7 Mar 2021
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Jakob - Jakob w/ Heterodox & Moa Belt @ Cabana, Napier 23/10/14

07 Nov 2014 // A review by Peter-James Dries

A thick black jacket isn’t appropriate attire in Napier’s October sun, nor is it ideal in the Cabana at full capacity, but sometimes when you need somewhere to stash a notepad and a collection of pens it’s a necessity. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake as last time.

Since my introduction to the band, Verstaerker on JuiceTV during the late shift at KFC, I’ve seen Jakob live thrice. One and two half times is probably more accurate. The first was Big Day Out, 2007, the year Tool came. I saw the first half of the Jakob set from a grassy knoll, but missed the end when my companion at the time decided her sweat had dried off and she was ready to re-enter the Boiler Room. I finally saw the tail end of a Jakob gig six years later, when they opened for Tool in May, 2013. Seven months later, I witnessed my first full show, here at the Cabana, Jakob’s home turf.

I went, minus the black jacket, with every intention of reviewing the gig, but sometime between ordering a drink and making it back to my table my pen disappeared, and my memories of that night were destroyed by a haze of inebriation and the painful return to sobriety. We found the pen days later in a friends handbag.

That was my first time at the Cabana, and that one show solidified the venue as my favourite. How it was first described to me, if you haven't been there before, was like a cabaret. The description referred to the seating arrangement that made the stage the centre of attention, but my mind conjured something similar to Brisbane's more ritzy the Tivoli. The seating plan works, since unlike most other venues, there are no pillars obscuring the view of the stage.

Tonight, the usual cabaret seating was pushed to the sides of the room to make way for the crowd, the sign of a sold out gig. In their place barrels act as barriers and beer stands. In the early hours of the evening the open floor invites the not yet pissed punters to stand in a horseshoe around the sides of the room, like children at an intermediate school disco, or a catholic school ball. This is what makes the stage side couch an amazing idea, conformity with comfort. Also with the finale hours away and no other seats in sight, not this close to the stage at least, that couch is a great way to conserve energy.

Maybe it was unexpected feedback, or maybe it was planned. Whatever it was, it worked. What had sounded like technical problems exploded into the first song from openers Heterodox. The band held my attention from the first sludgy riff, but sinking deeper into the couch under the weight of the fast food I’d eaten on the way, all I could conjure in gratitude was a head bobble and a foot gyration. They deserved more. Their Alice in Chains, Kyuss style of swampy stoner rock has a groove that is easily danceable, as exhibited to the first on the dance floor. They looked like they were probably someone’s mum, but when you’re in a horseshoe of different hues of hipster, I guess a mum is going to be the only person not afraid to stray from the pack.

The mum was followed by that one overly out of it older guy that you’ll find at any small venue gig around the country. This one stood right at the front, donning sunglasses on and a leather jacket, trying to touch the music with the beer bottle in one of his hands and the outstretched finger of the other. I don’t know if his hip gyrations were infectious, but his arrival brought more people out into the open.

Heterodox’s set finished with applause and another spin of the Johnny Cash CD the barman had put on before the show.

“Everybody likes a bit of Johnny Cash” I’d heard him say earlier. Maybe so, but it wasn’t the ambience I needed after the amazing set I’d just witnessed. I needed fresh air.

The crowd milling around outside was fairly sparse, but it was only early. Those that were out there weren’t nearly drunk enough to do more than pass glances and lighters between themselves. At the Royal, back home in Palmerston North, the smokers’ area was a place to be social. Pathologically introverted, it’s not something I generally partake in, but I thought this time it would be different. I’d be different. It wasn’t to be.

The downside of going outside for a breather between acts is losing your seat, and a seat is something I needed. Luckily there was still room on the middle cushion of the couch so I squeezed myself in, notebook ready, just in time for the next band.  

“There are only three songs until Jakob. We are Moa Belt.”

The couch was a good decision. Sounding like Hendrix jamming his moodiest, soulful guitar work, Moa Belt make perfect music for introspection, best taken sitting back and relaxed. Even the guitarist was seated, as though he was just holding the guitar as it told a story, its words made of bluesy licks. Nothing makes you want to give up on playing guitar more than hearing someone play like Jimi.

The gaps in the crowd were starting to fill and the stage was becoming obscured. Every now and then a person that had squeezed into a gap near the stage would look back and see our craning necks and shift an inch to either side. It didn’t free up the view any, but the show of consideration made up for it.

Three songs felt like seven, mostly because of the anticipation for Jakob, but also in part because of the well-rehearsed open ended jam feeling of the songs. Without words songs are free to ebb and flow at the will of the instruments, blurring the lines of where one composition begins and ends.

I stuck around until the end of the set, but by then the awkwardness of being between two strangers on a couch was heavy.

I made my way outside again, half finished beer tucked into my jacket pocket, where I met the doppelganger of Sid from the first two seasons of Skins and his perpetually smiling companion. If I had to venture a guess, this was likely one of Sid’s first gigs, and probably one of his first times drinking. Shy and reserved in the sunlit world, Sid was a kid who could talk to anyone fearlessly when filled with the devil’s elixir.

“Do you like Bogan music? You look like you like Bogan music.” Sid asked, his finger to my sternum, eyes glazed and beer bottle finally reaching his lips with the third attempt. Oh, to be young and free of inhibition again. Where I’m from there are only so many sternums you can finger without being smacked in the chops.

Sid started talking about a revelation that obviously meant a lot to him at the time, but our interaction was cut short by “muscles with a beard,” as Sid called him, ushering the pair to the end of the car park with their drinks, which they had somehow smuggled past the usually efficient bouncer.

