Arts Junction and costs just $10 for the day.
Sounds like a good time to me.
Happy birthday, and may there be many more...