Welcome to a jazz-free zone

Robbie Lavën & Mike Garner

After a two-year build-up it’s here; jazz is in the air, everywhere you look around.

Fingers crossed about the weather, and I hope everyone has fun. This week here, however, is a jazz-free zone. So if you’re thoroughly sick and tired of jazz, or simply a blues-lover offended by the festival organisers’ decision to strip the festival of its blues component, then this is the column for you.

Luckily you’ll find some blues over Easter weekend, even if it has been largely outlawed from the jazz festival. And who knows? That decision may ultimately be a good thing for blues, even if it means no slots at the festival for Hybrid Blues, B-Side Band, Mike Garner, Brilleaux and many others who once proudly waved the flag for Tauranga.

It has meant that the Hamilton Blues Society, who for some years provided music on one of the downtown stages, has now arranged a rival blues festival for Easter in Hamilton. Given the wide popularity of blues here, it will be interesting to see if that has a longer-term impact on audiences.

But if you do want to catch something with that flavour over Easter, there are a few options. Both The Barrel Room and The Hop House, Wharf Street’s two craft beer bars, are putting on Saturday evening music after the Downtown Carnival has wrapped up.

Old-timey blues

At the Barrel Room, Mike Garner has a terrific quartet lined up to make old-timey blues, with not one but two washboard players on board. Mike Garner’s Ragtime Washboard Kings also features acoustic and resonator guitars, upright bass, fiddle, lap steel, mandolin, djembe, Cajon and more.

What Mike has done here is combine his two regular duos, with Robbie Lavën and Warren Houston respectively, and added Te Kauwhata upright bass player Stuart Lawrence.

You can expect a whole bunch of pre-war blues (that’s WW2 y’all), ragtime and Americana. Mike is really good at this stuff, and if you’re a blues fan who hasn’t previously heard him then you're in for a treat (6pm, no charge).

Down the street at The Hop House you’ll find horns and grooves, as long-standing Wellington band Shaken Not Stirred drop by for a session. Sorry, I realise this is straying into jazz territory; they're also playing at the festival. But if you fancy some swinging horns, killer guitar and some seriously funky rhythm ‘n’ blues in a funky bar-room setting, look no further!

On Sunday it’s a different shade of R ‘n’ B as locals Brilleaux, in action less frequently since frontman Graham Clark moved to Hawke's Bay, are playing a barbeque at the Historic Village on the outdoor stage next to The Station and Mood Cafe. Things kick off at 4pm with food and drinks, and the band start at 6pm. Tickets cost $40 from Eventfinda and it should be a blast.

Now I’m going to leave this weekend and look ahead to the next one, as another festival is arriving hot on the heels of Easter’s bash.

Immerse yourself

It is the Immerse 2021 Festival - an ambitious new venture from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and a three-day festival taking place in Tauranga and Napier, highlighting some of the world’s greatest symphonic works, a leading New Zealand soloist and a special collaboration with young singers.

The festival includes Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, acclaimed pianist Diedre Irons playing Mozart’s famous Piano Concerto No. 23, Stravinsky’s fairy tale-inspired The Firebird, and young Hawke’s Bay choir Project Prima Volta performing favourite Broadway songs from Annie Get Your Gun, Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Gypsy.

The Immerse Festival runs in Tauranga over April 9, 10 and 11 at Baycourt Theatre, with two evening concerts and the Broadway matinee. You can find all the details (and can get tickets) at: www.baycourt.co.nz

And let me just plug a couple more upcoming shows: On Thursday, April 8, Elemeno P are at Totara Street to celebrate the vinyl release of their first three albums, while on Saturday, April 10, the legendary Andrew Fagan is at the Jam Factory. It’s all go in Tauranga...

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