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Merrin - Gig Review: Merrin @ Valhalla, Wellington - 23/09/2017

07 Oct 2017 // A review by Reef Reid
Merrin recently released their new album 1 and on Saturday 23rd September I headed along to the album release party at Valhalla in Wellington to review and photograph the show. The two support acts for the night were Darkness Within and Strikemaster. Both are very capable and popular bands in their own right. 

When I arrived at the venue it was clear there was significant effort put into the organising of the show by Merrin's manager Heather Wood, with the most obvious being the size of the "crew" which was appropriately large with individuals covering all areas of expertise required for the show. Even I was provided with a crew pass. Nic and Kat from 'Many Hands Lighting', who were tasked with lighting, showed me what was in store for the night. These two know how to light a show and my other role to photograph the show immediately became easier and better for it. (Check out the photo gallery here)

Darkness Within were Burning Embers Inc Battle of the Bands winners in 2015 and ironically one of the first bands I photographed as a gig photographer. When I arrived at the venue they were just finishing their sound check. They hit the stage first, just after 9pm to a crowd that was 'developing'. I had not heard them live since back in 2015 and one thing I noticed then and again now was Josh's strong vocal capability and front man presence.

The band sounded great and by that I refer also to the overall audio mix, which was consistently good for all bands the whole night. Jared (drummer) started by wearing a mask with horns which he soon dispensed with in favour of the natural look. At one point Dan (guitar) had started the intro to a song and with complete darkness within the venue had to wait to be illuminated to see what he was doing. Their set ended with Josh in the mosh pit amongst the the fans. These guys have a great sound, punchy riffs and most importantly are musically entertaining. They did a great job of setting the scene for the night ahead. 

Strikemaster were up next and they are not a band I have seen live before which is incredibly odd since they have been in existence for decades, although active moreso in recent years since 2008. The fullness of the sound from this experienced three piece band is quite surprising. They play with a sense of "comfort" and "ease" or so it seems. Presumably due to the amount of time spent playing over the years. I became a huge fan on the spot that night. I spoke with Steve (bassist) the frontman briefly immediately before their set and he seemed incredibly relaxed. 

Steve is responsible for most of the vocals and provides a full and solid rhythm along with Brian, while Paul carves up the fretboard with solid riffs and solos. I wished they played for longer, but it was soon over and they brought the crowd to the next stage in the night. Strikemaster will be headlining the Hutt City Christmas Charity Rockfest later this year in December.

After another short break and changeover, members of Merrin appear on stage and Reverend Karl (guitar) begins with a ceremonial blessing (I think?) of the crowd to the pleasure of the front row. The set begins with Charlie (lead vocalist) off stage on a platform in the audience with mood lighting that draws the crowd's attention to the side of the venue only to be brought back to centre stage when the band kicks in. Merrin is a five piece band and do well to fit on the stage at Valhalla without looking constrained for space and are incredibly active the whole time.

The set is full of energy from the start and maintained right to the end and particularly noticeable from Karl who ends up at one point elevated on the front barrier and Angelo ripping out solos while owning the left side of the stage. Charlie (lead vocalist) fronts the band well and interacts with all members throughout the set while keeping engaged with the audience who by this time were at their peak and fully immersed in the live Merrin experience! So much that I found it hard getting back up front to photograph the band. The place by this time was chocka, shoulder to shoulder for most of the venue. Song after song and the band kept the audience engaged. Richie up the back in the beat room and Logan front right on bass were tasked with keeping rhythm and did so solidly.  

The set also featured a number of inflatable dolls doing the rounds over the crowd and stage which made for light hearted entertainment and a few "oops" moments on landing. :) The set ended with the band kicking around afterwards to thank their fans, take some selfies, sign merchandise and generally catch up with fans, family and friends. The night was well constructed and the bands complemented each other nicely in what was an epic night of music. 

Photos provided and review written by Reef Reid

About Merrin

Keeping it real in 2023… 4 tenacious kiwi blokes and 1 enigmatic chick carving up stages in Aotearoa, with an exciting sound that could only ever evolve from Wellington based Rock Band Merrin. Captivating, dynamic and uncompromising.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Merrin


Year: 2017
Type: Album
Don't Forget To Breathe
Year: 2013
Type: EP

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