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  • Albi and The Wolves - Gig Review: The Great New Zealand Folk Revival @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland 26/07/2018

Albi and The Wolves - Gig Review: The Great New Zealand Folk Revival @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland 26/07/2018

27 Jul 2018 // A review by Alex Moulton

With local parking shut down due to the overwhelming number of people attending the Dynamo show at Spark Arena, one would expect a light turnout next door at the Tuning Fork. As the show began, with a short unscripted foreword from Chris Dent of Albi and The Wolves, the audience was looking sparse, but this did not dissuade the opening act Ben Dixon.

Dixon, a one-man band, performed a simple set, requiring only a guitar, an effects pedal, and a microphone. As is characteristic of folk music, Dixon’s songs had a strong narrative, with easy to understand and relatable lyrics. His second track The Hospital proved especially delightful, taking a jab at our underfunded public healthcare system, “waking me up in the middle of the night to check I’m fine”. An experience many have been through. 

Dixon has a very slight huskiness that complements the depth of his voice, and works well with the tranquil, minimal instrumentation of his music style. Using an effects pedal to duplicate his voice during the chorus, the vocals take precedence at the forefront, with very simple guitar riffs. Only performing a short three track set, Dixon still managed to display confidence and charm, and provided some witty banter as the audience continued to trickle in.

With very minimal equipment changeover required, The Frank Burkitt Band took to the stage. All adorned with formalwear and carrying a unique conglomeration of traditionally non-electric instruments, frontman Frank Burkitt started their set alone, with his acoustic guitar and vocals. Almost a rock/country tinge to his voice, Burkitt has great volume and clarity to his vocals, backed by support vocalists Kara Filbey and Cameron ‘Dusty’ Burnell performing some tight harmonies. Along with the guitar, came an assortment of instrumentals that accentuated and complemented the vibe of the tracks. 

The wide array of instruments allows the Frank Burkitt Band to have a wide range of sounds; from jazz to lounge, folk to rock and funk, all with that folk ambiance. Each member of the group was provided with a chance to shine with their instruments. Burnell had a number of solo moments with his mandolin and tenor banjo, Filbey created great harmonies with her flute, James Geluk controlled the melody with some brilliant double bass riffs, and Oscar Lavën pulled out his library of wind instruments harnessing his knowledge of the saxophone, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet. With a very positive vibe, The Frank Burkitt Band provided a very upbeat set, consisting of such tracks as Work So Hard, Simple, Albert Woodfox, and The Gypsy Barber, while providing a healthy dose of banter to keep the audience laughing. Great to see such a happy unit of musicians that maintain such tight timing without any form of percussion. By the end of the set, nearly every seat in the venue was full.

TheSlacks were next up on stage, and they really raised the bar. Whether their set was really folk music may be up for debate, but they did keep up with the vibe of the night. The only act of the night to have a drumkit, Zane Greig had the luck of being able to set up his kit early and leave it up all night. The four-piece were certainly the more “classic rock band” with their instruments; consisting of two guitars, drums and bass. Frontman Mark Armstrong clearly loves what he does. Oozing with confidence he dances around the stage as he sings and plays, providing a very high energy performance. 

With folk music having a strong vocal focus, it was intriguing to see all four members had microphones and shared the task of harmonising and creating some great vocal crescendos. Scott Armstrong and Blake Gibson all performed their parts well, but despite playing their parts without error, they were outshined by Mark’s effervescent energy. Among their set was Pagan Games, and Mercury Lane. As the set progressed, the pace intensified and next thing you know the audience were moving to the front and dancing. The speed kept up until the finale song, Big Aroha, the song designed to “bring together Te Reo Māori and Te Reo English”.

The final act for the night came from Albi and The Wolves. Before even the lights were turned back on Chris Dent started playing his guitar with some light harmonies from Micheal Young, Pascal Roggen. The group had a very clean sound, but it was drastically different when compared to TheSlacks. 

Not lower quality, but lower energy, with a strong vocal focus. Dent’s use of the guitar was largely percussive, with the volume set very low (though the plugs had been acting up on previous acts, so potentially it was meant to be louder). As it was, the strumming and twanging of the strings acted more as a percussive element, allowing the Roggen’s violin to act as the powerful lead, with Young’s double bass controlling the melody of the track. 

A slower and more reserved set, the audience returned to their seats or just sat on the floor as they enjoyed the harmonies. As a band Albi and The Wolves prefer their audience to participate, asking the crowd to sing along during Home, and to “yell beautifully” along with I Will Not Be Broken. They have a great organic rhythm, and once they broke out This Is War, the audience were back on their feet dancing. Keeping the pace up, they performed their folk adaptation of The Black Keys Lonely Boy, which was well received. Performing the last song in their set, Dent managed to forget the lyrics to his own song, replacing the verse with several cadence matching “blah’s”, an aspect that he completely owned up to afterwards.

The night had an incredibly friendly, positive vibe throughout the night, and really felt like a bunch of mates jamming together. In fact, it near enough was, with Ben Dixon featuring in TheSlacks set, Scott Armstrong lending his guitar to Frank Burkitt as theirs went missing, and at the end of the night, brought all of the artists up on stage to sing Happy Birthday to 13th Floor’s Marty Duda, before an encore performance that turned into accidental hilarity with Mark Armstrong somehow managing to hurl Roggen’s violin bow across the stage mid-song with an unintentional flick of his scarf. 

What a night.

Review and photos provided by Alex Moulton


About Albi and The Wolves

This is folk music, but not as you know it. Pulling inspiration from a wide spectrum of genres, from swing to bluegrass, soul, R&B, rock and world music, Albi and The Wolves offer a decadent serving of double bass, banjo, and fiddle accompanied by Albi's smooth vocal stylings. These elements come together to create both a potent foot stomping rhythm and a captivating music and stage presence never experienced before.

With this love and respect of music in all its forms, Albi and The Wolves not only offer vibrant and refreshing original songs which burst open the seams of traditional folk music, but they also inject their signature sound into modern classics from artists as diverse as Micheal Jackson, and Pink Floyd.

Since the band's formation in 2014, they have excelled in New Zealand's live music scene, pulling in large crowds with their unique performance style, making it irresistible to dance.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Albi and The Wolves


One Eye Open
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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