Back inside, the empty space in front of the stage was almost as packed as the bar. I found a space near the front, one that wasn’t saved for someone that wasn’t coming. Somehow Sid and Smiley found me. I somehow became involved in their discussion on masculinity and Sid’s lack of. As Sid stroked my beard I took a moment to examine the stage, like the others I’d seen doing it between sets. I had expected more pedals for some reason. Expected more cymbals. I hadn’t had a chance to see the set up last show because of the dreadlocks being thrown into my face by Little Miss Too Much Vodka. Thankfully either she or her dreads were absent this time around.

My notes for the evening end at this point. It was getting cramped, and warm. The jacket was a terrible idea. The only hope for my survival was that someone had drunk enough to go to the bathroom, and on their way out bring a gust of cool air back with them.

Jakob started hard and the crowd lost its s**t. To my right Sid is dancing to the beat of his own drum, stopping occasionally to adjust his glasses, and then throwing his whole body back into a seizure.

I remember hearing The Diffusion of Our Inherent Situation years ago and thinking the drums were simple in a Jakob song. I could do this. I was so wrong. While Jason (Johnson, drummer) makes it look effortless, you can feel the complexity, especially with the newer songs, when it’s smashing you in the face.

While the lights and sounds of the Vector Arena complimented Jakob’s sound, these small stages are the way to experience the band. Looking around, watching the crowd undulate as people move to alternating beats of the polyrhythm… It’s an image that captures both the individuality and conformity of people. 

“I don’t get it. There are no words!” a friend’s girlfriend had said at the last gig. This is what Jakob live was about. The feeling of a inner journey while being thrown about in a sea of sweaty bogans, something people that consider music just a noise to break up the silence will never understand.

Maurice (Beckett, bass) is sweating as much as I am, and seems as into the songs as the crowd. If it’s a release to hear the songs, I wonder how much it is to play them, especially live, and loud and in the face of a crowd that are all here to see you.

Lodged between the speaker and the bathrooms I was no longer getting gusts of cool air when people made their way back, but clouds of marijuana. While Smiley was on a trip of his own, Sid was starting to get bored and his drunk legs were making him wander. He walked into the wrong person and I saw a glimpse of the unjustified aggression I was so used to seeing at gigs in my hometown. Sid, being in the state he was in was pushing the agro further, and the last two songs; Oran Mor and Ageena from memory. The tension eased when Sid disappeared into the echoes and the crowd chanting “encore.”

We weren’t disappointed. For the first time that night, when Jakob strolled back on stage and Jeff (Boyle, guitarist) started The Collar Sets Well I let go of my façade of control. I didn’t care about the testosterone junkie at the front. I didn’t care about the sweat, some my own, some from those around me, cascading down my face. I didn’t care about the girl cautiously casting glances up at me since she squeezed in during Malachite. I didn’t care Sid was back and stroking the speaker. Total euphoria. 

And it was all over. Above the ringing of my ears I heard someone behind me acknowledge that “there’s nothing like Jakob to make you feel inferior.” The crowd seemed sucked towards the back doors, like a water down a plug hole and I followed, being stuck at the bar bottleneck by a politeness that has no place here.

I considered buying a Jakob shirt, or maybe a Heterodox CD on my way out, but what little money I had stashed in my jacket was gone and the flow of the crowd was leading my outside. Sid sat slumped on the rail of the smokers’ veranda, and his smiling accomplice, adjacent, strummed inaudible chords on an acoustic guitar. I would have stopped to say goodbye, but the outside air was cool and inviting.

I knew the lights around the curve of Shakespeare Road would lead the way to sleep, so after taking one last glimpse at the crowd congregating around the venue, I took my leave and walked off into the dark Napier night.

 

About Jakob

The swell emerges slowly on Sines before a mighty storm of sound unfolds. The album’s opening track Blind Them With Science erupts in cacophonous splendour as if to tell the world that Jakob has awoken from a long slumber. It’s a record that Jakob fans have waited upon for eight years. Some patiently, some feverishly, some believing that it might not ever arrive at all. As on their previous three albums and two EPs, Sines is built upon lushness and texturing. A journey that spits with menace and relapses into beauty as The sound of Jakob has ever been evolving, but is always unmistakeable.

This, New Zealand’s most formidable sonic instrumental three-piece, formed in the sleepy seaside town of Napier, Hawke’s Bay in 1998. Their debut album Subsets Of Sets (2002) put them on the map, their sophomore Cale:Drew (2005) solidified them as one of the country’s true explorative musical outfits and their third album Solace (2006) took them to the world. On the back of Solace’s release they toured Europe, the UK, Australasia and the USA with the likes of Isis, Pelican, Cog and The Hidden Hand. As their reputation continued to build they were twice personally invited to tour with American prog-rock heroes Tool throughout Australia and New Zealand, and toured alongside Damo Suzuki, frontman for seminal German psychedelic band Can.

Their previous album Solace was released in 2006 and in the eight years that have ensued various obstacles were thrown in the way of a new Jakob album materialising. By some freak coincidence all three of the band members all suffered debilitating hand injuries that would leave at least one person unable to play at any given time. Wrist surgery, broken hands and severed tendons all contributing to Jakob having to wait, and wait. Every time that momentum looked like building, the band were forced out of action and left to start again. Frustratingly this included cancelling a 29-date tour of Europe in March & April 2013.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Jakob

Releases

Sines
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Solace
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Cale:Drew
Year: 2003
Type: Album
Subsets Of Sets
Year: 2001
Type: Album
Jakob
Year: 1999
Type: EP

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