The 18th September will definitely go down as one of the stormiest days in Hamilton, but I’ll always remember it as the day I finally got to see the lads of 2 a.m. Orchestra live. No matter how windy and freezing it was outside, this was one of the warmest, intimate performances I’ve experienced in a long time, and am already eager to see them again!
The ‘project’ as the guys call it started ten years ago over in the U.S.A where singer David Kelley resided. He has since moved over to our shores and is sprinkling his talent and love for fine music in a way that can only be described as magic. Teamed up with the equally gifted bassist, Tim Bern and lead-guitarist, Tim Gittins, these lads produce sweet and soothing tunes demanding the respect of any true music lover.
Go Vino was a busy wee place as the humble trio began their set which was part of their four date tour around the North Island for the release of their EP titled Fire Escape. Not only did they get into the tracks from the EP, but they also performed tunes from previous releases - Impermanenceand 2 a.m. Orchestra.
Gittens and Kelley effortlessly wooed the ladies throughout the set with the sweetest harmonies - undoubtedly making all the boys jealous, while Bern was clearly in the zone with his immaculate bass-playing skills. Although all of their tunes are winners in my books, Fire Escape and Man on the Moon were definite favorites of the evening – both of which feature on their new EP. We were also treated to a cover of Daydream Believer, which went down exceptionally well with the older bunch taking over one of the couches.
I honestly cannot say enough good things about these guys who have been liked to Ben Folds Five, Elvis Costello and Radiohead, and am stoked to have seen them before the masses figure out just how awesome they are. If this band were made of chocolate, they would be of the finest quality there is – believe you me, these guys are smoooooth.
Based on an epidemic of insomnia-inflicting inspiration, “2 a.m. Orchestra” was the name Kelley chose while working on some recordings in early 2000. Just prior to the release of what would be the first album (2 a.m. Orchestra, 2001), Kelley formed and prepped a band to play in support of the release. From that time, the live line-up has varied widely, from a 2-piece snare drum and guitar duo, to an over-achieving, instrument-swapping five-piece. Kelley did a number of U.S. tours with these various line-ups, and even a solo tour, braving the bitterest weeks of winter sleeping in a van, eating bologna, and trying not to doze off during the long drives. Such personnel fluctuations continued on up through the 2nd full-length release, Impermanence (2005), which proved to be an apt, if not intentional title as the ever-changing live show became the band’s most noted characteristic.
At times, 2 a.m. Orchestra has been a rock band, as was the 2008 line up—an LA-based four piece with a turbo-charged rhythm section, gritty vocals and surf-tone guitars. Other times, 2 a.m. Orchestra resembles something like an acoustic folk group, as was the case with the 2010 incarnation—an Auckland-based trio that catered to intimate crowds with the whispers of mandolin, ukulele, cello, violin, piano and slide guitar. One might label the music presented by this unique combination of instruments “chamber-pop,” with its captivating string arrangements—often lullabyesque and sometimes spooky. The group’s acoustic sets feature songs both prior releases as well as brand new material. One such performance was released under the radar, "Live at Lopdell House Theater," (recorded in Titirangi) free to fans via the 2 a.m. Orchestra FB page.
What's next? Yet another incarnation of the band emerges mid-2013 with the release of "Working To Divide," the third full-length studio album which showcases the same characteristic ornate arrangements, but with new explosive rock textures. The new line up will feature Tim Gittins and Chris Dawson, two members who have teamed up regularly with Kelley since 2009, as well as Andy Smith on lead guitar.The single "Heads & Tails," enjoyed nationwide radio support in New Zealand and was included on the Kiwi HIt Disc compilation. The animated music video received rave reviews and months of airplay on C4. The more recent single "Ain't Got The Fight," was also included on a Kiwi Hit Disc in 2013. The band will be doing both acoustic and rock shows in support, continuing their theme of rearranging songs and sounds, evolving and recreating, ensuring the audience has a new experience at each and every show.