By Shawn Moodie
Artist: Gareth Thomas
Date / Venue: Friday July 8th, 2016 - Whammy Bar, Auckland
I was in a decidedly good mood as I watched Gareth Thomas introduce his new record, Fizzy Milk, to a packed out crowd at Auckland’s Whammy Bar on Friday night.
The ex-Goodshirt member had penned some of my favourite slices of Kiwiana (Sophie, Fiji Baby, Lucy), tunes that evoke memories of misspent summers at the beach, and I was expecting good things after being similarly impressed with his new record, Fizzy Milk, of which he was supporting with the last of three album release shows.
Before Gareth Thomas took to the stage, we were treated to the music of The Map Room (made up of Simon Gooding and Brendon Morrow) who were there to not only support Gareth but also their new album which is being released this year. The band warmed up the crowd with a 10 song set of well-constructed and atmospheric indie-pop, which had the audience hanging on every chord and note. Highlights tracks included: 'Show', the stunningly catchy 'You & Back', and 'There’s A Fire'; a track which Jose Gonzalez or Matt Berninger would have been proud to pen.
Although often commercially successful and inescapably catchy, the music of Gareth Thomas’ unique blend of indie-pop is decidedly left-of-centre and that was evident from the very first note of his opener All Eyes In The Room. It’s a bouncy, hook-laden, and falsetto-driven pop song that set the scene for a great night. Showcasing his lower register, I’d Like set Whammy Bar alight with its clever lyricism, fuzzy guitars, and driving beat (not to mention some solid radio play). Another early set highlight was So Unbelievable, a wonderful song which has a strong Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips feel to it and featured the band at full effect.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gareth’s band which included the wonderful Amelia Murray of Fazerdaze fame on electric guitar (and backup vocals), Jonathan Burgess on bass, and Scott Mason on drums. The affection that each member of the band had for Gareth’s music was evident and they performed with a pleasing mix of passion and precision. Burgess was on top form during the bass anchored groove of Weird Fever, while Scott Mason’s powerful drumming was the highlight on the punkier Girlfriend On My Hofner. For her part, Amelia Murray shone throughout the night ably supporting the proceedings with her backing vocals and delightful guitar licks.
Gareth Thomas’ music is eclectic and with its unconventional instrumentation, hook-laden (but warped) lyrics, and charmingly off-beat melodies was the perfect panacea to a deluge sound-alike music that has flooded the airwaves in the last few years. This variety was evident in the progression from Way Too Hot, a ska-infused delight, to the disco funk of Weird Fever which was met with wild cheering and even wilder dance moves. By the time we got to a stripped-back solo rendition of Google Song, a perfect showcase for Gareth’s impressive vocals, it was clear that this was an artist who hadn’t rested on the laurels of his time in Goodshirt.
Speaking of segues, the show closed with a singalong of Goodshirt hit, Sophie. This delightful dose of Kiwiana was met with appreciative screams and left the crowd buzzing as they made their way into the night.